Annual Dharma Services

Dharma service is gathering that usually consist of religious ritual and activities such as Buddhist chanting, Dharma talks, offerings to the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha. These activities have always been popular among Buddhists. Through whole-heartedly chanting of sutras and prayer, Buddhists sincerely learn from the Buddha and pray for the blessings of the compassionate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The meaning of "Dharma service" is "Meeting in the Dharma."  Hence, the Dharma talk is essential at the Dharma service. A Dharma service aims to enhance the devotee’s confidence and joy in the Buddha Dharma.

Celebration of Dharma Day Service

Buddha’s Enlightenment Day — “Dharma Day,” is at the eighth day of the 12th lunar month (December.)  It is an important day in which the Buddha attained enlightenment in this universe and realized the truth in a life on the Vajra seat, under the Bodhi Tree. Typically, on this day, the monastery will hold the Celebration of Dharma Day Service, prepare the Laba Porridge to develop affinities with the general public or use various activities to celebrate the “Dharma Day.”

In response to the compassionate vow of Venerable Master Hsing Yun, founder of Fo Guang Shan, all branches of Fo Guan Shan including those overseas, conduct various activities to commemorate this important Dharma Day in Buddhism. Activities include, but are not limited to, Buddhist forums, charity, affinity-building events, chanting, and prayers. Abbotts/abbesses and all Venerables from all temples simultaneously echo Venerable Master’s vow by offering porridge instead of tea. According to the Buddhist sutra, “one who obtains the taste of the Dharma achieves the greatest satisfaction.” Venerable Master hopes that the Dharma joy generated from the Buddha’s enlightenment can be shared with everyone and that everyone receives blessings from the Buddha with an increase in wisdom.

Chinese New Year Celebration Events

New Year’s Eve Dharma Service

“Farewell to the old past and welcomes the new future, ” on Chinese New Year’s Eve, longevity wishing “New Year’s Eve Dharma Service” will be held at the temple. The merits are dedicated to everyone to receive auspicious, peace and success in the new year. We also wish that our society will continue to be harmonious and the world will continue to be peaceful. All are welcome.

Chinese New Year Dharma Service

Includes: Pay Respect to One Thousand Buddhas and First Incense Offering of the Year

“Pay one homage to the Buddha, immeasurable merits will be generated.” Chanting the Buddha’s name once, transgressions will be eliminated as numerous as sands lying over the river floor. For this reason, the temple will be conducting the Chinese New Year Dharma Service. This is the opportunity for everyone to pray respect to a thousand Buddha during the Spring Festival, thus wishing all to have auspiciousness and endeavours to be fulfilled. The day’s activities will include ringing the auspicious bell, offering auspicious incenses and vegetarian food stalls.

Offering to Universal Buddhas and Heavenly Kings Dharma Service

According to the Golden Light Sutra, the Offering to Universal Buddhas and Heavenly Kings Dharma Service provides devotees with an opportunity to make an offering to the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha as well as the Heavenly Kings by way of a banquet.

In order to thank the Celestial Beings for their protection of the Triple Gem, the temple is organizing a formal banquet in the first month of the Lunar Year by requesting the presence of the Triple Gem and Heavenly Kings to receive the offerings of incense, flowers, fruits and food.

Everyone is invited to join us on this special occasion to receive blessings of wellbeing and longevity.

The Great Compassion Repentance Service

In our daily lives, when our clothes become dirty, we wash them with water. When our minds are polluted by greed, anger, and delusion, we become worried and troubled. In Buddhism, devotees practice repentance to cleanse their minds and rid themselves of worries. The benefits of practicing repentance include eradicating hindrances, purify our body, speech and mind, see our true natures and realize all wisdom.

There are different repentance ceremonies, with the Great Compassion Repentance Service being one of the most popular. The Great Compassion Repentance Service is based on the Great Compassion Mantra. The full name of the Great Compassion Mantra means, “Thousand-arms and thousand-eyes Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva’s all-embracing great compassion Dharani”

By participating in the ceremony, devotees benefit from the strength of the compassionate vows of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva to find peace within themselves. They learn to treat others with respect and humility, bringing harmony to their families and society.  

Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto will hold the Great Compassion Repentance Service three times a year:

  1. To celebrate the Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva’s Birthday
  2. To celebrate the Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva’s Enlightenment Day
  3. To celebrate the Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva’s Renunciation Day

Ancestors Memorial Service

The Qing Ming Festival is an important day for many Chinese to express filial piety and gratitude to their ancestors. Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto will hold its Ancestors Memorial Dharma Service in April. Join us to remember and honour our ancestors by participating in the recitation of the Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance. All merits through chanting and repentance shall be dedicated and shared with our ancestors so that they may be reborn in the Pure Land.

The Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance was composed by Ven. Zhixuan, at one time, was an imperial preceptor in the late Tang dynasty. According to the tale in the Preface, upon receiving a generous and expensive gift (a Dharma seat) from emperor Yizong (唐懿宗), a painful facial tumour grew on his knee. No doctor was able to treat his tumour. Recalling a past offer by a former friend, Kanaka (迦諾迦), Zhixuan went to the mountain in Pengzhou (彭州) to see him for help. After they met, Kanaka told Zhixuan to use the water in the stream below the cliff to wash the tumour. Zhixuan complied and the tumour disappeared. 

With the firm faith that repentance could eradicate one‘s negative karma and advance one‘s practice of concentration and wisdom, he then composed this repentance ritual for people to repent if they want to expiate their transgression and lifetimes of karmic enmity.

Bathing Buddha Dharma Service

It is also known as the Buddha's Birthday Celebration. The Buddha’s Birthday Celebration commemorates the birth of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, later the Sakyamuni Buddha, founder of Buddhism. Prince Siddhartha was born on the 8th day of the fourth lunar month over 2,550 years ago in Lumbini, Kapilavatsu in Northern India.

Upon his birth, nine heavenly dragons appeared, streaming out the purest fragrant water to cleanse the newly born Prince. Hence, the Buddha’s Birthday Celebration is also known as "Bathing the Buddha Dharma Service.”

After the Buddha’s Nirvana, it became a tradition to bathe the statue of Buddha to commemorate his birth while reflecting on one’s inherent Buddha-nature. Bathing the Buddha is symbolic of cleansing one’s body, speech and mind to purge one’s greed anger, and ignorance to cultivate wisdom and compassion.

The meaning of bathing the Buddha:

  • We sincerely pray for the purification of our defilements of greed, hatred, and anger.
  • We pray for peace and harmony universally so that there is no more violence, deceit, and evil in the world.
  • We wish for our troubled world to be transformed into a pure land and all minds be guided onto the Bodhi path.

The Emperor Liang Repentance Service

The Emperor Liang Repentance Service is so named because it originated from the Emperor himself. A devoted Buddhist, Emperor Wu (of the Liang Dynasty) who took the Bodhisattva precepts during the second year of his reign and abided by them strictly for the rest of his life. In addition to building many temples and hosting numerous Dharma services, he also studied extensively the Buddha's teaching. 

His wife, Queen Chi, died at the age of thirty after leading a life marked by jealousy and anger. After her death, she turned into a giant snake. She came to recognize that she needed prayers from the Sangha to liberate her from the lower realms. With great compassion, the Emperor requested Ch'an Master Pao-chih and other honourable monks to write ten chapters of repentance. As a result of performing this repentance service, his wife was indeed released from her suffering.

The merit one accumulates from repentance is inconceivable and beyond ordinary comprehension. Thenceforth, Emperor Liang Repentance Service is one of the most popular and widespread repentance services because it benefits both the living and the dead.

Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto holds The Emperor Liang Repentance Service annually in the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Merits gained from this repentance service will be dedicated to ancestors and the deceased. The service also has the benefits of repenting for our transgressions, purifying our minds and growing our wisdom.

