Happy Wesak or Saka Dawa!! (II)

Happy Wesak or Saka Dawa!! (II)

Thrangu Monastery; a Tibetan-Chinese Kagyu Monastery. They teach in Tibetan, English, and Chinese. It is great to see such harmony because of the Buddha’s teaching.

They were giving preliminary teaching to prepare students for higher practices. So a volunteer led my aunt and I to sit at the back.

Their preliminary teachings are very similar to the Lamrim (Stages of the Path); Relaying of the Lama, Precious Human Life, Rememberance of Death, Understanding of Good/bad actions and so on…

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Happy Wesak or Saka Sawa! (I)

Happy Wesak or Saka Sawa!

Chinese Monastery in Richmond, BC. In Chinese the name is 观音寺 but it took a simple name in English “Buddhist Temple”. There is a magnificent Thousand-arm Avalokiteshvara facing all eight directions. The monastery is fairly large with a lay out similar to a traditional Chinese garden.

The Importance of Mindfulness and Purification

I have been away for sometime because of school and then a retreat in the lovely Tashi Choling Retreat Center in Nelson, BC. Thanks to Zasep Rinpoche and his dedicated student Lama Gelek; many are able to intensively practice the profound teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa. Here are some personal thoughts I have after receiving some teachings. Should my thoughts be contradictory to the Buddha‘s teaching let me know…

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(Nice view at the retreat center; behind is Copper Mountain)

The retreat is mainly purification with Vajrasattva practice to cleanse negative deeds we committed and broken commitments we promised in front of the Buddhas. It was conceivable how precious the teaching was if we become mindful of the thoughts and actions that happened every second within our body, speech, and mind.

Mindfulness is the key word here. Look at beings of the lower realm like a cat. It does not check her mind moment; never scan her mind stream; never try restraining her vocalization; never control her bodily action. As Lama Gelek said “A cat does what a cat does”. It develops jealousy toward other pets, kill mice, and fight for sex.

This is the reason why beings like animals, spirits, and hell beings have no chance to attain enlightenment. As it was said in the Lamrim (Stages of the Path to Enlightenment) that its more difficult for lower realm being to gain human rebirth than a human becoming Buddha.

Now that we have a human rebirth we should not be like a cat. But are we? Sadly enough by looking at the mundane life of many individuals; I see many animals, hungry spirits, and hell beings walking in human skin, which is a sign of lacking mindfulness. This include myself!

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(The gompa (shrine) up the road from retreat facility)

The precious teaching that Lama Gelek gave was mindfulness. In order to become aware of the need of purification and to keep future restrain, we spend 2 – 3 hours in the morning meditating on the mind and our physical action. The time was divided into sessions of sitting and walking meditation. We are to concentrate on the breathe and our action; while being aware of the mind but not being caught in any mental conversation. Just notice it and let go. Stay with the object of meditation “breathing action in the belly” and “the sole of your feet lifting, moving, placing”. This allow us to maintain our spiritual goals (or even mundane goal) without being distracted all the time like animals by delusions.

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(A special thangka in the room where a Mongolian geshe (accomplished Buddhist scholar) stayed before our retreat; I had the honor to clean the bed)

Here is a prayer by the Seventh Dalai Lama, which could reflects our remorse when we become mindful of our minds.

” My past indulgence in one hundred shortcomings of the three doors (body, speech, and mind) has resulted in evil action which now bears fruit in a galaxy of erroneous and hideous appearances, like the terrifying portents of the callous Lord of Death. Upon their arrival to whom can I turn?

Bemoaning my plight for such reasons as these I seek refuge in the Master, a fountain of compassion, and the three jewels (Buddha, Teaching of Buddha, and Assembly of Buddhists) from this moment on. Please enable me to purify my host of black actions by means of confession and future unfailing restraint, even should that require the cost of my life.”

At the very beginning we will be purifying our non-virtues like hatred, stealing, etc but ultimately the “black actions” to be purify is the our ignorance. It is the root of all evils. The wisdom opposing ignorance is not technical knowledge of biology, physics, or chemistry nor remembering many religious texts. Wisdom can only be gradually attained by realizing the Buddha’s teachings through meditation.

