Q&A: Why do temples strike the bell 108 times during Chinese New Year?

 

A devotee asked me why temples strike the bell 108 times during Chinese New Year.
Here’s some sharing on it.

Within the Buddhist teachings, hearing the sound of the bell, one is reminded of the teachings and become mindful of one’s body speech and mind, quelling the defilements and agitations of the mind.

In the Chinese Mahayana tradition, there’s the following verses that are recited and reflected upon as aspirations before striking the bell.

願此鍾聲超法界  鐵圍幽闇悉皆聞
May the sounds of this bell transcend the (ten) Dharma realms,
To be heard even in the far reaches of the remote and dark outer rims

聞塵清淨證圓通  一切有情成正覺
Hearing thus, may all purify the dust (of defilements), attaining to complete mastery,
and all sentient beings attaining to Buddhahood.

聞鐘聲  煩惱輕  智慧長  菩提生
Hearing the sound of the bell
Defilements lighten, Wisdom grows, Bodhicitta arises

離地獄  出火坑  願成佛  度眾生
Departing from Hell, exiting from the fiery pit
Aspiring to become a Buddha, liberating sentient beings

108 corresponds to the defilements that arises due to the 108 types of feelings/sensations [1].

The striking of the bell is done on days like CNY … to mark our aspirations to work towards quelling our defilements and suffering.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Reference

Buddhism in the New Millennium

Grateful for the opportunity to share at the International conference “Buddhism in the New Millennium” coorganised by World Fellowship of Buddhists and the Buddhist Union.

Below are the pdf for the slides delivered at the conference for the two panel discussion.

Moments captured of the conference on facebook.