Our Avatamsaka Dhyāna View of the Sentient World

Avalokiteshvara yidam

Our Avatamsaka Dhyāna View of This Sentient World
Experience the Impermanence of all actions in our everyday life.
Wake up to the fact that all thoughts and intentions are void of substance.
Be one with and listen to the harmonious unstruck sound of silence of Om in Nirvana before you breathe out your last and final breath of life.
In the never ending shifts and flows of the Dharma realms wake up and come to the inner-standing and realisation that the original nature of all causes and conditions is substantively void.
From your humble gardener Venerable Sakya M. Longyen

The Nature of All Dharma

TruthThe Nature of All Dharma
By Venerable M. Sakya Longyen
15 March 2017

The Avatamsaka Sutra (Flower Adornment Scripture) says:
That the nature of all dharma is omnipresent without form at all times past, present, and future in each and every sentient being and in each and every realm with no exception.

Thus whosoever knows that all phenomena are but the manifestation of one’s own nature knows and sees them as Buddha does. – Venerable M. Sakya Longyen

A State and Act of Contemplation

‘Kuan’ is both a State and Act of Contemplation

The word ‘kuan’ as used in Chinese Ch’an practice and in esoteric practice carries different meanings respectively.

In Ch’an practices, it is a noun, meaning a realized state of contemplation manifested after a practitioner has eliminated all his illusions through the practice of vipassana or Ch’an. Such a state can be manifested as heterodox or orthodox, or as imperfect or perfect. The practitioner must then follow the guidance of his guru, carefully compare his realized state with what is written and taught in the sutras, and adhere to what is orthodox and perfect so as to enter the state of samadhi in real life.

In esoteric practices, however, the word ‘kuan’ refers to an act of immersing oneself in a physical and mental state so as to achieve contemplated reality. The practitioner puts himself in real life situations to carry out such an acts of contemplation according to esoterics. Thus esoteric Buddhism emphasizes ‘kuan’, both in action and at rest.

Moreover, in esoteric practices, special emphases are placed on the arrangement of the altar and use of mandalas. The four main classes of mandalas used in esoteric practices are (1) the maha-mandalas, representing the Buddha statue or image, (2) the Dharma or seed mandalas, representing the seed syllables of the mantras as embodiment of sutra texts, (3) the samaya mandalas, representing the instruments and mudras used in the ceremonial practices, and (4) karma mandalas, representing the descriptions or expressions of actions and accomplishments of of the Buddha having the function of cause and effect. All of such mandalas are used in association with mudras, mantras, and Dharma texts, forming the ‘triple dharma seals of one reality’ by uniting the body, speech, and mind. A practitioner is thus able to enter the state of the Dharmakaya.

V. M. Sakya Longyen
Huayen on Indra’s Net


The Avatamsaka Garden That Is Unique – The Avatamsaka Macrocosm
Our Avatamsaka Garden is a sacred garden where people gather to share life experiences and to learn to live life to its fullest potential just like flower in full bloom. Every tree, every blade of grass here is the crystals of members’ life experiences. The gardener, through his or her own words, sings to the world their songs of life. There is harmony in the air inside the garden and no one is more important than anyone else. The classics, history, philosophy, literature, poetry, songs, prose, letters, notes, lessons and sports that grow in our garden are diverse but do not overshadow one another. They grow under the same wind in Spring and equally share in the colours of Nature in Autumn. There are no restrictions as to the forms and categories of the text you write except that no writings may be defamatory. Come and be the first to grow a beautiful garden of flowers for yourself!
From Your Most Humble Gardener
Da Huayen Monastery Taiwan
Ven. M. Sakya Longyen
臺灣大華嚴寺釋隆嚴 合十

When the elephant meets the dinosaurs


When the elephant meets the dinosaurs

Have you seen an elephant? It is really huge, like looking at a moving wall. Other small animals must be very afraid to see one. To the pussy cat, the little dog and rabbit, this huge monster is absolutely inconceivable. They would scramble for hiding as soon as they see an elephant coming. There is no way they can be friends.

