Chapter four: Integrating learning with practice, cultivating virtue before its being manifested

From:Voice of Longquan     Author:Shi Huikong     Time:2015-04-08 22:56:11
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Since he took office at BAC, Master Xuecheng has been in charge of the nationwide promotion of normative transmission of precepts. He has been actively promoting in all Chinese monasteries the proper practice of chanting precepts every half a month and convening summer retreats. Master's endeavors have had a profound significance upon contemporary Buddhist history and will exert an immeasurable impact on the rejuvenation and spread of Buddhism.

It is said in Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras, a student should "Rely on a Mahayana teacher who is disciplined, serene and thoroughly pacified; who has good qualities surpassing those of the students; who is energetic; who has a wealth of scriptural knowledge; who possesses loving concern; who has a thorough knowledge of reality and skill in instructing disciples; and who has abandoned dispiritedness." Of these ten qualities, the six good qualities obtained for self-fulfillment are: precepts (being disciplined), concentration (being serene), wisdom (being thoroughly pacified), possessing the wealth of knowledge from studying many scriptures, possessing thorough knowledge of reality and having good qualities that surpass those of the students. The remaining qualities are the four good qualities for looking after others. They are: having skill in instruction, possessing loving concern, being energetic and abandoning dispiritedness. In the Lamrim Chenmo, it is said that a teacher is one "who instructs you in the stages on the paths of the three persons of different capacities and guides you to the Mahayana, which is the path to Buddhahood." Master often asks his disciples to integrate learning with practice and focus on cultivating virtue, letting it naturally manifest itself. Truly benefiting others and promoting Buddhism can only be achieved when one possesses virtues.

A group photo with Acārya of Duties, Acārya of Scriptures and Ten Precentors during the Precepts Transmitting Ritual at Chengtian Monastery, Quanzhou, Fujian. December, 2010

Ⅰ. Precepts (Being Disciplined) 

One feature of maintaining ethical disciplines is to subdue afflictions and obtain inner peace and serenity. One has to discipline his own mind before he can help others. 

Master once recalled, "For years I spoke very little and quietly devoted myself to the Monastery before I became Abbot. As time passed, I became less distracted and my arrogance and conceit wore out." Every night, he kept himself engaged in introspection and reflected upon the few words he uttered in the daytime: which words were inappropriate and why? How could he improve his speaking the next day? Because of years of effort, his words rarely offend others. Therefore, other monks are willing to share their inner minds with Master and ask him for advice when they have a chance to consult him. They all like to get close to this compassionate "elder", which makes them feel at ease in his presence. He possesses the quality of natural affinity so that when people approach him, they imperceptibly grow on their way to spiritual maturity. When asked about the secret of this power, he replied, "Lower yourself, for all living beings are equal." Master lives a simple life, never choosing ostentation or extravagance. Whenever he goes out, he only brings with him a monk's yellow incense bag. He often says, "I come not to enjoy any material comfort, but to serve and protect Buddhist monasteries." His daily meals are simple and modest too. Master used to say, "Good food and good sleep destroy one's soul. Too much material comfort makes one forget his objective in life and lose his bearings."

Master holds many high positions and a great reputation, yet he remains modest and benevolent, never boasting about his virtue. He once went out in the company of a monk disciple. When they returned, the disciple wrote an essay in praise of Master's virtue. Master read it and remarked, "In fact, I do not possess such great virtue. It is you who have the virtue, using me as an example to learn and understand Buddha's Teachings."

A netizen once slandered against Master on the website of Famen Monastery. Upon reading it, Master's attendant reported it to Master and brought it to him. Master glanced at it and put it aside, undisturbed. He said, "People have afflictions. This person is no exception. If what we are doing is good for our nation, for our people and for Buddhism, what is there to worry about?" When one maintains inner peace in the face of adversity, he is truly indifferent to fame and wealth, and has truly tamed the mind.

Master not only attaches importance to self-discipline and personal practice, but also initiates the spread and transmission of precepts. He once said in all sincerity, "The fact that precepts are neglected prevents Buddha's Teachings from spreading." 

