Hakka Ch’an Buddhist Culture in Meizhou

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Original Chinese Language Article By:  http://www.zjypw.com

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

On November 23rd, 2012, the First Hakka Art Festival Celebrating Ch’an Buddhist Culture and practice, opened at the Thousand Buddha Pagoda Temple (千佛塔寺 – Qian Fo Ta Si) situated in the Meizhou area of Guangdong province.

It was reported that the that the organisers of ‘Ch’an Week Experience Festival’ invited many academic experts from all over China, including Zhongshan University, Wuhan University, Hong Kong Chinese University, as well as many other colleges and universities.  This included overseas Chinese scholars who came to Meizhou to attend this important Ch’an Buddhist cultural event.  This festival was organised to highlight the historical association between the Hakka people and their practice of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism, and to explore the many different aspects of Hakka culture and Ch’an Buddhist practice.  Another important aspect was to encourage cross-straits Hakka Ch’an Buddhist cultural interaction between Meizhou, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.

The ‘Ch’an Week Experience Festival’ included a Ch’an Cultural Forum, academic lectures on the subject of Ch’an culture and practice, an art display of Ch’an Buddhist painting and calligraphy, as well as a ‘Ch’an at Night’ variety show and other activities.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2015.

Original Chinese Language Source Text:

http://www.zjypw.com/news/2012/11/110256.htm

首届客家艺术节禅文化体验周开幕

11月23日,首届客家文化艺术节禅文化体验周活动在广东梅州千佛塔寺开幕。

据悉,此次“禅文化体验周”活动,专门邀请了中山大学、武汉大学、香港中文大学等高校的宗教学者来侨乡梅州参加“禅文化体验周”活动,是对客家禅文化的共同探讨,旨在共同弘扬客家禅文化,提升禅文化内涵,促进海峡两岸及港澳地区禅文化交流。

此次“禅文化体验周“的内容还包括禅文化论坛、禅文化讲座、禅文化书画佛具展、“禅之夜”文艺晚会等活动。

Sitting Monk in Vietnam

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Original Chinese Language Article By: http://news.dayoo.com

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

In a Vietnamese Village 25km south of Hanoi, a Buddhist monk who died in the 17th century continues to sit in meditation – his body has been restored and placed in a glass shrine for veneration.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2015.

Original Chinese Language Source Text:

http://news.dayoo.com/photo/gb/content/2004-11/28/content_1829285.htm

越南某村庄供奉着的和尚木乃伊

这是在越南首都河内以南25公里的一座村庄内,经修复后的17世纪圆寂的一位和尚的木乃伊被安放在一座玻璃佛龛内。

Master Ben Ru Passes Away Sat-Up in Meditation

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Original Chinese Language Article By: http://blog.sina.com.cn

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

The Venerable old monk Ben Ru was the fortieth generation Patriarch of the Hua Yan School.  His family surname was ‘Wang’ and his first names were ‘Li Man’.  He was born in 1926 on the 10th day of the 10th lunar month, in Hailun County, situated in Heilongjiang province.  He was of the Manchu ethnicity.  He passed away on the 6th day of the 12th lunar month, 2005, at the Hua Yan Patriarch Cave Temple on Mount Shangfang, situated in Beijing.  He followed his vows diligently and purified his worldly body to inspire those yet to come.  On the 15th day of the second lunar month, 2009, a number of his dedicated Dharma disciples opened his cylindrical burial chamber – as the Patriarch had previously requested.

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After the burial chamber was opened, it was discovered that the Patriarch was still sitting in the up-right and crossed meditation position, his hair had grown long, and his skin retained its usual elasticity.  Those who witnessed this were astonished!  His body was carefully preserved with a gold lacquer paste, and then placed for respectful veneration in the newly built Great Hall of the Hua Yan Patriarch Cave Temple.

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©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2015.

Original Chinese Language Source Text:

