2019 Liang Huang Jeweled Repentance Ceremony

Sutra class Fa Shun

The Liang Huang Jewelled Repentance Ceremony was a 9 days event. Abbess and Shifus were wonderfully conducting and leading the entire ceremony in a solemn manner. I was deeply absorbed in it. However, the next moment they walked off the Zen Hall, they were back in their usual selves and not attaching to their roles in the ceremony and the wholesomeness they brought forth to the disciples and participants. Outside the Zen Hall, I could see the Abbess busily mingling with everyone, other Shifus, one preparing for the next session; one go to the kitchen making sure the yummy food was on its way and one answering questions from various teams. All Shifus are living examples of letting go and without attachment.

Sutra class Fa Yuan

Sincerely thank the abbess, all shifus and all disciples make the Liang Huang Repentance Ceremony Successful. the abbess’s words keep me going, gave me strength to live this life.


Thank you to all the shifus for the melodious chanting. The event was so well organised and am sure all participants, like myself, have benefitted greatly.

Thanks for feeding my mind, body (all the foods) and soul (all the repentance made)

2019 Chungtai 7-day Meditation Retreat

Reflections: A Precious Find Serena Seah/法緣

For the 7 days, I lived by the sounds of “tock” to signal the start of a meditation session, “ting” to signal the end, followed by walking meditation, then off to the toilet and some hydration. Right from the start I had no idea of the time and after several days, the day. It was actually not a bad way to live. It was kind of free to not be concerned about anything at all.

Initially I was worried after looking at the schedule for the day. I need at least 8 hours of sleep and anything less will result in a headache. Amazingly with only 6 hours of sleep, I did not experience any headache! Of course my room mates and I followed the good advice to nap whenever there was a break. The 20 or 40 mins power nap did wonders and kept me going. Colleagues and friends have wondered how this chatty Serena could keep quiet for 7 days and thought it must have been difficult for me. To their disbelief I had no problem keeping quiet, in fact I quite love the introspection of the first few days.

The goal of the trip was to experience peace. The 8 precepts helped strip down material desires, to concentrate on purifying the mind. The first 3 days was like the de-cluttering of the mind. So many thoughts clouded my mind. Even issues that I thought I had resolved re-surfaced. One issue which plagued me was the legs starting to sore after about 20-30 mins as I have not been sitting regularly the past half year. Since taking on the new role at work, the driving across 3 campuses have so worn me out that a nightly meditation session had been futile as I fell asleep almost immediately. Yet I knew I was able to use the focus of the breath to disregard the pain in the legs in the past and I was determined to achieve that again. Following the meditation advice of the Dharma talks, and keeping in focus what Big Shifu said, I started to settle after Day 4. Soon the challenge was to let go of the reminders that punctuated the peace. When it finally happened, it was such bliss. A precious find. I will have to continue to work hard to keep that peace when I am back in Melbourne, distracted by the other aspects of life.

To all the Shifus who provide guidance and make us feel welcome, I am grateful to. It is not an easy task to sustain Chung Tai and Bao Lin and to build a community that I can belong to, to practice Buddhism. To all the volunteers who support the conditions so that we do not have to worry about our sustenance, I am also very appreciative of your effort. It is the combined work that creates the environment for the meditation retreat to be beneficial for all the attendees.

May I build the good karma to go again next year and perhaps to do some volunteer work at Pu Tai Secondary School.

2018 3-Day Meditation Retreat

Sutra Class/Faith Hawthorne

As the perfect conclusion to 2018, and introduction to 2019, Bao Lin hosted a three day meditation retreat from 29 to 31 December 2018. Due to all the efforts of Shifus and volunteers, we enjoyed three days of noble silence to observe the workings of our mind. The goal: to realise the true nature of our mind, being perfectly pure, everlasting, complete and unmoved.

From the point of initial registration to the concluding meal, all our needs were catered for by Shifus and volunteers. They worked tirelessly to organise our seating and sleeping arrangements, and prepare our meals, creating a peaceful, clean and comfortable environment. We were instructed on when to sit, chant, eat and sleep through Dharma instruments, the distribution of Sutras and lighting of incense. Our photographers recorded this special event. These were the perfect conditions to aid us in our practice. The diligence, sincerity and concentration showed by all Shifus and volunteers was truly very touching – I vowed to treasure every single moment of the three days.

In the initial few days, I had to put in a bit of effort to calm down my mind. Despite my best efforts, I still had some afflictions during sitting meditation, looking forward to meal time and rest. Or over-thinking how I should make the most of these three days:

“Should I do prostrations? Should I rest? Should I continue sitting? Maybe I will go for a walk. It’s such nice weather today. Oh, I could really go another steamed bun – they were so delicious.”

These thoughts were taking me away from truly enjoying the present moment. Realising this, I vowed to be like the turtle in a story recounted by the Abbess in her Dharma Talk. In this particular story, a turtle was resting near some water when it was spotted by a fox. Sensing imminent death, the wise turtle withdrew its head, four legs, and tail into its shell, avoiding the snapping jaws of the fox and saving its life.

