If you asked anyone how was 2020, I guess majority of the people will say “tough”, “challenging” etc. Yes, indeed, the pandemic has caught everyone by surprise and affected us in different ways – our health, our jobs, our social life and our freedom. But rather than feeling defeated and lamenting about it, what else can we do?
The most common word I’ve heard in 2020 is “心无自性” – the heart is without an intrinsic nature. And that is what will make your life great! This is because it means that our heart is malleable and nothing is absolutely bad.

Here are some of my thoughts upon contemplation of what Buddha said in the above quote:

  1. In 2020, although it was inconvenient to head out, it became a great opportunity for me to do more practices to eliminate my obstacles and accumulate merits. I started doing full prostrations for 35 Buddha Repentance more diligently and also tried to chant the Great Prajnaparamita Sutra. In March 2020, we were strongly encouraged to chant 108 times of Migtsema and 7 times of Heart Sutra every day and I have not skipped a day since I began. All in all, 2020 gave me the chance to complete:
    a. 31,918 full prostrations to the Buddhas,
    b. 225 scrolls of the Great Prajnaparamita Sutra,
    c. 35,240 times of Migtsema chanting
    d. 2,405 times of Heart Sutra.
    Offering these to my precious lineage masters and Triple Gem. May I have the favourable conditions to continue learning the teaching life after life and swiftly attain the state of Buddhahood.
  2. In 2020, I zoomed, zoomed and zoomed a lot. I’m glad that even with the Covid-19 safety measures in place, I was able continue my Dharma learning through online classes. I attended two lessons and facilitate a class as an assistant monitor every week, that makes a whopping 121 lessons that took place. (approximately 295 hours of learning Buddha’s teaching!) Apart from that, thanks to the online learning platform, I was able to join an international Global Lamrim 2 Discussion Group. Over time, this too unconsciously added up to approximately 365 hours of learning! Lamrim classes have become an essential part of my life and even more so in this trying period. Every lesson never fails to provide me with positive trains of thought and mindset that can help me battle against my afflictions and the difficult situations that I may be facing.

3. In 2020, I continued to do offerings! Thankful to Abbot Jing Yuan’s foresight a few years back to set up the online offering platform. This allowed devotees like myself to be able continue to gain immense merits despite monastery being closed during Singapore’s Covid-19 circuit breaker and till date physical activities has yet to resume. Currently only the main shrine hall is open for devotees to pay homage to the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. Apart from offering items during special puja events, we can also do daily dana offering or choose a monthly offering plan. There is also offering via QR code for everyone’s convenience!

4. In 2020, I started memorizing some Lamrim texts! Grateful to Sister Kwee Lain, the monitor of my principle class, who initiated a collaboration with another senior Chinese Lamrim class to memorize paragraphs of the Lamrim on “Cultivating the wish to repay your mothers’ kindness”. This is truly a Bilingual collaboration as memorization took place in both Chinese and English. It has been a tradition to participate in the annual “Opening a book is beneficial” memorization competition.

We enjoyed memorization so much that now we are on the next project of memorizing verses from the Stages of the Bodhi Path 38 Collected Verses (菩提道次第摄修求加持颂- 38 摄颂)

I too joined the Global Lamrim Discussion Group for memorizing of the “Purification Practices” from The Flower Adornment Sutra. We memorize one verse a day by repeating the verse 10 times for slow reading, 10 times for fast reading and 10 times without looking at the text. You can try it too!

  1. In 2020, we finally had the opportunity to listen to discourses on Serenity and Insight! I must admit that I do not totally understand all the meaning behind the discourses as of now, but wise lineage masters have taught us: “Repeat, repeat and repeat!” (重复,重复,重复!) As this is a topic that is very unfamiliar to us, so it is natural that we don’t fully understand it from the start. But with repeated listening, we will definitely improve. Most importantly, it is to maintain the joyous attitude and the desire to learn which we will carry with us to our next life!

Although through COVID-19, we have met with many obstacles and challenges, but the opportunity for us to do virtuous deeds is abundant.

Penney by: Nina Lee