Maha Karuna Dharani chants from the Wu Sheng Monastery

Maha Karuna Dharani chants from the Wu Sheng Monastery
Helping to keep the Earth safe are Maha Karuna Dharani chants from the Wu Sheng Monastery in the month of May

Nestled on the Ling Jiou Mountain (LJM) amidst dense foliage of trees that cover far-reaching hilltops, the Wu Sheng Monastery offers a breath-taking view of both land- and seascapes. The almost always blue skies in May further enhance the monastery as a favorite venue for a 21-day retreat in solitude dedicated to the studies of, and meditations on, the Maha Karuna Dharani (Great Compassion Mantra) . Every year, people sign up to the practice to earn merits for oneself as well as for a world without calamities and in harmony, and the Earth in safety. The meditation is practiced on the 3rd floor of the Avataṃsaka Vihāra(Hua Tsang Hall) Rows of upright-seated believers from different places would repeat time and again the chant of the Maha Karuna Dharani that lasts for one incense stick to burn out. Under the benevolent gaze of the Bodhisattva Guanyin up in the Hall, and with a Dharma master taking the lead, the praying crowd always commences the chant by saying the name of Avalokitesvara, then on with the chant.

Long-time participants who are familiar with the retreat in solitude for the Maha Karuna Dharani know the chant by heart, and when they chant in sync, their voice vibrates in harmony and expands in volume in the vast hall. There is in here a consolidation of everyone’s devotion and mindfulness that join forces with the incredible power of every verse in the Maha Karuna Dharani that stabilize the heart and pass on the compassion.

After citing the scripture for a while, the participants would rise and walk in circles in slow pace without missing a beat of the chant in sync, as people assume various postures - some holding up their heads as in recollection and others bow down theirs as in reflections. Recollections and reflections can boil down to the essence of compassion that emerges from the depths of the heart and prompts vows of compassion in the hope that Mother Earth be healed of the wounds, whether tangible ones inflicted upon her environmentally, or intangible ones costed by people’s ignorance and indifference. Dharma Master Hsin Tao, while presiding over the annual ritual of the 21-day solitary retreat in a remote location, continues to pay attention to pollutions in the environment and in people’s heart. As a result, Master Hsin Tao prepares the participants for the retreat by taking the crowd down the hills to clean up the beach beforehand, which helps purify in a number of ways.

May is also the month when people celebrate the Mother’s Day. The LJM’s tradition in conducting the popular annual 21-day solitary retreat of the Maha Karuna Dharani lends itself well to the earning and accumulation of merits for dedication to our physical mother as well as Mother Earth.

Parallel to this, there is the Buddha-bathing ritual performed at the Lower Monastery of the LJM, i.e. the Sheng Shan Temple, to usher in the birthday of the Shakyamuni Buddha. It was a touching sight to behold when recently a visitor from Myanmar bathed the statue of Prince Siddhattha, with ladleful after ladleful of fragrant herbs to rinse down the statue, in total devotion and undisturbed in the quiet of the Golden Buddha Sanctury. A sense of sheer bliss was in the air … It thus can be said that we at the LJM recite the Maha Karuna Dharani with compassion, and we rejoice in embracing the Buddha’s birthday. May the Earth be safe forever, and ever-lasting peace and harmony occupy people’s heart and mind.