http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_601513450102dxtm.html

宗第四十代祖师  本  如老和尚,俗姓王,名立满。满族。一九二六年农历十月十日

出生于黑龙江省海伦县常发公社。二零零五年农历腊月初六日圆寂于北京上方山华严祖师洞。

生前发愿:肉身往世,开化众生。二零零九年二月十五日众徒如法开缸,请出祖师。开缸后

发现祖师发甲皆长,皮肤弹性如常。时在场之众多受感化。现祖师金身供奉于新修的华严祖

师洞之大殿。

Master Xu Yun Did Not Teach or Advocate Japanese Zen

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Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) was a Chinese Ch’an Buddhist monk who witnessed first-hand the barbarity of the Imperial Japanese armed forces as they swept through China and committed rape and pillage on a breath-taking scale.  Within Xu Yun’s biography Empty Cloud for the years 1953-54 – it says that in the fourth month of 1953 (when Xu Yun was in his 114th year of age) he attended the inaugural meeting of the newly formed Chinese Buddhist Association in Beijing (where he stayed at Guangji Temple).  The text states that a number of degenerate monks attended the meeting and demanded that the Government of China abolish the requirement of Chinese Buddhist monks and nuns to follow the Vinaya Discipline.  Master Xu Yun was very diplomatic in his criticism.  For instance he does not mention that the monks in question had lived in Japan and abandoned Chinese Buddhism altogether – adopting the modern practices of Japanese Zen.  This change of habit is significant as Japanese Zen monastics do not have to follow the discipline of the Vinaya, but can have sexual relations, drink alcohol and eat meat, etc.  From a Chinese Ch’an perspective, this means that these so-called ‘monastics’ are in fact lay-people in robes.  The Head Monk of the Shaolin Temple – the Venerable Yong Xin – gave an interview with Global People Magazine in 2011, where he explained the background to the situation that Master Xu Yun faced at this meeting 1953:

‘Venerable Yong Xin: It is simple; ordained Buddhist monastics in China are not permitted to enter into any amorous relationship whatsoever. Strict celibacy is part of the great (or ‘full’) ordination ceremony, and anyone who breaks this moral requirement will have to leave the ordained Sangha and return to lay-life. Such behaviour is part of the world of burning desire, and so we are protected from it by our precepts. After the founding of the New China (in 1949), there was a great gathering of Buddhists from every corner of the country, representing every type of school. At that time there were a group of so-called ‘Buddhist monks’ in China who had trained in Japan and had subsequently got married and had children. They could do this because this is considered normal behaviour in Japan. They attended this great meeting of Buddhists in China and requested that the government of China abolish the requirement of the Chinese Buddhist Sangha to follow the Vinaya Discipline, and bring China in-line with Japanese practice. The venerable Xu Yun (who lived to 120 years old) was in attendance of this meeting when these monks arrived and made their case. He listened quietly to these monks and then hit his palm on the table in an angry manner. He stated that a Buddhist monk and his robe cannot be separated, and that in China, a Buddhist robe signifies the practice of both strict celibacy and vegetarianism – without the Vinaya Discipline – Chinese Buddhism simply would not make sense. Li Ji Shen referred this dispute to Zhou Enlai (who discussed it with Mao Zedong), and it was agreed that Xu Yun was correct. This decision was taken because at the time certain members of the international community were attacking China with regards to human rights issues. From that day onwards, traditional Chinese religion has been protected under law.’

(释永信:和尚不准有婚姻恋爱关系,否则就犯根本大戒,要离开僧团,没有一点含煳,这是我们的戒律。新中国成立后在佛教界有过一次大讨论,有青年和尚提出可以学日本和尚娶妻生子。一位将近120岁的虚云老和尚气得拍桌子,说僧衣不能脱,必须保持僧衣素食独身,否则佛教就没有意义了。争议通过李济深,请示到周总理、毛主席那里。周总理说,外国在攻击中国没有宗教人权,我们保留这么一个传统宗教,这样在国际上也有交代。所以从上世纪50年代延续至今都是如此。www.blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_6463f0300102dsj1.html)

Master Xu Yun not only demanded that the Vinaya Discipline be protected under secular law (making it a criminal offense for monks and nuns to break their vows), but he also wrote the following text (which can be found in the original Chinese language version of his biography, but is not included in the English translation of ‘Empty Cloud’) entitled ‘Degeneration of the Sangha in the Dharma-ending Age.’  I have translated this important text as follows:

Degeneration of the Sangha in the Dharma-ending Age

By the Great Ch’an Master Xu Yun (1840-1959)

Many people believe that today Confucian scholars betray the teachings of Confucius, and that Buddhist monastics betray the teachings of the Buddha; despite the fact that in antiquity the teachings of both these schools were correctly followed and respected.  However, it is well known that for Buddhism this is the Dharma-ending Age (末法時 – Mo Fa Shi), and that as a consequence, the correct practice of the Buddha’s teachings are in danger of dying-out amongst the peoples of China (and the peoples of the world).  This is because those who follow a corrupt Dharmic-path are directly responsible for the destruction of the true and authentic Dharma.  The Buddha’s teachings are on the brink of extinction, and I have been asked today by Buddhist monastics to answer their questions and clearly distinguish the true-Dharma from false-Dharma.

Question:  In this modern day why not abandon the Buddhist calendar, and cease to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday which occurs on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month – also known as ‘bathing the Buddha Festival’ (浴佛節 – Yu Fu Jie)?

