A Puja Platform Attracting Saints & Ordinaries To Benefit Both The Living & The Deceased, The LJM Water-Land-Air Dharma Assembly 2021 Reached Perfect Completion
The Ling Jiou Mountain (LJM) Water-Land Dharma Assembly opened with a purification Ritual for its site at the Sheng Shan Monastery on August 20 to continue over a 21-day period of collective recitation of Buddhist scriptures and Dharma functions to reach a perfect completion in the afternoon of September 10 and thus marking a full stop for the signature LJM annual event a particular one - in that it was the first-time ever that the Dharma Assembly returned to the LJM headquarters for expanded implementation in 28 years.
With a full, official name that reads ‘A Grand Puja Congregation For A General Water-Land Liberation Across All Ten Dharma Realms of Saints & Ordinaries’, the Water-Land Dharma function is traditionally the grandest of all Buddhist events. For twenty-eight years and running, the LJM Water-Land Dharma Assembly has firmly stood by the principles of ‘Compassion, Rigor, & Equality’ in the annual implementation of the Buddhist function. Not only does LJM follow the tradition of a millennium-old ritual to the finest details in execution, but has taken the Dharma event online in the last two years under the impact of COVID-19 to transcend time and space to enable a global participation by followers around the world, so as to collect and consolidate the power of compassion to reinforce the strengths of mindfulness for resonant vibrations powerful enough to help eradicate calamitiers for the world and usher in blessings instead.
The signature LJM Water-Land Dharma Assembly used to take the lofty Taoyuan Arena for a venue, but returned to the LJM Headquarters for its 2021 execution. Physical limitations of the site plus ever-increasing pandemic restrictions, however, were successfully mitigated by an all-out collaboration between LJM residential masters and participating followers across the board. August mandalas for grand altars were erected for the solemn rituals, while all pandemic restrictions were observed to the tee. LJM is renowned for being a convergence of all three major Buddhist traditions Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Thus accordingly, the LJM Water-Land Dharma Assembly not only offers the full range of mandalas of, eg. the Liang Wu Emperor, the Classic Scriptures, etc., but also for other Inner Altars and, further still, comes equipped with the Altar of Arahats in the Theravada tradition and a Tantric Altar for Vajrayana Buddhism as well. While different Buddhist traditions vary in their ritual procedures, what they have in common remains invariably the spirit of compassion to elevate from suffering, and of repenting to increase one’s wisdom.
Dharma rituals at the Outer Altar of the Liang Wu Emperor Mandala spearheaded the 21-day Dharma event, and the daily common practice online brought along quite a few innovative features ranging from reciting key scriptures, the morning sermon or its light version of a summary reminder of the day’s business, tips for the afternoon peace meditation, and highlight of the evening lecture with experts… to collectively ensure that everyone’s body, mind, and soul continue to stay nurtured by Dharma. Theravada altars used to be manned by Mahasanghas flown in from Myanmar for the event specifically, but travel ban due to the pandemic necessitated the use of multiple remote sites. Therefore, participants joined Burmese Mahasanghas in reciting scriptures and chanting mantras, and proceeded to act out the ‘Water-Dripping Ritual for Merits’ by dripping waterdrops from a silver flask into a small cup to symbolize the accumulation of positive karmas of merits into a sea of virtue.
The signature LJM Water-Land Dharma Assembly first saw the addition of a Tantric Altar for Vajrayana in 2001, and a Tantric Altar was the only such Water-Land setup at the LJM Wusheng Monastery, featuring daily performance of Dharma functions by Rinpoches and Lamas with varying daily tribute of incense-burning, meditation in tantric styles and rites for removal of hindrances. Vajrayana practitioners led online participants through the rituals in liberating the deceased, while overcoming barriers in enhancing one’s wisdom. Furthermore and as a whole, the LJM Water-Land Dharma Assembly 2021 physically extended the Dharma event’s original spirit from that of a ‘general Puja’ (offering alms to the general public) to a tangible outreach program of donating offerings prepared for all the ‘Flaming Mouths’ to minority groups in the neighborhood. A ‘Water-Land Public Donation’ also took off in conjunction with charity organizations in New Taipei City, Taoyuan City, and Keelong City to bring rice and cooking oil to the needy. The campaign added an extra dimension to the traditional Water-Land Dharma event to echo the compassion of Bodhisattva Guanyin.