However, everything is relative and always a comparison in this world. Not only is the elephant huge in size, it is also exceptionally strong. It can easily crush us to meat paste with one stamp of its feet. But looking at it from another perspective, what if the elephant meets a dinosaur?

Holy macaroni, the dinosaur must think the elephant very cute, like a live cotton stuffed doll, and very much wants to hug and kiss it, or keeps it as a darling pet for their baby dinosaurs!

So how should we look at an elephant? Should we call it a gigantic, dangerous, awe inspiring, or should we call it peace loving, pacifying, naive and pure? In fact, there is no right or wrong answers. It really depends on how you look at it.

When we relate to people, the same is true. One of my women friends is rumoured by her colleagues as being “a little too bitchy.” When the rumour is heard by her husband, he is startled. The same woman in his eyes is a tame and loving wife who will do anything he wants. She is really like an oasis in a desert to him, and she gives him and the family unlimited supports.

Why then is the same woman looks so different to her husband and her colleagues? The answer is very simple. This husband of hers is even more emotional, quick-tempered and unpredictable than her.

In other words, to the lady’s colleagues, the woman is an elephant, but to the woman, her husband is the formidable dinosaur. That is why they are happily married.

If the elephant has never met the dinosaur, it will be the greatest among all animals; if the dinosaur has never met the elephant, it will be very lonely.

Such special relationships are known as ‘perfect matches.’ One plus one does not necessarily equal two. Pairing a handsome man with a gorgeous woman does not necessarily bring true and lasting love. On the contrary, negativity negates negativity and generates positivity. When the shrew meets the beast, we have a lasting marriage.

Our parents used to examine the dates of births of would-be couples, or resort to looking at the stars combinations in astrology to determine whether the couple is compatible. There is much wisdom in this ancient but dying practice.

你见过大笨象没有?哗,真的很大,相对着一堵活动的墙。其他的小动物,一定更害怕了, 对小猫、小狗、小白兔等来说,更是不可思议, 远远看见要赶快走避,根本没法做朋友。
换句话说,在同事眼中,她是“大象”级数,却不知道,他的丈夫才是更可不怖的“恐龙”, 难怪,这两个人做的成夫妻,而且多年恩爱。
要是大笨象没有遇上恐龙, 相信会威震一方,而要是恐龙没遇上大笨象,亦相信会非常寂寞。


不念佛不生极乐,不贪爱不堕娑婆。众生忌果而菩萨忌因,世人甘嚐苦果而不能自拔,菩萨慈悲不忍睹其痛苦,是故倒驾慈航,以其万德庄严功德建造普度大船,欲 救有缘也。和尚苦海浮沉,何尝未嚐过欲生欲死的情爱?自知人身难得今已得,佛法难闻今已闻,此身不向今生度,更待何生度此身。

How I Become A VOKRA Cat Care Volunteer

This is a story about how I went from not wanting to volunteer to becoming a Cat Care Volunteer with VOKRA.

VOKRA stands for the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association. It is a non-profit organisation established in 2000. It is 100% volunteer-driven and has no paid staff. It is open seven days a week and primarily operates in Vancouver and Burnaby.
1. The first thing I’d like to share with you is about Canadian Mental Health Association’s Ready, Set, and Go Volunteer preparation course
How is this course relevant to my volunteering? To be honest, I wouldn’t have become a volunteer if I had not taken this course. To say the very least,

  • There are great resources to learn and share, such as Go Volunteer, Career Cruising, resume writing techniques, and interviewing skills.
  • What’s more, there is constant and willing guidance and support from our facilitators and personal coaches.
  • And for me, I heard about VOKRA during a brainstorming session.

