Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chanting for Joko Beck

As most of you already know, one of the pillars of Western Zen, Charlotte Joko Beck, recently left her earthly form. As my Dharma brothers and sisters have already adequately posted tributes to Joko, I felt I could help those who have felt deeply affected by her teaching. You can click on the photo above, it is an altar plate that can be printed out and placed upon your home altar. Then I would suggest chanting, Jizo Butsu (Japanese), Ji-jang Bosal (Korean), or Dizhang Pusa (Chinese) 108 times for the next 49 days. At the end of that time you can hold your own Memorial Ceremony for our great teacher. I have included an explanation of the theology below for those who might be interested.

Kshitigarbha literally means "earth store bodhisattva." One of the four Great Bodhisattvas in Asian Buddhism. He is venerated in folk belief as a savior from the torments of hell and helper of the deceased. Sometimes he is also regarded as a protector of travelers. He is the only bodhisattva portrayed as a monk, however also with an urna (one of the thirty-two marks of perfection) on the forehead. His attributes are the wish-fulfilling gem and a monk's staff with six rings, which signifies that Ji-jang Bosal stands by all beings in the six realms of existence.

Ji-jang Bosal, through his supernatural power, can take on six different forms in order to help the beings of the six modes of existence. In a special ceremony, which is generally held on the 49th day after the death of a sangha member, the sangha member invokes Ji-jang Bosal in front of an ancestor tablet erected on behalf of the deceased and supplicates him to guide the deceased to the pure land of the Buddha Amitābha. Then follows the recitation of a mantra through which the deceased is summoned back so that he/she can hear the teachings expounded. The ceremony ends with the invocation of Amitābha Buddha and Ji-jang Bosal.

In addition, Ji-jang Bosal is well known for his vow: "If all sentient beings in hell are not released from the cycle of existence, I would never attain enlightenment.

According to certain Buddhist lore or myth, when someone dies they go to the place of the Ten Kings, wherever such place may be. Every seven days the Ten Kings serve as judges at a court. Seven times seven, they go to court. The judges ask the newly deceased, “What kind of good action did you do when you were alive and what kind of bad action did you do?” According to your good or bad action, a certain kind of rebirth is attained or you may be sent to a certain realm.

Of course, there is an inner meaning to all of this. At this time after someone dies, during this 49 period, their mind opens up in an unusual way and all of their karma comes before them. So their energies lead them in particular ways and they gravitate according to their energy pull toward those things that they need yet to learn in a rebirth. That is the inner meaning of this ‘judgment’ of the Ten Kings.

The Ten Kings dwell only in one’s own mind. Perhaps they may be viewed as ten levels of awareness. Therefore, if someone has made good karma then they go to a place that is good. If someone has made bad karma, they go to a place that is bad. However, if someone has perceived the essential true meaning that there is no birth and not death, then they perceive the Mind of No Hindrance and then coming and going is all just this Bodhisattva path or Bodhicitta “Altruistic Intention.”

Therefore, this 49 day period has several aspects to it. In a sense this is not so much a ceremony or a period for us as it is a time to try to help the person who has died to keep a clear mind during this time before rebirth. We chant certain mantras and names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to call on the mystic powers of those Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to help the dead person wake up and get enlightenment. There are certain Dharma speeches given during this time to remind the person to keep clear mind and perceive the essential true meaning of no life, no death. In addition, besides offering the service to the person who has just died, we also make compassionate offerings toward all suffering beings in tall realms who are still wondering somewhere. We transfer the merit of any good karma that comes from this to our dearly departed love ones.
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