Answer:  Shakyamuni Buddha transmitted the true-Dharma, and in so doing distinguished three distinct time periods.  Each of the three time periods represents one thousand years of Dharma transmission.  With each passing of a thousand years of time, the Dharma diminishes in strength and clarity and loses a part of its transformative power.  In this Dharma-ending Age (1953) it is already true that nine hundred and eighty two years have already passed in this final stage of one thousand years.  During this time ordinary beings are losing their way. They do not know how to acquire the true-Dharma, and yet more and more people are turning to the Buddha-dharma for guidance and support.  The ancient Buddha-Dharma has been venerated for a long time, and even within this Dharma-ending Age, there still exists positive aspects, but these are under threat from the general degeneration of the Buddhist practice.  People misunderstand the true-Dharma and apply the Buddha’s teaching incorrectly.  The round of birth and death (and rebirth) will continue due to the degeneration of the Dharma, and a lack of genuine understanding of the sutras. At this time some ordained Buddhist monastics (both monks and nuns) get married, and change their robes for the white clothing of a lay-person.  This is true even of monastics holding seats of high authority – who, through their white clothing, are indistinguishable from the laity – whilst monks who follow the Dharma (and wear the proper robe and live by the Vinaya Discipline), are relegated to low seats of authority.

This behaviour exists in the world today because we have entered the Dharma-ending Age.  In the last thirty years (of the Dharma-ending Age) the Mahayana teachings will disappear.  In the last twenty years the Hinayana teachings will disappear – whilst in the last ten years, the only practice will be the chanting of the six syllables of the mantra of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Na Mo E Mi Tuo Fo’ (南無阿彌陀佛).  In the Dharma-ending Age, the Buddha’s true teaching will be despised and the first Dharma-text that will disappear will be the Surangama Sutra (楞嚴經 – Leng Yan Jing), followed by the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra (般舟三昧經 – Ban Zhou San Mei Jing).  The lay-scholar named Ouyang Jing Wu (歐陽竟無) has mistakenly taught that the Surangama Sutra is false, and a Dharma-master in Hong Kong has said that the enlightenment of the Hua Yan (華嚴) School is flawed.  These examples are the product of the delusion of the Dharma-ending Age.  In the past – the Kasyapa Buddha (迦葉佛 – Jia Ye Fu) – before he entered into Nirvana, never ceased to teach and emphasis the Tripitaka teaching.  He was the teacher of Shakyamuni Buddha and was responsible for formulating the Dharma so that the teachings could be gathered together and stored in a pagoda.  In the time of the Tang Dynasty, the Master of Law (律師 – Lu Shi) stated that Divine Beings (天人 – Tian Ren) – also known as ‘Devas’ – had declared this to be true.  In Weinan (渭南) there are four high altars, whilst in Zhongnan (終南) there is a library for the Tripitaka and a shrine for holy relics.  This is where the Tripitaka of the Kasyapa Buddha has been hidden to keep it from destruction in the Dharma-ending Age.  Furthermore, there are thirteen fully enlightened Bodhisattvas whose task it is to protect the Dharma.  They gather together every year during the 12th lunar month, and the beat of the divine drum can be heard throughout the empty sky.

Two years ago I attended the inaugural meeting of the Chinese Buddhist Association, where everyone present discussed the Dharma.  The main issues concerned included the corrupt Dharma practices of certain Buddhists that were destroying the Buddha’s teachings from within, and the attitude of the government towards Buddhism in the light of this distorted practice – this is why the government sent representatives to attend.  At this conference many devout followers of the Buddha attended and were encouraged to give their views and opinions.  It was suggested that the Bodhisattva Precepts as taught in the Brahmajala Sutra (梵網經 – Fan Wang Jing), the Vows contained in the Vinaya Discipline in Four Parts (四分律 – Si Fen Lu), the Pure Regulations of Ch’an Master Baizhang (百丈清規 – Bai Zhang Qing Gui) and all such established Buddhist laws should be abolished, because they cause harm to young people, and are detrimental to the wellbeing of men and women.  Furthermore, it was also suggested that the ordained Sangha should be reformed and no longer wear the traditional robes associated with monks and nuns.  The justification for these suggestions was premised upon the belief that traditional Buddhist practice was merely a form of backward feudalistic conservativism, and that the issue was actually about religious freedom.  It was proposed that monks and nuns should be allowed to get married, drink alcohol and eat meat, and be free of any disciplinary requirements.  As soon as I heard these words, I instantly had a strong reaction against them, and thoroughly disagreed with their content.  I treated these suggestions with contempt.  The idea of abandoning the celebration of the Buddha’s birthday stemmed from the observation that different Buddhist traditions celebrate this event at different times.  As far as I am concerned, this tradition is a legitimate Dharma-practice in China that is based upon the teachings of Indian Dharma-teacher Kasyapa-Matanga (摩騰法師 – Mo Teng Fa Shi) who travelled to China during the 1st century CE, met with, and instructed Emperor Ming (明帝 – Ming Di) of the Latter Han (r. 58-75 CE).  Matanga taught that the Buddha was born during the 51st year (of the 60 year cyclical sequence found within the traditional Chinese lunar calendar) in the year of tiger, which is represented by the Chinese astrological symbols of the heavenly stem ‘Jin’ (甲) and the earthly branch ‘Yin’ (寅).  Matanga further stated that the Buddha’s birth correlates to the 8th day of the 4th lunar month.

