As Fall is coming to a close, the sky has been getting cloudless, an azure tapestry seemingly stretching till the edge of the world, our visual world of course. Concomitantly, it gets chilly even during the day, prompting us to switch on the heater in the house. But it sure makes a good day to spend outdoor when suitably clothed.
Thus bundled up appropriately, we set off for Clearwater yesterday (Nov 17, 2007) morning, the entourage including CE and Yu Huei. We were on our way to attend the 2nd Robe Offering Celebration organized by Dhamma Wheel Meditation Society (DWMS) under the auspices of Bhante Dhammawansha and his fellow Sangha from around the area (St. Petersburg and Bradenton) and as far as away as Washington DC, LA, Michigan, Canada, and Sri Lanka, 15 in all.
This is our second attendance, the tradition having started last year.
We arrived just in time, just when the sangha was entering the premises, wify bringing along a vegetarian curry dish, Yu Yuei several bunches of juicy bananas, me my faithful Canon Powershot A75, and CE, well, just herself, in a casual outfit topped up (pardon the pun) with a baseball cap.
As was last year, the solemn ceremony started with the Bhantes filing along the food table, alms bowls in hand ready to receive the food, symbolically, from the devotees. The actual food was served once the Bhantes were seated in the house. Then it was our turn to partake of the vegetarian food offering, a concerted preparation by all volunteers.
Symbolic food offering.
Serving the Sangha.
Our turn at the gastronomical pursuit, CE standing in her cool outdoor outfit.
Thus satiated, the Bhantes took their seats at the outdoor pavilion, the sun by then beaming down, illuminating the tent top in a magnificent hue. The ceremony commenced with devotees offering robes to the Bhantes in turn, following the cue from the MC who read off the names of offerees. Wify participated too.
The start of the robe offering ceremony, under the Sun's full stare, glistening the White Buddha Statue.
Wify's offering stance, full of humility and reverence.
After a brief welcoming speech by Bhante Dhammawansha, the resident monk of DWMS, he invited Bhante Muditha to deliver a Dhamma talk on happiness and living now as summarized below:
Robe offering is a 25-century old Theravedian tradition. It's a ceremony, not a ritual, to mark the support for Buddhist dispensation. The robe is hailed as the banner of saints, worn by the monks and nuns who dedicate themselves to self practice and to deliver the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha.
It's an act of generosity that accumulates merits, the robe fulfilling one of the four requisites, cloths. The other three are food, shelter, and medicine.
Our worldly happiness, acquired by constantly looking beyond ourselves, is neither endurable nor long lasting. It's only by looking inward, by supporting the sangha, by generating metta, by engaging in meditation, by practicing good virtues and morality that we can accomplish the three acts of Dana, Sila, and Bhavana. Then we will be able to remove all the negativities and impurities, extricate ourselves from samsara, the circle of existence, and attain nibbana where true happiness resides, and which follows us like a shadow.
The pious ceremony concluded with the acknowledgment of appreciation by Richard Baksa and a closing blessing from the Bhantes. Thus blessed, and a bottle of blessed water in wify's hand, we embarked homebound, secured in our fulfilling yet another meritorious act toward Dhamma bliss.
Devotees lining up to receive the blessed water.