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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
57 summer 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly The president of Taiwan and movie star Jet Li came to pay their respects, along with all the major Tai- wanese TV stations and accompanying photogra- phers. And, of course, many different Buddhist lineages were represented; there were old vener- able Chinese masters, Zen nuns, Theravada and Tibetan monks. Everyone knew that this was the passing of a true and authentic master. On the third day, the casket was closed and remained in the Grand Buddha Hall for several more days while many more people came to pay respects. Chanting continued day and night, helped by Shifu’s recorded voice chanting over a loudspeaker along with us. Then, the cremation occurred. More than 10,000 people were transported by bus to attend the cremation ceremony. As Michael and I walked down the hill to board the buses we looked back, and along the sides of the road, as far back as we could see, were thousands of people stand- ing and kneeling in the rain, many of them cry- ing inconsolably. After the cremation, his ashes were brought back to the Grand Buddha Hall and put in a box that was placed on his chair in the hall, along with his glasses and water cup. They remained there for a week. At the end of the week, there was a ceremony in the Grand Buddha Hall, during which we all wrote on paper bodhi leaves our intention to carry on Shifu’s work. With this and other moments that week, there was a powerful sense of being one dharma family. Finally, Shifu’s ashes were buried. More than 30,000 people walked single file to the burial grounds. As we walked back from the site, the Abbot was there to greet and console as many of us as possible by taking our hands and meeting our eyes; it seemed to me an immensely generous act in the midst of his own personal grief and daunting responsibilities. Because of Shifu’s wishes, there is no sign marking the place where his ashes were buried. They will mingle with the earth and with the ashes of others who are buried in this same plot of land. He also instructed that his ashes be completely ground so that there would be no relics remaining. He told his disciples that with no relics to cling to, there would be nothing to fight over in the com- ing years. Then, it was over. Within hours of the last participants filing by the burial grounds, the Grand Buddha Hall was back the way it had been prior to Shifu’s passing. And yet, something immense and wonderful had happened. I am truly grateful for what Shifu has taught us, with his life and his death. time when his teacher died, and recalled being very sad and crying a lot. But he emphasized that everything changes, encouraging us to remember that death is natural and not to lose clarity of view. He also spoke about the importance of taking vows, dedicating oneself to wisdom and compassion. In speaking about his own relationship to his vows, Shifu said, “Although this universe may someday perish, my vows are eternal.” The ceremonies that followed his death were a skillful way of giving us the space to grieve as well as an opportunity to learn how to let go. After he died, his body was placed in an open casket in the Grand Buddha Hall. For two days it seemed that the whole of Taiwan came to bow and pay respects: older people, little kids, teenagers with pink hair, executives, and those who obviously owned very little—literally thousands of people from all walks of life came by. providedBYdHarMadruMMountainCulturalandeduCationalfoundation,allrigHtSreServed