Read up on our latest Dharma teachings

Ritual and Meaning in Buddhism

Translated By: Andrew Yang Among Buddhists nowadays there is a typical lopsided ritual versus meaning phenomenon. Prayer and repentance ceremonies, for example, tend to attract a far larger crowd than regular chanting sessions. Indeed, of course, worshipping in repentance helps reduce sins and increases blessings. Hence the eagerness. Yet on the other hand, although reading and chanting Buddhist scriptures also helps in gaining someone wisdom, these sacred writings often seem abstruse and hard to follow. Hence the reluctance. After all, is such an attitude towards Buddhism a correct one? When I first approached Buddhism, a big-hearted elder taught me many things in earnest. The most memorable and surprising of all, as I recall, was a difference between the ritual and meaning of things, and he stressed that all of us cultivating Buddhism should know it. In real life, without a doubt, rituals are rituals and the meaning of things are...

Form and Emptiness

Translated By: Andrew Yang Many who have not studied Buddhist scriptures interpret the Sanskrit word "rupa" or “form” as a body color reminiscent of lust, and “sunyata” or “emptiness” as the last empty space left over after extinction. Such far-fetched interpretations vulgarize a profound philosophy. So if you want to correctly understand these two fundamental terms, do you, then, have to peruse the classics, call upon masters, or sit and meditate until a few rush floor cushions wear out? Buddhism focuses on both thinking and observation, and does not encourage practitioners to stick to the sheer philological meaning of words, or interpret a text word by word. In Zen there is a saying, "Draw a cat like it is," meaning that if one draws simply after the shape of things, he may end up with the picture of a cat when he is drawing a tiger. Thus, one may never...

Podcast Series Now Available from the International Buddhist Temple

Over the years, Venerable Guan Cheng’s teachings have guided thousands of people through their journeys of life, in the formats of videos and articles on the Temple’s website (www.buddhisttemple.ca), as well as postings under its WeChat public account (@BuddhistTempleCA). To make the Dharma teachings more accessible to those who lead a busier life, we are now launching two Podcast series to regularly publish English Dharma talks given at the Temple. The two series are, (1) International Buddhist Society This series features Q&A with Venerable Guan Cheng and other Venerables at the Temple on common issues about the Dharma and Buddhism. The 30-minute episodes cover a wide range of topics in a dynamic format, accessible to people with different backgrounds and interests in Buddhism. (2) Dharma Talks at International Buddhist Society The Dharma Talks series contains more extended lectures and themed talks on Buddhism in English, ranging from methods of meditation...

Forefathers’ Difficulties Rarely Known to Posterity

Translated by: Justine Tsui A few days ago, I passed by a vegetarian restaurant and saw a shelf full of Buddhist texts outside the place.  These canonical books were left there, covered with dust and stained by the rain, on the pavement beside a busy road.  Two Buddhists, with prayer beads in hand, picking and choosing books from the shelf meticulously.  One holding a book in hand and grumbled, “Over these two months, there’re nothing new but the Diamond Sutra, the Heart Sutra and the Great Compassion Mantra!  Why can’t they have some rare scriptures printed?  Those who sponsor the printing should know how to spend their money!”  He then stuffed the book back onto the shelf and left, seemingly unhappy. I couldn’t help but sigh about this kind of arrogance and disrespect towards Buddhist scriptures!  This attitude may be caused by that more and more people are giving out...

Thai Monkeys and Their Attachment

Upadana is an important Buddhist concept of attachment, grasping or clinging. Human beings’ attachment can be strong, and it arises from their innate greed, anger or delusion. In fact, this is true not only with humans, but also with animals beings. Monkeys  in Thailand, for example, are often captured merely because of their dogged craving. In Thailand, many coconut farms use monkeys to pick the fruit where the tall trees with straight trunks are difficult for workers to climb. The locals know well that monkeys are nimble and make best coconut pickers, and they have figured out a way to catch them. How do they do it? Well, monkeys are not stupid animals. They are agile, smart and good at learning, and it is not easy to make them fall into a trap, but the farmers simply take advantage of their greed for food to routinely catch them. Banana is...

A Milestone for the Dharma — Notes on a visit to Vernon, BC

Translated By: Andrew Yang On the afternoon of June 16, 2019, Venerable Guan Cheng, abbot of the International Buddhism Temple, and four senior Buddhist priests, all of them his disciples, set off for the city of Vernon, BC. The weather was sunny and beautiful. Our car drove along a scenic road, crossing rolling fields, lush green plains and pine-filled valleys and mountain peaks. After 500 kilometres, we arrived. On this visit Master Guan Cheng was going to talk about the Buddhist Dharma in a predominantly white community to people had not heard of it. It all started three months ago, when Mr Sherman Dahl, a father who had recently lost his daughter, came to the monastery for help from the master. He confided that his 18-year-old daughter was an athlete representing her school in competitions and was preparing to enter university, but sadly, this lively, bright girl had committed suicide...

Real Happiness

Translated By: Andrew Yang Everyone seeks happiness and enjoys it, but without exception happiness in human life is always short-lived and impermanent. So then what is true, absolute, eternal happiness? To discuss, we look at three different types of happiness: the human world's happiness arising from five desires, heavenly joy from meditation and lastly, the other-worldly bliss of Nirvana. What is the human world's happiness that arises from five desires? Humans, addicted to pleasures, think that the happiest things for them are nothing beyond wealth, fame, eating, sleeping and sex. Money and wealth brings material pleasure. Fame is a good reputation and vanity, with charming compliments from other people. Food and eating endorses killing. Sleeping here embodies loafing and laziness. And sex in this context refers to lustful obsessions. These five objects of vile desire are what humans commonly pursue. The consuming greed that drives people, the anger displayed in...

The Other Shore

Translated By: Andrew Yang Several times the blue ocean has turned into mulberry fields. Only the big void remains crystal clear. Those who have arrived must no longer cling to their raft. But those who have not yet do need the ferry. — Zen Master Guishan Zhengyuan (781-865) Fellow Buddhists: you know that the value of life is not limited to wealth, fame, career, or even family. The greatest meaning of life, indeed, is in obtaining wisdom to realize the ultimate truth, and help other sentient beings as well as ourselves ferry across the sea of transmigration over life and death. All sentient beings on this shore suffer from impermanence and a lack of intrinsic existence.  In contrast, all on the other shore, where Buddha resides, however, live in sheer, constant joy. We must catch Buddha's ship of prajna in time, so we could sail from this shore of impermanence and...
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