The turtle’s head, legs and tail represent our six senses, which come into contact with different phenomena – sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings and thoughts. If we continuously abide our mind in these senses, we risk great harm. For all phenomena is subject to the law of impermanence, the fox.

The Abbess’ Dhama talks focused on The Platform Sutra, the teachings of the Sixth Chan Patriarch, Huineng. She detailed the many different methods we can use to cultivate the mind, all having a useful purpose and function. The story of the transmission of the Chan lineage to the Sixth Patriarch illustrates these different methods. Hongren, the Fifth Chan Patriarch, announced he would transmit the Chan seal to the practitioner who wrote a verse demonstrating they had realised the essence of their mind.

Foremost monk, Shenxiu, was regarded as the natural successor. He wrote the following verse:

The body is a Bodhi tree,
The mind a standing mirror bright;
At all times polish it diligently,
And let no dust alight.

While this verse encapsulates the practice of gradual cultivation, an essential aspect of Buddhist practice, it did not demonstrate Shenxiu had realised the essence of his mind.

Unassuming and illiterate practitioner, Huineng, who later became a monk, asked someone to recite Shenxiu’s verse to him. In response, Huineng asked them to write down the following verse:

Bodhi is no tree
Nor standing mirror bright;
Since all is originally empty,
Where does the dust alight?

Upon reading this verse, the Fifth Patriarch privately realised Hui-neng had come to more profound understanding — he had realised the empty nature of all phenomena. This verse encapsulates the practice of sudden enlightenment.

Later, the Fifth Patriarch explained the meaning of the Diamond Sutra to Huineng. In doing so, he instructed Huineng on the most direct method is: let the mind function without abiding. To me, this means not abiding in the idea of cultivation or emptiness — the middle-way reality method. Hearing the Fifth Patriarch’s teaching, Huineng came to a great enlightenment and received the transmission of the Chan seal.

Both these methods of gradual cultivation and sudden enlightenment have a useful function and purpose. We can gradually cultivate, entering through practice, to realise the true nature of our mind, the ultimate principle. Even if we realise the principle — experiencing a moment, or a glimpse, of our fully-enlightened mind — we need to continue our practice, while firmly abiding in our awareness. While we may have realised the essence of our mind, it is like a crescent moon. We still need to cultivate all myriad functions of the mind, letting go of the idea of cultivation, so our mind is like a beaming full-moon. It takes a lot of generosity, discipline, diligence, patience, concentration and wisdom to perfect the practice. It is at this moment, when principle and practice are one and perfect, we will be a Buddha.

Another way of explaining these approaches is to compare different teachings. The approach of many Theravada teachings is to cut off all afflictions, taking them as real. Whereas Mahayana teachings aim to transform all afflictions into wisdom. Chan ultimately regards all afflictions as illusory, knowing that all afflictions and wisdom emanates from the same mind. The mind of great affliction can be the mind of great wisdom. Cessation of delusions is the bodhi mind. All Buddhist teachings — whether Theravada, Chan or other Mahayana teachings — are important, varying only in function, and need to be valued, practiced and perfected.

Of all these different methods, the ultimate truth is that this Buddha nature is intrinsic in all sentient beings. It is not given to us by anyone and it cannot be diminished in any way. It is not greater in the Buddha or sages, nor less in humans or animals. It is equal in all. The only thing that differentiates us is enlightenment, the extent of our wisdom or delusion, which is ultimately illusory.

Since everything comes from this very mind, it is the only thing we can abide in. We can realise our pure mind, our Buddha-nature, by abiding in our awareness — our seeing, our hearing, our smelling, our tasting, our walking and our knowing. In doing so, we need to ignore all our wandering thoughts, our judgements and let go of our attachments to all phenomena — as well as our ideas of the past, future and even the present. These are all delusions. If we can fully abide in our awareness, and let go of our attachments to everything — including the attachment to nothingness — we will achieve purity and perfection. Therefore, we need to be careful not to abide in extreme views, such as nihilism.

This teaching helped me a lot during the retreat. I have a tendency to want to attach to a particular state, wanting to attain perfect stillness during meditation, and I enjoy being in a calm, peaceful environment. As a result, I can get a bit agitated if I have wandering thoughts or pain during meditation, if someone else does something ‘wrong’ or if I’m in a place that is dirty, hectic or loud. I also tend to want to solve problems, or ‘fix’ things or people, by constant thinking. This can be very burdensome and tiring. I also compulsively think about what I’m going to do next, or I worry about the future.

I realised while stilling the mind and perfecting all actions helps us in our practice, it’s important to make sure our attachment to these ideas do not create obstacles. Further, while it’s good to help people, the best way to help is to reduce our attachments, ignore delusions and abide in our awareness as best we can. If we are unable to do this, we need to let this go as well. The state of ‘no-mind’ can also allow us to find solutions and a way forward that we may not have thought of previously. I also realised that, while being organised is a good practice, it’s also really important to appreciate and enjoy the present, and not constantly be seeking for something better in the future.

