Guanyin Manifestations Ubiquitous, Enlightenment Accessible to All - On Ling Jiou Mountain's 37th Anniversary


2020 marks the 37th anniversary of the Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society (LJM)  and celebratory activities have been conducted in observations of the COVID-19 pandemic and relevant government regulations. Efforts in so doing turned out fruitful, as scale-backs of the physical implementation of celebrations have been more than made up for by online participation of avid followers. On the anniversary day, LJM followers arrived to take part in the uphill pilgrimage to pay homage to Buddhas followed by a collective recitation of the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The journey began from the foot of the hills at the Shan-Fa Tower of the Sheng Shan Temple as the Lower Monastery of LJM, and live-streaming of the entire event made virtual participation accessible.

The pandemic imposed restrictions on, and cancelations of, Dharma events and group meditations everywhere, yet the LJM outreach efforts in helping members and followers serve their communities wherever appropriate remain largely intact. The anniversary pilgrimage opened with the screening of the film, The Blessing of Guanyin, the Ocean of Good Deeds, that documents events and interactions of the first year-half of 2020, where online Dharma events, meditations, and retreats testify to their effectiveness with plausible and convincing results. The campaign to collect chants of the Heart of the Shurangama Mantra and the ‘21-day Chanting of the Great Compassion Mantra’ were among the LJM’s signature online events that reflected merits to banish the pandemic for world peace. The film also showed sections on how LJM abides by public rules for the pandemic and has been taking actions to dispatch personal protective equipment and other relief materials for humanitarian help abroad. 

In his remarks on the occasion, Master Chang Chun as the Commanding Executive in charge said that there are three key elements essential to the anniversary activities, i.e. 
1.To exemplify the spirit of Bodhisattvas and recognize firm believers in LJM’s core ideals.
2.To express gratitude to long-term LJM support groups for paving the way with positive thoughts to warrant the sustainability of LJM’s promotions of Dharma.
3.To connect everyone for a better understanding of LJM by sharing stories and setting common objectives to unite and focus on solidifying progress for Life & Peace endeavors.

Master Chang Chun also quoted Venerable Master Hsin Tao as saying that for disciples of Buddha a good heart is mindfulness. “You sow the seeds of right awareness, so you harvest the fruit of right awareness. Only with a good heart and mindfulness is it possible to safeguard oneself, to stabilize the society, and to keep the world steady and secured.” The quote will hopefully provide a stimulus to the general public for people to retain mindfulness at all times so that seeds of it will be sowed for oneself and for the world as well.

It was at a time of measured re-openings and quite a handful of local dignitaries including K’O Ching-Chung, Civil Affairs Administrator of New Taipei City Government, showed up in person to bid best wishes. Among VVIPs were also religious representatives and members from the LJM Association of Dharma Guardians, the director of the Museum of World Religions, the ‘Heart-at-Peace’ Teachers Corps and the International Youth Club. When their names were called up to give recognition, happy cheers followed one another and the joyous atmosphere quickly became a permeating spirit for the entire event. Film clips documenting LJM activities overseas 2020 brought along warm wishes as part of lifestreaming to elevate the anniversary to a truly international happening that binds people from across oceans in spite of the pandemic. A pre-recorded congratulatory message from Phrakru Sangkasitthikorn formerly in charge of international affairs at the Wat Bowonniwet Wihan Ratchaworawihan is the goodwill harbinger for LJM’s Dharma Wheel to keep on turning. Congratulations from all over shared one common message to remind everyone that the guard against the pandemic should not be let lower, and that peace shall be with everyone until it is finally declared over.

When a miniature mountain of birthday pastries in the form of longevity buns was brought out, prayers for blessings were said in silence, and VVIPs at hand joined LJM monastics led by Head Master Liao Yi and Commanding Executive-in-Charge Master Chang Chun. Besides saying happy birthday to LJM while holding a lotus-shaped lantern, the well-wishers also said prayers for our Planet Earth to retain peace and safety and keep out of harm’s way.

