On July 24, BLIA Los Angeles subchapter held the 2016 Ullambana Sangha Offering Ceremony in the Main Shrine of Hsi Lai Temple. Most Ven. Hsin Bao, abbot of Fo Guang Shan, Ven. Tzu Chuang and Ven. Yi Kong, previous abbesses of Hsi Lai Temple, Ven. Manchien, Executive Director of FGS Overseas Temple, and also Ven. Hui Dong, present abbot of Hsi Lai Temple, along with 77 members of the monastics from Taiwan, USA, Canada and South America and also 32 young novices from the Youth Short-Term Monastic Retreat were invited to attend the ceremony. Over 3000 devotees sincerely gave offerings to the monastics in order to spread the spirit of filial piety and gratitude.
At 5:00am, under the leadership of Mr. Zhou Chaosen, the Traffic Control Team started to drive up and down Hacienda Blvd to pick up and drop off devotees and also brought 1000 lunch boxes to volunteers of all groups. Everyone gave their best efforts in order to make the Sangha Day ceremony successful.
Before the start of the ceremony, the president of BLIA Los Angeles subchapter Mr. Jerry Chen especially explained to everyone about the procession of the ceremony and also the reason of holding this ceremony. He said that the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha are resprsenting the Triple Gems, for the Dharma depends on the Sangha to propagate. By holding the Sangha Day Offering Ceremony, we are remembering the compassion and teachings of the Buddha as well as be a Fo Guang devotee of right view and right understanding.
At 10:00am sharp, under the solemn beat of drum and bell, 12 members from BLIA Los Angeles subchapter respectfully invited the monastics to the ceremony. The venerables sat in order according to their seniority in the Main Shrine while the sramaneras were seated in the Conference Room. As for the devotees, over 1500 of them gathered in the Main Shrine, Conference Room and Auditorium. They were not only from Los Angeles, but also New York, Florida, Dallas, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, and Toronto, Canada, as well as South America. Members of the Los Angeles subchapter exhibited the loving kindness of Fo Guang people and let the devotees from afar to participate the ceremony in the Main Shrine.
Except for food offering, there were also excellent performances during the ceremony. The offering ceremony was done by dharma sisters that wore traditional Chinese and Indian clothes. As for the performances, there were the Song of Three Acts of Goodness by Hsi Lai School, Song of Fo Guang Shan by Children Dancing Class from Hsi Fang Temple, Song to the Moon from Dvořák’s opera Rusalka by Berklee College of Music graduate Heather Brianne Sung, and solo flute performance by the first runner-up of 2015 Miss Chinese Cosmos Pageant of the Americas Regions Miss Jiang Han.
In his speech, Most Ven. Hsin Bao said that Sangha Day is also known as Buddha’s Delight Day. Every year, when the Sangha completed their practice, BLIA would hold the Ullambana Sangha Offering Ceremony to present vegetarian offering to members of the monastic. This ceremony brings the joy of learning Buddhism to everybody as well as transferring the merits to deceased family and friends. Practitioners of Buddhism should always cherish each moment that they can practice, form good affinities and thus increase merits. He thanked everyone for coming and also making the ceremony a success by treasuring and protecting the Triple Gem. At the end, Most Ven. Hsin Bao blessed that all devotees would increase in wisdom and good merit.
After the food offering ceremony, the monastics followed the ancient ritual and began alms-begging around the hallways of Hsi Lai Temple. Under the chant of Om mani padme hum, everyone waited for the monastics by two sides of the hallway. Devotees from Fremont cried out their temple’s name when they saw Ven. Juelin, and it started the spark where every devotee started to shout out their temples’ name, which truly shows the spirit of “the Buddha’s light widely shines”.
At 2:00pm, the Yogacara Flaming Mouth Ceremony was held. The ceremony is to elevate the suffering of the sentient beings of the six realms that keep going through the cycle of birth and death. The ceremony instills right views to the sentient beings by teaching the dharma and helping the sentient beings to take refuge in the Triple Gem and take precepts, hoping that they will never again create unwholesome deeds and thus escape from suffering. The seventh month of the lunar calendar is set as the filial piety month in Buddhism. By honoring the deceased and also by offering to the Buddha and the Sangha, the merits of these deeds are transferred to sentient beings of the entire dharma realm. The Yogacara Flaming Mouth ceremony ended at 7:30pm.