On the morning of 19th February 2008, Ven. Wei Wu, accompanied by Ven. Zhen Xin and three lay devotees, made a trip down to Kuala Lumpur and Negeri Sembilan. Than Hsiang has two centers in Negeri Sembilan, namely Pajam kalyana center and Taman Makmur cultivation center. A Triple Gem refuge ceremony cum dharma-sharing session with the new practitioners was scheduled at the above two premises. In the evening at 8pm, Shifu had a gathering with the KL lay sangha at the Kajang Than Hsiang WCY and gave a dharma lecture.
After spending the night at Kajang WCY, Shifu had to rushed to KL Tham Wah Yuan to conduct the eight-precept retreat the next morning at 7.15am while Ven Zhen Xin presented herself at Pajam (NS) to deliver a Dharma lecture to student trainees at the National service camp.
After bidding farewell at Tham Wah Yuan at 12 noon on 20th Jan. 2008, both Venerables and the three laities proceeded to pay a courtesy call on Ven. Por Yuan at Hu Pin hermitage.
Shifu reiterated during the refuge-seeking ceremony that anyone who seeks refuge should know what is the triple Gem- the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
The triple Gem also known as the three jewels or the three refuges are the three things that Buddhists undertake, in a process known as taking refuge , for guidance.
The practice of taking refuge is central to Buddhist lay and monastic ordination ceremonies, as originated by Gautama Buddha. By taking refuge in the triple Gem one is generally officially considered a Buddhist.
In the Theravada tradition ,the following Pali chant, the Vandana Ti-sarana is often recited by both monks and lay people.
Buddham saranam gacchami
I go for refuge in the Buddha
Dhammam saranam gacchami
I go for refuge in the dharma
Sangham saranam gacchami
I go for refuge in the sangha.
However, the Mahayana version differs slightly from the Theravada;
I take refuge in the Buddha, wishing all sentient beings to understand the great way and make the greatest vow.
I take refuge in the Dharma, wishing for all sentient beings to deeply delve into the Sutra Pitaka, gaining an ocean of knowledge.
I take refuge in the Sangha, wishing all sentient beings to lead the congregation in harmony, entirely without obstruction.
The Buddha: The blessed one is the enlightened one, the unsurpassed leader of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans,accomplished in true knowledge and knower of the world. There are numerous Buddhas in the universe, but we take the historical Buddha, Sakayamuni as the representation of the Buddha for our refuge.
The Dharma: The teaching of the Buddha which is well expounded by the Blessed One, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise.
The Sangha: The disciples of the blessed one who practise the true way and is worthy of hospitality. offering, reverential salutation. It is also defined firstly as “realized sangha” , “Aryan Sangha” or“realized Boddhisattva” referring to practitioners and historical students of the Buddha who had fully realized the nature of their mind ; and secondly as “ordinary Sangha”, loosely means practitioners and students of the Buddha working towards the same goal.
The discourses by Shifu in Kajang are divided into two sections. The first part is known as the concepts and practice of lay sangha and the second part- the six principles of harmony.
Briefly, the concepts are:
1. Lay Sangha is the inner circle of members next to the Monastic sangha which forms the core of the Than Hsiang Organisation.
2. Lay Sangha members have strong commitment to the Triple Gem.
3. Lay Sangha members have Than Hsiang as second home.
4. Lay Sangha members complement the roles of Monastic Sangha.
The Practice :
1. Lay Sangha members take the minimum of 10 moral precepts, can also take Bodhisattva precepts.
2. Lay Sangha members are committed to raise the level of spiritual practice of Than Hsiang organization.
3. Lay Sangha members can lead in group Cultivation, Dharma discussion and teaching.
4. Lay Sangha members commit themselves to their respective work and activities of Than Hsiang organization.
5. Lay Sangha members lead actively in various Than Hsiang Committees.
6. Lay Sangha members share spiritual friendship and support each other in putting the Dharma into daily practice.
7. Lay Sangha members practise the six principles of harmonious living in the spiritual community.
What are the six principles for harmony ?
1. Metta-kayakamma: Friendly action.
(members of the community) each shows friendliness and goodwill to their colleagues, associates and fellow community members by willingly helping them in their duties and bearing a courteous and respectful manners , both in their presence and absence.
2. Metta-vacikamma: friendly speech;
They each inform the others what is of benefit; they teach or advise them with a heart of good will; they say only polite and respectful words to them , both in their presence and absence.
3. Metta-Manokamma: Friendly thoughts:
They establish their minds in good will, thinking of ways to be of service to each other; looking at each other in a good light , having a pleasant and congenial attitude towards each others.
4. Sadharana-bhogi: sharing of gains
They share with each other whatever gains have been rightfully acquired, seeing to it that even small things are distributed equally to all.
5. Sila-samannata: moral harmony
They maintain virtuous conduct, abide by community rules and regulations, and do not conduct themselves in ways that are objectionable or damaging to the community.
6. Ditti-samannata: harmony of views;
They respect and honor each other’s views ; they have reached consensus or agreed upon the main principles of virtues or ultimate aims.
During our short visit with Ven Jing Hui we were very fortunate to be blessed with a brief but memorable dose of Dharma given by Ven Jing Hui. The Ven. advised,” always maintain a calm, clear and peaceful state of the mind, in so doing you will be free from all obstructions (defilements). Someone questioned as to how one is able maintain the tranquil state of mind? To which he replied ,” you must maintain a state of mind not swayed by any external influences, in another words –an immoveable mind that does not give rise to afflictions. He further explained ,“if you can overcome self attachment and rid of the thought of duality and cultivate mutual trust, you will invariably be blessed with peace of mind”.
We were all filled with dharmic joy recollecting the advice of Ven Jing Hui during the home-bound journey.