Great Vows Deep Within the Heart: — Lunar New Year Service: Buddhas’ Blessings
Written by : Yutang Yang
Translated by: Judith Lee
The uppermost problem of human beings does not lie in what has happened to us, but in the confusion, or in ignorance, that we are trapped in. Why were we born into this world? Most people would say that our birth was due to our karmas. However, it could be owing to our vows. Maybe no one dares to address that he/she was born into this world due to his/her vow. Nevertheless, we might all have vowed to be born into this world. It was just that the vows we had might not be for all sentient beings’ enlightenment, but for one’s own.
The word “realm” in “human realm” connotes the meaning of “portal gate.” Human realm is considered the portal gate to all the other realms of existence. Since the resources and conditions for practice in human realm are more ample than any other realms, being human is equivalent to being in the best college for study. We, as human being, are best equipped with our human bodies, which are not what we are but the facility for the process of transcending our confusion or ignorance. Therefore, no matter whether one is male or female, it takes great courage to don the form of a human being, which will suffer sick and death eventually.
Our bodies are equipped with six faculties, which generate the six sensations and give rise to the six consciousness, and subsequently the five skandhas. We all live in the possession constituted by the five skandhas. Since we have a hard time transcending the cognitions formed by our six faculties, the contents of our possession are pretty much comprised by the five skandhas. Often times, we mistake the contents of our cognitions as the ultimate reality because our understanding of the operation of our consciousness is not deep enough. Due to the limits of our six faculties, we often are trapped in our perception of our bodies and become attached to our selves. Once attached to our bodies and our perception of our bodies, we forgot the true nature and lost the connection to the original existing-being and mistaken this life as the one and only state of existence. We are wrapped with “confusion” or “ignorance.”
Due to the limits of human bodies, human beings were often bothered by the “not-so-well-equipped” bodies that we have. Some might, after getting old, dislike the bodies, some might not appreciate being human. However, let’s try asking ourselves these questions: Who is it that is detesting being human? If there were another “I” behind the scene that detests, which “I” was the real “I”? By asking this kind of question, we could see the confusion that is at work. However, as a matter of fact, the “confusion” is simply due to perceiving, and the same root cause of the attachment to the bodies. In other words, the confusion that we are trapped in is not inherent. It can be transcended if we see deeper into the reality. On the other hand, it is exactly because the bodies’ limits and unreliability, human beings will forgo the attachment and look to different venues for enlightenment. This explains why “it is really hard for the rich to practice the Dharma Way.” Without being challenged by the state of existence, without reflecting on the sufferings, one won’t eager to seek the opportunity of breaking through the confusion.
However, while there are so many sufferings in this world and so many practitioners, why is it that very few of us had attained enlightenment? Two key factors here: one is in lack of the “deep immersion in the practice”; another other is in need of “the genuineness of vows.” That means the practice of Buddhism is the practice of being aware of each thought, aided with the devotion (vows) of transcending the ignorance. While facing the five skandhas, one must be aware of what’s going on and stay alert constantly. While facing the desires of the mundane world, one must stick to one’s original vow without being distracted.
We all had made some great vows to be born into this world because we knew this world is most resourceful in supporting us transcending our ignorance. Avatamsaka Sutra said, “Magnificent-heartful vows & Complete-pure essence.” Our teacher Sakyamuni Buddha, vowing to attain enlightenment in this world, exemplifies this saying for all of us. No matter how confused we are, a flip of perceiving can return us to the complete state that we have always been.
We are lucky to be born in this world and, moreover, lucky enough to practice together. That’s what the phrase “It takes a hundred years of practice to gather the causes of ferrying in the same boat” means. Dharma Drum Mountain Pu-Sheng Center would like to offer “Lunar New Year Service: Buddhas’ Blessing”, sat 10am-12pm, Jan. 28-29, the first two days of Lunar New Year.
“Worshiping the Universal Buddhas (or Worshiping the Buddhas in the Universe)” means to pay homages to all buddhas, repent one’s wrongdoings, making offerings to the Buddha, Dharma, and the Sangha. For the monastic, this function does not need a platform to be set up but requires all members’ participation. Its equivalent in Chan School Buddhism is the practice of “not deserve daily food without daily work” instructed by Chan Master Bai-Chang. It’s an “universal invitation” for all members, monastic or lay, to go outdoor to engage in labor work.
At the beginning of the New Year, paying homages to the Buddhas in the universe, repenting one’s wrongdoing, continuing one’s life in wisdom, blessing, completeness, and light, give us the chance to embody the great vows of Sakyamuni Buddha, to experience the Dharmakaya with our physical bodies without wasting the equipped bodies and the decent causes and opportunities that we are endowed with in this lives.