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Passing of the Lamp of Wisdom in Memory of Shifu

Has it been four years already since Master Sheng Yen (Shifu) crossed over to the other shore? Yes, it has, but only if one stops to think about it, for his daily presence is still strongly felt by all those who have benefitted from his compassion and wisdom. For such people, Shifu is still with us.

On the weekend of February 2-3, the Chan Meditation Center held a commemorative Passing on the Lamp of Wisdom ceremony for Shifu. On the first day, Saturday, there was a one-day Chan Retreat led by Guo Ming Fashi. On Sunday, Abbot Guo Xing Fashi presented a Dharma talk on the Shurangama Sutra and Chan. Both events were fully attended by members and friends of the Chan Center.

The one-day retreat consisted of sitting as well as walking meditation, yoga, a wonderful video of Shifu giving a Dharma talk at a retreat in Switzerland in 2004. In this talk, Shifu eloquently explained the relationship of ignorance and enlightenment, concluding that for practitioners, both should be thought of as essentially “empty” and therefore, expressions of innate buddha-nature. After a wonderful vegetarian luncheon and more meditation, a second video showed Shifu explaining the meaning of transmission in the Chan lineage.

The day’s activities concluded with the assembly reciting bodhisattva vows, and performing the Passing of the Lamp of Wisdom ceremony, in which each participant holds a candle whose flame was kindled by another person holding a candle, and so on, till everyone holds a lit candle. Then, each person makes an offering of the lit candle at the Buddha Shrine.

What is the meaning of this ceremony? When a lit candle is used to light another candle, it gives light to the second candle without losing any light of its own. And, in fact, because there are now two lit candles, the total light that shines is now increased, for all to enjoy and share. So, the Dharma is like this: when we share the Dharma freely with others, our own share of the Dharma is increased, and everyone benefits from the total wealth of Dharma that is thus created.

The one-day retreat was concluded by every participant receiving a gift of Volume Two of Tea Words, the second of two volumes of Shifu’s lectures from past issues of the Chan Newsletter.

Thanks to the staff of the Chan Meditation Center for making this wonderful event possible, and thanks to all the attendants for coming.

(by Ernest Heau)

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