Buddha-Mettā UK

Buddha-Mettā UK
Puja (chanting and meditation) 5am & 7pm, Dana (meal offering) 10:30am.

06 September 2011

Sharing Merit

We lost count at about 70, but we estimate that about 90 people joined us on Sunday to celebrate the passing of merit that we have created to our diseased.  We couldn't help but be excited about Ajahn Kovida joining us again, and Venerable Yen from the Mahayana tradition.  We were so pleased to have a Sangha here where every member was from a different country and where many traditions were represented.

Our practice is all about letting go so why not let go of the good merit we have generated as well?  It is a practice that helps us learn to not attach to even the good things in our lives, and generates an even stronger flow of merit that is as tangible as water but is as slippery as well.  We learn that it doesn't belong to us.  Nothing really does..  So we reduce our ego and spread love around. But how did this all start, and why here on this day? That involves some history...

King Bimbasara of Magadha met Prince Siddhattha Gotama before the aesthetic's enlightenment.  He was inspired by him to the point that he offered half of his kingdom to him.  Although he declined the offering, he offered to return to teach the King once he was enlightened.  He kept his promise and returned one day as the Buddha.  Not only was the king still impressed, but he became a disciple and offered Bamboo Grove Park as a place for the first ever monastery.  Since he could not place the land on the Buddha's hands, he instead poured some of the water from the land over the Buddha's hands to symbolize the offering.  That night the King went to sleep very pleased, but dreamt of his diseased relatives suffering.  He went to the Buddha to ask how it could be possible that they could be so unhappy.  The Buddha taught him to pass the merit he made by pouring water and imagining the blessing pouring away from him in the way that the water flows.

This passing of merit is what we do to this day!  The opening of the temple here in Cambridge is also as special to the community here as it was to the Buddha and his disciples 2500 years ago.  He wanted to thank the people for Bamboo Grove somehow.  While standing on Vulture Peak, overlooking the land of Magadha, the Buddha asked Venerable Ananda to find a way to thank those people.  Venerable Ananda looking out over the patchwork of the farm land found a way to honour those people that still lasts to this day.  The monastic robes that are worn today have the pattern of the land stitched into them.  If it doesn't then it cannot be determined as a robe, and a monk cannot be without his robes.

So being the first temple in Cambridge, it only seems appropriate to celebrate and pass the merit on as well.  We put names of our relatives onto pieces of paper, chanted in their honour, burned the paper, and gave them food offerings.  The funeral chanting was to bless them and to bless those who may not have had a proper funeral in the first place.

We then exercised one last ancient tradition called Salakabhatta. On occasions such as these, people often get carried away with offering in the spirit of generosity, sharing, and building up some merit to pass on! Even in the Buddha's time these kinds of offerings became so large that a fair way to pass them amongst the monks had to be created.  Actually, the monks do not own very much, if anything at all.  Everything belongs to the Sangha.  But often people want to give to specific monks and it could potentially not be fair to a less fortunate monk or simply a more junior one.  So the Buddha created a system where each monk draws a number at random which corresponds to a certain set of offerings.  The monks don't see what is being offered and so there could not be any negative feelings that arise from this way to distribute the offerings.  Although this is rarely done nowadays, the practice is to do it once a year at this time to keep the ancient tradition alive.  Through my steward, I now have a way to get my travel inoculations which I was worried about.  I am grateful to everyone for this and for the lineage of monastics before me who kept such traditions going.

Thank you everyone for sharing this lovely day with us. 
Through the goodness that arises from my practice,
May my spiritual teachers and guides of great virtue,
My mother, my father and my relatives,
The Sun and the Moon,
and all virtuous leaders of the world –
May the highest gods and evil forces; 
Celestial beings,
guardian spirits of the Earth and the Lord of Death;
May those who are friendly, indifferent or hostile;
May all beings receive the blessings of my life.
May they soon attain the threefold bliss and realise the Deathless.
Through the goodness that arises from my practice,
And through this act of sharing,
May all desires and attachments quickly cease 
And all harmful states of mind. 
Until I realise Nibbana, 
In every kind of birth,
may I have an upright mind
With mindfulness and wisdom,
austerity and vigour.
May the forces of delusion not take hold nor weaken my resolve.
The Buddha is my excellent refuge,
Unsurpassed is the protection of the Dhamma, 
The Solitary Buddha is my noble Lord,
The Sangha is my supreme support. 
Through the supreme power of all these,
May darkness and delusion be dispelled.

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