The Righteous Sword of Dharma Battles the Enemy Within
About 130 Lamrim students of BW Monastery (Singapore) set off for a meaningful 8-day Dharma Seeking Trip in Taiwan. This trip was tailored for students from the monastery who have attended “The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment” Discussion Classes for at least a year. These classes are commonly known as Lamrim Discussion Classes.
The objectives of the trip were to allow participants to understand the core vision, philosophy and impactful contributions made by our BW Monastery founder, Master Venerable Jih Chang. Master Venerable Jih Chang who was from Taiwan, was compassionate towards all sentient beings and had devoted a large part of his life in advocating that one should diligently and earnestly practice the Enlightenment Path taken by the Buddha as it can benefit all sentient beings including oneself.
Experiential learning opportunities were planned for the trip to feature Master Venerable Jih Chang’s legacy in building a community of Sangha and lay followers, who worked diligently together in spreading and practicing the Dharma, using the Lamrim as a core teaching with Moral Education as well as Health and Environmental Awareness. The Dharma Seeking Trip can also be described as an expedition for participants to discover the source of meaningful and enlightening life journeys which we too can embark on in accordance with Buddha's teachings.
The dedicated Organising Committees from both Taiwan and Singapore as well as the selfless Taiwan volunteers of the Dharma Seeking Trip had done a marvellous job in ensuring that the most conducive learning environment was provided to the participants. In addition, the invaluable lessons planned for the trip were filled with heartwarming, earnest and touching sharings which allowed participants to listen, see and learn about how the teachings of Buddha had been applied by Master Venerable Jih Chang through critical self-reflections for all his actions taken.
The programme encouraged a learning environment for contemplation, reflection and planning for our personal future spiritual pathway. The impact of Master Venerable Jih Chang’s role modelling and contributions have changed many members’ lives for the better and spread hope in the agricultural and educational communities.
As a first time Dharma Seeking Trip participant, I am glad to have the company of my dear aunts, Choy Leng and Emily who have studied the Lamrim for 15 and 10 years respectively. Am also honoured to be selected by the Singapore - S1 group leader, Sister Hui Hua to serve as S1, sub-group C’s team leader.
I was all ready and looking forward to be positively charged during this trip. Little did I know, that this 8-day spiritual journey was going to be a totally different roller coaster ride.
My challenges were brewing and one was ready for me on DAY ONE of our trip! Apparently, karma gives no chance!
“No time wasted!” says KARMA. The karmic seed I sowed in the past had ripen and I was to face the consequences in the face. Shan’t give details of the challenge due to privacy protection. I shall just share my self-reflection.
After the incident, I felt so ashamed of the way I managed the situation. Instead of using compassion and wisdom, my immediate response to my challenge was one filled with critical judgement and afflictions. OMAK (Observe Merits and Appreciate Kindness) which was frequently practiced and shared on numerous occasions was a million miles away for this personal karmic challenge.
I HAVE FAILED BADLY! FALLEN FLAT, FACE DOWN!
The first test taken by me upon stepping into FENG SHAN TEMPLE was not going to be a beautiful and sweet moment which I had imagined my visit to be. I had in the house of my respected Master Venerable Jih Chang, showed the ugliest side that I have in me. How was this possible? Why did my weakest link in my personality cause such a disaster at this time? I yearned and wanted it to be spiritually perfect and blissful! I can’t believe it. I cried.
I repented sincerely to the Buddha and Master Venerable Jih Chang for not being able to practice like a diligent disciple. Instead, I unleashed the fiery dragon of afflictions! I felt like the worst student who fell into a thorn-filled trap of afflictions and I was drowning in a deep, deep pit of shame and sadness.
Before I could dry my tears of repentance in the main shrine hall, the next scheduled lesson which was a discourse by one of the Venerables was going to be the compassionate reply from Buddha and Master Venerable Jih Chang to me.
The Venerable shared about his personal experience and learning from Master Venerable Jih Chang. Master once told the Venerable: “I do not fear your failures but fear that you do not fail at all”.
These words of wisdom threw a rope for me from the top of the pit. I should not feel overly saddened by my mistakes but take them as lessons to learn and improve. The Master also shared with the Venerable that one should aspire to work on improving oneself and continue to learn, should it be for a worthwhile cause. Improvement and spiritual elevation comes with the foundation of multiple trials and failure. We need to understand our strength and weaknesses and work on our unique areas for improvement. Only by overcoming such ordeals through taking up responsibilities, can we practice the Dharma and tame our hearts and minds.
I have grown to be more of a perfectionist. Often wanting only success, appearing flawless and avoiding opportunities which have higher risk of failure. However, this mind set has taken away many chances of pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones and learning from invaluable life lessons.
With 14 years of teaching experience in Singapore’s secondary school education, I am much more patient towards my students’ mistakes than I am towards my own or that of my loved ones. I often allow no or little room for mistakes and get easily frustrated. Having a higher level of expectation of myself and those I love. Double standards. The compassionate Buddha and Master have shown me a new perspective of failure and a way to pick myself up through reflection, repentance and aspiration to improve after failing. These opportunities allow us to contemplate and apply Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives so as to achieve spiritual upgrading. Using the righteous sword of Dharma, I will continue to conquer my enemies within!
On our pathway to enlightenment, we cannot do away with the Triple Gems or virtuous teachers and friends. I am grateful to all my virtuous teachers and friends. As a token of appreciation for my group leader, members of S1 and all involved in the 2016 Taiwan Dharma Seeking Trip, I have created a video with our S1 group’s blissful moments shared in the golden palace built by our monastery founder, Master Venerable Jih Chang!
（本文經作者本人李宗矜/Irene Lee全文授權，同文並刊載於吉祥寺部落格，簡體中文標題為〈挥洒法宝剑 闯关破心敌〉。）