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Report on the bodhisattva precepts transmission event (May 24 – May 27 in Dharma Drum Vancouver Center )

On May 24, a large congregation of aspiring bodhisattvas from around the world was gathering in beautiful Vancouver’s University of British Columbia campus. They are here to receive transmission of the bodhisattva precepts from representatives Abbot President Guo Dong, Venerable Guo Xing, and Venerable Guo Pin from Dharma Drum Mountain. With ~300 people wishing to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event, much preparation needed to be made beforehand for the event to be run successfully.

Starting from roughly a year ago, a multitude of volunteers and venerables had already begun paving the way for this ceremony. Beginning with logistics, it was instantly concluded that although Dharma Drum Vancouver Center (DDVC) would like to organize its first bodhisattva precepts transmission, it was clear that the Center did not have the requirements to accommodate ~300 bodhisattva aspirants staying for 3 nights. However, this challenge did not hamper the strong dedication of the DDVC team. With that, the University of British Columbia campus came up as a feasible location. Not only did they have a large hall that could be rented to us, they also had accommodation spaces for ~300 people in their residences. Once the location had been decided, everything was set in motion.

With tireless work from the volunteer teams and the venerable teams, impeccable coordination between DDM Taiwan and DDM North America, negotiations and communications with UBC for the facility, training for the volunteers, and the opening of registration for interested participants, it all started to come together. With a fee of $380 CAD for registration, the benefits were evident – all participants were allocated individual rooms complete with a bed, closet, desk, and shelves plus three vegetarian meals a day. It can be said that the accommodations were extremely comfortable, making attendance of the event much more relaxing and stress-free. DDVC covered much of the extra cost, including Buddha portrait and adornments, facility, equipment, sound and light services, flights and freights and other miscellaneous items. With the compassion shown by DDVC, the fee was kept to an affordable level so more people would be able to attend. Finally, the day arrived under great anticipation. Dedicated volunteers in all of the adornments of DDM’s full formal suit lined up neatly to show the way for arriving participants coming from Vancouver areas, Calgary, Toronto, United States, Hong Kong and China. From directions to information, everything was taken care of and signage was clear. When the hall was finally full with the arrival of all of the participants, the hall was a uniform sea of black robes – a grand sight to behold indeed.

Throughout the next few days, participants went through an array of movement training sessions so that the actual ceremony will be solemn and dignified, under the uniformity of action of the assembly. It was also a practice to help participants to be mindful of their physical and mental activities. When their bodies are relaxed and their minds focused, the training becomes easier. Although the training was difficult to some people, everyone managed to learn the movements by the end, under the care and direction of the venerables. Alternate sessions of Master Sheng Yen’s precepts lectures were always welcome. Given in video form, there were English subtitles for the English speakers to follow along. Meanings and essences of the bodhisattva precepts were clearly delineated in these ten lectures. Many felt their questions were also answered.

Two bodhisattva precepts transmissions were conducted over the course of four days – one for the spiritual realm and one for the rest of the participants. The spiritual realm precepts transmission went especially well, and the main event also went smoothly. Everyone’s hard work in rehearsing the movements had paid off. One was able to see that the assembly was synchronized and familiar with all of the precepts and procedures of the transmission. When receiving the precepts and aspiring to the bodhisattva vows, everyone was wholehearted and concentrated. After the main event ended, a group photo was taken and the sheer number of participants who are now official bodhisattvas-in-training, was quite impressive and spectacular. With the bodhisattva sashes now in hand on the fourth day, everyone was extremely joyful and grateful for this opportunity, and thankful to the teams that made everything possible.

Although many volunteers felt that the event took quite a toll on their physical bodies, everyone showed their strong, unwavering willpower and persevered to help dignify the assembly with their perfect comportments and demeanors. And of course, the ones who helped to conduct the ceremony, the team consisting of DDM’s venerable monastics, made the event complete and memorable.

by Lisa Su

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