Sangha Day Dharma Service

The Sangha Day, also called the Buddha’s joyful day, is in the seventh lunar month (July), the Sangha community had completed their summer retreat. 

According to the Ullambanapatra Sutra, when Maudgalyayana, a chief disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha, was unable to alleviate the suffering of his mother in the realm of hungry ghosts, the Buddha told him that the only way to deliver his mother from the pains of suffering is to rely upon the strength of monastics of all directions in their cultivation of meritorious virtues. The Buddha instructed his disciples to dedicate an elaborate offering of food and fruits to all Sangha members in the names of his parents from the past seven lifetimes as well as the present life because the practice of Sangha offering has the power to transform and deliver all sentient beings.

Thus, in the Buddhist tradition, one may cultivate tremendous merits by making offerings to the Sangha, and practice filial piety by dedicating the merits to their parents and ancestors, and to all the sentient beings. This is a very meaningful and meritorious act as it allows the Sangha to practice without obstructions and cultivate merits for ourselves and our ancestors.

Since the establishment of Fo Guang Shan Monastery, we have been active in propagating the Dharma and engaging in charity work, education programs to promote peace and harmony in society. It is only through the enthusiastic support of all our members that we can achieve our mission. To thank the kind supports of our devotees and Dharma friends, the Sangha Day Dharma Service and Sangha Offering Merit Dedication Service will be conducted every year in the seventh lunar month.

The Medicine Buddha Dharma Service

The Medicine Buddha (Bhaisajyaguru Buddha) is the Buddha of the Pure Land of Lapis Lazuli (Light in the East.) When Medicine Buddha practices in his Bodhisattva ways, he made twelve great vows, wishing to relieve sentient beings from suffering and let them have sufficient capacities to enter liberation. Those who follow his vows in the practice of Buddhahood can be reborn in his Lupus Lazuli Pure Land, which is as adorned as the Western Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha.

The Medicine Buddha Dharma Service is held every year at the end of the ninth lunar month to celebrate Medicine Buddha’s Birthday. All merits from the service will be dedicated to worldwide health, peace and harmony.

Medicine – We can obtain medication from drug stores, pharmacies, etc. to heal our sickness. However, we need the Buddha’s teaching to cure our mental and emotional problems. Therefore, this ‘medicine’ is even more important than those in the drug store.

Lapis Lazuli – It is one of the seven precious substances. In the world, there are physical treasures, such as gold and silver, pearls, agate, cornelian, etc. However, in relation to the Medicine Buddha, the lapis lazuli represents the spiritual treasure of his wisdom. It refers to a kind word or a Buddhist book to liberate us from afflictions. Thus, it is even better than worldly treasures. We should also be like the lapis lazuli for others, to help them and render happiness. We all have within each of us an inner treasure. We can help others not just with money but with our effort, our words and deeds.

Light – In the Dharma assembly of Medicine Buddha, many lamps are lit. Why are they lit? It is because light can break through the darkness and give us warmth, like the fire in the stove. Is there anything comparable to light in the world? Yes, only Buddha. The Buddha’s light is illuminating. Our mind is opened up when we recite Buddha’s name. It gives us warmth and support.

Amitabha Buddha Chanting Retreat

Fo Guang Temple of Toronto will conduct the annual “Amitabha Buddha Chanting Retreat,” to celebrate Amitabha’s Birthday in the 11th lunar month. According to the sutras, “Reciting the Buddha’s name gains limitless merits; making a full bow to the Buddha eradicates endless unwholesome karma.” The merits of reciting the Buddha’s name are truly auspicious because it helps people realize their intrinsic Buddha-nature, eradicate defilements and be reborn to the Western Pure Land.

During the 3-day retreat, participants are encouraged to chant the Amitabha Sutra and recite the Buddha's name as additional practice. The merits will be transferred to the departed loved ones of participants for rebirth into the Pure Land, and to wish world peace and good health of all humankind. All are welcome to attend and share in the joy of the Dharma.