At Buddhist Academy of Fujian Province, Master used to give lectures on The Four-Part Bhikshu Precepts. In the monasteries he presides over, all monks have chanted precepts every half a month and hold summer retreats from the sixteenth day of the fourth month to the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar in compliance with the way set up by the Buddha (During this period, monks do not contact the outside world, settling down to study and practice). In recent years, Master has served many times as Preceptor Acārya, Acārya of Duties or Acārya of Scriptures in the Three Platforms of Complete Precepts Transmission Dharma Assemblies held all over the country. For instance, in March 2002, Master served as Acārya of Duties at the 16th Dharma Assembly for Transmitting Three Platforms of Complete Precepts held by the Buddhist Association of Fujian Province. In August 2007, Master served as Preceptor Acārya at the 19th Dharma Assembly for Transmitting Three Platforms of Complete Precepts, organized by Fujian Buddhist Association for Bhikshu at Pingxing Monastery, Mount Taimu, Fuding. In April 2009, when the Western Monastery of Hong Kong held its First Dharma Assembly for Transmitting Three Platforms of Complete Precepts, Master served as the Preceptor Acārya. In December 2010, when the 20th Dharma Assembly for Transmitting Three Platforms of Complete Precepts was held at Chengtian Monastery, Quanzhou, Master was the Preceptor Acārya. In November 2012, Master served as the Preceptor Acārya at the 22nd Dharma Assembly for Transmitting the Three Platforms of Complete Precepts at Guanghua Monastery in Putian organized by the Buddhist Association of Fujian. In December 2013, when the Buddhist Association of Fujian held the 23rd Dharma Assembly for Transmitting the Three Platforms of Complete Precepts at Xuefeng Chan Monastery in Minhou, Fuzhou, Master was the Preceptor Acārya. In that same month, Master also served as the Preceptor Acārya at the Dharma Assembly for Transmitting the Three Platforms of Complete Precepts in Lumbini, Nepal, organized by the Buddhist Association of China. 

For years, Master has frequently transmitted Three Refuges, Five Precepts and Bodhisattva Precepts to lay people, guiding them well in their study and practice of Buddha's Teachings.

Master has spared no pains to spread the teachings on precepts abroad. In 2005, he transmitted Mahayana Precepts to Indonesia, the first of such events in this country in 500 years.

Transmitting the Three Platforms of Complete Precepts in Indonesia. November 2005

It is noteworthy that Guanghua Monastery in Putian held a 108-day long Canonical Precepts Transmission Dharma Assembly in 1996. During this assembly, Master and many other venerable masters took an active part in promoting normative rituals of transmitting precepts in compliance with the way set up by the Buddha. This practice has already influenced the whole nation, including Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

Ven. Master Daoxuan, founder of the Vinaya Sect of China, once stated, "Two (of the Three) Jewels, the Buddha and Buddha's Teachings, could not pass on and thrive without Sangha, and Sangha could not live on without precepts." Since he took office at BAC, Master has been in charge of the nationwide promotion of normative transmission of precepts. He has been actively promoting in all Chinese monasteries the proper practice of chanting precepts every half a month and convening summer retreats. Master's endeavors have had a profound significance upon contemporary Buddhist history and will exert an immeasurable impact on the rejuvenation and spread of Buddhism.

Ⅱ . Concentration (Being Serene)

The scripture says, "Serene refers to having accomplished the training of meditative concentration. Meditative concentration is a mental state in which the mind remains peacefully withdrawn. This is achieved by relying on mindfulness and vigilance in one's ethical discipline, turning away from wrongdoing and engaging in good activities." Serenity is characterized by a peacefully withdrawn mind. Master observes that being serene refers to concentration. This concentration does not mean "being stagnant", but rather being very mindful of the external circumstances and our internal world. In this state, our mind is very alert and supple.

Once at Guanghua Monastery, Master convened an executive meeting. Each executive took turns speaking, reporting problems and voicing their opinions. After every executive had finished, Master gave a concluding speech that not only shared his own opinions but at the same time answered all the questions posed by them.