(Translator’s Note:  In the Western year 2015 CE – the traditional Chinese Buddhist Calendar stood at 3042/43 years since the birth of the Buddha – this means that according to Chinese Buddhist tradition, the Buddha was born around the year 1028/29 BCE.  If it is agreed that he lived around 80 years – then the Buddha entered nirvana in the year 948/49 BCE.)

The exact date of the Buddha’s birth occurred in the 24th year of the rule of the Zhou Dynasty monarch – King Zhao (昭王) – who reigned 1052-1002 BCE.  Therefore the Buddha’s birth occurred in the year 1028/29 BCE according to Matanga.  The shramana (沙門 – Sha Men) – or Buddhist monk known as Tan Mo Zui (曇謨最) – is recorded in the Wei Dynasty (386-557 CE) Book of History (魏書 – Wei Shu) as stating that the Buddha was born on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month, which was during the 24th year of the reign of the Zhou Dynasty monarch – King Zhao.  The Buddha entered nirvana on the 15th day of the 2nd lunar month, which occurred in the 52nd year of the rule of the Zhou Dynasty monarch – Mu Wang (穆王) – who reigned 1001-947 BCE).  This means that the Buddha died around 948/49 BCE.  Throughout all of the subsequent Chinese dynasties, this tradition has been preserved and upheld.  From the time of the Zhou Dynasty’s King Wang until now (1952/53) – it is agreed that 2981/82 years have passed since the time of the Buddha’s birth.  However, there are now people who want to alter this date to just 2502 years since the birth of the Buddha – reducing the traditional years by around 480 years.  As it stands, the Buddha was born before both Confucius (孔子 – Kong Zi) and Laozi (老子), but if this alteration is accepted, then the Buddha would be born after Confucius and Laozi.  This Han Dynasty tradition should not be allowed to be destroyed, because it was brought to China from India by the Venerable Kasyapa Matanga and the Venerable Dharmaratna (竺法蘭 – Zhu Fa Lan).  Today, the Dharma-ending Age is upon us, but when Matanga built the White Horse Temple (白馬寺 – Bai Ma Si) thousands of year ago in China, the times were brighter and nearer to the original light of the Buddha’s teachings.  Matanga brought a relic of the Buddha from the time of Ashoka’s rule in India, and the Emperor Ming ordered that a pagoda be built in China to house it.  Matanga also explained clearly the Buddha’s Way (佛道 – Fu Dao), and what is allowed and not allowed within genuine Buddhist practice.  Matanga’s enlightenment was such that he leaped over the duality of form and non-form, and fully penetrated the profound emptiness (虛空 – Xu Kong), and his understanding of the Dharma was vast and great.  In fact both these venerable Indian monks possessed the correct Buddha-dharma method, and later, the eminent Chinese monks such as Luo Shen (羅什), Fa Xian (法顯), Xuan Zang (玄奘), and Dao Xuan (道宣), as well as many well respected monks, did not dare to alter the Buddha’s teachings or the Buddhist calendar.

