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Sunday, 06 May 2018 13:19

Firm Steps for Each of the 108 Prostrations

Written by  Tzu Chi Documenting Team, KL & Selangor / Translated by Goh Hwe Yong

Along with the chanting of the Buddha’s name, the participants performed a prostration following every three steps. In so doing, they rid their ego and strengthen their determination to walk the Bodhisattva Path. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

On May 1, 2018, Tzu Chi volunteers celebrated the 52nd Anniversary of Tzu Chi by participating in a prostrating pilgrimage event. It was organized for volunteers and public members alike. About 1,800 of them performed the steps and prostrations in uniformity, wholeheartedly and firmly. It was by no means easy, but with courage and determination, they went on, bowing low and on their knees; helping them to be humble and calm their minds.


At 6.45 am, bathed in the gentle light of dawn, the ceremonial event started. All participants paid homage to the Buddha, singing the “Incense Praise” and “Praise to the Buddha”. All was calm, all was soothing at dawn; and they performed the first prostration, going in step with the chanting of the Buddha’s name. As they were engaged in mindful chanting, stepping forth and prostrating, the innate Buddha-nature in them prevailed.

They added meaning to their May 1 public holiday by participating in this event held by Tzu Chi KL & Selangor. The participants were formed into two groups – an indoor group and an outdoor group. The indoor group, consisting Tzu Chi Commissioners and Tzu Cheng Faith Corps members, was led by the CEO and Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, Echo Chien and Sio Kee Hong respectively. They started from the Dharma Ramp on the ground floor of the Jing Si Hall and went towards the Sutra Lecture Hall on the second floor. At the same time, the outdoor group, consisting volunteers and public members, started from the main road outside the Jing Si Hall, and went towards the venue, the hallway.

By the time the participants completed their routes, they had achieved the 108 prostrations in homage. It was a journey that structured their perseverance, courage and confidence. The process of prostrating after every three steps was, in fact, a process of reflection and examination of the inner self. It was a process to rid the ego, to overcome the untamed mind and finally to establish a sincere faith.

Among the participants were many young and old, including toddlers, energetic youngsters, and the elderly. Some elderly had to use walking sticks, and instead of bowing on knees, they would bow with their palms together at chest level, mindfully and sincerely.

To follow the Master’s steps life after life

It is rare to be born a human, to have the opportunity to learn the Dharma, and to come across an excellent teacher. No wonder Tan Kim Nio said that she would follow Master Cheng Yen not only in this life, but thereafter, life after life.

Peace was in the heart of Kim Nio, who moved along with others in the group. She was hunched, and was unable to kneel and bow, but she felt blessed to be able to do a 90-degree bow after every three steps.

Her eldest son and younger sister died seven years ago. Then, she fell and suffered a fracture. For one whole month, she could only sleep sitting up. It was such a painful experience that she could feel the pain whenever she met with any care recipient suffering illnesses.

She expressed, “Every morning, when I pay homage to the Buddha, I pray that peace be with all sentient beings.” She has trained herself to have such thoughts in mind whenever she prayed. She did the same at this event, and wished for the ending of suffering for all care recipients, and that they might be blessed with happiness.

She practised giving and serving others with compassion. At 68, she felt the urgency to do good, and will continue to do so till her last breath.

Maintaining a calm mind

Siow Lee Kien has been a volunteer for ten years. It was her first experience in such activity, and she felt grateful for the pioneer volunteers who opened the way of spiritual cultivation for the rest to follow.

As she followed the group into the hall, stepping and prostrating, lights that reflected from the smooth flooring prompted her to check on her own self as to whether she always had a cool and calm mind as a Tzu Chi volunteer. She was glad that way back in those days when she was a new volunteer, there were seniors to guide her on the way. Then she became a certified volunteer and took up the responsibility of a team leader, working happily and diligently on the path. She constantly reminded herself to keep a calm and pure mind in voluntary work.

