A Memorable Dharma Assembly
Wisma Buddhist, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, December 11, 1983
This Sunday morning at 3:40 A.M. was surprisingly pleasant. At the Wisma, people were alighting from cars and entering the building. Street lamps lit up the place. For an early morning crowd, there were quite a number of people. The recitation started after the Dharma Masters took their places at the head of the assembly.
Sincerity and determination brought these people to the recitation. Sincerity, because some of them would be at the Wisma from before sunrise until after sunset; and determination, because some of them couldn't even read the recitation book, but were trying their best to catch some familiar words and follow along. It was going to be a long day, fully packed with programs -- Dharma programs.
The Medicine Master Buddha ceremony started at about 8:00 A.M. People began coming and by about 10:00 A.M. the hall was fully packed with people sitting on the floor reciting the Buddha's name. For many it was an opportunity to join the Dharma Masters in their cultivation. With sincerity, those in the great assembly were seeking to eradicate calamities and create auspiciousness in the world. The eastern coast of our own country, Malaysia, was experiencing heavy rain, and floods were destroying property and lives. At one point, it was quite striking to see an English bhikshu from America leading a long procession of reciters and reciting in their own language "Namo Syau Dzai Yan Shou Yau Shr Fwo" -- "Homage to Medicine Master Buddha Who Dispels Calamities and Lengthens Life." The revival of Buddhism, coming from West to East, has begun.
The ceremony stopped for the afternoon Dharma talks. At least 70% of the crowd was composed of young people under 40. The Dharma Masters spoke in English which was translated into Mandarin and vice versa. They spoke of cultivation, of the results of actually putting the Dharma into practice. They told anecdotes and reminded us of the things we Buddhists ought to be doing. The Dharma came to life as we heard how relevant the teachings of the Buddha are to our times and problems. By their examples and explanations, the Dharma Masters showed us again and again that the Dharma is timeless and forever beneficial.
The events of the day had been carefully planned and were executed smoothly. The Medicine Master Buddha ceremony was completed after the lecture and followed by a liberating of the living ceremony. Evening recitation, a refuge taking ceremony and the evening Dharma Talks would complete the wonderful day.
There was great excitement as the animals to be liberated were brought into the hall. They had been purchased for release and this compassionate deed gave the assembly a rare and unforgettable opportunity to participate in what must surely be the most joyful of all Buddhist ceremonies! Slowly but definitely the voice of the assembly rose as the ceremony proceeded. It seemed as if everyone was determined that the sound of Dharma should be heard throughout the Dharma Realm! Midway through the ceremony some of the birds burst into songs and chirps. Joy abounded in the hall. All too soon it was time for evening recitation. There was no lessening of the vocal power as the assembly recited the 88 Buddhas Repentance ceremony. It was a very determined assembly!
Dharma Masters Sure and Chao were the Dharma Hosts of the refuge taking ceremony, representing their Venerable Master in administering refuge with the Buddhas, the Dharma, and the Sangha to all who sought it. It was an awesome ceremony, but the scene in the hall was a comfortable one. The Dharma Masters were sitting on the platform before the Buddha image. The refuge takers were kneeling in the center of the hall and all around were people either sitting or standing, observing. The Dharma Master took pains to explain the significance of taking refuge to the new disciples. Those who watched also received benefit as they listened to the exhortations of the Dharma Masters.
Evening came and again the Dharma Masters spoke to a big assembly. The following day they would leave Kuala Lumpur for Bangkok, the next destination of their world tour.
The end of the lecture saw the crowd bowing in respect and gratitude to the Dharma Masters for having come so far to our land to inspire our hearts and wills and to nurture our Bodhi seeds.
What they gave us in all their lectures was rare indeed, for it is not often that English speaking people get to hear of Bodhisattva practices, told to them first hand in their language. Although Buddhism began in the east, it is now difficult to hear Sutra lectures here. Few have seen translated versions of the Flower Adornment Sutra in English and yet throughout their talks, the Dharma Masters referred to the King of Kings of Sutras like a textbook, while the assembly listened with great attention. We heard of the powers of kindness and compassion -- how compassionate instructions were bestowed from the Dharma Seat and how they were then put to the test on the tough streets of the Los Angeles ghettoes. We also heard of past mistakes frankly admitted to, of lessons sometimes learned the hard way. Surely we too can change our faults! There were many who had questions which they put before the Dharma Masters, like those on vegetarianism, on faith, and on the authenticity of the Sutras. The benefit we received from the Dharma Masters' visit cannot be fully described, just as the benefit thirsty plants receive from a much needed rain cannot be measured.
It will not be easy to repay the kindness of the Virtuous Ones who teach and exhort us to leave suffering and strive for liberation. In no small way, too, do we owe the people who expended great efforts and worked hard to make it possible for us to meet with and listen to the Proper Dharma.
Homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions for bestowing their deeds and compassion upon us living beings.
Homage to the Venerable Master who out of great compassion and vows caused the Proper Dharma to remain and now flourish in our world.
Homage to the Dharma Masters who came to our land bearing the standard of the Proper Dharma flying high.
Reported by Upasika Kuo Choo
Vajra Bodhi Sea, April 1984