In fact it was not until the 2nd year of the Republic of China (民國 – Ming Guo) [around 1912] that this tradition was questioned by Zhang Tai Yan (章太炎) and other lay practitioners, when a general assembly was convened in Beijing at the Dharma Source Temple (法源寺 – Fa Yuan Si).  This matter was resolved with the confirmation that the Buddha’s birthday fell on the traditional 8th day of the 4th lunar month – despite the fact that the Christian calendar had been adopted by the Republican government due to its prevalence throughout the world.  The Republican government wanted the Buddhist calendar to be replaced by the Christian calendar – but as an upholder of the Buddha-dharma I thoroughly opposed this change, and rejected the suggested alternative dates (expressed in the Western ‘solar’ calendar) for the Buddha’s birthday such as the 8th day of February, the 8th day of April, the 15th day of February, and the 8th day of December, etc.  This thinking wanted to abolish the traditional Chinese Buddhist calendar, and to reject and destroy the Bodhisattva Discipline as contained within the Brahmajala Sutra, the Monastic rules as contained within the Vinaya Disciple, and the rules and regulations devised by Ch’an Master Baizhang in the Tang Dynasty.  It also contradicted the teachings as found in the Agama Sutras (阿含經 – A Han Jing) and the philosophical guidance as contained within the Hua Yan (華嚴) School.   In this way they wanted the monks to dress and behave like lay-people living within ordinary society, and in so doing, end the Chinese Buddhist tradition that had started during the Han Dynasty.  I stated that this thinking was wrong, and the product of the Dharma-ending age.  After I said this, those present further debated this matter with me, but I firmly stood my ground.  I said that by reforming Buddhism in this destructive manner, Buddhism in China would lose its original ‘Indian’ nature.  India has a single year which is distinguished by 3 seasons – with each season comprised of 4 months each.  In China, we operate through a calendar that has the repetition of a 60 year cycle, distinguished by imperial reigns, whilst on the other hand, ancient India did not distinguish one era from another by imperial reign, and so sometimes events are not always easy to discern.  Xuan Zang spent 18 years in India, but could not distinguish the era within Indian history.  It is said that over the last 12,000 years in India there has been 48 different Buddhas born into the world.  Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month and the first meal he ate after this event is termed ’12 Month 8th Day Gruel’ or ‘La Ba Zhou’ (臘八粥).  It was my expressed opinion that to change facts about the Buddha (and Buddhist history) in India was both unnecessary and unacceptable, why should we change these traditions in China?  I discussed these matters with Li Ren Chao (李任潮), and explained to him that Christians viewed Chinese culture and Chinese Buddhism as ‘evil’ and that this is why we should not accept the Western (i.e. ‘Christian’) calendar as a replacement for our own Buddhist calendar which has its origins in India.  The government did not want to take full responsibility for such a change at this point, and were concerned how such a change might be viewed in the international Buddhist community, and this is why I was invited to Beijing for talks.  What would Buddhists from other countries think if China abolished the traditional Buddhist calendar and disciplined practices?  I told Li Ren Chao that if such a change occurred that I could not bear the shame.  Li Ren Chao asked what was so bad about monks not wearing the proper design (or coloured) robes, but I said that the ancient Indian design was correct because it stemmed from the time of the Buddha, whilst Chinese dress did not.  Upon hearing my statement, everyone present agreed with me and the government representatives dropped the matter of changing Buddhist robes.  I explained that monks in China possess 5 or 7 under-robes and 3 outer robes, as well as an over-coat and under-skirt, etc.  In India, Buddhist monks possessed just 3 robes and did not make use of specific under-garments when they sat on the bare earth.  They lived and died in these simple robes and did not abandon this style of dress.  In China, we preserve the style and colour of the Indian robes, but as Indian is a hot country, and given the fact that China is a cold country, Chinese monks are allowed the expedient of possessing more clothing – but despite this difference in quantity – there is no allowable difference in colour or design.  When there is a matter of official Buddhist ritual or ceremony – the outer robe should be worn as a matter of honour and respect.  During the Song (宋), Jin (金), and Yin (元) Dynasties, the style of secular Chinese dress changed – but at no time has the style of Chinese Buddhist monastic robes changed.  This is why it is wrong to suggest that Buddhist monks should abandon the traditional robes and start to wear lay-clothing which is not appropriate for the Dharmic lifestyle they pursue.  I recommend that it is this idea that should be abandoned, and not the traditional monastic clothing of Buddhist monks and nuns.  If monks and nuns do not wear distinctive clothing, then there will be no way of telling a layperson from a monastic who follows the vows.  The government listened to my words and agreed with my assessment of all these matters.  They further agreed that the Buddhist Dharma-teachings would not be altered, and that the Vinaya Disciple (and other regulations) would be left as they are for all Buddhist monastics to follow.  This agreement between myself and the government prevented Buddhism (and the ordained Buddhist Sangha) in China from falling into a state of self-destruction.  Although I – Xu Yun – am an old monk with little ability, I managed through speaking the truth to uphold the Buddha-dharma and prevent its destruction through unnecessary political reform.

 

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2015.

 

Daoist Transformation of Death

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Many are afraid of death and the dying process, and treat it as a cultural (and psychological) taboo.  Others become secretly obsessed with the death of others and there is ample photographic and video material on the internet to satisfy this fetish.  The reality is that the word ‘death’ is culturally loaded with all kinds of superstitious and negative undertones.  Death is always that ‘thing’ that happens to others – but hopefully will never happen to the individual observing the death of others.  Death is always somewhere else, happening to somebody else (and this includes the death of animals, plants, and planets, etc).  Individuals die and others are born to take their place.  In the UK there is a hang-over from Victorian days (and possibly earlier) that treats death as a ‘failure’ and old age, illness, or accident as an ‘error’.

