January 1st in the Chinese lunar calendar, is chinese Spring festival, it is the biggest holiday in china. It is also the holy birthday of Maitreya Bodhisattva – the next Buddha in the saha world. This is a special and joyful holiday that is celebrated by many. Hua Zang Si in San Francisco held a Dharma Assembly to celebrate this important occasion. It was the first Dharma Assembly of the year and it was held on a beautiful sunny day. Many laypersons participated in the event.
At the entrance of the temple is an oversize marvelous statue representation of a jolly, laughing Buddha: Maitreya Bodhisattva (the next Buddha in this Saha world). It is such a warm welcoming sign. The big belly not only means jolly, it also means tolerating the intolerable things in the world. So when you look at the statue, you will start to feel that learning Buddhism is happy and kind.
The Dharma Assembly was an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate the teachings of Maitreya Bodhisattva. It was a time for reflection and meditation, as well as a chance to learn more about the teachings of Buddhism. The atmosphere was filled with positivity and joy, as people came together to celebrate this important holiday.
In Chinese culture, Maitreya Bodhisattva is seen as a symbol of joy and tolerance. As practitioners of Buddhism, we are encouraged to strive to be like the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas by cultivating a broad mind, open heart, and great tolerance.
One of the key principles of Buddhism is patience and forbearance, particularly under insult. This is seen as a key aspect of self-cultivation and it is important to remember that everything in the dharma realms can change from ordinary to holy. This means that even difficult situations can be transformed and overcome through the practice of patience and tolerance.
Patience and tolerance are not just passive qualities, but rather active ones that require effort and practice. We must actively cultivate them in our daily lives and strive to maintain them even in difficult situations. Through this practice, we can transform our own minds and hearts, becoming more like the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that we strive to emulate.
At the Dharma Assembly, we chanted the Eighty-eight holy Buddha name jeweled repentance sutra, in hopes that the Buddhas will wash away all of our sins and negative karmas. After the chanting, we offered a meal to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The event concluded with a dharma talk given by Dharma Master Ruohui.
During her talk, Dharma Master Ruohui emphasized the importance of faith, vows, and actions for disciples of Buddhism. She explained that faith is the foundation of our practice, and that with strong faith, we will have the determination to follow the Buddha’s teachings and put them into action in our lives.
The Dharma Assembly was a meaningful event where participants not only had the opportunity to reflect on their own spiritual growth but also to make an impact on the world around them. During the assembly, the participants returned the merit to all living beings, holding the hope that they shall be rid of suffering, obtain happiness, and have the opportunity to listen to authentic Buddha Dharma.
The act of returning merit is an important aspect of Buddhist practice as it is believed that by dedicating the positive energy generated through our spiritual practice to the benefit of others, we can help bring about peace and prosperity in the world. By returning merit to all living beings, participants were able to contribute to the collective well-being of the world and make a positive impact on the lives of others.
Furthermore, the participants also held the hope that by listening to authentic Buddha Dharma, they will be able to perfect their fortune and wisdom, leading to a more prosperous and peaceful world for all. This is the ultimate goal of Buddhism, to help all beings to find inner peace, happiness and liberation from suffering.
Located at around 8 kilometers north-west of Xikou Town, Fenghua City of Zhejiang Province, Xuedou Mountain is 800 meters above sea level, featuring graceful mountain ridges, unique cliffs, tempting waterfalls, and deep streams. The mountain has a milky peak, while on the peak there is a dou (meaning hollow or hole). Water flows out of the dou, and it is as white as milk, thus getting the name of the Milk Spring. It is well-known for its serenity, magnificent landscape, and an abundance of greenery. Mount Xuedou Scenic Area was known as “a fairyland on the sea” early in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD. However it was not popular until the previous president of National Party Jiang, Jieshi promoted it heartly. Xikou is the hometown for this important historical figure Jiang, Jieshi. His family had Buddhism tradition. So when he was young he often went to Xuedou Temple with his mother. He loved its picturesque sceneries, and believed it was the most beautiful place in the country. Later on he built a mansion in Mount Xuedou, he and his family lived there once a while. He even had a plan to promote Mount Xuedou as second Mount Lu, but the plan did not come true, since he left mainland China to Taiwan after the civil war. Therefore, this place becomes more mysterious and interesting for tourists from China and abroad to explore.
The charm of Mount Xuedou lies not only in its picturesque sceneries, it also has held a high status in Chinese Buddhism since ancient times. Located in a scenic site, the Xuedou Temple has a history of over 1600 years and has cultivated numerous eminent monks. It is also the place where Monk Maitreya practiced his Buddhism, thus a large number of eminent monks and pilgrims have been attracted to Mount Xuedou.
