Between September 18th – October 4th, 2020, Ling Jiou Mountain (LJM) held the annual Avatamsaka Retreat Puja. Normally, the puja takes place at the end of the year by lunar calendar this year, we moved it to September due to Covid-19. LJM takes the opportunity to thank all the students and volunteers for their efforts and support. We thank you all who are positively connected with us. We do not take our acquaintances for granted as we've built this network through eons of lifetimes. That is also why we hold the puja and dedicate the merit as a reciprocation of kindness.
How auspicious and rare it is for one to encounter the Avatamsaka Sutra? Awoke to the morning star, a sight that occasioned with his perfect enlightenment – Buddha Shakyamuni turned the Wheel of Dharma for the first time. This initiated the Dharmic activity with the karmic connections that he had accumulated in the past. The Buddha engendered bodhicitta and walked the path of bodhisattva tirelessly. Little by little, he strived to bring beneficence to sentient beings. Through innumerable skillful means, he has guided beings to the realization of the tathagata. The moment that the Buddha attained realization, the Realm of Avatamsaka was revealed. This is also the result of the Buddha activity that is devoted to benefiting sentient beings.
After he had attained enlightenment, the Buddha entered the samadhi for twenty-one days. Then, he elucidated the Avatamsaka Sutra across seven places and nine assemblies in the Human and Deva Realms. Empress Wu of the Tang Dynasty wrote down the renowned stanza in praising the auspiciousness of Dharma after reading the Avatamsaka Sutra. Here she wrote,
“The unsurpassable profound wondrous Dharma,So rare to encounter through countless eons,Now that I have the chance to receive it through hearing and studying,May I realize the true meaning of the Tathagatha's teaching.”
This passage was adopted as the opening stanza in the Chinese Buddhist scriptures since. Through eons of lives, we are extremely fortunate to come across Buddhadharma. Hence, we must try to understand the true intent of the Buddha by all means. This is also a way of adhering to the transmission of Dharma.
The Avatamsaka Sutra or the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra carries profound meaning. "Great Means Expansive" implies to Dharmakaya. “Great” means the universe that is all-encompassing. “Means” refer to the natural principle. “Expansive” describes the realm of tathagatas. Therefore, the one-minded Dharmakaya of the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra is the aspiring state of the Buddha. In this state, multifold of connections and lights explain the interconnectedness of the universe – I’m in you and you’re in me. It is an expansive network like a matrix where all the beings share the same wisdom. Within this matrix, all the possible interactions could take place. This is the “all-pervasiveness of compassion”.
In the Akanishtha (Buddhafield of Vairocana) where compassion is all-pervasive, everything is free from conflicts and obscuration. The Dharmakaya is devoid of counteractions and duality. Our ordinary understanding of right and wrong; good and bad, and so forth do not exist. Although the samsara we’re in is imperfect with innumerable flaws. This Age of Degeneration is part of the realm. Any seemingly defect is part of the Avatasamsaka Realm. In layers of light and infinite connections, everything makes up a dignified universe.
As we gather to practice the Avatamsaka Sutra together at this assembly, we're sowing the seed of enlightenment and stimulating its growth. What's most important is to find our source, which is our primordial awareness or the original face. By uncovering ourselves, we've discovered Dharmakaya or Akanishtha.
Dharma practice is to open up our wisdom and unfold the positive connections in life. We can perform the bodhicitta that is altruistic for interdependent benefits. As well, we can guide sentient beings to be free from suffering for the ultimate happiness. Through Dharma practice, everyone will accomplish individual Buddhafield. The Avatamsaka Sutra is one of the scriptures which every Buddhist must study. I hope that you'd generate a sense of bliss when attending the puja. Receive the teaching respectfully so as to get the great benefits.