Buddhist monastics from Dharma Drum Buddhist centers in Los Angeles and New York were joined by family members and the greater community on Tuesday to mourn and offer prayers for those who died in Los Angeles County’s deadliest mass shooting, which took place 10 days earlier.
Venerable Guo Yuan, abbot of Dharma Drum Retreat Center in upstate New York, led prayers and a Chan Buddhist blessing ceremony for the 11 people killed in the shooting.
In his message, Ven. Yuan wished those who died “a good journey” and reminded those present that their deaths show “us that we want this world to be better.” For those injured and those in mourning, Ven. Yuan offered hope and urged them to “regain your courage in life again.” (Religion News Service)
The shooting took place on 21 January, when a gunman opened fire in a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, California, a predominantly Asian city in the greater Los Angeles region, killing 11 people and injuring nine others. The gunman, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, took his own life the next day after a standoff with police.
Tuesday’s ceremony was held outside of the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where the shooting took place and where a memorial dedicated to the 11 victims has been set up. Attendees lit incense and candles at a Buddhist altar as nuns and monks prayed, rang bells, and recited the Heart Sutra.
“There’s a lot of wisdom in the Heart Sutra.” Ven. Chang Ju, resident nun of Dharma Drum Mountain Center in Los Angeles, told those gathered. “The power and effect of the prayer and the offerings come from our mind. When our mind is focused and sincere, the power will be strong. Therefore, we urge you to pray with the utmost sincerity.” (Religion News Service)
Ven. Ju further counseled them to be mindful of their fear and anger. “If we take hatred for hatred, we will never have peace of mind,” Ju said. “We need the wisdom to overcome all this. This is what we can do for the community.” (Religion News Service)
The blessing ceremony follows a number of other services and observances by faith leaders in the area. The event was one of many organized by Compassion in SGV (San Gabriel Valley), which was founded to help stop Asian hate and keep elderly and vulnerable Asian community members safe. The series of public events has helped to pull the community together in the wake of the loss, a point emphasized by Min Zhou, a sociologist and the director of UCLA’s Asia Pacific Center.
“The importance is to show that we belong to a community,” Zhou said. “We belong here. We belong to the community and we are part of it. It is very important we are not alone.” (The Washington Post)
The ceremony was also live-streamed by Compassion in SGV to allow other community members to view the proceedings from their homes.
“We wanted to make sure to also include the Buddhist faith,” said Naomi Hom, event coordinator with Compassion in SGV. “A lot of the victims were Buddhists.” (Religion News Service)
Monks also led visitors in chanting “Amituofo,” the Chinese translation of Amitabha, the primary buddha of Pure Land Buddhism.
Since the shooting last month, monks have been visiting the memorial each day to pray and chant, hoping to purify the area and help restore peace to the community.
A Solemn Buddhist Ceremony Offers Comfort, Healing at Site of Monterey Park Shooting (Interfaith America)
Buddhist monks hold blessing ceremony at Monterey Park memorial (Whittier Daily News)
Monterey Park weighs extending emergency declaration to assemble post-shooting relief strategy (Los Angeles Daily News)
A solemn Buddhist ceremony offers comfort, healing at site of Monterey Park shooting (Religion News Service)
Monterey Park’s Asian diaspora adopts new rite: Mourning after gun violence (The Washington Post)
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