Maitreya Bodhisattva is a very popular Buddhist figure in China. Maitreya is a transcendent bodhisattva，he will be the next Buddha in the Saha world. Maitreya means “loving kindness.” In Mahayana Buddhism, Maitreya is the embodiment of all-encompassing love. Maitreya, in Buddhist tradition, presently resides in Tushita heaven.
With big belly and jolly smell, he is a symbol of enduring humiliation, optimism and compassion. In Buddhism teaching, disciples should be like the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. All should have a broad mind, open heart, and great tolerance. The first priority for one who learns Buddhism and cultivates himself is to be patient and forbearing under insult.
In the historical record, there is an eminent Monk named Qichi (契此), who was the incarnation of Maitreya Bodhisattva. This monk lived at the end of WuDai period (right after the Tang Dynasty), and is most well known for his rather fat belly. Since he always carried a cloth bag, people began to call him the cloth bag monk. Unlike the stereotypical image of the strict and severe ascetic, Qichi was a jovial, good-humored man, but no less intelligent and thoughtful. He was loved and respected by all for these qualities. Often, others would ask him, “what is the true meaning of Buddhism?”, and in response, he would drop his bag to the ground. The deepest meaning of Buddhism is to lay down your burdens. Qichi took residence in Xuedou Temple, where he would spread the Buddhist Dharma to all those who came to him. To this day, Xuedou Mountain is regarded as the Holy Land of Maitreya. In honor of the cloth bag monk, statues of the Maitreya Bodhisattva are always depicted carrying a cloth bag.
Xuedou Temple was originally founded in the Jin Dynasty. For thousands of years, it has been visited by many people, and has produced numerous eminent monks. It has a high status and is regarded by the Buddhist circle in China as one of the ten most famous Buddhist temples together with the other nine temples, such as Zhongtian, Zhutianning, Wanshou, the Yongzuo Temple of Hangzhou, and the Jiangshan Taiping Xingguo Temple of Nanjing.
During the Tang and Song dynasties, Xuedou Temple had received 41 imperial edicts from emperors of several generations. So far, the temple has stored 5,760 Confucian classics granted by emperors, jade seals, dragon robes, dragon pots and jade Buddhas.
In the temple, the constructions are magnificent and attractive. Outside the temple, ancient trees are towering up into the sky. Among them, two ginkgo trees from the Han Dynasty can be surrounded by about five people. With exuberant leaves, the ginkgoes rise above the clouds.
At the back peak of Xuedou Mount, the statue of Maitreya Buddha is the highest copper statue of its kind in the world. The Buddha body is 33 meters high, the lotus seat is 9 meters high, and the base is 14.74 meters high. It completed at 2008, with exquisite workmanship. Having this remarkable structure, Mount Xuedou was officially named as the fifth sacred Buddhist Site, dedicated to Maitreya Bodhisattva. Now, the temple covers a landscape area of over 20,000 sq meters and has perfectly combined natural landscapes and Buddhist culture.
Since Mount Xuedou is dedicated for Maitreya Bodhisattva, there is a Grand Maitreya Hall in the Temple. It is really magnificent and dignified.
Qianzhang Rock Waterfall
In front of Xuedou Temple, there is a waterfall called Xuedou Waterfall, also known as Qianzhang Rock Waterfall. The water head is in the valleys at the south and the north of Xuedou Temple. The water of the Milk Spring flows into Jinjing Pool (which is an ancient pool developed in the Southern Song Dynasty), crossing Guanshan Bridge and pouring out of the cliff mouth.
The waterfall pours down from Qianzhang Rock. From the top of the rock to the pool, it is as high as 186 meters. At the half-way point, there is a huge rock. In spring and autumn, the rain falls down in a deluge but it runs into the rock at the half-way point and splashes in all directions right away. It falls like pearls and jades, and also dances like snow. Under the sunlight, it forms a rainbow, which is quite splendid. Xuedou Waterfall was well known by the whole nation as early as in the Northern Song Dynasty.
Sanyin Pond Waterfall
Sanyin Pond Waterfall is situated at 5 li north-west of Xuedou Temple. The water flows from Dongao Village (on Xuedou Mountain, there is a village of alpine flowers. With a beautiful and clean environment, the village is an ocean of flowers and seedlings) to the cliff mouth, forming one waterfall; it continues running down the mountainside to the foot, forming three waterfalls. As a result, it is called Sanyin Pond.
