THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Sharing Experiences about the 2006 Bowing Session
From the April 2007 Vajra Bodhi Sea issue. Translated by Shramerika Jin Jing
Abbot DM. Lyu:
The 23-day Repentance Before Ten Thousand Buddhas concludes today. We take this opportunity to share our experience during this period of time. We can learn from each other and also encourage each other to cultivate vigorously. You are welcome to come up to speak. Don’t feel shy.
Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and the wise teachers: Good evening. My Dharma name is Qing Guang and I came from Minnesota. This is my first time participating in the Repentance Before Ten Thousand Buddhas. I remember the very first day when we purified the boundaries, the Abbot said, “Welcome home.” This is the second time for me to “return home”. The first time was the Amitabha Session. This time returning home, it felt very good, heartwarming, very pure. It was not like last time, when I was very nervous. During these twenty some days, every day I felt like I have returned to the wonderfully enlightened Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ home, and also to Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s home. I want to thank the Venerable Master for establishing this place for us to become Buddhas in the future. I remember that the Buddha, the World Honored One, once told this story: A long time ago, there was the Buddha King of Emptiness. Four Bhikshus had left home with him. When King of Emptiness Buddha entered Nirvana, the Dharma declined. It was just like the situation we are in now. So the environment for cultivation was not ideal, not good at all, and the four Bhikshus encountered many difficulties. They had heavy karma and almost wanted to retreat. What is more, they were about to fall to the evil paths. One day, all of a sudden, there was a sound from the sky, from the space, that said to these four Bhikshus, “You should not retreat from your cultivation. You should hurry and go to the Buddha Hall, face the Buddhas as if they were really in front of you. Contemplate that the Buddhas are in front of you. You should make obeisance to the Buddhas and sincerely repent.” After these four Bhikshus heard these instructions, they did exactly as instructed. They repented, ceased doing all evil and cultivated all good deeds. Later these four Bhikshus attained samadhi and eventually became Buddhas. The very first Bhikshu became Akshobya Buddha. The second was Jeweled Appearance Buddha. The third Bhikshu was Amitabha Buddha. The fourth Bhikshu was Subtle Wonderful Sound Buddha. So from the instructions of the World Honored One in this case, we know that if we seriously and sincerely bow to the Buddhas and repent, we will eventually become Buddhas.
So this time I am most delighted that I can participate in this repentance. After finishing bowing in this repentance session, I truly understand that bowing in repentance before the ten thousand Buddhas is so important and is a precious opportunity. In Minnesota, when I practice with other people, or when I bow, I never bow so much. Generally I will make 48 bows, 88 bows, or at most 108 bows. I had never done so many bows at one time, especially at this very special Dharma assembly. I feel very ashamed because during this session, my legs hurt so much from bowing that I had to take some pain medicine. I think the pain medicine affected my stomach. Taking it was not a very wise thing to do. Fortunately, the Dharma Masters and my fellow cultivators took good care of me, giving me some antidotes so I eventually passed this test and finished this session. Lastly, I want to thank the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for arranging such a special, adorned, and successful Dharma assembly, and I hope that everyone will attain the perfect appearance of the Buddha. Thank you.
Fan Guo Hui:
All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and wise teachers: Amitabha. My Dharma name is Fan Guo Hui. Although I have been coming to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to participate in Dharma assemblies starting seventeen years ago, this is only my second chance to participate in the complete repentance. Although tonight is the final night of the Repentance Before Ten Thousand Buddhas, my mind is filled with all kinds of gratitude. I am grateful that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas gave this repentance dharma; I am grateful that the Venerable Master has established the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and let us to have a chance to participate in this repentance; I am grateful to the Abbot, the cantors, the Dharma Masters, all the cultivators and wise teachers that we can cultivate together, and I am grateful to the kitchen staff who are so busy from the morning until late in the afternoon to prepare such healthy and wonderful vegetarian meals for us.
I heard during a Dharma lecture the analogy that we repent, our body is like a dirty bottle filled with dirty stuff such as the three poisons. When we repent with sincerity, we can cleanse this bottle. When this is clean, we can fill it with the water of compassion and the water of wisdom. Then it can help us in our cultivation.
I once read a true account that helped me understand causes and conditions and how to end bad causes and bad karma. I would like to share that story. There was a very poor person who had a certain skin disease on his scalp. It was very difficult for him to find a job. Finally he was able to find a job selling tofu on the street. One day an elderly Bhikshu walked by and asked him if there was anything he could offer to the Sangha. This man pondered the request for a long time. He thought, “If I offer the tofu to this elderly Bhikshu, my boss will not like it and I might get fired. However, this Bhikshu is so old and it would be hard for him to go hungry.” The man finally decided to make an offering to the elderly Bhikshu. When he returned to his boss, the boss was indeed very upset and fired him. However, this man recalled that before the elderly Bhikshu left, he mentioned to him that if he had any difficulty in the future, he could go to the temple and look for him.
When the man went to the temple, he found out that the elderly Bhikshu was the abbot there. He stayed at the temple and helped out. Later on, he became a monk. One day he was cleaning the toilet. In the old days, the toilet looked like a big hole and the bottom was like a big pool, collecting human waste. While he was cleaning the toilet, he slipped and fell into the cesspool. He drowned and died. His Dharma brothers saw this and were very sad. They didn’t understand why such a sincere man had died this way. The elderly abbot told his disciples the causes and conditions. Because this man had not created any good karma in his past lives, he was destined to suffer for three lifetimes. In the first life, he would be poor all his life. In his second life, he would have the skin disease and nobody would want to get close to him. In his third life, he would drown in a cesspool. However, since he had created superior good karma by sincerely making an offering to the elderly Bhikshu, all the bad karma he was supposed to suffer in three lifetimes was ended in this life. In the future, he would be reborn in a very rich and happy family for many lifetimes.