As she went along in the ritual, she transferred her merits to her deceased father. She related, “When dad passed away, I did not have time to mourn. I put my whole soul into voluntary work. But the memory of my dad still came back to me when I was alone.” She reminded herself not to linger on sadly with memories of the past, but to let the memories be the motivation for serving others in great compassion, and to be fulfilled spiritually.

She visualized the model building of Jing Si Abode for the actual one, and firmly believed that it indicated the true direction for her on the Tzu Chi path. Although there might be possible hurdles to cross, she would overcome whatever they might be, and to go on bravely.

Tzu Chi carries on in an era of great turmoil

Gary Martin from Australia was on holidays in Malaysia. Upon invitation from a volunteer, Choo Lay Hong, he arrived early to watch the event. He was very much amazed by the spectacular view and the fact that the participants performed the prostrating pilgrimage early in the morning, for a harmonious society.

He remarked, “It is so amazing that in a world that is so full of disorder today, Master Cheng Yen is able to lead such a huge team of volunteers all over the world to relieve sufferings.”

Just the day before, Gary visited the Jing Si Hall. From the display he saw in the exhibition hall, he realized that Tzu Chi is engaged in a large number of charitable deeds in many countries, including Iran. He was hugely impressed, especially by the fact that Iran being a Muslim country, was able to accept Tzu Chi, a Buddhist organization. He felt that the Buddhist teaching of great compassion without discrimination is worthy of respect.

Repenting while performing prostrations

A public member, Wang Rui Liu, had been sick in the previous year, and she took it as a karmic force taking form. Therefore, she decided to participate in a similar event last year, hoping to clear the karmic obstacles through sincere repentance. She participated again this year, putting herself to test with the physically demanding prostrations.

In the process, she repeatedly reminded herself to remain calm and cool. She transferred the merits of her effort in the bowing to the Master, all sentient beings, as well as, her aged mother and her siblings.

She had gone through the pain of a broken marriage and the demise of her ex-husband due to sickness. Looking back at her marriage, she regretted for not apologizing to her ex-husband at his sick bed. Now that she had made the 108 prostrations, she was finally able to freely express her apology.

Taking the homage of a prostration after three steps was a training to build confidence in faith, and perseverance; and the determination to overcome physical exhaustion is actually a training to overcome difficulties when one walks on the Bodhisattva Path of deliverance.

 

 

The participants performed the prostrating pilgrimage in uniform steps and movements. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]   With the Dharma Ramp on the ground floor as starting point, the indoor group moved towards the Sutra Lecture Hall on the second floor. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

The participants performed the prostrating pilgrimage in uniform steps and movements. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
With the Dharma Ramp on the ground floor as starting point, the indoor group moved towards the Sutra Lecture Hall on the second floor. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
The participants comprised of people from all age groups, from children to elderly people. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]   In each bow, Tan Kim Nio prayed sincerely for all sentient beings. [Photograph by Chin Sek Moy]

The participants comprised of people from all age groups, from children to elderly people. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]
 
 
In each bow, Tan Kim Nio prayed sincerely for all sentient beings. [Photograph by Chin Sek Moy]
 
Siow Lee Kien is determined to overcome all obstacles that she may encounter and follow the path shown by Master Cheng Yen. [Photograph by Yong Kar Chew]   Wang Rui Liu, who was sick, hoped to clear her karmic obstacles through sincere repentance during the prostrating pilgrimage. [Photograph by Lee Siew Kuan]

Siow Lee Kien is determined to overcome all obstacles that she may encounter and follow the path shown by Master Cheng Yen. [Photograph by Yong Kar Chew]
 
 
Wang Rui Liu, who was sick, hoped to clear her karmic obstacles through sincere repentance during the prostrating pilgrimage. [Photograph by Lee Siew Kuan]
 
Australian tourist, Gary Martin, was amazed to see the participants performing the prostrating pilgrimage early in the morning, for a peaceful society. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]   Through the prostrating pilgrimage, the participants developed right faith and determination. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]

Australian tourist, Gary Martin, was amazed to see the participants performing the prostrating pilgrimage early in the morning, for a peaceful society. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
 
Through the prostrating pilgrimage, the participants developed right faith and determination. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
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