The Than Hsiang kalyanamitra home and the Than Hsiang Buddhist youth group jointly organized a eight precept cultivation on the 14th and 15th of March 2009 for both undergraduates and graduates from 18 to 45 year old to participate in the one day plus one night retreat. It is hope that the event will promote a better understanding of the significance of Buddhist precepts and grasping the right views of Buddhism.
A total of 35 participants checked in by 6.30pm in the afternoon of MARCH 14TH. The day also coincided with the birthday of goddess of mercy(Kuan In tan) and the renunciation day for the former Than Hsiang staff, Hui Ti Fashi . The participants had the opportunity to witness the renunciation ceremony, which was held in the main Shrine hall on the 6th floor. The ceremony was conducted amid the chanting of amituofo and well wishes from all present.
After the ceremony, Ven. Zhen Xin briefed the participants on the rules of the 8- precept cultivation. This was followed by Ven. Wei Wu ‘s dharma lecture, explaining the 8 precepts from the theistic and Buddhist moral perspectives. The practice of 8 precepts helps to cultivate the mental state of renunciation, encompassing the precept of : not to kill; not to steal; not to engage in sexual misconduct; not to lie ; not to use intoxicants ; not to attend musical performances/adorn their bodies ;sleep on high and wide beds;and eat after noontime. With the additions of two precepts of (i) not engaging in singing / dancing and (ii) handling money , the set of ten precepts constitutes the precepts of the novice monks and nuns.
In order to safeguard against breaching the precept of verbal misconduct, participants were to strictly observe silence during the retreat. Precepts form the foundation of Bodhi (enlightenment). For lay people, the observance of the precepts was a way to accumulate virtuous karma to be reborn in the realm of human and ultimately through diligent cultivation to attain final liberation (nirvana). However an even more sublime aspiration is to practice Bodhicitta- the spirit of enlightenment. Finally Wei Wu Shifu also explained the meaning s of the four levels of gratitude to emphasize the correct conception on renunciation.
Preliminary briefing on the liturgy of ceremony was conducted by Zhen Ru Fashi on attire, praying hand gestures and prostration techniques . All Participates retired to their resting rooms and light off at 10.30pm to be ready for the next day ‘s precept cultivation.
By 5am all participants were up after hearing the wake up call of the sound of the hitting of the plank. The day activities were divided into eleven sessions represented by the time taken to completely burn out a Joss stick for each session. The activities were briefly described below:
The 1st session ( 1st joss stick)---morning service –chanting of amitaba Buddha to be followed by breakfast
The 2nd session(2nd joss stick)— cultivation programme began with the acceptance of precepts ceremony.
The 3rd session (3rd joss stick)—Amitaba name chanting, circumambulation and sitting meditation with guidance from Ven. Zhen Xin.
The 4th session ( 4th joss stick)—participation in the renunciation ceremony of Hui Ti Fashi.
The 5th session (5th joss stick)--- participation in the grand offering ceremony to commemorate the birdthday of Goddess of mercy of Mahayana tradition.
The 6th session ( 6th joss stick)—Teaching on basic Dharma and Buddhist liturgy by Ven. Zhen Ru.
The 7th session (7th joss stick)—Repentance of pass misdeed , vows making and amitaba chanting .
The 8th session(8th joss stick)---Amitaba chanting
The 9th session( 9th joss stick)—explanation on the meaning of transference of merits by Zhen Ru Shi
The 10th session ( 10th joss stick)—the evening chanting service.
The 11th session (11th joss stiock)—the final session of the cultivation comprised a dharma lecture , a grand transference of merit ritual followed by the participants running a few laps round the hall to mark the end of the day ‘s programme.
Before retiring , the participants were reminded to write down their thoughts and handed in their reports. The participants broke camp early the following morning and were grateful for the opportunity and all concerned who had contributed in one way or another to make this retreat a success.