Master’s Remembrance Day 2016
– A Day of Sincere Gratitude and Pleasant Surprise
The most important day of the year for many BW Monastery’s members and Lamrim students has finally arrived! 27th November 2016 is the Monastery’s annual "Master’s Remembrance Day", where all members gather to pay gratitude and remember the late Master Jih-Chang, BW Monastery Abbot Venerable Jing Yuan’s Teacher. The event is especially significant, as it is the only day in the year, where all members assemble for a like-minded purpose, to sincerely repay our Master and Teachers’ kindness in guiding us on our journey of learning the Dharma, and to continue to plant the cause of learning Buddhism from these great Teachers life after life.
Held at Mega Box Event Hall in Jurong this year, the Ceremony took on the theme of "Gratitude to our Teachers and the Triple Gems, Establish Teachings, Benefit All Beings". From as early as eight-plus in the morning, members who were dressed to their best, started milling into the venue hall. Fresh flowers lined the altar where three huge Buddha portraits hung stately. Master’s Relic Stupa, Shrine and Sutras that will eventually reside in the BW Monastery’s new temple in Woodlands were also majestically set up for members to pray, prostrate, circumbulate and make offerings. Members who came early made light and flower offerings, as well as contribute monetary offerings to the Monastery or purchased items from Yes Natural and Blue Sky.
The Ceremony programme began at slightly pass 10am. Abbot Venerable Jing Yuan in his opening speech to the congregation, said it was heartening to gather so many people from different walks of life, to come together for one purpose – to remember and be grateful for Buddha’s and our Teachers' kindness and compassion bestowed on us. He welcomed the 3,500 attendees who came not only from Singapore but from neighbouring countries like Taiwan, Myanmar, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia, and asked everyone to rejoice dearly at their presence and their collective efforts poured into the gratitude projects undertaken by everyone in the past five months. He reminded the congregation to seize the precious opportunities that they had on hand to learn the Buddhist teachings from our Teachers and gain wisdom to alleviate sufferings and attain relief.
As they took their seats, the congregation was treated to their first video of the day - "The Journey of Translation", a 55-min documentary-style blockbuster feature film produced by media professionals in Taiwan. The beautifully-shot film encapsulated the great vision and determination of our Master and guiding Teacher, in leading the Sangha on the arduous journey of sutra translation, from Tibetan language into Chinese. It gave very good insight on the Sangha’s life in GEBIS Monastery on Prince Edward Island, Canada and the strenuous efforts undertaken by them on sutras translation, often spending days researching into a particular word's meaning and having lengthy exchanges over the best translation term to use. The film brought home the message that as a result of the Sangha's strong determination and mindset in setting out to achieve this laborious mission, Buddhists like us are then able to benefit from the fruits of their labour - the amazing outcome as seen from completed scripts of translated sutra volumes such as the "The Four Interwoven Annotations", which will definitely offer huge contributions to the Buddhism scene today. The historical large-scale project is a movement never seen before since the Tang dynasty more than a 1,000 years ago when Master Venerable Xuan Zang undertook the similar heavy responsibility of translating Buddhist scriptures and left behind a legacy of a few hundred volumes of translated sutras. Many in the congregation were simply awed by the grueling journey of translation undertaken by the Sangha and truly realized that they had to treat these translated sutras with utmost respect and care as they did not come easy.
The Ceremony took a break for lunch at this juncture and resumed in the afternoon at 1.30pm. Family, friends and public devotees joined BW Monastery members, bringing attendance about 3,850 people for the afternoon session, where the programme lineup took on more variety and were more exciting. Two little “fairies” livened up the Ceremony mood with their cute opening introduction, which was followed by Teacher's beautiful serenade chant of the six-syllabled Sanskrit mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum".
First up, BW Monastery’s Xin Pin Chinese Orchestra and Insightful Praise choir performed two beautiful Insightful Praise songs “Together Thinking of You” and “Orchid of the Valley” for the congregation. Next, was a video recounting in detail, BW Monastery’s big and small events in the year of 2016. This was followed by a moving video named “Awakening of the Force”, which gave intimate insights into the life of Master Jih-Chang in the days when he was residing in Fu Zhi Vihara in Nantou, Taiwan. The touching anecdotal snippets of 25 years of Master’s life in Fu Zhi Vihara, as shared personally by senior Venerables who had been close followers and attendants of Master, left many in the congregation deeply moved and in tears.
The first highlight of the afternoon’s programme took place when Master’s Relic Stupa was welcomed and received onto stage, escorted by a grand procession led by “heavenly beings” carrying banners, scattering flowers, and followed by Sangha members, the Monastery’s senior lecturers as well as cadres. Late Master’s photo was then clearly projected on stage as the congregation stood tall in veneration to pay homage to Master's Relic while singing the Insightful Praise “When I Meet with You Again”. The Relic represented Master’s presence and it was as if Master had arrived in person and joined the congregation.
