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The Joy of Mountain Living

Translated by Andrew Yang On Vegetable Roots, a Zen classic containing maxims and aphorisms written by the late Ming philosopher Hong Yingming (1572-1620), has this to say, “A man’s life should not be too idle, lest rambling thoughts crop up. It should not be too busy either, lest there is no room to reveal his true nature. The gentleman, therefore, must not be unconcerned about his body and mind, nor should he be not revelling in the pleasures of nature”. However, how many people who are used to a busy, hasty life are indeed idle enough to have rambling thoughts? On the contrary, most of them are too busy to let their true nature reveal itself. Living in one of these crowded high-rise buildings, where opening the window may not provide a view of the sky, how are they likely to be indulging in the pleasures of nature? Amid busy...

The Joy of Zen

Translated by Andrew Yang Zen, a school of Buddhism variously called Chan, originated in India but became popular in China. In its evolution, it was initially based on Tathagata teachings, and so in the early days it was known as Tathagata Chan, or Chan through teachings for the mind. Later, it spread eastward to China with the advent of Master Bodhidharma (c. 5th century), where it developed into a distinct sect, known as Patriarch Chan. Patriarch Chan, typically not taught or practised following sutra teachings, is thus known for being “not set up through the written word but taught outside the doctrine, and pointing directly to the mind, for the attainment of Buddhahood through insight into the nature of the mind”. That said, how could it have carried on with no textual literature to expound it? To counter that, the founding monks of Chan have left behind numerous quotations, which...

Perseverance and Pliability Work Magic

Translated by Andrew Yang Many people assume monastic Buddhists lead an idle life. “They live in tranquil and solemn temples. They do not go to work but have what they need for food, clothing and shelter. How comfortable! Don’t Zen practitioners often say, ‘Eat if hungry and sleep when tired?’ All one has to do is sitting and walking in meditation, and worshiping or chanting. What an easy life! No wonder many monks are chubby.” This, alas, is a misunderstanding of what happens within the monastic order. In fact, the monastic life not only requires ones diligence but also willpower and perseverance to overcome the many hurdles frequently encountered in his practice. Throughout the Chinese history, we see many venerable monks cultivate their virtuous and compassionate deeds through enduring hardship and misfortune. Take the master Hanshan Deqing (1546-1623) in the Ming dynasty as an example. He suffered devastating events such...

Reincarnation Cases in Modern Times

Translated by Andrew Yang Someone said, “Regarding reincarnation, most of the information available in Buddhist literature concerns events that happened before the birth of the modern Republic of China in 1911, and most of them occurred in China. Are there more contemporary cases that better prove the existence of reincarnation?” Many theosophists and other scholars in the West have studied reincarnation and afterlife, among them Jerome Anderson (1847-1903) and Robert Monroe (1915-1995) of the United Kingdom, Annie Besant (1847-1933), Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) and Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) of the United States, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) and Guenther Wachsmuth (1893-1963) of Sweden, and more recently, Brian Weiss (1944-) of the United States. There are about sixty to seventy of them in all, whose writings have documented many individual cases of reincarnation. A few of these cases are summarized below for your reference. An Egyptian reborn as a British girl In 1910, there lived...

Cultivating the Five Virtues

Translated by Andrew Yang The most important thing in Buddhist practice is the accordance of one’s bodhicitta, that is, initiating a tremendous vow to awaken oneself as well as others. Once an individual makes the resolution, it means that he pledges not only to follow the principles of an enlightened bodhisattva and seek what is good for himself, but at the same time, to pursue the best interests of his fellow human beings. In the language of Buddhism, launching the bodhicitta is to seek the way of Buddha and help liberate all sentient beings. In all, a bodhisattva with an arisen bodhicitta should fervently cultivate five virtues: faith, morality, hearkening, charity, and wisdom. What is the virtue of faith? It is belief. Faith is the gateway to Buddhism for every Buddhist, First they need to sincerely believe in the Three Gems; Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Mahayana Sraddhotpada Sastra (The Treatise...

On the Purpose in Life Part III: At-homeness

Translated by Andrew Yang As a rule, human beings want to have a happy life, and in Parts I and II, we have discussed the reasons why, in order to achieve happiness in life, one must cultivate the mind. Buddhism refers to the world we live in at present as “saha”, meaning in Sanskrit that which is tolerable. It implies that although there is happiness in this world, it is fleeting and transient, while pain and dissatisfaction are omnipresent and hard to avoid. Nevertheless, some would say, during my life time, I have been accustomed to enduring enough pain of all types and for so long that I don’t care for a different life, nor do I want to leave this life altogether, hence the epithet “tolerable”. Not necessarily a gloomy portrayal, it merely points out the fact about human existence. Invariably, a human being comes to the saha world...

2020 Hong Kong Book Fair

2020 Hong Kong Book Fair 15 July (Wed) to 21 July (Tue) Vinaya Samadhi Prajna Lecture Hall, a subsidiary of International Buddhist Temple, will participate in this year’s book fair. Venue: Hall 3G, 3/F, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong Booth No: C16, C18, D15, D17 Highlight: New Audio Player - a collection of Master Guan Cheng’s dharma talks classified under sutras, vinayas and treatises

On the Purpose in Life Part II: Cultivating the mind

Translated by Andrew Yang As was discussed in Part I, if one’s purpose in life is to seek happiness, then possessing wealth, reputation, power or status may not suffice. Similarly, gratifying the six senses does not necessarily deliver happiness either. Second, people have different needs and hopes at different times and under different circumstances. Apparently, once these needs and hopes are met, they feel happy. Thus, for someone who is penniless, a little money to meet their urgent needs makes them happy. For one who is sick, healing soon is a happiest thing. And for a loving mother, seeing a rebellious son turn into a pious and hardworking man makes her happy. Of course, this kind of anticipated happiness is all but temporary. Happiness dies down as gratification subsides. Moreover, we have innumerous needs and hopes, how could one have them all fulfilled and stay happy all the time? According...

On the Purpose in Life Part I: The pleasure theory

Translated by Andrew Yang Some friends wonder about their purpose in life. Absolutely, most people work hard every day to eke out a living securing food, clothing, shelter and the daily commute, while juggling family and career. They follow what other people do and undoubtedly lead a monotonous, uninteresting life. Indeed, a person has only a few decades to live, and from cradle to grave, much of it is in haste. What is more, while alive he also has a role to play on stage, acting out a script of a mini human drama, but soon enough, the curtain falls and stage is cleared.  Of course, he did not bring along a penny at birth, and neither will he take one with him upon dying, so just what on earth did he come to this world for? Studying the meaning of life has to do with religion, philosophy, cosmology, ethics,...
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