Chinese Ch’an Monks Clean-Up the Fengpu Area of Shanghai


Original Chinese Language Article By: Er Yan Temple (二严寺)

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Within the lay-Buddhist communities in China, the preferred method for social action has been to give money to charities so that these charities can help with various issues throughout society.  As a consequence, examples of ‘direct’ Buddhist social action have been small by comparison.  In the early days following ‘Liberation’, the slogan throughout the country was that ‘Labour is the Glorious Essence of the People’, whilst the Ch’an School has always maintained the principle that ‘A day without work, is a day without food.’  This excellent tradition means that actual, physical labour is very profound indeed, and possesses far-reaching implications.


On May 16th, 2012, the Ch’an Buddhist monks of Er Yan Temple gathered with volunteers, and other workers, to form the Fengpu Community Project Team.  Their objective was to unblock and clean the drains and sewer-covers along the sides of Han Yi Road.  As this area is quite ‘green’ in design, by cleaning these important parts of the city’s drainage system, everyone benefits from the drains working properly, and the area looks more beautiful as a consequence.  The key to this activity was that everyone co-operated with each other, and helped one another.  This meant all the tasks were swiftly dealt with in an efficient manner, as everyone performed their allotted tasks with a clear and non-discriminating mind. 

When the temple organises monastics and lay-people to go out into the community, there is a positive interaction between those who are religiously minded, and those who are not.  This is a very good opportunity for everyone in a community to co-operate in helping and supporting the local area in a selfless manner.  This allows for a distinct manifestation of the non-discriminating Enlightened Mind of the Buddha.  Furthermore, it allows for Buddhist monastics to purposely interact with lay-society, and this allows for the development of a greater compassion.  This experience of society allows for a better Self-cultivation experience for the monastics, who are selflessly serving the community.  This is the optimum exercising of ‘Loving Kindness’ (慈 – Ci), ‘Compassion’ (善 – Shan), and ‘Equality’ (美 – Mei).  Loving Kindness and benevolence are more to do with Buddhism, whilst equality is directly to do with New China and its egalitarian society.  These three attributes are integrated today so that the beauty of social service integrates with the beauty of the natural environment.

Society must develop in such a manner that there is both progression and unity.  If there is no unity or stability within society, then there is no guarantee that Buddhism will survive, and even though monks live in temples, they are still part of society and will need to interact from time to time.  Just as society supports Buddhism, then it logically follows that Buddhism should support society.  Therefore physical labour (or ‘work’) is the foundation of any progressive society.  Therefore, as Buddhists believe in ‘Compassion’ and ‘Loving Kindness’, then out of ‘love’ for one’s country and fellow citizens, physical labour should be an important Buddhist practice.  In New China it is important for Buddhists to set an example and lead the way in volunteering for any social work that needs doing.  Concern for society can be spread everywhere through selfless endeavour, the mentality and action of which can only serve to maintain peace and harmony throughout the country.

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

Original Chinese Language Source Article:







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