But then again to be honest, about mid-term and towards the end of my course, I started to have cold feet about volunteering. I felt that the facilitators were pressuring me too hard to go forward and get results. The more the pressure exerted, the more I was overwhelmed, and the more I felt discouraged. I told the facilitators how I felt, and I promised that I would at least try my best to complete the course. During the following session, the facilitators had changed their approach because of my feedback. I was proud to complete the course eventually.
2. What then got me to volunteer with VOKRA
After completing the course, I was struck by a severe episode of agoraphobia. I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone; didn’t want to go out of my suite; didn’t even want to answer the telephone. What then jump-started me to apply for a volunteer job? There was a sequence of related events.

  • First, it just so happened that on the last day of my course, I exchanged contact information with someone who had had experience dealing with VOKRA, and she helped me greatly by sending me all the relevant information about VOKRA.
  • Next, I uploaded my Certificate of Recognition on Facebook and WordPress, and friends congratulated me on my success.
  • As well, I uploaded images I created about the positive effects of volunteering on mental health, and friends as far as England, congratulated me, but I felt like a hypocrite for not following through with what I had promoted.
  • Also, I had been lying to my friends and neighbours that I was already volunteering with VOKRA in order to conceal my agoraphobic condition.
  • I even lied to my mental health nurse too, but she asked me to take pictures of the kittens to share with her next time we met. “We all love kittens!” she said. And I was like, “What…?”

3. Next, I’d like to talk about taking my first step forward
It was not until mid December before I finally picked up enough energy to check on VOKRA’s website. If I hadn’t done that, everything would have stayed just the way it was. But as soon as I had seen their website, I knew I had gone past the point of no return.

  • There was something magical about VOKRA’s attractive website, and their make-you-fall-in-love-with-the-kittens gallery. Slowly, I started looking more closely at the volunteer job categories. Then finally, my attention was drawn to their online application.
  • The application was the most user-friendly and simple.
    • No need for criminal check
    • I just need to answer a few easy questions
    • One of which was to agree to a waiver of indemnity and release – About this legal document, when I was doing my course, one of the participants was very concerned about whether he would be indemnified if he suffered any damage to properties, injury, or even death from volunteering. This waiver clearly releases VOKRA from any such liabilities. It also suggests that it would be wise for all applicants to talk to their doctors about getting their tetanus shots up-to-date for self protection because cats do scratch. I talked to my doctor and he told me my tetanus shot was current. He asked me why I wanted a booster. I told him about the waiver, and we both laughed. My doctor is a lawyer too.
    • The next thing about the application was to choose my preferred job type to suit my skill levels, from categories such as drivers, medical, adoption, graphic design, photographers, trapping, administration, special events, and cat care. I selected Cat Care.
    • And finally I need to commit to volunteer for at least six months.

During the application, I had some misconceptions about gender equality relating to the duties of Cat Care Volunteers, because they include many menial chores. I thought to myself, if I found out later that only men volunteers were cleaning the kennels and emptying the garbage, and the women were petting and playing with the cats and kittens, then I would be really mad.
4. Next thing I’d like to share is the telephone interview and how it was related to our course materials
As I had specified on my application that I didn’t want any phone calls or voice mails because of my condition at the time, the recruiting coordinator from VOKRA emailed me, and said that we needed to conduct a telephone interview in order to complete the application process. So I agreed. Remember? I’ve gone past the point of no return.

  • First question they asked was why I wanted to volunteer with VOKRA – the night before the scheduled interview, I reviewed our course materials on interviewing skills and techniques, and the mission statement of VOKRA. I answered the hardest question easily by listing three reasons. All I said was: Oh, because VOKRA is 100% volunteer-driven and it has no paid staff! (I cheated, right? I mean, how would I ever know?) And also I strongly agreed 100% with their mission statement! (See, I did it again! I haven’t even started working with them.) Plus of course, I love cats. After that, the phone interview turned into some sort of friendly chat. The questions got easier and easier as we proceeded.
  • With questions such as, have you any volunteering experience? “Yes. Blah, blah, blah… It’s also a non-profit organisation, and that’s also one of the reasons why I’ve chosen VOKRA.” Now, I could tell that the interviewer was quite pleased.
  • Have you any experience working with cats? “Yes, I used to take care of three cats for an old lady and I used to have two cats that came to me through my open windows.” Really?
  • Do you own any cats? “No, my residential policy does not allow pets.”
  • Next thing was to confirm that I have chosen Cat Care,
  • Picked and confirmed my shift, and finally
  • Agreed to come for orientation training at a future time and date.