Of course, people die all the time at any age and for any reason, and science explains that life is premised upon death in as much as body cells are produced, function, and then pass away every single second of every day of existence.  This ‘micro’ death appears to be the engine that drives ‘macro’ life.  Therefore the life that humanity enjoys in its most fulfilling and pleasurable moments (as well as its most unbearable) has its basis within the dying and re-becoming processes at the cellular level.  In a very real sense, human existence could be described as a positive (i.e. ‘living’) manifestation of the dying process.  This seems to suggest that death is ‘yin’ and that life is ‘yang’, and that one aspect cannot exist without the other.  Life as humans experience it is a polarity of existence and non-existence, with one element reflecting itself and its opposite in a continuous rotation of of being and non-being.

When a human being dies, this may be referred to as ‘macro’ death, whereby the cycle death that occurs at cellular level becomes permanent and system-wide so that no further cellular re-newing is possible.  This means that the cohesive force that holds cells together, nolonger functions because it has dissipated into the surrounding environment.  In Daoist terms this would imply that the ‘jing’ or ‘essential nature’ received from both parents, and which creates a human foetus in the womb, either weakly falls away, or strongly expands and becomes all-embracing – being integrated with ’empty spirit’ (or ‘shen’).  Shen is the realisation and permanent identification of consciousness with universal ’empty space’ to such a degree that when the physical brain ceases to function, the ‘practitioner’ becomes the state of ’empty space’ – which is the universe that includes all things.  This is why advanced Daoist practitioners are able to enter this state whilst still in their bodies, so that the actual ‘act’ of dying becomes a formality whereby ‘breathing’ ceases altogether and qi energy permanently integrates with ‘jing’ and ‘shen’ – leaving the physical body behind forever.

I think this is a good and positive model from the Daoist School that can be developed and modified to meet everyone’s belief system and expectations, although it is perfectly functional as it is.  Like all transforming philosophies, Daoism requires the development of awareness at every level.  This is not a superficial awareness, but one that possesses the power to penetrate or pierce reality as it appears to the senses.  Many accomplished Daoist – such as Zhao Bichen (1860-1942) and Niu Jin Bao (1915-1988) – have passed away whilst sat in the meditation position as an act of will.  This is known as the process of ‘Seated Transformation’ (坐化 – Zuo Hua) and involves the gradual (and voluntary) withdrawal of the breath as the primary maintainer of life, which is replaced by an expansive consciousness (and awareness of ’empty space’) as the primary basis for ‘being’.

On Why I Am Not Afraid of Death

Duddington snow

Death is an objective reality simply because those of us who are left behind to witness the ending of a life, know that physical bodies cease to function.  This can happen naturally or unnaturally (as through illness, accident or catastrophe) but other than the objective reality, dying is an experience that each one of us must undergo on our own and my view is that it an easy task to accomplish.  I am not saying that pain or suffering is easy to endure, but only that through awareness of the various body processes shutting down, it is like gravity assisted falling off a log!  I am certainly not afraid of death as a process, and in fact I am curious as to the perceptual dynamics of the experience.  As I perceive reality as boundless space within which things appear to arise and pass away – it seems only logical that I myself will be subject to exactly the same arising and passing away.  My view is that it is a matter of not holding on to things that are not permanent and going with the experience.  Pain ends as the psycho-physical processes cease to function – this is how we know that pain is only real as long as the organic creators and perceivers of it exist and function.  When these physical organs cease to function, then they lose their abilities.  Pain can be as terrible as pleasure can be uplifting and exiting, but pain is also empty of any permanent reality.  Of course, the real challenge for many people is how to accommodate an endless pain while they are alive, and yet remain somehow ‘aloof’ of the negative effects of this pain in everyday life.  Those who suffer this pain are understandably not interested in ‘philosophising’ their condition, which by and large makes their life a misery.  I see and understand this, and respond with compassion as far as this response is useful.

I would describe myself as a secular Buddhist who pursues the Dao.  I neither believe nor disbelieve in a deity as I have no need to affirm or reject such a notion.  All I know is that those who are on the brink of death through old age, illness, warfare, or about to be murdered or executed – there has not been one single example of a ‘divine’ intervention.  People experiencing tremendous suffering, fear and pain and completely engrossed with what they are suffering, cannot see beyond the sensations and the terror.  This is the human condition.  The Buddha taught non-identification with thought.  This is interesting and the entire purpose of meditation.  Pain is an idea in the mind an emotional (chemical) feeling in the mind and body, and a sensation in the nerve fibres of the body.  It can be a response to external stimulus or generated within the body itself (in the case of illness).  Pain hurts, but the perception and awareness of the mind and body can be trained to become detached from a direct identification with its suffering.  Pain effects not only the sufferer, but also everyone in the immediate vicinity who experiences the negative behaviour stimulated by the pain.  Pain must be accommodated, transcended, penetrated and transformed into a useful existential ‘hum’.