While it took some effort in the first couple of days to reduce my attachments and wandering thoughts, towards the end of the retreat I started to realise that I actually expend a lot of energy constantly thinking. What results is feelings of stress and dissatisfaction. Once I was able to control my mind and focus on the present moment, I spontaneously felt at ease and joyful. I found the most expedient way to produce this function of the mind, was to realise its essence. The essence of the mind, this ‘knowing’, remained the same irrespective of whether I was feeling stress, dissatisfaction, ease or joy and, therefore, there was no need to attach to any of these feelings.

The realisation that all phenomena — including our fixed ideas of perfection, wisdom or delusion — are all illusory, and that the Buddha-nature is inherent in all, is liberating. Importantly, it can give us the courage and compassion to unceasingly support others in their practice.

I would like to sincerely thank the Buddha; all Chan Patriarchs; Grand Master Wei Chueh;  all Shifus and volunteers of Chung Tai Chan Monastery; all Shifus and volunteers of Bao Lin Chan Monastery. It is only through the unending compassion, wisdom and diligence of the Three Jewels that we have this precious opportunity to practice.

Sutra Class/Fa Zhong

Day 1 – Saturday, December 29, 2018

After a night of heavy rain, Melbourne’s early morning was exceptionally clear. The empty street seemed peacefully quiet.

Bao Lin is the first place I have encountered true Dharma, spread in the traditional Zen way — a place outside China, in an English–speaking country. Can you believe it? Life is full of surprises!

Unlike the previous retreat, where I had many pre-conceived expectations, this time I decided just let everything be. Whatever it is, no matter good or bad, just let it be. Let’s see what challenge will come to me this time.

Obviously, if we don’t put in right effort beforehand, there’s a good chance we’ll be unprepared later one. Heat, pain and all sorts of wandering thoughts came to me during meditation — even drowsiness, which I have never experienced before. With all these experiences compounding, I had to move a lot to make myself feel more awake and comfortable. I just told myself:

“It’s fine, never mind. Just try to remain sitting and listening with my legs down.”

Compared to the last time, where I felt like I was sitting on thorns and could have run away at any moment, it’s definitely a step forward this time.

I’ve always loved these words:

“The monkey mind should suddenly stop.”

They perfectly describe the experience of ‘sudden enlightenment’ — where we let go all wandering thoughts without relying on any expedient methods. Just be aware. No matter what thoughts or feelings come, just be aware without paying attention to them. Be clear that there’s not even the thought of ‘clarity’ in the mind — as clear as this morning after the rain.

“Rest in Bodhi mind, rest…”

Day 2 – Sunday, December 30, 2018

These days, people will often go to sleep still holding their mobile phones. In contrast, I didn’t even touch my phone for the whole day! You see? When we alter our thoughts, it’s not difficult to make a change. So I ask you:

“Is it difficult or easy to practice Zen?”

Even though I had quite serious depression for many years, I still pretended to be very confident in the presence of others. All sorts of ‘chicken soups for the soul’ could only warm me up for a little while — they were unable to solve the real problem. In my own studies, when I read about ‘emptiness’ I thought:

“Why to make effort if everything is illusory?”

However, when I learned about the importance of ‘being present’, I started to take every opportunity to enjoy, and get excited about, life. Obviously, I’ve done a lot of bad karma without even realising it. Now, when I look back, I see ignorance.

Incredibly, Shifu’s lecture about “SEE INTO ONE’S TRUE NATURE, ONE BECOMES A BUDDHA.” is a very effective treatment for all my problems, with no side-effects. All of a sudden, I feel as though I’ve been brought back to life and am full of energy. I’m no longer bothered by these big questions about life:

“Who am I? Where am I from? Where am I going? Why did this happen to me? What is the meaning of life?”

Although I have not found all the answers yet, I know that now I’m on the right path:

“To know the cause from the past, we are experiencing the consequence now. To know the consequence in future, we are planting the seed now”.

While we need to be aware of causality, there’s no need to be fearful. We need to let all conditions come and go, like how we deal with our wandering thoughts during meditation. We cannot change what we have done in the past, but we can change our future through the present moment.

There are always learning-curves. I find myself constantly reflecting on Shifu’s teachings:

“If ‘Dharma is people-oriented’, why should we have respect for others?
If ‘everything is the result of Karma’, why should we have compassion?
If we should ‘hold belief in Dharma’, how can we be confident when the Dharma is intangible?
If we should meditate and hold right views to obtain wisdom, how can we persist without attachment?
If everyone is greedy, angry or ignorant, why should we bother changing?
If we all wish to attain sudden enlightenment, why do we still have to make effort to take precepts, meditate and cultivate good deeds?”