Dharma rituals for/at the Inner Altars began with the enchantment rites, the issuance of oracle divinations, and the hoisting of event banners for the deities and the spirits. Buddhist followers went for reconciliations with all sentient beings with each and every Dharma ritual, but optimized the opportunity of repenting precepts for cleansing the heart and mind. The concluding Dharma event with the ‘Sending-off All Saints’ was performed to see all ten Buddhas and Bodhisattvas occupying the Upper Hall off and back to their respective heavens, taking the ancestors and the spirits of the participants’ benefactors and debtors alike from past lives along for liberation to reach the Paradise of Utmost Bliss. The Water-Land Dharma event would arrive at a perfect ending when a West-bound Ship of Prajna under the charge of Altar-protecting Dharma Generals and fully loaded with ritual tablets bearing the identification of participating benefactors was set ablaze in flames and finally went up in smoke and disappeared.
LJM Founding Abbot, Dharma Master Hsin Tao, took time to explain in detail the progressive arrangement of the 2021 Water-Land Dharma Assembly during his sermon delivered at the ‘Sending-off All Saints’ on September 10. The general assembly sessions at the Outer Altars served to purify our heart and mind in preparations for consequent rituals for/at the Inner Altars upon the removal of all habitual attachments of participants. Only then it would become feasible to achieve a state of mind for resonance in sync with all Saints and Ordinaries present in the enchantment for an unobstructed real-life realization and a full-bodied in-person experience. Venerable Master Hsin Tao also reiterated his deep concern that our planet has become gravely compromised with an increasingly deteriorating
ecology. Major natural disasters of destructive wildfires and hurrican-triggered floods of recent years alongside the still lingering pandemic have construed the ‘Four Major Imbalances’ as harbinger of dire warnings that our Earth is on the brink of collapse. These plights can be accounted for by the ‘Five Poisons’ (greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt) that blind people and give rise to wanton desires for insatiable consumptions that lead to the depletion of resources. As a result, repent and corrections are the only way to revive the opportunity of sustainability for the Earth’s survival. The Water-Land Dharma Assembly aimed exactly at reconciling with Nature and Spirituality and relief from negative karma from past wrong-doings. It was also an opportunity to reflect and repent to finally determin to stop damaging our planet further and to correct all wrongs in concrete manners to make possible that the clock can be turned backward for the Earth in the 11th hour.
On the occasion of the LJM Water-Land Dharma Assembly’s 20th Anniversary, Dharma Master Hsin Tao composed a prose-poem in Mantra-style that roughly translates as ‘(Our Water-Land Dharma Assembly) Reaches the public of All Ten Directions to bestow bliss and relief of suffering; (By virtue of enacting the) Puja and precepts are vehicles into classic scriptures, while the occasion a platform to reinse our heart for thorough repenting.’ The verses highlight the purpose and approach of the Water-Land Dharma Assembly. Section 19 of the Sutra of Posthumous Teachings of Buddha also pointed out that ‘Dharma can then be viewed as self-evident and complete when altruism benefits oneself as well’. Therefore, a Water-Land Dharma event is a well-rounded manifestation of self-benefit alongside altruism and thereby a ‘paramita’ that all sentient beings enjoy a cosmic harmony of an all-encompassing symbiosis. The concluding comments in Dharma Master’s sermon for the 28th LJM Water-Land Dharma Assembly says it all -- the Water-Land Dharma Assembly is a convenient approach to benefit both the living and the deceased and we hope the public will always join our annual Water-Land Dharma event to reflect virtuous merits. We pray that the Three Treasures Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha will allow us their grace and help eradicate the coronavirus pandemic rather sooner than later. We pray for world peace and an Earth sound and safe.