On the Spirit of Making Offerings of the True Dharma in
Water and Land Liturgy From the Perspective of Tiantai
Master of Arts in Religious Studies
Department of Buddhist Studies, Dharma Drum Buddhist College
The Water and Land Dharma Function (also known as “Waterland Dharma
Function”, “Liberation Rite of Water and Land”, and “Shuilu Fahui” in Pinyin
Romanization) is one of the grandest dharma assemblies in Chinese Buddhism.
It has the characteristics of being large, long-lasting, and producing a myriad
of unequalled merits. The spirit of Water and Land Dharma Function is to
“practice unobstructed offerings with an impartial mind.”
However, impartiality and non-obstruction cannot be attained without resorting to the
cultivation of oneself.
If the spirit and meanings of Water and Land DharmaFunction are neglected, the dharma function is reduced to a mere formality.
The currently-used version of “Water and Land Liturgy” (“Shuilu Yigui” in
Romanization) is a compilation of essence of various repentance rituals based
on the theory and practice of the teachings and observation of Tiantai School.
The core of the “Water and Land Liturgy” is the practice of the perfect sudden
meditation (hereafter “perfect meditation”). Therefore, this study is trying to
explore the spirit of making offerings of the true dharma in Water and Land
Liturgy, from the perspective of the perfect meditation of Tiantai School by
researching into the “Compilation of Water and Land Liturgies (Shuilu Yigui
Huiben),” which was edited by Master Fayu in 1920’s and is used most
commonly nowadays, while referring to the text of “Fajie Shengfan Shuilu
82． 中華佛學研究 第十二期（民國一百年）
Shenghui Xiuzhai Yigui” written by Master Zhipan in Song Dynasty and
revised by Master Lianchi in Ming Dynasty.
“The offering of the true dharma” is used as the core doctrine to penetrate
the whole Water and Land Liturgy, which conveys the spirit of impartial
offerings contained in the motto
—“Practice unobstructed offerings with an impartial mind”
— of Water and Land Dharma Function. Master Zhiyi’s
interpretation of “making offerings of the true dharma” is to have perfect
insight into all dharmas and thus fully realize the logic of middle-way reality.
We know from the Water and Land Liturgy that the abstinence practice in the
Water and Land Dharma Function is to allow participants to practice perfect
meditation with the words in the liturgy through various rituals, in order to
capture the spirit of great compassion and impartiality
—the real character of all dharmas.
The theoretical foundation of Tiantai’s perfect meditation is that the truth of the dharma-realm is the perfect interfusion with the three truths, so as to manifest the truth of non-duality of matter and mind, as well as the fact that all dharmas are marvelous.
Therefore, an offering can be made to pervade the ten directions and ten dharma-realms, to achieve the goal of making offerings of the true dharma.
The abstinence practice in the Water and Land Dharma Function is to practice perfect meditation through various rituals of the dharma function.
If we understand that all dharmas are marvelous, perfectly penetrative and without obstruction, and phenomenally identical with their underlying principle, we are able to complete the supreme dharma
offering and rediscover our real self.
The whole Water and Land Liturgy is the implementation of perfect meditation, as well as the six perfections in myriad actions of the Mahayana bodhisattva’s path.
The purpose of the study is to manifest ancestral teachers’ compassionate wishes in their compilation of water and land liturgies, allowing participants to understand the Buddha’s intentions in his teachings through the content of the liturgy.
The characteristics of Water and Land Liturgy are to “practice unobstructed
offering with an impartial mind, and make donations to all with great
compassion.” To actualize impartiality and compassion, one must concentrate
and practice perfect meditation, and cultivate, according to the Buddha’s
teachings, oneself sincerely with great devotion, in order to capture the spirit
of impartiality and great compassion, and attain self- and others-benefiting bodhi.
Water and Land Dharma Function, Water and Land Liturgy, Perfect