The telephone interview lasted about 20 minutes.

5. Next topic is about my orientation training with VOKRA

  • The one-and-one-half hours orientation training at their operations centre included a grand tour of the place and demonstrations of the various duties of a Cat Care Volunteer. There were three other trainees besides me.
  • The centre operates three shifts, each consists of any two hours within a four-hour window. Morning and evening shifts cat care duties include feeding, cleaning and refilling litter boxes, and replacing soiled bedding.
  • Cat care in the afternoon is called operations support and maintenance, and my duties are mainly to give support to the other two shifts.

6. Next about the paperwork that signed, sealed, and delivered the deal

  • Even after training, I have the option to decide when to start my first shift by sending a confirmation email.
  • What if I can’t make a shift – there are strict cancellation protocols to follow because the livelihood of the cats and kittens depends on us. They include:
    • Emailing the schedule manager so she can change the schedule, and
    • Emailing the on call group of volunteers and finding a replacement.
  • The paperwork also includes signing and returning the waiver of indemnity and release.

7. And now I’ll say something about my first shift
It was an absolutely wonderful experience.

  • Volunteers at the centre were exceptionally friendly, patient, helpful, and supportive.
  • Kittens were playful and adorable, and the cats handsome looking – though feral ones can be also unpredictable.
  • My duties during the operations support shift will include:
    • Cleaning and disinfecting kennels, litter boxes, carriers, and scratching posts;
    • Stocking shelves with towels, fleeces, sheets, beds, litter boxes and scoops, feeding bowls, carriers, and toys;
    • Filling feeding buses and litter bins;
    • Washing dishes, laundry, and floors; and time permitting,
    • Petting and playing with cats and kittens.

8. Finally I’ll touch on fostering and adoption

  • Little Addy has one of his hind quarters amputated, and urgently needs a loving parent to foster or adopt him.
  • Greta is a tiny affectionate kitten, very sweet and adorable. She blinked slowly at me three times. She can do that on demand too. For a moment, I was like, “ Boy! Am I looking at a woman or what?” Greta had just stolen my heart. At only four-months old, she’d already had a litter. How disheartening! Can you imagine a kitten having a litter at four-months old? Now she’s waiting to be spayed and examined by the vet. After that she’s ready to be fostered or adopted.
  • As much as I would like to, I am not allowed to foster any cats or kittens because of my residential policy, but any one of you may apply online to foster or adopt a cat or kitten if you’re interested, even if you’re not ready to volunteer yet.

9. Conclusion
In conclusion, I’d like to end this talk by listing five positive psychological effects of volunteering on restoring mental health:

  • Firstly, volunteering restores our sense of self worth and confidence;
  • Secondly, the joy in helping others is empowering – even if we are to do menial chores while volunteering, there is added value that is quite different from doing the same things for ourselves;
  • Thirdly, positive reinforcement from volunteering helps reduce mental illness self stigma – I was able to overcome my agoraphobia;
  • Fourthly, volunteering lets us interact with other people and helps reduce social awkwardness; and finally,
  • Having a fixed schedule gives us something to look forward to, plus it has a stabilising effect on our mental state.

In hindsight, taking the first step was the hardest, but I cannot stress enough that it is the one sure way to clear up the dark clouds that have been hanging over my head for the past few months, and get me the volunteer job with VOKRA successfully. But the main thing to remember is, if you ever run into any difficulties, always talk to your coaches, for they are always there to help.

I have VOKRA’s contact information here in case anyone is interested in volunteering, fostering, or adoption.

Thank you all very much for listening!
10. Contact VOKRA
Website: orphankittenrescue.com Phone: 604-731-2913