Despite his busy schedule, Master never forgets to study and contemplate on Buddhist scriptures. He has been heard saying, "I can settle down at any busy moment to read." Being able to maintain serenity whilst in motion is an indication of his Samadhi power. Once when he was abroad, he took several Buddhist books with him and read them during breaks at work. By reading during spare moments, Master could finish a thick book quickly, even marking essential points.

Master is a man of strong mindfulness. He once taught, "Our life is not counted by years or by days, not even by seconds, but rather by segments of thought. Our thoughts, one by one, whatever they are, make up our entire life. A day comes from the addition of thoughts. We should be clear about what to pursue and what to avoid in life. Otherwise we will not find clarity of our life's entirety. We must have command over our thoughts every present moment. If we lose command over thought this very moment, it will be mere talk to command our future." During his study at Buddhist Academy of China, he chanted the Great Compassion Mantra 100,000 times in three years. Disciples asked him, "How do you cultivate your mind while chanting mantra?" He answered, "Through concentration." 

Ever keep right mindfulness,Always practice great compassion

Ⅲ. Wisdom (Thoroughly Pacified)

According to the scripture, "'Thoroughly Pacified' refers to having accomplished the training of wisdom. This is done by specifically analyzing the meaning of reality in dependence on meditative serenity, wherein the mind becomes serviceable." Master suggests, "The root of Dharma lies in the ability to judge and choose. To have wisdom means to know how to choose between what to take and what to for sake." 

 Confronted with various problems, Master is always able to grasp the key points and make accurate judgments, which has gained him respect and admiration of others. The day before the opening of the First World Buddhist Forum, a person came with a question, "Do we have to wear Sanghati at tomorrow's opening ceremony?" It was difficult to reach an agreement about it. Master came in tactfully and replied, "It is better for us all to wear Sanghati. It will inspire people to develop faith. In imperial times, monks only used to wear Sanghati on having an audience with the emperor. Wearing Sanghati is very formal and honorable." The official in charge of organizing the forum thought that it made sense and announced on the spot, "All who will attend tomorrow's opening ceremony should wear Sanghati."

Ⅳ. Having a Wealth of Scriptural Knowledge

 Having a "Wealth of Scriptural Knowledge", according to the Buddhist scripture, "refers to being erudite concerning the three scriptural collections and the like." In a great master's words, "When the 'gurus of the Mahayana' give an explanation, they must enable their students to have a deep understanding. When they are putting the teachings into practice, they must demonstrate what is helpful at a time when the teaching is on the wane, and what is useful in the situation at hand." For instance, if a student has recently been finding others' faults, the teacher could use teachings to help eliminate the negative emotions of such a student.

Master attaches great importance to the learning and contemplation of Buddhist sutras, Vinaya texts and treatises. He always finds time in his tight schedule to do extensive reading on the Tripitaka. In particular, he has read many Buddhist scriptures over and over again, such as Flower Adornment Sutra, The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, Great Treasury Sutra, Nirvana Sutra, Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra, The Five Pure Land Sutras, The Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra, The Four-Part Vinaya, The Three Great Classics in the Nanshan Sect, The Treatise on Great Wisdom, The Treatise on Middle-Way, Maitreya's Five Treatises, The Treatise on the Illumination Door of the One Hundred Dharmas, Abhidharmakosa-sastra, Lamrim Chenmo, Lecture Notes on the Four-Part Bhikshu Precepts, etc. Master has a penetrating and unique understanding of Vinaya, Pure Land Sect, Consciousness-Only Sect, Kosa, and Lamrim. He is skilled at drawing examples from one case to another and comprehending through analogy. 

Master holds the view that Buddhists should be tolerant towards other religions, willing to have dialogues and to exchange views with them. Besides his great dedication to Buddhist cultivation, he also reads scriptures from other religious texts such as the Koran. Moreover, he devotes a lot of time and energy to the learning of traditional Chinese cultural masterpieces such as The Thirteen Confucian Classics and The Twenty-four Dynastic Histories. He digests them thoroughly and is able to integrate them with Buddha's Teachings. 