With a length of more than 1,600 meters, the pond can be divided into Shangyin Pond, Zhongyin Pond and Xiayin Pond respectively from the highest to the lowest. Shangyin Pond is highlighted by its quietness and danger; Zhongyin Pond stands out for its delicacy and cleanness; Xiayin Pond is well known for its superb beauty. Despite the positions of the three ponds in remote mountains and deep valleys and the difficulty of visiting them, tourists still visit in great numbers.
Miaogao Platform is also known as Miaogao Peak or Tianzhu Peak. It is the main scenic spot of the Xuedou landscapes. Although it is only 396 meters above sea level, it stands out against the mountain behind it. With the middle part bulging, three steep cliffs, and a gaping abyss down its side, the platform has a precipitous terrain.
In a narrow sense, Miaogao Platform refers to a platform of about 350 square meters. Standing at the front edge, you can look out on the natural sceneries of Tingxia Lake. On the periphery of Miaogao Platform, ancient trees and green bamboos are thriving so much that they keep the sunlight away. In addition, the clear breeze blows gently. It is an ideal summer resort.
Located at the south of Xuedou, Tingxia Lake is 6 kilometers away from Xikou Town. It is a large artificial lake, with a surface area of 5.9 square kilometers, an equivalent of West Lake in Hangzhou. The water storage capacity is as much as 153 million cubic meters.
Tingxia Lake is a good place to enjoy the landscapes of lakes, mountains, steep peaks and deep valleys. Tingxia Lake is a huge reservoir famous for its position under Yushu Pavilion of Xuedou Mountain and its location at Tingxia Village.
Tingxia Lake has wonderful natural sceneries. On the basis of unique peaks, deep valleys, high mountains and water scenes, interesting and attractive landscapes of lakes and mountains come into being. With clean air and high quality water, the scenic spot is also rich in fish, fruit and forest resources. Tourists can sail on the lake, and can also go fishing, picnicking and camping.
Naturalists and photographers love to visit the Miaogao Platform, Qianzhang Rock, and Qianzhang Crag with its huge, scenic waterfall in the region spanning 85 square kilometers. Mount Xuedou is also a national forest park, a really great place worth of visiting.
Maitreya is a transcendent bodhisattva，he will be the next Buddha in the Saha world. Maitreya means “loving kindness.” In Mahayana Buddhism, Maitreya is the embodiment of all-encompassing love. Maitreya, in Buddhist tradition, presently resides in Tushita heaven.
Master Asanga was born with uniquely deep talent and wisdom from his past lifetimes. When studying sutras and commentaries, he was able to understand the meaning with a quick reading. Later, he practiced meditative concentration and became free of desires. He repeatedly thought about the “meaning of emptiness” but was unable to deeply understand and explain it. He was quite unhappy for that. An Arhat named Pindola-Bharadvaja heard about his difficulty and came to him to teach “the Small-Vehicle (Hinayana) School’s view of emptiness.” Then, he practiced contemplation according to the teaching and achieved a deep understanding. However, Master Asanga was still not satisfied after learning the Small-Vehicle School’s view of emptiness because he still did not have perfect answers for many doubts and questions he had.
At that time, the teaching of Mahayana Buddhism (the Large Vehicle) was available from Maitreya Bodhisattva. However, to receive Maitreya Bodhisattva’s teaching in person, one must successfully enter into the state of concentration. Due to his urge to quest for the dharma, Master Asanga longed for the opportunity to meet Maitreya Bodhisattva in person to be taught with the dharma. Therefore, he chose a mountain cave in a sparsely populated area and began practicing cessation and contemplation diligently.
As time was flowing away continuously, six years elapsed. Master Asanga still was unable to see Maitreya Bodhisattva while practicing concentration in the cave. A thought came up in his mind, “If it is impossible to see Maitreya Bodhisattva, I should just give up!” Thus, he decided to take a break from cultivating and practicing in the cave. He put on his regular clothing and walked out of the cave. On his way of coming down from the mountain, he saw a white-haired elder lady, who held an iron stick and was laboriously grinding it on a flab of stone. The scene caught Master Asanga’s attention.
“Elder lady. May I ask what you are doing?” Master Asanga asked.
“Oh, I am grinding this iron stick into a thin needle.”
“You are grinding it into a thin needle?” Master Asanga was very much astonished and also greatly moved. He thought, “This elder lady was willing to grind it day after day with a seemingly silly movement. In contrast, as a cultivator, I could not adhere to practicing true Buddha-dharma to pursue wisdom.” The arising of this extremely precious thought caused Master Asanga to introspect himself and generate humility in mind. Then, he returned to the cave to devote himself into the difficult and hard cultivation and practice once again.
