The Mangala Vihara Dhamma Fellowship (MVDF) held its third Chinese New Year luncheon gathering on February 10th 2018 and ushered in the zodiac sign Year of the Dog which falls on 16th February. Abiding to the wise teachings of Lord Buddha, the MVDF also held regular scheduled meetings through the years, in addition to the yearly Chinese New Year festive luncheon gatherings for the past two years. “Ananda, as long as the Vajjians hold regular and frequent assemblies, they may be expected to prosper and not decline. Ananda, as long as the Vjjians meet in harmony, break up in harmony, and carry on their business in harmony, they may be expected to prosper and not decline.” (D.ii,74). Hence, the MVDF in its ninth year of existence had sailed through stormy seas, overcame turbulent weathers and gone through trials and tribulations and yet survived against all odds though not unscathed.
Full Attendance, Esteemed Guests and Volunteer-Guests
The EXCO members in full attendance were Brothers Raymond Yow, Alex Lim, Chan Tuck Sing, Chin Kee Thou, David Chua, Hing Sing Huat and Yeap Cheow Soon; Sisters Angelin Chong, Chan May Wan, Cheng Seow Eng, Christine Chaim, Doris Sim, Ellen Song, Heng Qwee Siang, Lily Chan, Linda Sim, Suriaty Simon and Upekka Tan.
It was indeed a noble deed for the sangha as esteemed guests who gracefully accepted the invitations and graced the occasion. They were Venerable Professor Gallelle Sumanasiri – Vice-Chancellor of Buddhist and Pali College, Sri Lanka; Bhante Rathanasara – Resident monk of Dhammakami Buddhist Society; Bhante Seelananda – Vice-Principal of Buddhist and Pali College, Singapore and Bhante Cakkapala – MVDF’s Spiritual Advisor. The cohesion of the sangha would ensure continuity of the linage: “As long as the monks hold regular and frequent assemblies, they may be expected to prosper and not decline. As long as they meet in harmony, and carry on their business in harmony, they may be expected to prosper and not decline.” (D.ii,77).
As with the past Chinese New Year festive luncheon gatherings where Brother Hing Sing Huat from the Mandarin class in 2016 was a guest, since inducted as an EXCO member; and Brother Jebsons Chua in 2017 from Buddhist and Pali College. For this gathering the guests’ list included: Sister Alice – a regular volunteer with the Community Outreach programme; Sister Sandra Koh who assisted in the Abhidhamma in Daily Class; Brother Jebsons Chua from Buddhist and Pali College and Brother Tham Chee Keong, a volunteer who rendered assistance in many MVDF’s activities. Last but not least the Chairman of Mangla Vihara (Buddhist Temple), Dr Lim Ah Swan made his debut attendance
“鱼生” ‘捞起‘ “發”
The event was held at the Yes Natural Vegetarian Restaurant and in honouring the tradition on monks’ meal time, the hosts and guests dined before midday as monks are “not allowed to store up food and drinks” (D.i,5) and “refrained from causing injury to seeds or plants and eat one meal a day, not eating at night, refraining food after hours (after midday)”. (D.i,6, M.i,180). The Viumuttimagga further elaborates on the benefits of observance of ‘no food after time’. “One abandons greed and experienced the joy of self-restraint. One protects the body, and avoids taking food in advance, does not hanker, does not ask others for things, does not follow his inclination. This is an observance of good men. This observance is doubt-free.”
For simplicity, an eight course menu with yu sheng was the choice. This traditional and the must-have dish of 鱼生, also known as Chinese New Year Raw Fish Salad which is available during the Chinese New Year festive period, albeit a vegetarian version with mock fish slices. It is a dish made up of ten ingredients mixed together before eating.
The essence of the dish is not in the eating but rather the significance of mixing and tossing of the ingredients known as ‘捞起‘ for prosperity and good fortune. It is believed that the higher the toss the more abundance of good fortune. Thus the thrill was in the tossing of the salad with merriments to the possible loftiest height and uttered auspicious couplets of good health, wealth and of course the fortuitous word of “發” or “HUAT AHH!”
A total of 27 diners including four monks graced the event and three tables were booked to accommodate them. Two tables were assigned with one monk each while the third table with two monks to enable all the participants of each respective table a chance to perform a noble deed of dana or generosity, made offering of food to them. “Bhikkhus, if beings knew, as I know, the results of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would they allow the stain of meanness to obsess them and take root in their minds. Even if it were their last morsel, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared it, if there were someone to share it with. But, bhikkhus, as beings do not know, as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they eat without having given, and the stain of meanness obsesses them and takes root in their minds.” (It 26).
When the sangha accepted invitations for the luncheon it was an honour and opportunity to perform sanghkit dana and made offering of meals to them. When food is needed to satisfy hunger and sustain the body, “they always take delight in food, both devas and human beings. So what sort of spirit could it be that does not take delight in food?” (SN 1:43). However, they remained mindful and consumed food in moderation reflecting carefully as “a bhikkhus consumes food neither for amusement nor for intoxication for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the support and maintenance of the body, for avoiding harm, and for assisting the spiritual life.” (AN 4:159).
The benefits of alms offering
When one offered food in such a joyful event like singhikat dana, was indeed a noble deed not only accrued merits for this life but also the next life. “One who respectfully gives timely food to those self-controlled one who eats what other give, provides them with four things: life, beauty, happiness and strengthen. The man who gives life and beauty, who give happiness and strengthen, will obtain long life and fame wherever his is reborn.” (AN 4:58)
General Siha asked the Lord: ”Is it possible to see the results of generosity?” And the Lord said: “Yes it is possible to see the result of generosity. The giver, the generous one, is liked and dear to many. … Good and wise people follow the generous person. … The generous person earns a good reputation. … This is the result of generosity. Once again, in whatever company he enters, be it nobles, brahims, householders or monks, the generous enters with confidence and without trouble. And finally, the giver, the generous person, is reborn in heaven after death. This is a result of generosity that can be seen hereafter.” (A.III,39).
“In giving food, one gives five things. What five? One gives life, beauty, happiness, strength and intelligence. And in giving these things, one partakes in the qualities of life, beauty, happiness, strength and intelligence, both here and thereafter.” (A.III,42). “When they give out of faith with a heart of confidence, food accrues to (the giver) himself both in this world and the next.” (SN 1:43).
Give or donate according to your means
In almsgiving it is the thought that matters and according to one’s ability and the suitability of the gifts to the receivers not the quantity. “Does almsgiving become especially productive of great fruit only when it is liberality of such magnificent sort as this, or is it rather when it is a liberality in accordance with one’s means?” The Blessed One said, “Not merely by efficiency of the gift does giving become especially productive of great fruit, but rather through efficiency of the thought and efficiency of the field of those to whom the alms are given. Therefore even so little as a handful of rice-bean or a piece of rag or a spread of grass or leaves or a gall-nuts in decomposing (cattle-)urine bestowed with devout heart upon a person who is worthy of receiving a gift of devotion will be the great fruit, of great splendour and of great pervasiveness.” (Vv. I,1).
It was indeed a desirable and noble cause to maintain the tradition so as to establish and strengthen the bonds with the members of the sangha and among the committee members as well as the management committee member not only for the sake of propagating the Dhamma but also to enhance the practice in their daily lives.
While looking forward to the next occasion that will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Mangala Vihara Dhamma Fellowship, we need to bear in mind annica, the true nature of impermanence when “whatever exists here on earth and in space, comprised by form, included in the world – everything impermanent decays. The saga fare having pierced the truth.” (AN.1, 712). We will take it in stride as we move along while looking forward to the next gathering.
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou
Date: February 12th 2018
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