The programme that followed was a slew of stage performances put up by various divisions within BW Monastery. Cultural Education Division Buddhist classes’ teachers and children put up a lively and joyous recitation of the Chinese classics “Standards for being a Good Pupil and Child”. Kindness Propagation Division’s “Joy Feast – I Belanja You” video was next, showcasing the kindness and compassion of free vegetarian meals which BW Monastery offers once a month and the benefits it brings forth. Youth groups Yazers and The Odds went on next with their youthful renditions and energetic arrangements of Insightful Praises songs, giving traditional Buddhist songs a young spin and refreshing music presentations. The Bilingual Division’s decade-long Dharma propagation journey and the wonderful outcomes that arose as a result of the Division’s strong faith and determination was then recounted in a video presentation named "Ten Year Series". The Division’s vibrant performance of the English Insightful Praise song “White Lotus” had the congregation clapping along with them. Next, the Lecturer’s Group in BW Monastery showcased their contributions towards Dharma propagation, after having gone from Lamrim classes after Lamrim classes, to complete a thousand revision lectures for all Lamrim students in BW Monastery as an offering to Buddha and to our Teachers. Their dedication and unwavering efforts in spreading the Dharma were indeed remarkable!
The second highlight of the day’s programme came on with the video detailing the amazing feats and motivating stories of the three countries – Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, on their road of Dharma propagation. The pioneers of Dharma propagation from these three neighbouring countries specially flew in to make appearance at Master’s Remembrance Ceremony, to share their challenges and the road they had travelled in learning Buddhism, in the hope of bringing inspiration to the congregation.
Monasteries provide the pillar and foundation for Dharma propagation. In the video that followed next, the congregation had a sneak peek into the Monasteries-building processes that took place in the past years in Singapore and Malaysia. From land searching, to architecture drawings and building construction, each stage was detailed clearly and the final outcome presented - two very dignified and respectable Monasteries expected to stand tall in Singapore and Southern Malaysia in the upcoming few years. Going ahead, it is hoped that more Monasteries can be built, especially in South East Asia.
The late monitor Wu Hui Jiao's life story video that came on next chronicled her battle against illness and the last days in her life where she boldly faced up to death and relied fervently on our Teachers' teachings despite pain and sufferings. Many in the congregation who knew Monitor Hui Jiao personally and had visited her as she laid on her deathbed were deeply moved to tears.
Next up, volunteer cadres and leaders of BW Monastery took to the stage to pledge themselves as Bodhi Warriors and aspired to rely on the perfect teachings and not give up even in times of failure. In line with this, and strengthening the congregation’s faith in learning from our Master, Teacher’s discourse which was presented in video form, encouraged everyone to learn relentlessly from the virtuous Teacher, never to stop in their pursuits life after life. She also shared some parts of Master’s diary such as Master’s stern expectations of himself even in his choice of tea, where he imposed strict self-discipline and not allow himself to indulge in the tea he liked, as encouragement for all in the congregation to follow in Master’s footsteps, to act in accordance to the Teachings, call for strict demands on oneself and high standards of discipline in daily life, like a real Buddhist practitioner ought to be. Master was also someone who would never miss the daily chanting of the Mahaprajna Sutras even if he was busy, ill or tired. His ethical discipline and approach in dealing with daily life affairs was indeed a great example and model to all. Teacher also recited a verse from the Mahaprajna Sutra, as a gift offering to the congregation.
At this point of the Ceremony, Abbot Venerable Jing Yuan made an unexpected announcement. To the congregation’s pleasant surprise, Teacher made a short appearance at the Ceremony to show her concern for everyone and reminded all again to never slack in their learnings of the Lamrim, and to continuously rely on the Dharma Teachings as everyone’s refuge. She hoped that Buddha’s Teachings will be as beautiful as fireworks and stayed on in the world longer than fireworks. The congregation went 'high' at this juncture as everyone’s faith was heightened with Teacher’s presence and words of encouragement. Elation filled the air with this unexpected, esteemed guest who promised to come back again very soon to share her Dharma discourses with everyone.
The Ceremony finally culminated to a climax with a segment showcasing the past five-months of collective efforts from all Lamrim classes in repaying Buddha and Master’s kindness. Led by Abbot Venerable Jing Yuan in singing the chant “Migtsema", booklets of students’ heartfelt words and sincere penning were passed on among the congregation and brought onstage as offerings to Buddha and our Teachers; these offerings marked all students’ respect and gratitude for our Master and Teachers in their guidance and concern for us. Lastly, the congregation rose together as one in the grand finale dedication where a medley of Insightful Praises were sung.
Teachers do play one of the most important roles in everyone’s lives. The Lamrim states that for one to walk the path of Buddhahood, one will need to rely on a good Teacher. Master Venerable Jih-Chang has been one such good Teacher who has promised never to forsake his students. It is therefore our duty as students to repay our Master’s kindness for teaching us. Let us never forget our Teacher’s teachings and to forever follow after our dear Teachers.
Reported by Wong Jong Yin