That is pain, which seems to be a very important issue for human beings.  As for myself, I am certainly not immune to pain, but am not interested in it.  Yes pain happens from time to time, but as it is passing, I am aware that it is not permanent.  In this respect I am lucky because many people suffer all the time and never have a break from the experience.  I would say that life is mostly a neutral experience with outbreaks of pleasure and pain from time to time.  Of course, for me that could change, but the ability to stay detached whilst going through the changes of sensation is the key for me.  Death is not an issue of concern.  What is the issue is that I retain a clear and detached awareness when the body cells transition from living to non-living.  Non-living is only one way of viewing energy as it changes form.  I suspect that as energy is indestructible, there is a quality to existence that is beyond the duality of ‘living’ and ‘not living’.  This is what I see when I look into the empty fabric of my mind.  I suspect that a good transitional death is like practicing Taijiquan.  Energy will continue to flow and as my body cells die – I must change the way I sense.  Through my refinement of conscious awareness, I have dissolved the fear of death. This is a good scientific basis from which to proceed.  Awareness either goes out like a light at the point of death – or it does not – either way there is no reason to worry.  In the meantime, whilst we are all still alive it might be a good idea to help one another and relieve as much pain as possible.  Be at peace, my friends.

Master Huai Shan Accepts a Lay Disciple

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Original Chinese Language Article by: www.sanyuanfojiao.org.cn

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Dharma Master Huai Shan is the Deputy Secretary-General of the Buddhist Association of China, and the first Head Monk of the Nepal Chinese Culture Temple (situated in the Lumbini area of Nepal).  On July 2nd, 2012, Dharma Master Huai Shan was in the Guangji Temple, Beijing.  Here, he met with the lay practitioner Lu Jin Shui – and formally accept him as his disciple.  The lay-Buddhist disciple Lu Jin Shui is the executive director of the Zhejiang Buddhist Association – situated in Zhuji City – and an officer at the Xitian Temple.  He has been an admirer of Dharma Master Huai Shan for sometime, but until now has never has the opportunity to meet him in person.  Tang Zong Bian (of the San Yuan Chinese Buddhist Practice Network) made the referral – informing Lu Jin Shui that Dharma Master Huai Shan was staying at the Guangji Temple.  After receiving this information, Lu Jin Shui flew especially to Beijing to meet him.

The sacred ritual of accepting a disciple is premised upon correct behaviour and the maintaining a respectful attitude.  As a consequence, Lu Jin Shui solemnly presented the appropriate gifts and bowed his head to the ground, as Dharma Master Huai Shan formally accepted him as a disciple within his lineage of Buddhism.  Tong Zong Bian (amongst others) witnessed the successful ceremony which unfolded without a problem.  With conclusion of the dignified proceedings, Lu Jin Shui explained to Dharma Master Huai Shan about the development of the Xitian Temple, and how things are progressing with fund-raising and construction, etc.  Dharma Master Huai Shan praised this selfless work, and said that Buddhists should always work toward breaking down barriers and forming wise and peaceful relations in the world.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2015.

Original Chinese Language Source Text:

http://www.sanyuanfojiao.org.cn/html/news/2012-7-18/2012718431431452243.html

中佛协副秘书长、尼泊尔中华寺首任方丈怀善法师再收高徒

2012年7月2日下午,中国佛教协会副秘书长、尼泊尔中华寺首任方丈怀善法师在北京广济寺,会见了吕金水居士,并正式收其为徒。吕金水居士是浙江省诸暨市佛教协会常务理事、西天寺寺务主任。他仰慕怀善法师已久,只是苦于没有因缘相见。在三缘中华佛教网唐总编的引荐下,得知怀善法师在广济寺,便专门乘飞机来到北京拜师。

此次拜师仪式庄严而神圣,吕金水居士虔诚地向怀善法师行叩拜大礼,拜师仪式在唐总编等人的见证下圆满结束。拜师仪式结束后,吕金水居士向怀善法师介绍了西天寺的在建情况,以及西天寺的远景规划。怀善法师对吕金水居士弘法利生的善举大加赞扬,鼓励他再接再厉,为佛教文化的交流发展做出更大的贡献。

 

President Putin at the Shaolin Temple (2006)

 

 

 

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An old Ch’an monk (believed to Venerable Shao Yun) remains seated and indifferent to the presence of an international guest.  In fact President Putin specifically requested that this monk should remain seated due to his age and renowned spiritual attainment at the Shaolin Temple.  Venerable Shao Yun was a disciple of Master Xu Yun (1840-1959).

