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Zen and Pure Land: A Most Amazing Cultivation Approach

Translated by Andrew Yang For centuries, the mainstream practices of Chinese Buddhism have been meditative Zen and chanting Buddha’s name. There are followers who practise both, and the approach is known as “dual cultivation of Zen and Pure Land”. What do Zen and Pure Land mean? Zen, or Chan, is an abbreviated transliteration of the Sanskrit word Dhyāna, which means training of the mind through meditation, known as samatha and vipassana, i.e., serenity and insight. Commonly referred to simply as medication, it involves the mind concentrating on and contemplating one object through conscious, deliberate suppression of mental defilement to detach and purify the mind’s awareness. Buddhists make use of Zen to nurture serenity and insight for the attainment of Buddhahood upon seeing one’s own innate Buddhahood. On the other hand, the Pure Land approach is through reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name with sincere devotion and piety to eliminate demonic mental contamination...

Eagle Claws in the Snow

Translated by Andrew Yang A few pieces of white clouds linger, Together with a bright moon in flight. The hill is cold, yet the moon and clouds tender. All the tranquility here needs no abiding support. As some affectionate white clouds float by the meditation hut, a nostalgic moon appears in view all of a sudden. While the vast mountains seem quiet and cold, with the accompanying moon and clouds, they merge into one. Right away, an enchanted, serene mind emerges, one that calls for no otherwise careful cultivation. This poem, one of his “Miscellaneous Chants from Living in the Mountains”, was written in the 1970s by Master Yun Wai (1934-1982) of Hong Kong. The master was not only proficient in preaching, but also skilled at poetry and painting. His poems about mountain dwelling are typically simple, serene and full of Zen, enabling the reader to feel spiritually detached and...

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
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