at the Abbot Room of theDechenBuilding,BeijingLongquan Monastery in 2008

Master not only reads many sutras and treatises, but also, for over two decades, wrote almost 100 essays of over 1 million characters such as "Strengthening the Construction of National Cultural Soft Power", "Religion Is a Hallmark of Human Progress from Obscuration to Civilization", "Let Us Share Religious Wisdom, Security and Peace", "Let Us Create a Harmonious World through Religious Wisdom", "A Harmonious World Begins with Our Minds", "Religion's Concern over Globalization Issues", "Some Thoughts on Chinese Religions in the New Century", "The Past and the Future of Buddhism in Fujian", "A General Conversation about the Construction of Buddhist Talents", "A Brief Discussion on the Cultural Construction of Chinese Buddhism", "The Trend in the Life of Cultivation and Learning in Modern Monasteries", "Thoughts on the Secularization of Buddhism", "Buddhist View of Peace", "Humanity's Moral Crisis and Religion's Ethical Care", "The Critical Role of Religion Should Be Brought into a Full Play in the Construction of a Harmonious Society", "Let's Make Our World a More Harmonious and Beautiful Place with the Existence of Many Religions", "Translation of Classics and Religious Communication", "Compatibility among Different Civilizations", to name a few. These essays have been published in domestic and overseas journals and papers, such as People's Daily, Guangming Daily, Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee Newspaper, China's Nationality Paper, China's Religions, Buddhist Culture, Voice of Dharma, Fujian Religions, Asia Forum, Ta Kung Pao (Hong Kong), Wen Wei Po (Hong Kong), etc. His works have also been published online at,,,,,,,, etc. These articles have won popularity among many readers, both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. They not only reflect Master's understanding of Buddhist affairs, but also manifest his acute insight into state affairs and world harmony. Master has published dozens of articles in Voice of Dharma, journal of BAC, such as "Rely on Gurus and Listen to Buddha's Teachings in Learning and Practicing Buddhism Diligently", "Bear Purpose in Mind and then Establish Objective While Remembering Original Intentions and Wishes", "The Significance of Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels", "Hold Faith in the Principles of Karma while Practicing and Cultivating in Line with Buddhism", "Stay Away from Ignorance, Karma and Suffering, and Obtain Consummate Bliss", "Discipline Oneself with Precepts and Get Access to Bodhi", etc. Each essay, quoting extensively from a wide range of sources, explains profound ideas in simple language and yet with close reference to real life, integrating the teachings of relying on teachers and holding faith in karma with the teachings of Lamrim Chenmo about the Paths for people of Middle and Greater Capacities, so that learners can understand Buddhism from various perspectives and apply it to their lives. 

Ⅴ. Knowledge of Reality

According to the scripture, "'Knowledge of Reality' refers to a special training in wisdom—the knowledge of non-essentiality of phenomena. In another way, it is said to be best if the teachers have a perception of reality." Master has studied Madhyamaka (the Middle Way) and Cittamatrin (Consciousness-Only) for years and has acquired a profound understanding of Prajna. He once said, "The Dependent Arising in Buddhism is characterized with harmony, namely, harmony among objects, harmony between human beings and objects, and harmony among human beings."

One morning after his daily practice, Master told his attendant, "I have been reading Buddhist sutras for five hours from last night to this morning, discovering the essence of wisdom embedded in the words. Words are more than words. Words in mundane books convey mundane dharma. Words in Buddhist scriptures convey Buddha Dharma. They are all made up of words, yet the meanings conveyed vary with the composition. If the essence of words could be grasped and used to understand our intrinsic nature, then wisdom would manifest itself and 'word Prajna' is attained. In this way, the mundane dharma is turned into Buddha Dharma."

The essence of Prajna is Emptiness. Emptiness and Dependent Arising are the two aspects of reality. Master is good at integrating the essence of Buddha's Teachings with what are currently acceptable to the public. Buddhism proclaims the Law of Dependent Arising. Therefore, Buddhism would keep in accord with the secular world, and help the living beings make progress from where they are. In view of this, Master often explains things in plain language. For instance, he says there are four barriers to upholding precepts, which are "material desire, family bond, fame and wealth, and wrong views." When practicing Buddhism, "one should not forget his ultimate goal, objectives, and original aspiration." Modern monks should possess five qualities, which are "aiming high, choosing the right path, being virtuous, being versatile, and being knowledgeable." The best advice on the monastic life is "to persist, to accommodate oneself to others, and to comply." The executives of a monastery should "have noble aspiration, be honest, and do practical things." When dealing with people and doing things, the right attitude towards those who don't understand should be one of "acceptance, tolerance, courtesy and sincerity." "An incompetent person will not be able to cope with the ever-changing situations, so in the future, let those who cannot do things well do things, and let those who can do things well be detached from doing things." These words sound simple and plain, yet they contain the essential principles of Buddhism.