Doraemon goes to Hell?

My brother showed me an interesting news today; please watch the actual news reported by China’s CCTV: http://english.cntv.cn/program/newshour/20121222/102978.shtml

1356155769625_1356155769625_r 1356155802458_1356155802458_r Can you find Doraemon?

A Thai artist re-painted the wall of a temple in Northwest Bangkok six years ago after the temple’s wall paintings were damaged by flood. The artist introduced Doraemon, a popular Japanese anime character, to different themes depicted in the wall paintings. We can see him appearing as one of the many sentient beings within the six realms of samsara; Heaven, Asura, Human, Animals, Hungry Ghosts, and Hell. Doraemon’s appearance in the paintings is very subtle similar to “Where’s Waldo?”. If you pay attention Kung Fu Panda and Angry Birds also appeared in the animal realm of the paintings, also some deities were holding IPad instead of traditional scriptures. A monk interviewed by CCTV reporter said that everyone in their monastery liked it and noticed it helps young children to get interested in Buddhism. What do you think?

I personally think it is a skillful mean of the artist to help adding a little bit of humor and elements that relate to modern people to Buddhism, which many think is an ancient religion or philosophy. But it is not absolutely true. The teaching of Buddha in all aspect transcend the test of time by being applicable to all race, culture, and generations. If we investigate with an open mind, we will see that Buddha Dharma provides the solution to all human problems; jealousy, hatred, fear, anger…etc. Back to my original topic, I really appreciate the artist’s creativity in the temple’s wall paintings.

Lastly, I would like thanks Tsem Rinpoche here because just like our creative artist from Thailand; Tsem Rinpoche skillfully uses “modern” Buddhism to reach tens of thousand of people  on the internet. My family and I  are one of these fortunate people.  I have watched many of his teaching on YouTube and read many of his blog posts. Recently, he is giving away images of Manjushri and Medicine Buddha. If you wish to invite home a Buddha’s image, please have a look:

http://blog.tsemtulku.com/?p=39699
http://blog.tsemtulku.com/?p=39695

Dear Rinpoche; My grandmother is sick

http://blog.tsemtulku.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/kechara-13-depts/a-chance-to-bring-home-medicine-buddha-%E2%80%93-for-free.html

Dear Tsem Rinpoche,

My mom just called me saying that my grandma is diagnosed with kidney cancer. I am not entirely sure how serious this is, but my grandpa passed away from lung cancer two years ago. She has always been healthy and enjoy playing ping-pong, and she was the Hong Kong elderly ping pong champion several years ago.

She enjoys taking care of her grand daughters. One of them is studying in New York right now and I just sent her her the bad news. The other two are a baby and a 2 years old. She also love taking care of the older grand daughter’s cats MiuMiu. I was not brought up by my grandma and has not been entirely close to her; especially I left Hong Kong more than ten years ago, and every time I go back I ignored her in exchange for “enjoying” myself with friends. Now that I am writing this short article / letter I realize how i little I know about her…..

Although I want to help but don’t exactly know how to directly benefit her. My mother recently revisited a nunnery where she used to visit during a financial crisis in my family several years ago; and she made a donation for the nunnery’s shrine for Medicine Buddha. Maybe Medicine Buddha for her to take refuge against the suffering of cancer. Sorry I cannot find a picture of my grandma but I do start to remember how she looks like now.

Yours Sincerely,

Stephen

 

Xian, China and Guangren Lamasery

xian-v8i2 “I lost most of my Xian photos after returning my blackberry to my previous employer; all photos here were found from Google….”

Summer 2012, my first stop to China and Tibetan Amdo region was Xian; the ancient capital of Han and Tang dynasty but it is only a second tier metropolitan in today’s People Republic of China. “Western”  influence flourished before the Muslim dominated Middle East and gradually the silk road trade, which eventually forces European to discovery of the New World but that’s not what we are going to discuss here. “Western” influence as the ancient Chinese knew it mainly referred to India, Persia, Arabia, and Roman Empire. The silk road trade brought different exotic spices like cumming popular in Northwestern Chinese cuisine; mystical creature (to the ancient Chinese spectators) such as Lions, Peacock, and elephants; foreign furniture such as chairs, which was not integrated into the Chinese culture until Song dynasty; and philosophical ideas from Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam have also reached China via silk road. I cannot be fully certain but I understood that main influences of Chinese Buddhism came from Greco-Buddhist nations along the silk road rather than directly from India.