Recognitions for devout LJM followers for their display of valor in manifesting the LJM core values of ‘Meditation & Compassion’ are at the same time encouragement. Three categories stood out for extraordinary accomplishment: ‘The Great Compassion Practitioners’ are committed to finishing 108 times of chanting of the Great Compassion Mantra every day or reaching the end goal of one million chantings of the mantra will hopefully be exemplary for more followers to join in the practice, as disciples of Buddha believe that the mantra transcends borders to enable heart-to-heart closeness even in challenging times of the pandemic. ‘The Pilgrimage Strongmen’ are those committing themselves to a total of 108 kilometers of the Buddhist ritual of uphill pilgrimage (朝山) that requires a bow-forward before a lay-down on all four limbs and touching the forehead on both up-turned palms while chanting holy names of Buddhas, then rises up and walk three steps forward to repeat the process just described. The equivalent would be a total of 36 such uphill pilgrimage journeys in 3 years. Taking a vow to fulfill the pledge suggests an enormous commitment and its accomplishment undoubtedly deserves full admiration and hopefully followings as well. ‘The Daily-Life Meditators’ complete a total of 330 days in practicing meditation throughout a year and the category maxed out this year by admitting online registrants due to the pandemic, which, in turn, is evidence and proof that the pandemic has not managed to leave a dent on the faith of LJM monastics and followers alike. 

Head Master Liao Yi also lectured on the anniversary theme of ‘The Universal Manifestation of Guanyin Enables Everyone to Become a Bodhisattva Alike’ and referred to the collective efforts of LJM monastics and followers as the realistic practice of Guanyin’s vow of Great Compassion. When Dharma Master Hsin Tao established LJM thirty-seven years ago to broadcast the teachings of Buddha, the intent was and has been for everyone to attain enlightenment. COVID-19 prompted LJM to rise up to the challenge by ushering in its digital double along with a wealth of online offerings for practitioners and followers to keep up their commitment to LJM’s core ideals of ‘Compassion & Chan Meditation’. It can well be said that Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is not only omnipresent on Earth but His cosmic strengths transcend space and time, which provide aspiring examples for us to follow. Master Liao Yi wrapped up her remarks by encouraging people in the audience to make stronger efforts for the world to become a better place.

LJM’s 37th anniversary also marks the milestone of the LJM Association of Dharma Guardians’ 30 years in service. In a multimedia presentation entitled ‘Dharma Guardians Association at 30 - Forward toward Happiness’, local chapters of the Association delivered their respective dance performance, with the choreography not only an expression of their joy of being associated with LJM but also an interface to introduce new recruits of local chapters as additional member guardians of the Association. Their joining signals vows renewed and aspirations refreshed to symbolize the legacy and sustainability of the Association and its missions.

While still in a retreat himself, Dharma Master Hsin Tao pointedly remarked in pre-taped footage that the anniversary serves the purpose of re-uniting LJM back-to-back to carry and pass on our calling and mission and help make steadfast everybody’s determination without returns. The anniversary is thus quite meaningful for advancing on the path of enlightenment and solidifying one’s Bodhicitta with compassion and altruism. The pandemic has been disturbing for the vast majority of people, but for those who subscribe to the notion of leading a Buddha-inspired daily life, lockdown triggered economic setbacks are more than made up for by gains in spiritual advancement during stay-at-home periods for optimized practices of Buddhism. The compassion of Dharma can nurture good fortune, whereas the mastery of letting go can relieve us of the burdens of worries and sins. Faith is the way of righteousness and guiding light, but it is also practice full of wisdom. The pandemic still rages on, yes, but we all need to be well prepared to find our way back at all times so that we are never separated from the awakening and compassion to carry on the Bodhisattva Way of Guanyin tradition. Venerable Master Hsin Tao concluded his video message by wishing us to gain more knowledge of Dharma to substantiate the way of our lives.

2020 is a year with multiple tests inflicted upon the world. From the outbreak of the Coronavirus infections at the top of 2020 to its speedy global spread, people were first alerted before fear and confusion took over. Religions play a critical role when people need a stability force to help them overcome fear and negativity and to ultimately survive the pandemic. LJM managed to add to its rich content a successfully transformed digital version of itself to turn the table around and optimize crises as opportunities. As put forth in the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra - Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara manifests himself in matching shape, form, and status corresponding to those of the individual ones to be saved. And, with the advent of the Internet, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas digitize to transcend time and space. On the occasion of the LJM's 37th anniversary, let us hope that everyone will keep in their mind a Bodhicitta of compassion to on-goingly practice the Way of Bodhisattva in the post-pandemic era of the new normal.

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