November 3, 2019, Ceremony of Offerings to the Sangha
On the afternoon of November 3, 2019, the "Ceremony of Offerings to the Sangha" took place at Malaysia's True Buddha Pinghe Nursing Home's Benran Education Building. This ceremony was organized by True Buddha Foundation (TBF) and with the Federation of True Buddha School Malaysia. About 100 monks and nuns from Malaysia and overseas were in attendance.
According to the Buddha, who had spoken on Dana, making offerings to the Three Treasures will reap the following merit: having a majestic countenance and body, having increased strength, having longevity, having contentment and stability, and having the gift of the gab.
This ceremony was presided over by TBF Inspection & Disciplinary Head, Master Lianseng and was attended by about 30 Masters and about 60 reverends from True Buddha School; another 30 were non-TBS reverends. The total number of Sangha participants receiving offerings came up to more than 100. In addition, believers from Malaysia and overseas were present to support the ceremony.
That day, the sadhana for the “Ceremony of Offering to the Sangha” was that of True Buddha School. The Mahayana representative chanted the Great Compassion Dharani and the Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra; the Theravada representative chanted Pali verses of blessings. There was an atmosphere of cordiality among the various sects. It was a touching sight to behold.
Then, TBS Masters led in paying homage to the statue of our Root Guru with the hata presentation. Master Lianseng also represented everyone to present the hata to the statue of the Pindola, the arhat who lives eternally on this earth. The committee representatives from the Federation of True Buddha School Malaysia, lawyers, Dharma Instructors, Dharma Assistants and fellow Dharma brothers and sisters then queued up to present the hata to the Sangha. This was especially meaningful because it was an act of respect to the Sangha Treasure. In addition, the organizer also presented each monk or nun with a hamper bag consisting of daily necessities. It was a solemn and touching procession.
Upon completion, Master Lianseng gave an exposition of the dharma. He said, everyday, in front of his altar, he would reiterate his renunciation vows to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. He would observe his heart [mind] everyday, adhere to the precepts, ensure that his spiritual cultivation align with the Eight Noble Paths, and strive to become a true monk of merit [merit-dispenser]. Every single merit goes to our Root Guru, Living Buddha Lian-sheng and sentient beings.
Master Lianseng took note of the following:
1. Remembering detachment from samsara;
2. The reason for renunciation and its affinity: not to forget the initial resolution to attain wisdom, to understand the Four Noble Truths, and to adhere to the Eight Noble Paths for liberation [from the cycle of rebirth];
3. To constantly observe the heart [mind], and to be on the alert for greed, anger, ignorance, suspicion and arrogance;
4. The merit of renunciation comes entirely from the Root Guru. Hence Master Lianseng will dedicate the merit of renunciation to the Root Guru and sentient beings who make offerings to Master Lianseng.
A few years earlier, when his grandmother passed away, Master Lianseng went home. His father handed him a note, instructing him, “Do not let sentient beings down.” Master Lianseng was consciously aware that his father was referring to sentient beings who had both affinity and non-affinity to him. After that day, he decided that he should refine the fourth point of his daily reminders: not only should he dedicate merits to our Root Guru, he should also dedicate merit to all sentient beings in the Dharma world, not just to beings who have made offerings to him. In this process of spiritual cultivation, he is ever vigilant not to forget this original resolution.
Master Lianseng hopes everyone would stand by their own duties, so that the teachings of the Buddha will be as long-lasting as a flowing stream.
The “Sang” in the Sanskrit term, “Sangha,” is often used as an abbreviation in the Chinese world to represent monks and nuns. The monks and nuns who cultivate the Buddha’s teachings, uphold the "Six Ways of Reverent Harmony." The monks and nuns live in harmony with one another in a group; the literal meaning of such a group is “Big Assembly” (Dazhong).
Thus, Sangha is an assembly of renunciated Buddhists, and the assembly can only be called a Sangha if there are more than four individuals. A single nun or monk cannot be called a Sangha; we can only call each person a monk or a nun. The monk or nun is a good friend to sentient beings, as he or she can bring merit to them — he or she enables sentient beings to plant the seeds of merit. Hence, monks or nuns are also known as merit-dispensing monks or nuns.
Hence in that day's "Ceremony of Offering to the Sangha", everyone had the opportunity to make an offering to the monks and nuns. This was a rare occasion of merit affinity. Every participant was full of dharma joy.