With the CNY just about a month away, we are beginning to catch on with the atmosphere of the festive season with the evergreen Chinese New Year songs in the air. To usher in the new lunar year, the annual temple spring cleaning was scheduled on the Thursday, 10th of January, which is also a rest day for those who observe Awal Muharam as a public holiday. As in previous years, staff and volunteers gathered at 8 in the morning in the Great Compassion Hall to chant and listen to the dharma lecture by Shifu before we began the actual cleaning at 9 am.
Shifu stressed that there are five merits to be gained in engaging in any physical cleaning:
1. Cleansing our mind
2. Reciprocally also cleanse the others’ mind
3. A clean environment will please the gods and divine beings and will bring peace and prosperity to all.
4. Besides improving the cleanliness and promoting a healthy environment externally, the physical act of cleaning should prompt one to reflect and contemplate on spiritual cleansing in relation to our defilements such as greed, hatred, delusion, conceit, doubt and wrong views.
5. It aids in achieving one’s spiritual destination, attaining rebirth in the pure land in one’s next life.
Therefore, while we are cleaning our environment, we should simultaneously purify our inner defilements. Shifu encouraged everyone to take the ten moral precepts and make good use of the ten precept ledger to check their daily conduct.
After the Dharma sharing, allocation & distribution of works according to the schedule were carried out by the respective appointed group leaders as planned.
The whole cleaning operation was successfully completed by 11.45am. the participants again congregate at the Da Bei Dian for another sharing by Shifu and the transference of merits.
Shifu explained that there are three modes of wisdom. They are:
1. Wisdom of hearing - wisdom derived from hearing, through the faculty of the ear.
2. Wisdom of thought - wisdom acquired through reflection and contemplation.
3. Wisdom of cultivation - wisdom acquired through putting into action the dharma learned.
In order to cleanse the mind of the defilements of greed hatred and delusion, we need to develop the three modes of wisdom. The three modes are synonymous to a candle light that dispel the darkness of defilements. Shifu reminds us that by merely listening to his dharma is not enough, it should be followed up with serious contemplation and cultivation to attain the stage of eliminating the root causes of greed, hatred and delusion.
Buddhism is not a religion that rel on blind faith. For example the Pure land school, which requires the believers, not only to have faith in Amitabha Buddha, but also to conscientiously “ vow” to be born in the Western Pureland, and finally to cultivate through chanting the name of Amitabha. Amitabha name recitation should not only be done verbally but more importantly mindfully. The term cultivation encompasses Amitabha name recitation, meditation and taking precepts. However, the essence of cultivation lies not in form but a deep understanding and appreciation of its purpose. Therefore, we should take the annual spring cleaning as a way of cultivation –to cleanse and eliminate our inner defilements.
With the “Lapa day just around the corner, Shifu further explained its origin and meaning. Two thousands years ago, Prince Siddhatha spent six years indulging in ascetic practice in search of enlightenment. Finally he realized that asceticism is not the ansewer and he accepted food in the form of gruel from a female goat-herder. At the age of 35 he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. The memorable day, according to the Chinese Buddhist, falls on the 8th day of 12th lunar month. and is celebrated as “Lapa day”. Traditionally, gruel of the same name consisted of eight ingredients cooked and served on this day as a remembrance the day Buddha attained enlightenment.
After listening to the explanation by Shifu, we now learn a new meaning and significance behind the annual spring cleaning . The participants performed the transference of merits before heading home with a sense of dharmic bliss.