A New Chapter in Shaolin Discipleship - Ba Shi Ba Fo
“We the congregation, wholeheartedly take refuge and pay homage. We take refuge in all Buddhas everywhere throughout all space. We take refuge in all dharmas everywhere throughout all space. We take refuge in all sanghas everywhere throughout all space.”
-Ba Shi Ba Fo
Shijiamuni's understanding reaches far- permeates and comprehends all things. So far that he was able to have compassion for all that came to seek his teachings, and all that would come. Shijiamuni recognized the pureness of their hearts no matter how they had lived prior. Likewise, as Shifu's students, we have the opportunity to be enveloped by the coursing stream of the Dharma, and once enveloped recognize there is no alternative but to seek through the labyrinth of our lives and catch the destiny that belongs to us. With a pure heart and with immeasurable compassion he has asked who among his students would accept the invitation to join the Buddha's family, the Shaolin family, his family, and also help shoulder his mission to spread the dharma of Shaolin Ch'an to the world and live as an example of this dharma.
“Do you want to be my disciple?”
That is the question or statement presented in the announcement of the annual Fo Fa Sen ceremony. All it takes is for us to answer “Yes” from our hearts. “It is that simple,” reminds Shifu Shi Yan Ming. He recognizes all of our inherent worth, he seeks for nothing but our honesty, just as Shijiamuni did during his life. We are acknowledging through participating in this ceremony that somewhere in our personal history we have experienced the power of the Buddha's teachings. It is something that requires our attention so that we can understand it and let the truth spread into everything, the breaking through of the obstructed mind in simple acceptance, and to open our hearts and let us see ourselves honestly to meet our potentials. With the announcement of the ceremony also comes a beautiful outlet for us to celebrate life's challenges and gifts.
Shifu began taking disciples 5 years ago in the year 2000. This year, in 2005, it was June when this opportunity was presented once again. Who wants to be my disciple? is the unvoiced question asked by the announcement of the upcoming ceremony. It is customary for those who wish to take refuge to write a letter expressing their heart. Simple right? Until you sit down to write it and you realize how difficult it can be to write what is wordless in your heart and permeates everything you think is important. You begin to see the other questions hidden in this announcement. Will you accept this responsibility? Will you seek to master yourself? Will you use your training to help others? Do you have enough respect to subsume your own desires and goals for greater goods? After you manage to get some words down you begin to see that once this letter leaves your hands and is read your life will never be the same. Now you are coursing.
This year also marked the closing of one chapter in the history of our discipleship and the beginning of a new chapter, as a new Sutra is adopted for our naming convention. All Shaolin disciples and monks are named through three signifiers. “Shi” comes from the transliteration of the Buddha's family name, and symbolizes the extended family all disciples and monks belong to. What follows is a generational signifier, taken from a poem written by the founder of the current lineage, Fu Yu. Because Shi Yan Ming is the 34th Generation of Shaolin Monks, his disciples all take the 35th word of the poem. Shifu chose to continue this naming convention using the Heart Sutra. Now the words of the Prajna Paramita Hyrdaya Sutra have run their course, and Shifu has chosen the Ba Shi Ba Fo as the next sutra from which to derive disciple names.
We welcome our new disciples to the greater Shaolin family.