Thumbs – up for Monlam Great Prayer- Festival

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With great blessings, a few of my virtuous classmates and I attended the Monlam Great Prayer- Festival in Taiwan. It was my very first experience at the prayer-festival since I started learning Lamrim two years ago.

The festival was held over six days. For the first four days, each day started off with a discourse by 104th Ganden Tripa-Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoche, ending with the recitation of prayers in the afternoon.

The 5th day started earlier than usual as there was a life liberation ceremony in the morning followed by the liberation of fish fry at the beach. A few goats were saved from the slaughter house and spent the rest of their life in a Life Protection Farm (护生园). Thereafter, the discourse and chanting resumed as per normal.

On the 6th day, we had morning prayers of welcoming the next Buddha, Maitreya Buddha. The prayer gave us a precious opportunity to plant seeds to receive teachings from Maitreya Buddha. In the afternoon, we visited the Life Protection Farm. The volunteers told us the life stories of the founder of the farm and their love and care which they have rendered to the rescued goats, tortoises and parrots.

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Besides listening to Rinpoche’s discourse and reciting the prayers, we did ten types of offerings at three locations, namely the field where the festival took place, the Main Shrine hall and the Guanyin Pavilion. The ten types of offering were offerings of incense, flowers, light, clothes, food, fruits, dharma books, precious stones, khata (哈达) and tea/oil.  

For these various offerings, various merits will be accumulated to complete and perfect our human life of leisure and opportunity on the dharma path. There were unlimited supplies of the offering items for us to offer continuously with recollection of good qualities of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and we could supplicate to them too!

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We also dedicated the merits accumulated to the Rinpoche to have good health and can continue to turn the peerless dharma wheel for a long time. 

Rinpoche bestowed on us the discourse in Tibetan pertaining to the stages of the path to enlightenment (The Four Noble Truth, Emptiness & Bodhicitta) over the six days. Though Venerable Ru Mi did a wonderful on-site translation in Mandarin, I still could not understand fully due to my limited Buddhist knowledge. However, I managed to grasp some understanding. I would like to present the sharing as my learning points with the thought to benefit those who could not attend the auspicious prayer sessions with us.

  • We have to check our intention in everything we do. Is it to benefit only ‘I’ or is it to benefit all sentient beings? The supreme enlightenment will be achieved by benefitting all sentient beings. Self-cherishing is the cause of all suffering as it gives rise to the three poisons which are greed, anger and ignorance (贪嗔痴). 
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  • We have to set our motivation right with mindfulness. Once we are able to do this, we can protect our body, speech and mind (身语意) by eliminating the ten non-virtues (断十恶)
  • Cultivating Emptiness (修空性) and Great Compassion (大悲心) is the correct way to achieve enlightenment.  Our compassion should encompass all sentient beings, not just our loved ones. 
  • Through Dharma learning and practice, we help each other to attain human life of leisure and opportunity. We will progressively obtain higher status. (增上生) and certain goodness. (决定胜).
  • We must develop great confidence in the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha (佛法僧)through learning and practice. When our faith is strengthened, we will become steadfast in our practice and not be easily swayed by afflictions and external disturbances. There will be no Dharma (法) if we do not truly practice what we learn.
  • We, the Buddhists must understand the objective of learning Dharma is to get out of Samsara and walk the Mahayana path to help others. So, we have to take refuge in Three Jewels (三宝), learn and practice with joyous perseverance (精进). 
  • We already have the great medicine (法) given by the Buddha. If we do not take it, our illnesses can never be cured. This is mainly our own fault.
  • Lastly, Rinpoche reminded us to make aspirations before doing good, thereafter to make dedications to achieve enlightenment with all sentient beings. 造善前发心, 造善后回向, 成就大菩提。

This was a rare and auspicious opportunity to learn many things through listening and volunteering etc. during the entire trip. Also, vast merits have been accumulated in such a short period. We are indeed grateful to Shifu and Teacher Zhen- Ru to establish such a prayer- festival to guide us to walk the Bodhi path with light, hope and joy.  

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I pray that more of us, if not all, can have favourable conditions to attend the next Monlam festival. Let’s aspire and work towards it!

Written by Katherine Liew (15G023E)

Tan Helen