Now, I understand we need to show respect and compassion — not only to the Buddha, to Shifu’s, to parents, to all sentient beings — but also to a piece of grass, and even a piece of paper. If we find we have ‘run out our luck’, this may be a fortunate experience, as we can understand the importance of cherishing what we have. If we strictly observe the precepts, it will be easier to achieve ‘定’, and we can increase our wisdom. Similarly, when we have less greed, anger and ignorance, the world will appear a bit different. Cultivate all good deeds, without attachment.

On reflection, I am grateful for all those adversities that appear in life, as they have given me the opportunity to practice and make a difference. Every remarkable transformation requires endurance. Eventually, when we come through hardships, we will experience the beginning of another life. This is also called ‘Nirvana’.

Imagine a life with only good fortune. I ask you:

“Would you say it’s fortunate — or just boring?”

The morning broke with a clap of thunder. Let us be awake and aware.

Day 3 – Monday, December 31, 2018

“Ignore it.”

It sounds unbelievably simple! Shifu sounds very casual when mentioning these very words. This makes me think ‘sudden enlightenment’ should be a pretty easy task. I say to myself:

“Right, there is no other way, or any expedient methods. Just like that — let go all wandering thoughts. Remember that I am the master of this true mind, not you, wandering thoughts!”

When I calm down, I saw the light beams from the sun; I heard the sound of the rain dropping on the leaves; I smelled the fragrance of all sorts of spices; I tasted the delicious vegetarian dishes; I felt the blood flooding in my body like volcanic eruption; I got touched by my high-speed-running thoughts like watching a well-made movie. I thought to myself:

“Have I simply gone crazy? Or are my senses becoming more sensitive?”
If we can be honest with ourselves then we might see our true self.

“This is amazing! It seems that I’m closer to the ‘awareness’, the ‘true mind’.”
Oh, do not forget — the true mind is from within not without!

Past thoughts are intangible, no matter how deeply ingrained the memory. It has passed — so do not let it become another obstacle to the present. future thoughts are intangible, no matter how sure we are about the future. It is still not 100% certain — so leave it as a surprise in the future.

When we were advised “present thoughts are intangible” my initial reaction was “Um, this is difficult” “The mind should act without any attachments.”. Shifu reassured us:

Just know that all phenomena are illusory. No grasping, no controlling. This is your Bodhi mind. When at rest, rest all thoughts. When in action, perfect all actions.

Let us always abide in this awareness — let go what should be let go and maintain what should be maintained — so you can meet the best self that you wish to meet in the future.

While ‘riding the ox home’, I realised the unbearable smell from last night turned out to be quite fragrant. You see?

“A simple change in mind can turn the hell into a pure land.”

Three-day meditation retreat, twenty-four incenses, no thoughts remain, neither good or bad.

It started in a thunderstorm but ended in clear skies.

2018 Pilgrimage

Chris Quinsee (Fa Chuan)

Although I write this more than two months after the pilgrimage ended (I went over to China to spend 6 weeks working in Ningbo) the events and impressions of those two weeks are still clear in my mind.

First, I want to say ‘thank you’ to the Shifus. It was not only a privilege to go to Chung Tai Chan, but it made me focus on the meaning of the Dharma and how it is intimately connected to an ethical and moral life. I had the opportunity to take the 5 Precepts and the Vows together with pilgrims from all over the world. For me, this was the most important event in the whole journey.

As well, let me mention the people I travelled with – my fellow pilgrims – as any journey is as much about one’s fellow travelers as it is about places and events. We all got on remarkably well and the spirit of kindness and helpfulness pervaded the whole trip. Being one of the non-Chinese pilgrims on board, I appreciated the hard work of our English interpreters -Yvonne and Serene – who translated the Shifus’ words (although Shifu often spoke English for the benefit of the ‘Laowai’). My own Chinese was helpful at times but not up to the standard of our interpreters. By the way, as I have had to be a Japanese interpreter I know it is harder than most people think to pull out the right words and phrases, especially when the subject is a technical subject like Buddhist Dharma!

As we travelled mostly by bus (except for a short train journey around the coast of Hualian) virtually the whole length and breadth of Taiwan, one should mention the untiring and skillful driving of the bus drivers who got us safely to and from our destinations. Having experienced some pretty hair-raising bus journeys in China (and surprisingly in Japan back in the old days), I thought these drivers deserved whatever merit comes their way for looking after us.

Incidentally, Taiwan is very beautiful and deserves its old Portuguese name of Formosa (beautiful). It is basically a rugged and mountainous island with a coastal plain at the edges. The far southern region verges on the tropical and the rest of the island is verdant, sub-tropical forest. When we visited the temple overlooking the scenic Sun Moon Lake, there was a tropical downpour of monsoon proportions. Mercifully, the rest of the journey was blessed with comfortable weather and we were spared the possible excitement of any typhoons which might pass through at that time of year.

