Normally the staff of Than Hsiang Temple were encouraged to participate in the annual Seven Day Amitabha Recitation Retreat (Fo Qi) as part of the Abbot's wise policy to have the Temple's staff grow spiritually in the Buddha Dharma. This year, however, due to the exceeding great number of 270 participants for the Fo Qi, there was no room for the staff to participate. They were not left out, nonetheless. Last Sunday, 3 December 2006, the staff participated in the Eight Precepts Cultivation.
It had been a few months since I last took part in the Eight Precepts Cultivation and I had looked forward to participating in the Fo Qi. I was naturally disappointed not to be able to as participating in the Fo Qi, even for one day was somehow slightly different than participating in the Eight Precepts Cultivation. There was a greater sense of one-pointed mindfulness about everyone, especially in the fifth, sixth and seventh day of the Fo Qi that you don't quite find in the one-day Eight Precepts Cultivation.
Nonetheless, I was quite happy to join the other staff for last Sunday's Eight Precept Cultivation. I didn't manage to attain one pointed mindfulness in the morning as I had allowed myself to be disturbed by other participants' irregular walking rhythm to throw me out of sync. After lunch, during the Repentance period, I became totally immersed in one pointed mindfulness and I felt such dharmic joy and bliss that I regret to say I was a bit sad when it ended. I realize then such is the impermanence of things as they are.
Later, towards the end of the day, I managed to achieve one pointed mindfulness for a brief spell during the fast walking meditation. On the whole I was quite happy with my cultivation. It was not as good as the earlier ones I had participated in, but it was not a total loss. This time though, I enjoyed the Dharma talk given by the Abbot, Venerable Wei Wu. (He had kindly translated into English for those of us who didn't know Mandarin.) He said that making a wish is not correct as it is a selfish act. It is better to make a vow. With a vow, you aim to help all sentient beings, which is selfless or compassionate in nature.
Venerable Wei Wu talked about making vow in the Pure Land school. He gave the analogy of going to a special foreign university to study. This university has the best facilities, professors, lecturers and the best students - since the university has the best academic environments, only the best students could enter it. One would study well there and attain excellent academic qualification and graduate. Similarly, vowing to go to Pure Land is like entering this university and after a period of cultivation there, one would attain high level of spiritual attainments. After one has attained the eighth stage of Buddhisattvahood, one has equipped oneself with the ability to come back to the Saha world to help sentient beings here. So the Pure Land vow has two aspects: vow for rebirth is a renunciation and vow of returning to the Saha world is the Bodhicitta.
~~~ § ~~~
Sila (Precept) is the root of Buddhahood,
Let us devote ourselves to holding of pure Sila