This story made me understand that everything is a matter of causes and results. The Repentance Before Ten Thousand Buddhas is over. Anything happens after this is due to our past karma, so I will continue to repent, and one day I will be liberated. I would like to thank all wise teachers; may we meet again in the Repentance Before Ten Thousand Buddhas. Amitabha.
Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, all good Dharma friends, my name is Henry Babcock. My Dharma name is Qing Li. I am from Ukiah. Last year I suffered my way through the bowing session. It was later in the year and much hotter and I was very sick for much of it. I just endured all the suffering and did it. Despite all these difficulties, when 2006 came around, I looked back on the previous year, and somehow the bowing session stood up as the highlight of the whole year. How strange! I cannot quite figure out why this was but it really was the case. So this was reason enough for me to do it again this year. Since it started earlier this year, the weather has been nice and cool all the time, ideal for bowing. No electric fans and no flies. Only now when we finish it, it starts getting hot. Basically it has not been difficult this time so I was able to appreciate the actual bowing more. Now it is finished, and what I would like to be able to express is not possible to say. When the bowing first began, in just the first few days, I got really full of myself, thinking they probably were going to ask me to speak when this was over. What am I going to say? We had barely begun and I was already false thinking what I was going to say when it was over. Fortunately I quickly realized that just doing the bowing was enough. So I stopped thinking about it. Unlike last year, I tried to just focus on bowing for its own sake rather than on the goal of finishing it. This was especially motivated by what the Venerable Master had said in one of the tape lectures during the lunch early on, “If it’s the bowing that is good to do, why think about it being done? Is there some other cultivation you are waiting to do when you finish bowing?” This really hit home. So it came to the final day of bowing, and suddenly I realized that it’s done! And I thought maybe because of my false thinking earlier that I had gotten out of speaking. I was happy because despite all my earlier thinking, now I didn’t know what to say. I had not been thinking about it. So of course right then I was approached by the Dharma Master and asked to speak after all.
So what can I say? I can think and try to come up with words to describe what is going on with this practice. When I try to convince my friends to try it out, I always come up short. This is because basically I myself do not know what is going on. I can describe different aspects: the great physical exercise of bowing, the spiritual cultivation of connecting ourselves to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of all time and space through reciting and bowing to them, the opportunity for us to truly recognize our past mistakes and present faults, and begin to change ourselves on a deeper level, the worldly beauty of the different recitation melodies which brought up my energy right when I could barely go on, the invaluable connection that you are making with good Dharma friends, and the good we are creating for the world. These are just few of the names of the benefits. But none of these come close to explaining the full merit of this practice. Because it must be done, not just talked about or understood on a conceptual level. So what can I say? The best I can come up with is this one simple phrase: Thank you! Thank you to you all for making this inexpressible experience possible. Thank you to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Thank you to the Venerable Master. Thank you to the Dharma Masters, the amazingly talented ceremony leaders. Thank you to all the kitchen staff for perfect food day after day. I actually gained 5 pounds during the session. For eating about one and a half meal per day, it was such good nutritious food. Thank you to all my good supporting Dharma friends, old and new. Thank you to you all for providing this opportunity for the invaluable practice. In all the Ukiah Valley outside the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, I think I was the only person who has been able to make it through this whole session. For this I feel very lucky, humble, and most of all grateful. I decided to continue bowing on my own every day and I look forward to practicing here with you all for many years in the future. And thank you for the opportunity to speak. Namo Da Bei Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa.
Namo all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters and fellow cultivators, Amitabha! My name is Kenny. I am finishing my second semester at the Dharma Realm Buddhist University. We are finishing the 10,000 Buddhas Repentance and I have also finished the two weeks’ Avatamsaka Repentance and the Emperor’s Liang’s Repentance as well which we did on the delegation to Asia. I want to talk a little bit of my experience of all these repentances and I want to talk about sincerity. What is sincerity? I don’t know. This is something I think about everyday. I have really been sincere when I recite the Buddha’s name or bow, so I have my own little story about this that I would like to share. Two years ago before taking refuges and precepts, I vowed to bow 500 times per day for 21 days to Guanyin Bodhisattva. 10,500 bows altogether. And I did them really quickly maybe between 3 to 4 hours per day. And on the last day I check the calendar from DRBA, and I realize it was the Venerable Master’s enlightenment day. So I put forth my vigor and try to bow extra sincerely that last day. But then I realize this whole time I was only doing the external form – the physical form of bowing, and not the true, internal bowing. So on the last bow that finishing my entire 21 days I saw the Venerable Master in my mind and he said, “(Pang) Be 100% true! Really focus!” and on the last bow I think really did feel true. So I did one bow out of 10,000 sincerely. And now after the past two months of repentance ceremonies all over Asia and now back to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, I still realize I have a very limited understanding of what it means to be truly sincere. I only know I have to keep trying and keep repenting. It seems that the more I bow, the more my past karma floods my mind. I think I have relived my entire life and probably other lives while bowing these past two months. And it also seems as if I have done the most false thinking in my life as well. However, I feel that this is actually a useful thing, if that’s a big if, I can use it properly. Why? It is because the central component of repenting is reforming. And after all these bowing, I feel clear on a lot of what I have to change about myself if I want to be truly repentant. And I feel now and I realize now that I should never, no matter how many times I repented and bowed, I should never have the thought that I finished repenting. In my opinion, repentance and reformation is something cultivators, young and old, can do forever. I am doing so as a beginner. But I want to keep trying whether I pass or fail all these tests, I would never give up trying. Amitabha!