Next, let me make a few observations about the meditation schools we visited on our journey and the people we met there. One thing impressed me wherever we went and that was the sincerity and commitment of the locals. Of course, they laid on the food and gave us gifts to remember our visit but what struck me most was their dedication to the practice of meditation and the living of the Dharma. We visited many of these meditation centers in various places as we travelled through Taiwan and the folk we met were all examples of living the Dharma.

One great highlight of the pilgrimage was meeting members of one of the Aboriginal groups of Taiwan – a people totally different in ethnicity and culture from the predominant Han Chinese. We danced together (well I just shuffled….) and were presented with gifts of their handicrafts. As I understand it these people had been assisted by the Abbess of the local monastery following the recent big earthquake in the region. I think it was their way of saying ‘thank you’.

Finally, the days spent at Chung Tai Chan in meditation and recitation of the sutras (and chopping cabbages for dinner more or less mindfully) amid the stunning backdrop of the monastery and its grounds culminated in the ceremony conducted by the Abbot of Chung Tai. That was when we took our precepts and received our Dharma names while dressed in our black and brown robes (again my thanks to Yvonne who had to help me get dressed as I was all two left arms and elbows putting them on and even worse in folding them up afterwards!).

There were many other memorable times and places and experiences that I could mention but those are best kept written in the heart for personal reflection. If there was anything that for me was somewhat difficult to handle it was the food. Not, I hasten to add, was the quality a problem for me but just the sheer quantity of it! Despite the vegetarian fare, I swear I gained weight on the journey which was probably the least expected outcome. Of course, not a morsel was allowed to be wasted so I guess that is not surprising.

In conclusion, I will end these reflections with recollection of the pond in the grounds of Chung Tai Chan Monastery, surrounded by many beautiful trees and rocks and life generally by quoting a famous 17 Century Japanese poet called Basho. His 17 syllable Haiku are justifiably treasured for their Zen-like inspiration and appreciation of life as it is in its essence. Seeing things just as they are, without grasping or attachment, mindful of the transience of all phenomena and all experiences in life. This one comes to mind as I remember a final walk around that pond which I took before we left. Basho says:

An ancient pond
A frog jumps in
The sound of water

2018 10th Anniversary

Baolin Chan Monastery Tenth Anniversary celebration and the Three Refuges and Five Precepts Transmission Ceremony

Earnestly invited by the Dharma supporters, on 14 October 2018 the venerable Abbot of Chungtai Chan Monastery came to Melbourne and conducted the Tenth Anniversary Celebration and the Three Refuges and Five Precepts Transmission Ceremony.

At 9:30am, about 700 people — community leaders, disciples and members of the public from many different cultural backgrounds — gathered at Baolin, and respectfully invited the Abbot to give a Dharma talk.

The representatives made a light offering and vows before the Buddha. The venerable Abbot cut the cake, making great wishes for the Tenth Anniversary, amid joyful applause from the crowd.

The president of Dharma Supporters Association, Huizhen Zheng, made a speech. She expressed the gratitude of all disciples that Chungtai Chan Monastery established Baolin in Melbourne to disseminate the Dharma and benefit people and, further, that the Abbot personally came to conduct the Tenth Anniversary ceremony.

The Abbot gave a Dharma talk, starting with a direct reference to our mind — the mind that is listening to his talk right at this moment — revealing that our mind can generate myriads of phenomena. Importantly, the mind from which all phenomena emanate is where the great treasury of merit can be found.

Countless merits are accumulated from realising the mind, understanding the mind, mastering the mind and abiding in the mind. Therefore, there is a treasury of merit in everyone’s mind.

The Pure Mind, The Countless Treasury.

This is precisely the meaning of “Baolin”, the name given by the Grand Master Wei Chueh. It is for us to understand, through learning Dharma at Baolin, that “the pure mind intrinsic to everyone is the source of countless merits and rewards”. This is because “the original nature of the mind is the truth, realising the original nature of the mind is following the truth to certain degree”.

There would be no obstacles in our way if we follow the truth, thus accumulating merits, having peace and happiness, and avoiding difficulties, calamities and danger. Better still, we will have achievements in our family life, studies and careers. This is how we obtain the real benefits of the Dharma.

How can we avoid being empty–handed with the benefits of Dharma or satisfying ourselves with limited benefits, as if they were sufficient?

The Abbot pointed out that we obtain Dharma based on sincere respect — that basic respect and trust enable us to start to learn, and investigate a “bold hypothesis” that Dharma can really benefit us.

To obtain the benefits of Dharma we must transform emotional and irrational cognitions, or understandings, into rational ones. Through trial and error, we carefully confirm or prove the hypothesis ourselves. The steps of “trust, understanding, practice and proof” have scientific basis, the important point is to investigate and examine Buddha’s answer to the “imposition of suffering”.

Buddha’s answer to counter the imposition of sufferings is the “awakening of the mind”, with the accumulation of merits and wisdom as the specific practice to obtain awakening. The cultivation of wisdom can eradicate delusions, while the cultivation of merit can purify three negative karmic forces. Really, we can only be liberated from suffering and enjoy happiness by breaking the vicious cycle: delusion arising from an unguarded mind; the deluded mind causing bad karma; and bad karma resulting in suffering.

