Dharma Incense Permeation (DIP) is a translation of “Xun Fa Xiang” (薰法香), which refers to listening to the daily early morning Dharma lectures on the Lotus Sutra given by Dharma Master Cheng Yen at the Jing Si Abode in Hualien, Taiwan. Tzu Chi volunteers in many parts of the world, including Singapore, can attend the lecture (which starts at 5:20am every morning) via live video streaming from the Abode.
My personal DIP journey started in January 2014. The challenge for most people is to wake up before 5am and to find transportation to the Jing Si Hall or one of the other three Tzu Chi venues where the lectures are screened live. Fortunately, I am blessed to have my wife (HuiXian), who is a light sleeper, wake me up at 4.30am. I often joke that she is my natural and loving alarm clock. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to drive my fellow Dharma brothers and sisters to attend the Dharma lectures. During the car ride, we often share our insights, reflections and experiences after listening to the Master’s lectures. I am truly glad to have the company of fellow Dharma cultivators to contribute to my Dharma learning. It is indeed the good affinities that we had developed in our past lives that enable us to gather at such a Dharma assembly every morning and learn together.
The motivation for us to persist in waking up early and going to DIP constantly stems from the knowledge that our dear Master has already woken up and is waiting to share the Dharma with us. It is indeed a rare and priceless occurrence for us to meet the Master and to listen to her illuminating lectures, so we should definitely not squander away such a precious opportunity.
The crisp and fresh air in the early hours is conducive to a pure and clear mind─one that is ever-ready to absorb the Dharma. As I am English-educated, I am not able to understand all the profound teachings spoken by Master in Taiwanese. However, I will do my utmost to grasp the key words and synthesize the spoken words and Chinese text (shown on the projector screen) so as to distil the meaning of Master’s teachings to the best of my abilities. Over the months, I found that my Chinese and Taiwanese have improved significantly. Thus, I am able to fathom the words in a more meaningful and accurate way.
Master has always taught us to walk the Path of the Sutras, meaning to apply the Dharma in our daily lives and in our interactions with others. One of the teachings that specially touched me was the Parable of the Burning House in the Lotus Sutra. In this parable, the Buddha tried to get some wayward children out of a burning house, which symbolizes the turbid and defiled world that we live in. However, the children could not realize the danger they were in and continued to stay and play inside the house. In the same way, our Master has been warning us that there is no more time to waste. Our world is in great danger, judging by the imbalances in the environment and the evil-mindedness of some human beings. With the Master’s earnest and persistent admonishment that we must learn and practise the Dharma, it is imperative that we take heed of her words, and work to transform ourselves and those around us.
Over the months of listening to the Dharma lectures, I have noticed a transformation in my behaviour and temperament. Realizing that all phenomena are created by the mind, I now have better self-control (even though there is still room for improvement). My mind is now calmer, more at ease, and more often peaceful as compared to the past. Consequently, my relationship with my wife has improved. I am more willing to listen rather than to criticize. The positive and happy vibes have rubbed off on our children, resulting in a more harmonious parent-child relationship and a more loving atmosphere at home.
In the chapter, “Medicinal Herbs”, of the Lotus Sutra, we see that all Dharma is essentially the same. The Buddha, like a big rain cloud, is impartial in showering the Dharma to all sentient beings. Because of our different individual capacities, we learn the Dharma in different ways. Just like the medicinal herbs of various species, plants and trees of different kinds and sizes are nourished by the same rain but in different ways. With this understanding, we can see that all Buddhist traditions and teachings are essentially the same, only catering to different people’s needs and capacities.
The Parables of the Poor Son and the Three Carts serve as a reminder for us to uphold and practise the Dharma in our daily lives. We tend to forget and lose the Dharma that we hear as we get embroiled in worldly disputes and conflicts. Therefore the daily Dharma lectures serve as a timely reminder for us to begin each day with Dharma and to perform our duties faithfully along the way.
Just like the Poor Son in the parable, we could not understand the Buddha's true teachings despite having listened to them before. With the constant exposure to Master’s daily Dharma lectures, we can deepen our faith and improve our understanding of the subtle Dharma, leading to increased wisdom. Master's great compassion and patience in giving the daily Dharma lectures can be compared to the Poor Son's wealthy father’s forgiveness and compassion in guiding his son back to (the true Dharma). As such, we should cherish this great blessing of encountering and being able to listen to Master’s Dharma lectures every day.
It is my great and fervent hope that more people can attend Master’s Dharma lectures to develop an understanding of the Lotus Sutra and apply it in their lives. Personally, I will strive with diligence to learn, practise and share the Dharma with others, with sincere and loving gratitude.