My purpose to Xian was strictly business, therefore I did not visit the Terracotta Army nor any other popular tourist spots. However I did manage to escape from my unsuccessful business venture and visited Geuangren Lamasery (China refers to Tibetan Buddhist monastery as Lamasery) ; a Gelugpa Buddhist monastery largely unheard of even by the locals.

guangrensi_gate The monastery was built several hundreds  years ago in Qing Dynasty by the imperial family that followed the Buddhist Gelugpa tradition. It served the purpose of being a monastery for Manchurian/Mongolian elites and also as a resting place for the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama, or other high lama on their way to Beijing. Today the monastery is still actively promoting Buddhism and charity works in Xian. Out of admiration for the beautiful monastery and their works, I offered a portion of my traveling budget to the monastery for reconstructing one of their halls dedicated to one-thousands Lama Tsongkhapa statues.

guangrensi

Similar to Yonghegong Lamasery (if I remember correctly) Gelugpa monasteries in China would have at least three main halls the first venerates Shakyamuni Buddha who appeared in his supreme emanated form to show living beings the dharma; the second hall venerates Lama Tsongkhapa who found the Gelug tradition; and the third hall is dedicated to Maitreya the next Buddha who will appear aeons after Buddhism disappear from our time. However Guangrensi is special that their first main hall venerates Green Tara instead of Shakyamuni Buddha. According to my lovely tour guide (a lay student of their venerable abbot) there is a beautiful history behind this.

In Tang Dynasty Xian, there was a time when Tibetan kings would marry Chinese princesses. As one of her dowry the Princess took the Xian’s Shakyamuni statue to Tibet.

One night, the Chinese emperor was looking at the empty throne of Shakyamuni Buddha and thought “Who will protect Buddhism in China now that the Buddha is in Tibet…?”

That very moment the very same Green Tara statue in Guangrensi replied “Don’t worry I will protect and spread Buddhism in China.” As a result of this conversation between Green Tara and the emperor, Guangrensi installed Green Tara as their main deity when it was being constructed. The tour guide also stated to me in great pride that although themonastery is not well known their Green Tara statue is famous all the way to Tibet and Mongolia. (The picture below is their 9m tall Maitreya; for I failed to locate a picture of Guangrensi Green Tara)

gurangrensi mitrya

This concludes my trip to Xian. After that I left for Amdo, Tibet (Today being incorporated into the Chinese province Qinghai) with my younger brothers. Next post, I will write about an interesting conversation I had with a Taoist lady during my visit to Guangrensi, which involve discussion on Buddhist refuge and renunciation.

Why am I an engineer student even bother blogging?

“Tsongkhapa crown ornament of the scholar of the land of the snow; we prostrate at your lotus feet. ”

It is my first time writing a blog since Xanga, which I have abandoned years ago. I had the impulse to start a blog while riding the streetcar (in Toronto) on my way from school. The main purpose of this blog is to share with readers (if I ever get any) simple talks that I have with different people; my observation on human behavior; religious and philosophical debate; today’s news; or even simple fun facts.

On the other hand, I hope to improve my English through writing blog post on a weekly basis. It will be a great opportunity for me to practice skills that Dr. Hart taught in her English writing workshop at the university. As a Buddhist, I also praise the founder of the Gelug tradition Lama Tsongkhapa for blessings. He is a remarkable scholar/debater; to his followers a powerful lord of speech and embodiment of wisdom.

Hopefully my posts will be meaningful through applying my professor’s teaching while receiving spiritual inspirations from Lama Tsongkhapa. It is very unlikely that anyone would read this, but what the heck… I am looking forward for you guys (non-existing readers). Please come back! My next posts will be on my trip to Northwest China and Northeast Tibet (Amdo) last summer.