Therefore, awakening is the key to end suffering and to be happy. When the awakening dawns on us, the truth can be proven that “all sentient beings have innate Buddha nature, but its manifestation is clouded by delusions and attachments”. Being awakened to this realization enables us to really benefit from Dharma.

It is Chungtai and Baolin’s mission to lead all sentient beings to obtain awakening, and help us realise our Buddha nature. With empirical methodology, dialectic thinking and vivid words, the Abbot explained the essence of the Buddhism in a rational and scientific way.

The audience, fascinated by his talk, experienced moments of Dharma joy. With the three-hour talk passing in the blink of an eye, the audience still wanted the talk to continue. Chungtai’s Dharma teaching resonates with the mind of all sentient beings.

Following the Dharma talk, was a delicious vegetarian lunch for all in a joyful atmosphere.

The venerable Abbot then conducted the Three Refuges and Five Precepts Transmission Ceremony at 2pm. As the Abbott mentioned in his talk, it requires extraordinarily good fortune to get the chance to know Dharma of the mind — the core of Buddhism in the southern hemisphere — and even rarer for us to have the precious opportunity to take the Three Refuges and Five Precepts transmitted by the venerable Abbot who, with his great compassion, came across the seas.

About 300 disciples took the Three Refuges and Five Precepts transmitted by the Abbot as Precept master, became a Buddhist and vowed before the Buddha to keep the precepts purely and to walk the Bodhi path.

With deep gratitude, about 350 Dharma supporters respectfully invited the Abbott to the Baolin Tenth Anniversary celebration dinner at 6pm. Members of the Children’s meditation class sang and recited The Vows of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra and The Four Tenets of Chung Tai in English. Then, the members of the Tai chi class performed, seamlessly integrating zen and martial arts.

Philip, a member of English meditation class, played on his piano two songs he composed for the Tenth Anniversary, “Moon in the Water” and “Morning Snow”. Disciple, Yiting, performed the wonderful Erhu Solo, “The Fantasia of Sanmenxia”. Jinxiang, a disciple from Taiwan, played on his flute the “Song of the Three Jewels”:

“…Now we know that the Three Jewels are the real refuge for us, we shall trust and devote our lives to the Three Jewels as long as we live…”

The celebration of the Tenth Anniversary is the culmination of Baolin carrying on the great vows of Grand Master Wei Chueh — to spread Zen Buddhism and Dharma teaching — and the culmination of practicing the Bodhisattva way, tirelessly by the Abbot and Shifus to fulfil the Tathagata’s mission. It’s also the result of endless support of disciples and Baolin students.

Looking back, we reflect on where we can improve, observe our mind while in action, be mindful to know the truth, and awaken our mind to realize the Buddha nature. Looking forward, we will work together, led by the Abbot and enlightened teachers, to help everyone find the treasury of merit in their mind, and to cultivate the pure land of the human world, for Chungtai’s Dharma teaching to spread and take root.

Sutra Class Angela Teh/傳慈

The great day has finally arrived after such enormous planning and preparations by the Sanghas. The devotees and community put forward their giving, their sweat and most of all, their deep spiritual hope that the success will benefit all sentient beings in the ten directions.

The Dharma talk given by the venerable Abbott of Chung Tai. There were so many pointers of cultivation in his speech. They were simple to understand, direct to follow, and precise to the practice in the Path of Liberation.

With this knowledge, we should put more effort, more determination, more perseverance in our cultivation for Liberation from the cycle of life and death in this life time. We should understand that this lifetime is so precious, so rare. We should not waste any more time. Our main obstruction is ignorance and attachment, and the Grand Master has given us the knowledge and tools to overcome them. We are, indeed very blessed to have such wise and learned Teachers to guide us through the door way of Enlightenment.

We are very, very grateful. And the highest form of gratitude that we, as students, can give, is to achieve what our Teachers have set out to teach. And have the compassion to help others for the benefit of all sentient beings.

2017 Chinese New Year Celebration Ceremony

The ceremony involving chanting and prostrations before the Buddha help to generate respect, clarity of mind and repentance—to let go of the past year and bring about good conditions for the year ahead. The abbess delivered a Dharma talk asking us to be inspired by the rooster in our efforts this year. Rising early every morning, the rooster is a symbol of diligence.

Executive Secretary – Jeffrey (Sutra Study A)

As a result of ceremony preparations, I came to understand that in order to be successful, you must harness individual expertise and team performance. I find that if you take a few minutes to meditate prior to performing your task, it can have significant benefits namely being more aware and alert. This is looking inwardly and being continuously aware. I am glad that I can put this into practice from what has been taught in our meditation class.

