"You may have learned different chanting methods, but what benefits does chanting give? Too many! The first benefit of meditation is wisdom, the second is good fortune, and the third is positive energy. Health benefits can also come from meditation. Actually wisdom and health are generated by the positive energy that comes from meditation. Without enough positive energy, the brain does not work properly, like a car that runs on the wrong gasoline. Well, if a car needs 90 octane gasoline but we supply that of 20 octane gasoline, then how would the car run? It would stagger like a drunken guy, and would eventually break down a short while later. Therefore it is with the correct type of energy that a machine or a car can display its true potential power. Such is the same with humans. With enough positive energy, wisdom, and fortune, one would become outstanding and competent in life. A compassionate friend may challenge: would you let your self become outstanding and in turn let others suffer? No, that’s not my point. Buddhist Dharma such as wisdom cannot be achieved by all people at the same time. Simply, it is those who obtain it earlier that are blessed.
"A Buddhist monk said to me that he had found no spirituality in himself. I told him that because he had great spirituality he had come to me. The nature of spirituality and its blessing stem from the desire to seek wisdom, fortune, and positive energy. So the earlier you come to study, the earlier that you can be free from pain and suffering, the earlier you want to obtain the three benefits, and improve your status in life.
"When you study with me for three months, you will find that some of your friends are disappointed, low class, selfish, and fighting for meaningless goals in life. From comparison you will realize your progress in personal growth. I am not going to address the mysterious benefits of studying Buddhist Dharma. They are beyond today's topics. The above mentioned three benefits are the most important in one's life.
"This is the second chanting retreat I have held. In the first retreat, there was a female student, A-fen, who came from Taiwan and lives in Canada. She shared a miraculous experience in the class. She had been in tears throughout the seven-day retreat. She started her sharing saying ‘chanting is incredible!’ I said, ‘Come on, don't hold back, and tell us what's happened.’
"A-fen told us that her parents had been fighting incessantly day after day for decades since they were young to now when they are old. It was because of the fighting that she decided to leave Taiwan. She said, ‘I love Taiwan, but I left because of their fights. Since adolescence I have managed to leave them and live on my own independently. The daily fights made me feel like I was going to explode.’ In the chanting retreat, I taught the students to re-recognize their parents' deep affection for them. I pointed out that when you were chanting, you could contribute good karma to whoever you like, by thinking of them during and at the end of a chanting session. After this, she witnessed a miracle. Her parents had stopped fighting for over ten days! Although it may not sound like a miracle to you, it is one to her, because her parents had never been harmonious for two days since their wedding. In addition, the cease fire happened during the retreat, there were no visitors, no big events, and no other real reasons to explain it. I have not been updated about the situation after she left the retreat, and so I do not know whether the fighting continued.
"There was another case that comes to mind. I forget the name of the student, but her elderly mother living in USA had been suffering headaches. When she was practising chanting, she would think of her mother, feel grateful for her love, and wished for her headaches to diminish. Soon her mother’s headaches were gone! She wrote to us after she went home, her mother's headache had never come back. There are many such stories about the benefits of chanting.
"The theme of this retreat is chanting. The ultimate purpose of chanting is to become an enlightened Buddha. Normally we would have three benefits. What is the first one again? Wisdom. The second? Fortune. And the third? Energy. Well done. Let's understand what Buddha is. Buddha is wisdom. Beyond the concept of wisdom, or rather inside of it, there is an integral part in understanding Buddha. What is it? It is compassion. Buddha is person of compassion. Where is Buddha? Buddha is in our mind. Where else is he? He is everywhere!
"Does Buddha exist in your life? Is there any one who’s met Buddha? Let me tell you the answer today. Everybody has met an aspect of Buddha, think of your parents! Think about it, since your mother gave birth, she started to protect and cultivate you. Since you were conceived, she gave you all her love and care. Am I right? I find many parents have done far more for their children than for themselves.
"When I occasionally go to the temples to pay respect to Buddha, I also like to observe the worshipers who are there to chant and pray. I find that many parents pray not for themselves, but for their children, and there are few children praying for their parents as well.