 

Chinese Language Source: http://www.yznews.com.cn/2005-12/ca101680.htm

 

 

The Confucian Patriarch in Ch’an

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The Buddha rejected the concept of a rigid hierarchy within his monastic communities – instead making the Dharma the guiding light for all Buddhists whether ordained or not. This important fact explains why the Buddha did not ascribe a central position such as that of a ‘pope’. Of course, the Buddha rejected theism and referred to himself as a man who ‘directly understood’ reality (i.e. ‘Buddha’). It is his enlightened ‘knowing’ that is preserved in the wording of the Dharma, and it is the Dharma that has authority over the training of all beings, and not single a human. It is true that head monks and senior incumbents do retain a certain authority over those with less training time as a monastic, but this is simply because such a monastic has more experience in understanding and applying the Dharma in his or her practice, and can use this experience to effectively guide others. Therefore authentic Buddhist monastic communities in Asia do not use the Christian theological re-working of familial terms such as ‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘brother’ or ‘sister’, because the Dharma as practiced by fully ordained monastics, renounces ‘desire’ and everything connected with ‘desire’. This means that a ‘head’ monastic within the Buddhist temple is not an ‘abbot’ or ‘abbess’ because no such equivalent rank exists within Buddhist philosophical terminology.

This being the case, why then, does the Ch’an tradition have the generational designation of ‘Patriarch’, given that a patriarch is generally understood to be a dominant and powerful father figure. The answer as to why the Ch’an School has the term ‘Patriarch’ is due to its tradition being influenced by Confucian thinking. The Confucian ideogram for ‘Patriarch’ is ‘祖’ (zu3). The left-hand particle ‘ 礻 ‘ is a contraction of ‘ 示 ‘ (shi4) which represents an altar. The right-hand particle is ‘ 且 ‘ (qie3) which signifies an altar with a stone tablet placed upon it. An altar is used within the Confucian tradition for ancestral worship whereby those living today pay their respects to all their familial ancestors in the past, acknowledging the genetic link that connectss antiquity to the present. As ‘ 且 ‘ (qie3) can also be used in its archaic form to represent a ‘penis’, it is generally accepted that only the ‘male’ line of the family is worshipped within this manner, with the possible exception of the Hakka ethnicity where women are generally acknowledged as equal to men – with particularly prominent Hakka women marrying so that their male partners take the name of the female line – in such a situation the gender roles are reversed, and it is the women’s surname that is engraved on the clan stone that sits on the ancestral altar. This concept of Confucian ancestry is an acknowledgement of successful procreation through the generations, and this explains why ‘祖’ (zu3) or ‘Patriarch’ also refers to a ‘surname’ that survives through the ages.

As Ch’an masters have been generally celibate, the idea of successful procreation does not hold for the perpetuation of their respective lineages. In the case of enlightened lay Ch’an masters – even if they have off-spring it is not guaranteed that their children will be enlightened beings. Therefore the Ch’an concept of ‘Patriarch’ deviates away from the Confucian model as it rejects familial implications and gender bias. Although the Ch’an tradition remains indifferent to physical procreation, such an idea is replaced by what may be termed as ‘spiritual’ reproduction – if ‘spiritual’ is defined as ‘consciousness’ or ‘mind’. A Ch’an Patriarch is not a man or a woman, but is one who has achieved (or ‘inherited’) the pristine enlightenment of the Buddha that is not dependent upon expedient circumstance, and is beyond (but inclusive) of all duality. This explains why ‘祖’ (zu3) or ‘Patriarch’ as used within the Ch’an School also refers to the name of a distinct Ch’an Lineage that survives through the ages.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2016.

The Last Emperor of China Condemns Western Imperialism in China

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Emperor Pu Yi Captured by the Soviets in 1945

Extracted ‘From Emperor to Citizen’ 1979, Foreign Language Press, (Pages 445-446)

(Copy-Typed By Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

‘After the Korean armistice was signed and China played a new role in world affairs at the Geneva Conference I had thought about China’s international relations since the Opium Wars: from the time of my great-grandfather Tao Kuang to the Kuomingtang and Chiang Kai-shek, they had had a continuous record of “soft bone disease”.  During those 109 years the bringers of cannon and opium, the pseudo-missionaries – the foreigners who thought themselves so civilised and superior – had come to China and burned, killed, plundered and cheated.  The foreign invaders had stationed their troops in China’s capital ports, big cities and forts, and had all regarded the Chinese as slaves, savages and targets.  They had caused China so many days of national disgrace, and made China sign so many treaties turning her own people into slaves.  So many humiliating terms had appeared in the diplomatic history of the period: equality of opportunity, the open door, most favoured nation treatment, leased territories, mortgaged tariffs, consular jurisdiction, garrison rights, railway-building rights, mining rights, river transport rights, air transport rights, and so on.  The foreigners had even once enjoyed the special privileges of paying one hundred US dollars as compensation for killing a donkey, eight dollars for killing a man.  They had not been liable for trial by Chinese courts if they raped a Chinese woman.

But this shameful period was now gone for ever.  The Chinese people had stood up and were now confidently building their own country, making the foreigners who had laughed so insultingly shut their mouths.’

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