2016 Children’s Camp

I think the camp was excellent, it was really fun and I learnt a lot from this CAMP. I liked the story of “the Wild Geese King” told by the Abbess. I learned that I will do things not only good for myself but also others… My favourite game was the one where we needed to free the princess. I liked that game because it was fun and my group won!

I liked the food, it was cooked so perfectly. I also liked the story of “The Ugly Princess” because she repented what she had done wrong in her past life. And I think the gratitude pumpkin lantern was creative. I appreciated everyone’s effort.

I liked the story about meditation “The Monk Rescued His Mother by Meditation”. I learned to be kind and filial from this story.

It was interesting today and I learned a lot. I love the food! You guys are the best chefs! I liked the team time and performing the act. I liked the Bao Lin tour and the best part was the “Bao Lin Treasure Hunt.” The storytelling was nice, I learned a lot and made a lot of new friends.

This camp amazed me at how everybody offered their time and effort, how compassionate and hard working! From here, we see it is important to set a right state of mind for the young while they are pure, innocent and ready to excel in life.

From translating materials for activities to song recording, which I previously thought would be dull administrative duties, but unexpectedly I had so much fun and learnt many things about practising Chan in daily life.

2016 Chung Tai Pilgrimage

Bee Lian / Fa Jing (Sutra Study B)

I heard about it, I watched it on video, I was encouraged to make the journey by the Shifus in Bao Lin Chan Monastery numerous times. At last, I am ready emotionally and spiritually to embark on the journey, to feel and experience it myself. Not as a here say, after three years of procrastination.

The journey started on the 10th August 2016. We arrived in Taiwan after about eight hours. There are other dharma brothers to meet us at the airport which was a pleasant surprise. Buses were there to meet us, and we were driven to places of interests all arranged by Shifus. This is a far cry from all my previous travels where I take care of my luggage to transport etc. We were spoilt from day one.

Eventually we arrived at The Holy Place, Chung Tai Chan Monastery and its surrounding areas is ginormous, it stretches as far as the eyes can see and the whole structure is beyond comprehension, I was in awe and filled with admiration of the Grand Master, his foresight, his vision, his meticulous details from building to garden and the trees he picked.
Once inside the monastery, it seems like a city of Sanghas, I have never seen so many bhiksus and bhiksunis all working very hard, keeping the place clean, catering to the needs of about 30,000 people is mammoth task and it was done most professionally, everything seem to run smoothly, how, it’s beyond comprehension.

The size of the building is unimaginable, one needs a map to get around.

In the evening, we met the Abbott of Chung Tai Chan Monastery. The subsequent days just fly by with so many events, chanting, meditations, places to see, monasteries to visit.

The Chung Tai World Museum is another wonder of wonders, filled with countless Buddhist artefacts that dated back hundreds of years. One had to wonder how did the Grand Master managed collections of this caliber and most of all the trust and respect of the donors bestowed on the Grand Master to safeguard such priceless treasures.
Of all the monastery we visited, Ling Quan Temple, will always be special. It was where the Grand Master laid his foundation towards Chung Tai Chan Monastery of today. It was surreal, climbing the steps to the temple, walking the very ground when once the Grand Master tread on, the hall where he once prayed and meditated. The atmosphere was one of peace and tranquility. No desire to leave but grateful to have such experience. The stories that were narrated to us about the Grand Master, his compassion, his wisdom, his uncanny perception have imprinted in my mind and be there for a long time. The concrete table and stools where he conducted his Dharma, and a special disciple in form of a snake attended with its head raised had us all mesmerised.

Feeling of admiration and utmost respect to one who had such Great Vow and almighty strength to carry it through.

Thus his wish to protect Chung Tai Chan Monastery and propagate the Dharma, will, I am sure be carried out

By the Monastic and disciples not only of Chung Tai Chan Monastery but all Centres worldwide.

However, the highlight of the pilgrimage was on the night of the Great Meng Shan Food Bestowed Ceremony,
When all of a sudden and unexpectedly, The Abbot with his entourage of VIPs walked past right in front of us and the ever astute Shifu spotted them coming and motioned to us to stand up. We were the only group among hundreds of people to show respect. The Abbot then said fairly loudly, clear and with pride in Chinese quote in English ‘This is OUR Bao Lin from Australia’, regrettably, we did not say ‘Amitofou’ which would be a befitting response. We were filled with joy.

My sincere thanks to The Abbess of Bao Lin, and all the Shifus who planned and worked very hard to make
sure the journey went smoothly, and that we were all taken care of and at the same time had a wonderful time.

To all the Dharma brothers in Taiwan, their utmost generosity and warm hospitality is very much appreciated.

2015 Youth Activity – OMB (Offsprings of Maha Bodhisattvas)

The Happy Mates – Building Good Relationships

Reported by Walter Yew (CEO of OMB)

There is a general perception amongst the modern youth that Buddhism is a religion for the elderly; believing the older population are the only ones who have time on their hands to do a few chores for the temple and the opportunity to mingle with others to pass time. That perception was definitely thrown out of the window in the latest event organised by the Bao Lin Chan Monastery’s OMB (Offsprings of Maha Bodhisattvas) youth members. This youth event called ‘Happy Mates – Build Good Relationships’ is aimed at teaching youth the Buddhist’s concept in dealing with relationships with people.