"I lived in Qinghai in my early years. Qinghai and Tibet are neighbours and they share a common religion, Buddhism. In a snowy winter, in front of the entrance to a famous Buddhist temple, I saw an elderly couple of pilgrims paying respect around the temple. They would kneel down and prostrate themselves, while touching the foreheads to the ground. The path was not paved, and the ground was only gravel and dirt. The mother was in her sixties and the front of her coat was torn showing the wool inside. Her knees were bleeding onto her worn pants. And yet she was still kneeling down paying respect. The father was too tired to stand up then kneel down, so he was crawling along the path. I stayed in the temple for a while, and I met the couple every day. I talked to them during their break and asked them, ‘What suffering is it that motivates you to worship Buddha so passionately and painfully? You are hurt. Is it dangerous?’ They replied, ‘We would do it again even if it cost us our lives.’ Why? It was because their married daughter was not able to become pregnant. To some that would seem such a small deal.
“This may seem like a small deal to us as unrelated people. It was a very big deal to these Tibetan parents. They said, ‘If our daughter is not able to become pregnant, then the in-laws will be unhappy. Besides that, if she's not able to fulfill a wife's duty, we will feel embarrassed, and she is very upset also.” Tibetan people believe in karma and reincarnation, and so they thought they had to make up for bad karma they had built in the previous lives. Therefore, no matter how painful it was, they wouldn't stop unless they were too weak to walk. They wanted to make restitution so that their daughter would have a chance to bear children. They were typical parents.
"Many people here are mothers. If you have a baby of less than six months, is it OK to just feed a bottle of milk each day? No, it's not OK. If you breast feed a baby, you would feed every two hours every day to satisfy the baby's growth need. And you would change diapers for and take good care of the baby. Mothers of a baby less than one year old normally do not get a full night of sleep, do they? No. Otherwise you would be unaware even if your baby was taken by a stray cat. Different from a maiden, a mother would become one with great compassion and love, which she gives freely to her baby.
"What about a father? A father may not directly take care of and protect you as a mother does, but he is a role model and an emotional support. A father works hard and makes sacrifice to support the family in spite of hardship, and this helps a mother to raise the children. The parents give all their love to us, even if it cost their lives, as well as blood, sweat, and tears.
"Previously I read a report about a father. His adult daughter suffered from liver disease, and doctors suggested liver transplant. The father agreed at once and said, ‘Use mine. Please check the compatibility right now.’ The father died one month after the surgery. The daughter was very upset for her father, ‘Dad, you gave your life to me.’ But the father did not feel upset; rather he was happy to die. Why? He said, ‘This is the last thing I will do, and I did for my daughter!’ (Many students cry.)
"Having said that, everybody has met Buddha at least twice in his life, and He is in your parents! I sometimes think along these lines, I regard my parents as my past life, myself as my present life, and my children my future life. In order to have a good present life, please make up for the past one, since karma is a causal relationship. You might owe a big debt for your past life, and that's why you will suffer now. If you were impoverished in this life, it will not be easy for you to become wealthy in your future life. If the parents were not well off, the children normally will not be rich either.
"Then how to become wealthy? To accumulate the karma of good fortune in hopes that it would turn into tangible wealth. In order to enjoy a good life now and in future, we should make restitution for our past lives. Now let's re-recognize the most important Buddha in our lives and let's pray sincerely and wholeheartedly. If you would, do as I do and think of your parents while looking at the Buddha statue.
"Let's start from our fathers. There is already a lot of praise for mothers in the world. Actually in my mind a father's love for his children is comparable with a mother's. Both a father and a mother are aspects of Buddha. It is why we say 'Buddha is everywhere.' Buddha exists in our lives, only we are neither aware of Him or cherish Him. If you don't believe in Buddha, you would not recognize nor cherish the True Him. The first obstacle to become Buddha is lack of gratitude.
"Everybody knows stories about how parents love children. Who would volunteer to tell a touching and lovely story about your father? There must be unforgettable moments in your life when you could feel the father-child love. There must be memorable stories in your life which have happened or are happening. Let's pray for our fathers, and for this blessing.”
"It does not matter whether our fathers are living with us, or living far away, or have even passed away. Gone to the heavens or somewhere we're not sure of, he is always in our hearts. Now pray sincerely to Heavenly Buddha, my father is Your embodiment. He gives us all the compassion and love whereas we have never repaid our debt. After getting married, we often give our love to children instead of parents. Today let's learn to contribute the most beautiful and the most sincere blessing to our fathers. For those that are alive, we wish them health, longevity and happiness, for the deceased, we wish them well in heaven free from suffering, sorrow, and worries!
"Let's start chanting. Feel free to raise your voice and express your sincerity." (Chanting begins.)