Chung Tai Chan Monastery Pilgrimage, 2006
Our pilgrimage to the Chung Tai Chan Monastery began with a thirteen-hour plane flight from San Francisco to Taipei. A few hours bus trip took us to the lush mountain of Puli where the Monastery is situated. The whole Monastery is full of wondrous human creations embraced by natural beauty and tranquility.
Seeing the Monastery in pictures and videos was nothing compared to experiencing its spirit and splendor in person. The architectural design, the magnificent statues, and the manicured gardens are majestic beyond descriptions. However, it was the black misty mountains that circle the Monastery, the songs of the birds, the chanting of the monastic, and the devotion of the Sangha and volunteers that moved me the most.
It was under this spiritual and serene atmosphere that we participated in the Medicine Buddha, the Grand Ullambana and the Great Meng Shan Food Offering Ceremonies, learning that non-sentient things inspire the sentient beings, human beings make good karmic connection with the hungry ghosts, and compassion dissolves boundaries of all realms, making it one and all in harmony.
The feeding of the hungry ghosts concluded the three-day Chung Tai festivities. On the last day, with our minds full of Dharma joy, we bid farewell to the Monastery with a Pilgrimage at Dawn, one prostration every three steps until we climbed to the top of the stairs reaching the level of the Pagoda. This spiritual exercise curbed our mind, tested our endurance and put our diligence into action, making it an unforgettable experience.
Leaving the Monastery, we began our tour around the Island of Taiwan, visiting other Chung Tai Zen Centers, mausoleums and monasteries along the way. Every Chung Tai place we visited, we were received with fervent welcome by the local Dharma Masters and Dharma brothers, with elaborate banquets featuring local specialties and thoughtful souvenirs that awaited us.
The warm hospitality extended to us oversea visitors reflected the harmony and diligence of the big Chung Tai family. Every Zen Center and its local Sangha have their own characteristics, yet embrace the same vision and compassion of the Grand Master in propagating the Dharma, in making abundance of good karmic connections while benefiting self and others. Geographically, the monasteries, the mausoleums and most of the Zen Centers were built amid mountains and waters.
The fabulous landscape is very much an integral part of the whole process of Dharma propagation, for without these natural elements, there would be no monasteries or Dharma Masters. In the City of Hualien, we visited the Taroko National Park which is one of the most scenic places in the world. The mountains are massive and the waterfalls are so tall that they seem to be flowing down from the sky.
The water howled, telling us that its force is making changes to the rocks and rivers. Nothing is permanent, for we will never again see the same landscape as we saw it the day we did. When the non-sentient beings speak, the sentient beings should listen. I may not know how many causal conditions need to occur for me to stand on this very spot at this very moment to listen to the water speak the Dharma. I could only tell that I was one of these numerous conditions.
My sincere gratitude to the Grand Master, our Dharma Masters, all the Dharma brothers, mountains and waters that had made this pilgrimage possible to us.