During the next three years, Master Asanga still did not make any achievement. Another thought rose in his mind, “Why should I waste time? It is simply impossible to see Maitreya Bodhisattva!” So he again broke his practice in retreat and went down the mountain. This time, he met a person, who was using a feather to scrub an enormously big rock. Master Asanga asked that person what he was doing. That person said, “This big rock blocks sunlight. I am grinding it to make it smaller, so that sunlight can shine into my room.” Upon hearing that, Asanga was alerted and began to introspect himself, “This person can be so unyielding in doing such a ridiculous thing. Comparing to him, I am so ashamed. I receded from my determination just because of a small setback!” With regret he again returned to his retreat chamber in the mountain.
Thus, another three years passed. Master Asanga was still unable to see Maitreya Bodhisattva appearing. At last, he receded from his determination once more. With discouragement, he left the retreat chamber again. On the way of coming down from the mountain, he saw a dying old dog, whose body had already begun to rot. The wounds were totally covered by maggots that were diffusing an awful stench. Compassion rose in Master Asanga toward this dog. He cut off a piece of flesh from his own body to feed the dog and also intended to remove the many maggots from the dog’s wounds. At that time, Master Asanga thought, “These maggots have very tender and fragile bodies. If I use my coarse fingers to move them, they will definitely be harmed.” Therefore, he decided to use his tongue to carefully lick up the maggots to move them to an inhabitable place for them. However, those maggots really looked very terrible. Master Asanga had to kneel on the ground and close his eyes. He then lowered his body to lick the maggots with his tongue.
As he was lowering his body, Master Asanga actually felt that his tongue was touching the ground. He opened his eyes and saw that the dog was no longer there. The solemn and majestic Maitreya Bodhisattva was standing in front of him. After the moment of excitement, Master Asanga asked Maitreya Bodhisattva, “I wholeheartedly prayed and beseeched you, revered Bodhisattva, to manifest before me for the last twelve years. Why didn’t you?”
Maitreya Bodhisattva replied, “Starting from the first day when you entered the retreat and began to pray, I was with you and next to you at every moment. However, due to the obstruction by your karmic forces, you were never able to see me. Through your diligent cultivation and practice during these twelve years, most of the karmic hindrance has been purified. Additionally, you generated great compassion in the occasion that just passed. Now all your karmic hindrance has been removed. That is why you can see me now! If you do not believe what I said, you can carry me on your shoulder and walk around at the market to see if people can see me.”
Thus, Master Asanga carried Maitreya Bodhisattva on his shoulder and walked to the market. While walking, he yelled to people, “What do you see that is on my shoulder?” People all thought that he had mental problems. They laughed and said, “There is nothing!” Only one old lady said that he was carrying a dog with scabies. Thus, Master Asanga was totally convinced and free of any doubt. Uncommon respect and faith rose in him toward Maitreya Bodhisattva.
After meeting Maitreya Bodhisattva, Master Asanga politely sought teaching from the Bodhisattva. Maitreya Bodhisattva asked, “What do you want to learn?” Master Asanga said, “My wish is to propagate the Mahayana Dharma.” Maitreya Bodhisattva was delighted to hear that and brought him to the pure land within the Tusita Heaven. Maitreya Bodhisattva expounded to him the precious views of Mahayana Buddhism and the “Five Shastras (Commentaries) by Maitreya.” The teachings enlightened Master Asanga like pushing away clouds to see the Sun. Many doubts that he had had before were completely removed. Since then, he followed Maitreya Bodhisattva’s teaching to dedicate himself to study “the View of Emptiness of Mahayana Buddhism.” Maitreya Bodhisattva gave him a series of discourses and also explained the essence of the Mahayana sutras to him in detail. Master Asanga was enlightened from listening to the teachings and basically gained the understanding and proficiency in the sutras and shastras of Mahayana Buddhism. Later, Master Asanga also practiced the Dharma of Sunlight Samadhi. Through learning and practicing diligently, he eventually attained holy accomplishment. From then on, he was able to understand what he could not before and could forever remember all Buddhist scriptures he read. Later, he built a big lecture hall and dedicated himself to expound all Mahayana sutras to the great masses.
Master Asanga lived in the world for 150 years and made great contributions to the undertaking of widely propagating the teachings and dharmas of Mahayana Buddhism. He benefited countless living beings.