May 24, 2020, Rainbow Temple, "Heart-to-Heart with the Buddha" series
TBS News, Reverend Lian Qi
It's been two months since the pandemic first made its presence felt. Till today, Washington State's Stay-Home Order remains in force. There is no indication of any impending removal of the Order.
Remaining unmoved too are two stone lions (Lion Bodhisattvas) that stand guard at the entrance of Rainbow Temple. Even though there aren't any visitors, the lions remain steadfast in the execution of their duty; they can be likened to stern soldiers who stand sentinel with their muskets.
On May 24, 2020, at Rainbow Temple, the carpark in front of the Homa Hall was as desolate as before, there wasn’t any person in sight. The VIP seats were empty, save for a layer of dust that had settled down.
In contrast, the two rows of flowers lining the entrance of Rainbow Temple had blossomed. While they swayed in the breeze, the sweet whiff of scent caught the attention of the bees that came flitting among the flowers. They busied themselves with the gathering of the pollen, as if the world around them was inconsequential.
Equally busy were the volunteers at the Homa Hall. After the announcement of the June homa ceremonies, the forms arrived almost immediately from all over the world, and the volunteers could be seen busily replying to email, or processing the forms. The latter were printed, categorized, and arranged by date.
The forms represent sentient beings' wishes and prayers. Sentient beings hope to get their prayers answered and to receive blessings from Grandmaster, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
When noon came, the kings of the sky made their appearances. A pair of majestic hawks (Black Kites) encircled the sky, in tandem to the doldrums of heatwave rising from the ground. The manner in which they flew was dignified and stately; one could almost liken it to the powerful elegance of Vajra Protectors. Not long after, the much anticipated bell rang, signifying the arrival of Dharma King Living Buddha Lian-sheng and Shimu. The volunteers presented a lovely bouquet of flowers to Grandmaster who then presented them as offering to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. One could not help but notice a beautiful string of mala hanging on Grandmaster's neck. Grandmaster explained in depth, like a professional, on how to differentiate between real and fake pearls. The shiny spherical pearls are just like the Dharma King's wish-fulfilling moni pearls, which are a sign of auspiciousness.
Before the homa ceremony of the Golden Mother began, the sky suddenly showed a round halo that was resplendent with rainbow colors. This bright halo, which dispelled the initial clouds, was much bigger than those previously sighted before. This auspicious phenomenon lasted for about half an hour before disappearing.
The ceremony presided over by Grandmaster ended very well. The homa fire was blazingly hot; the yogic merger of Grandmaster and Golden Mother emanated such great prowess that sentient beings' greed, anger and ignorance were cleansed. The intense Yang energy also swept away the virus, the Plague God and its relations.
As usual, after the homa, Grandmaster fielded questions from disciples in the session, "You ask, Grandmaster answers". The session provided much food for thought and discussion among the volunteers. Grandmaster laughed, "It's best not to ask. By asking, more refined and endless questions appear."
A volunteer asked about spiritual cultivation with no-thoughts [during meditation], and GM answered briefly, "If the thoughts of the past are destroyed and the thoughts of the future have not arisen, then one can stay focused [on that point]."
However, this kind of meditation requires single-mindedness, no-self, no-afflictions and no-mind. Qi must be maintained with the bodily channels in check; one must let go of any thoughts and be purified. Only then can the fire of meditative wisdom arise. This requires long-term practice; it's a concept that is difficult to put into words.
A volunteer also asked if one could stop listening or reading the Tipitaka and the sutras upon awakenment. Grandmaster explained, the path of spiritual cultivation is still a long one even after awakenment. For example, till today, Grandmaster is still reading extensively and contemplating Mahayana and Tantric sutras and doctrines; this is notwithstanding the worldly knowledge which he is still learning.
Grandmaster recalled the early days during Shakyamuni's time, when many arahats (literally known as 'No-Learn' in Chinese) and Bodhisattvas would gather around Shakyamuni Buddha during his discourses. They would listen in respectful contemplation.
The same Tiptika and sutras could be interpreted in many ways, depending on the levels of the spiritual cultivation of the practitioners who would use the five eyes (the physical eyes, the heavenly eye, the wisdom eye, the dharma eye and the Buddha eye) to listen and understand the Buddha-dharma.
Also, there could be cases of spiritual cultivators just reaching awakenment and becoming self-satisfied upon getting glimpses of the Root of Wisdom (pannindriya). They could not advance further [in their spiritual cultivation]. It is like arriving at the threshold of a hall but not entering, or entering a mountain-cave to look for treasures but returning empty-handed and disappointed.
When Grandmaster and Shimu were at the canteen at Rainbow Temple, they took some time using the digital weighing scale. Grandmaster and Shimu had weighed a few weeks ago, so this time round, the volunteers invited Grandmaster and Shimu to weigh again, to ensure that the Stay-Home Order hadn't caused major changes to their weights. Luckily, Grandmaster's and Shimu's weights remained unchanged.
