A Millennium-old Tradition Returns to Ling Jiou Mountain Proper with Its 2021 Air-Water-Land Dharma Assembly of Liberation Begins as A 21-Day Retreat Online

A Millennium-old Tradition Returns to Ling Jiou Mountain Proper with Its 2021 Air-Water-Land Dharma Assembly of Liberation Begins as A 21-Day Retreat Online
Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society (LJM) created its first-ever Water Land Dharma Assembly in Taichung in 1994. Its solemn atmosphere helped all participants attain peace at heart, while its liberation effect made people realize how miraculously well the Dharma event functioned and thereby firmly established itself as LJM's annual liberation rituals henceforth. The special 8-day-7-night Dharma event connects as an invisible bridge for sentient beings in their separate worlds respectively for the living and the deceased. The enchanted sphere is where life has reconciliations at scale and the process from repenting, alms offering, vow pledging to merits reflecting clans and purifies past karma to transform them into willpower and release them from past suffering to ultimately achieve peace and joy when consciousness turned into wisdom.

The original LJM signature Dharma event was relocated to the then inaugurated Taoyuan Stadium in 1995 to become an even more spectacular Water-Land-Air Dharma Assembly that grew to stand as the No.1 annual event for LJM followers as well as for Taoyuan county-wide over the past 20-plus years. Buddhism originated in India and spread out from there to reach most parts of Asia and it experienced major, near-extinction setbacks numerous times in history to withstand the test of time by virtue of the faith's accessibility and followers’ firm belief. The ever-increasing acceleration of natural disasters such as mega earthquakes, devastating hurricanes and floods, towering infernos in different continents after one another, and other green house effects of global warming serve to sharpen our acute sense of the sad-dharma vipralopa and the still-lingering COVID-19 pandemic imposes itself on the world to create realities of the New Normal, while people's restlessness has never been greater before. Against such background LJM decided to move its 2021 Water-Land-Air Dharma Assembly of Liberation online and back to its headquarter monasteries at Fulong and modified its traditional 8-day-7-night format to a 21-day retreat to accommodate the conventional Buddhist ritual for blessing and protection in times of adversity when calamity strikes. For sentient beings who fell victim to the pandemic and other recent catastrophes natural or man-made, LJM has reserved a special ritual tablet of commemoration on-site at the Dharma event for public good and Buddhist redemption.

For almost 30 years that was the first time when the LJM Water Land Dharma function returned home to its headquarters with the theme on ‘Back to the Root, Return to the Original Self, Act out the Vow’ and the LJM Lower Monastery at the Sheng Shan Monastery functions as the designated seat for the Dharma event's grandiose mandala. A comprehensive manual for the 21-day online retreat has likewise been prepared to guide participants along the principles of ‘Calming the Mind, Entrenching the Consciousness, Commanding the Self’, so that the practitioners can easily follow through the depths of Buddhism and gain merits. In the Buddhist view, the increasing magnitude of natural disasters and manmade devastations can be primarily ascribed to people's insatiable greed and wanton desires that led to major, near-irrevocable damage to ecology to the extent that Nature finally strikes back. Put succinctly, the 21-day online retreat is designed for a multipurpose experience - the Water Land Dharma Assembly functions to liberate spirits for elevation from suffering to happiness for our ancestors and kins through reconciliations, whereas the select course of practice from the retreat manual serves to help cleanse our own karma for improvement and return us to the original self for a merit-building and virtue-creating process to enrich our wisdom and increase our fortune for our faith in Buddhism.

Taking the Water Land Dharma Assembly back to the LJM headquarters for 2021 was no rushed decision, but a well-studied assessment. COVID-19 took the world by surprise and people need to calm down to quiet their restlessness. Bringing the signature LJM Dharma event back to the headquarters against such background offers a soothing sense of homecoming to LJM followers, while adding a boost to their faith. The relocation has little bearing on the sincerity and preparations that went into the implementation of the Dharma event itself, which is being practiced in line with its millennium-old tradition to the last details. The 21-day online retreat allows more time for in-depth experience via a virtual participation in all pertinent rituals, and the net result is that our collective prayers not only benefit the spirits of our ancestors and relatives, but for a speedy recovery for our world and the Earth as well.

At 7P.M. on August 20, the 28th LJM Water-Land-Air Dharma Assembly of Liberation was ceremoniously initiated in front of the Golden Buddhas Hall of the Sheng Shan Monastery in Fulong. It opened with a light show and the theme was ‘Sacred Illumination for LJM's Holy Mountains’. In the acoustic ensemble of drums and bells, Dharma Master Hsin Tao as LJM Founding Abbot entered the venue under a Buddhist canopy before joining local dignitaries and officials to officiate the event by lighting up candles symbolically. Live Streaming afforded global viewership the opportunity to join in the consolidation of compassionate strengths, while welcoming the Triple Treasures Buddhas/Dharma/Sanghas and the holy audiences to arrive at the Inner Altars, with Celestial Guardians and Dharmapalas safeguarding the enchanted mandala site. Peace Lights then shone on one after another to suggest all ten realms being illuminated by Buddha Light as guideposts for the world. Dharma Master Hsin Tao then led everyone on-site to chant the mantra of ‘Mahayana Conversion for Refuge-taking’, while LJM masters-in-resident lit up Lights of Fortune for the public to bring the event to completion in the company of chants and lights. The successful completion of the opening rituals thus signaled the beginning of the 21-day online retreat in conjunction with the 2021 LJM Water Land Dharma Assembly.

The LJM Buddhist Society was founded more than 38 years ago, and the 2021 Water Land Dharma Assembly is its 28th staging of the major event. In upholding social distancing due to the still rampant pandemic trailing a long list of catastrophes natural and/or manmade, the relocation of the signature LJM Dharma event observes the Buddhist tradition of offering accessibility and ease of practice in times of turmoil is in fact a statement of steadfastness of our faith in implementing the time-honored Dharma event to apeace the living and the deceased, while paying tribute to all Ten Realms via the Dharma event in unwavering compassion and positive notions. Meanwhile, it is our hope as such it is our vaccination of mindfulness to help turn around the tide for the world.