I have attended Bathing the Buddha Ceremony many times but I don’t think I have thought very much about the meaning behind this ceremony. Today’s Dharma talk given by Venerable Chang Xu was what I needed. I needed to know the meaning behind this ceremony and I needed to ponder if I find this ceremony useful. I knew bathing the Buddha was generally to symbolise the act of purification but what are we cleansing and why are we doing it?
The Buddha, our teacher is already enlightened, we don’t need to bath him nor do we need to bath him in order for him to protect us. We are bathing the baby Buddha nature within ourselves. We are nurturing the baby Buddha with life giving water so that our Buddha nature can shine through. Water, is the strongest force, for whatever it enters, it becomes, pour water into a cup and it becomes a cup. Venerable quoted Bruce Lee “Be like water” to illustrate the point. It is fluid yet it has the power to cut though stone with time.
So what are really washing away? We are washing away or moving away from greed, hatred and ignorance. How? One example would be the following: We spend a lot of our energy on making our environment better, once we have created an environment we like, we lose our marbles once we no longer have what we wanted. We hate it when things don’t go our way. We want constant control of our environment. This is due to us not recognising things are constantly changing. We cannot hold onto a projected image of what we think something is or control how some things will behave.
We can only stay in the present moment, for in the present moment, we can come to grips with our past and create a better future. How? We do this by accepting what is in front of us, and we watch our thoughts in order not to create more problems for ourselves in the future by letting our stream of consciousness carry us in the direction of greed, hatred and ignorance (The Three Poisons). We remind ourselves of the nature of things, the ways things really are. In this process, we are bathing the baby Buddha within us, we are washing away The Three Poisons and moving towards precepts, meditation and wisdom. Moving towards uncovering our Buddha nature. Bathing the Buddha is therefore a metaphor for watching our mind in order for us to get rid of impurities that take us away from our Buddha nature.
So how often do we need to bath our inner Buddha? Every moment.
Great, I find this ceremony and talk useful. I can practice this ceremony on my own, given I have enough access to Buddha Dharma. As this talk has switched on a light in me, I’m eternally grateful for the teachings given by Venerable Chang Xu and Dharma Drum Mountain for making Dharma accessible to me.