Based on international BMI charts, Shimu is considered a little light, while Grandmaster is a little heavy; fortunately, the numbers are well within the standard BMI ranges.
Shimu then asked some male volunteers to weigh themselves, and surprisingly, she was able to remember their previous weighings. A few of them were embarrassed because they would like to keep their weight a secret just like women would like to keep their age a secret. The guys might not have appetite for dinner later!
During mealtime, the topic of discussion was on weight and health. Grandmaster was full of praise for Shimu's superb cooking skills.
During these trying times in the face of Stay-Home Order, Shimu can still cook up a storm. The dishes are as varied as they can be, and they are nutritious, delicious, and visually appealing. However, the price is that Grandmaster has to wash the dishes; it is part of the helping out in the household chores.
GM also praised a Reverend for her delicious healthy noodles and cheese cakes. The creaminess of the milk and cheese is something that Grandmaster and Shimu look forward to everytime.
Grandmaster and Shimu also discussed on the art of eating. It is well-known that Grandmaster and Shimu enjoy food with low carbohydrates, little salt, little oil, and little sugar (or no sugar at all). They maintain a balanced diet with adequate amounts of nutritional supplements and probiotics; they also brush and floss their teeth after meals. These are little things that make them healthy.
There is a Western expression, "You are what you eat." This statement tickled Grandmaster so much that he launched two jokes at once:
1. A mother fly brought her son to the dung pile to have a meal. The son asked the mother, "Why are we always eating dung?" The mother responded, "Do not talk about nasty stuff while eating."
2. A patient kept excreting the same stuff that he ate. He would incessantly go to the hospital to seek the doctor's help. Irritated, the doctor wrote a prescription just to get the patient off his back. The prescription read, "Eat the dung and your problem is solved."
Grandmaster was in such a good mood that there was a palpable sense of lightheartedness all around. Everyone ate heartily at the canteen.
To keep fit, Grandmaster said that the body must always be moving. He knows that the modern-day worker sits too much and moves too little. He himself would do Golden Mother Eight Major Exercises to keep fit. In deference to Golden Mother, Grandmaster has made it a habit to exercise his eyes, ears, mouth, heart, kidney, navel area and hormones. These exercises keep the body healthy and prevent the growth of bad stuff. In addition, everyday, Grandmaster would do 100 Big Prostrations, Varja Fists and his spiritual cultivation homework. The whole body, inner and outer, are therefore all exercised.
Many people would develop health and aging issues after middle age. On Grandmaster, none of these take place. What one sees in Grandmaster are bright alert eyes, good hearing, healthy body, vitality of youth, good reflexes and good memory.
In fact, on this day, Grandmaster went to the Main Hall after the homa ceremony and immediately performed a suite of Vajra Pole moves and Vajra Fists. Grandmaster was full of stable Qi and relaxed vitality, an astonishing feat given that he had just presided over a two-hour homa ceremony and discourse. Even the young ones were in awe of Grandmaster.
The above exercises that Grandmaster does to keep fit do not require much time, and there should not be any reason for not exercising and not doing spiritual cultivation at all. Grandmaster has been able to manage time well to look after his body and practice spiritual cultivation. When Grandmaster is outdoors, he would move his legs or arms or do some stretching. After painting, he would use the gym equipment at the painting room to train his body.
Once, when a ceremony was about to start in a few minutes' time, Grandmaster still found time to tell people that he was going to do Treasure Vase Breathing; he sat on the chair and focused on mastering his Qi and swallowing his saliva. He was so focused that he was oblivious to the surroundings.
We always hear about how Grandmaster would chant "Namo Amituofo" while driving and even while alighting from his car. There are simply too many examples. Grandmaster, who has attained the Great Achievement, has set a good example to spiritual cultivators with his excellent time management. He is able to seize the moment and ensure that exercising is an integral part of spiritual cultivation; only with a healthy body is one able to practice spiritual cultivation well. Grandmaster not only teaches disciples how to resolve mental afflictions, he also teaches disciples how to eat well and keep fit. These are essential in curing the body of maladies. Grandmaster is not just a Dharma King, but a Medicine King as well!
After the ceremony, auspicious clouds appeared in the skies; the bright clouds looked like an ocean full of the lotus seats of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. They were auspicious signs that seemed to encourage everyone to face challenges with fortitude, and that these difficulties would come to pass soon.
The tranquility of the Villa with its natural scenery offered a sanctuary against the outside world. From afar, faint notes of the song, "Shigatse is my hometown", came streaming by, but the worldly lyrics had been replaced with those praising Living Buddha Lian-sheng for establishing Rainbow Temple as a cultivation venue, a reclusive Shang-rila of the western world.
This land is a treasure land which Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have validated; it attracts the spiritual cultivator who has distanced himself or herself from the worldly elements. With pure faith, the spiritual cultivator relies on the Root Guru's teachings, so as to unravel the secret of awakenment within himself or herself.