Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The secret in praying during “lap chun”(立春供神的秘密)


According to the lunar calendar, “lap chun” or “li chun” marks the first day of the Spring and thus the official day of the year entering spring. It is often mistaken with first day of Chinese New Year (初一). Different schools of religion and feng shui have different interpretation to “lap chun” but today I am not going to go into the feng shui theory of this particular day because to my understanding, “lap chun” is associated with offering to Lord Buddha and other deities for a prosperous and abundance year ahead by farmers but in modern days, by all of us as well. 
Many years ago, I was honoured to have an audience with a highly respected senior monk when he visited Auckland at the invitation of one of my Taiwanese friend. During that audience, the master preached about the right ways to make our offerings to Lord Buddha, Goddess of Mercy and other deities in our universe on important dates and among them, during “lap chun” to maximize our blessings and prosperity.
I was surprised that “lap chun” is actually ranked as one of the important dates in the calendar, equal to Wesak Day, Buddha’s birthday and Jade Emperor’s birthday, more important than first day of Chinese New Year.
On these important days, we were advised by the master to offer 10 items to Lord Buddha and other deities at home and these items must be places accordingly. They are 18 stalks of yellow chrysanthemum divided into 9 in each vase, 3 plates of fruits with 9 on each plate, 9 coil incenses stacked up, a brick of tea, a bottle of perfume, a miniature monk’s robes and 9 cups of tea.  The placing of these 9 items must be done accordingly.
It starts with the flowers on both sides, and then the fruits on both sides, the bottle of perfume, the brick of tea, and another plate of fruits in the middle follow with incense and the robes. The 9 cups of tea are to be placed before the offerings. The name of this offering is called the "Full Offering" derived from one of the sutras. 

According to the master, this type of offering was once a secret only exclusive to certain senior monks. Due to the large amount of items needed and the difficulty in finding the miniature monk’s robes, this kind of offerings are limited only to temples. However, he is sharing it with us so that everyone can reap the benefit of it.
Since then, on every “lap chun” and other important dates in the Buddhist calendar, I have been doing my offerings to the Goddess of Mercy at home following this method. After the offering, one can choose to keep the robes or donate it to the temple.

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