In a society that often places us into a situation where we prioritize ourselves first and neglect everyone around us. This self-centered mentality often leads to conflicts. ‘Happy Mates – Build Good Relationship’ teaches us to take a few steps back to evaluate the bigger picture and what can be done from a Buddhism aspect to solve the problems we face in our daily life.

A wide range of scenarios were presented to the attendees designed to assist them in solving the common problems that often occur between family members, close friends, university mates, work colleagues and other acquaintances. Raising awareness as to what is the real cause of suffering. Are the causes of suffering initiated by others or are we the ones who create the problems in our deluded minds?

‘Happy Mates – Build Good Relationships’ was very well received by the fifty-five participants, who aged between 18-35 years old. Collectively there was a lot of positivity throughout the event and most left longing for the upcoming event – ‘The Emoji Code’.

2015 Children’s Weekend Camp

Angelina (Sutra Study A)

For the Children’s Camp, Bao Lin was transformed into a children’s Buddhist wonderland, bursting with colours, lovely posters, balloons and lively music. It showcased the weeks of planning and hard work by all the shifus and the huge input by the many dedicated dharma supporters to bring the camp to a successful fruition.

Learning in a happy interacting environment was the best form of learning. All the children and adults had a great time with the program jammed packed with activities, from challenging games, making pizzas, meditation, chanting, learning about Buddhist etiquettes, Dharma instruments, Dharma talks, crafts, play performance, martial art and singing. There was never a dull moment.

First up on Sunday was martial art training. It was a very popular session, not only with the children but with some enthusiastic parents as well. The icy cold winter morning soon melted with the vibrant energy there. It was so enjoyable I was sure they had wished for more.

To manage some forty children of varied ages from 5 – 15 was not an easy task. It was quite a challenge for the team leaders. The feedback was positive, they have learned through their experience on how to handle kids.

The theme of the camp was on the Four Tenets of Chung Tai:

To our elders be respectful
To our juniors be kind
With all humanity be harmonious
In all endeavors be true

The practice of the four tenets was reflected in the children’s behaviour and actions. The Children’s Camp Workbook provides valued materials and exercises to reinforce their daily practice. It is written in a simple, easy to understand language, concise and yet comprehensive in its content. I have gleamed benefits from reading it myself.

Hat off and a big bow to the Abbess, Shifus and Dharma supporters, especially those behind the scene, for their dedicated and untiring effort. A big hand to the children who participated. Lots of merits were created. I am sure they have had great fun, immense joy and look forward to another camp in the future.

Yenni (Beginner’s meditation class)

At first, I was worried, concerned not knowing if I can cope with handling so many kids. That’s why I even joked and made sarcastic comments about the camp. I think it was reflected too at the first half hour or so. Just like the kids, I needed time to warm up to them. But once Megan got cosier with me, I knew I have fallen in love with the kids.

On the prep side, I learned that Bao Lin is a perfectionist, with great attention to details.

It has, therefore, dawn on me the importance of volunteering, without the assistance of all these volunteers and of course the institution, these great activities wouldn’t have happened.

It is both enjoyable and stressful especially when it was crunch time. I guess we all then can apply our meditation technique and learn to be patient, have clearer mind to solve all issues.

From the kids camp, I learned that there is so much to learn from kids.

Kids are amazing as they are honest and pure, it’s ‘you see what you get’ that kind of feeling. When they are tired, or bored, they just say it, they don’t hold back. One kid daringly told another kid to stop bothering him, to stop talking to him and to stop telling him what to do because the other kid isn’t his boss! I would really loooooveee to say this sometime! Hahahahahahaha.

They are energetic, positive and just keen and curious.

They take on challenges, to happily trying their best to solve them.

Reflecting this on adulthood, we over-complicate things, we over-analyse things and we lose the fun in us. Everything is harder, everything is easier said than done before we even attempt doing anything. We no longer can say or do things that we love doing, probably also because we are too busy worrying or are preoccupied by other unimportant things; as a result we don’t even know what we like doing. We also don’t forgive as easily as the kids do. We hold grudges, and hatred in us and then wonder why we are miserable all the time!

Having said that, adulthood also has its own appeals. We have responsibilities now, we have the skills and abilities to effect changes around us. We can go travelling, we can meet different people and learn their life stories. We love, we have our heart broken, we trust and we are betrayed. Those are all experiences that although was hard at the time, I wouldn’t trade it for anything now.

So, in conclusion, I loved the opportunity to be a team leader in this kid’s camp.

I love the 2 days, even though it was tough at the time; but again I wouldn’t want it any other way.

It is great to be kids, there are lots to learn.

But it is also great being an adult.

Life is a journey and every experience must be treasured.