How Master associates with others shows his precise and accurate mastering of Dependent Arising. He knows the best thing to talk to different people, how to express and how to respond. For example, as to the reception of the Monastery, he once taught his disciples, "Whether to lead guests into the Reception Office or not, whether to serve tea or not, whether to invite them to meal or not, how many steps to keep from the guest while walking. All this have profound meanings." When in charge of the reception work for the First World Buddhist Forum, he received ten eminent monks within only one hour at the airport. He treated each one as an old friend, welcoming them with warm, genuine smiles. His deportment was very graceful. Due to scheduling conflicts, two distinguished guests had not been received. Master almost missed them but went all the way to catch up with them at the airport exit to express late greetings and sincerest welcome, which touched them greatly. 

Prajna's unimpeded power (sovereign power of wisdom), which is not disturbed by external circumstances, is an expression of awareness of Emptiness. A disciple asked Master, "I've done a lot these days but somehow I feel depressed. What should I do to uplift my spirit?" Master replied, "When you finish doing something, leave it behind, do not be attached to it. Otherwise, you will feel quite exhausted. This is why I do so many things without feeling tired." Master always follows the changes of situations and is flexible in the means of handling things, which indicates his high level of cultivation. A story has it that Ven. Master Taixu, at age 56 then, once fell ill. A lay Buddhist paid a visit and advised him to give up all his concern. Ven. Master Taixu laughed and said, "Have I ever taken any up?" Every thought of Ven. Master Taixu dwelled in the Supreme Truth of All-Emptiness. He contributed significantly to the development of Buddhism and the well-being of living beings, yet he believed that all he did was simply in conformity with the arising conditions—all were like stage plays. Master also shows the same state of mind to some degree, just as a patriarch once said, "Being detached, I feel at ease at anytime but hard to tell why."

Facing praises and compliments from all, Master said modestly, "In fact, I did not do much. It is just that I gather and coordinate favorable conditions. Once favorable conditions are gathered, things will be achieved without extra effort."

The 2nd Tour of Harmony, Putian Southern Shaolin Monastery. October 2007

Ⅵ. Qualities that Surpass Those of the Students

The scripture says, "People degenerate if relying on those inferior to themselves; by relying on equals, they stay the same; by relying on those superior, they attain excellence; thus rely on those who are superior to yourself." The scripture also states, "Any intelligent person should not be distant from excellent beings and should rely on these virtuous beings in a disciplined manner. Once you are close to them, particles of their good qualities will stick to you." As such teachings say, students should rely on the teachers who have qualities that surpass their own and the key is that teachers should inspire great admiration and faith in disciples' minds so that the disciples could be convinced that it is possible to advance on the path to Buddhahood.

Once, Master took a conference trip with a new attendant. On the evening before their return, Master asked the attendant to pack his baggage. Lacking experience, the attendant did it very slowly and worse still, could not fit everything into the suitcase, which worried him a lot. At the sight of this, Master took everything out of the suitcase and rearranged it. He managed it without difficulty, neatly and with only one attempt, which filled the attendant with admiration.

Whenever Master goes out to attend Buddhist activities, there are always many Buddhists who want to get close to him. Master always tries to satisfy those who want to take a photo with him, beaming with smiles, never acting impatient, making sure that all devotees leave contentedly. 

Inspired and attracted by Master's great personal charm, a growing body of outstanding people, young talented people in particular, joined the Buddhist groups. In the talent pool guided by Master, many disciples are well educated and have a Doctor's, Master's or Bachelor's degree. In The Analects of Confucius: Book IX: Zi Han, disciple Yan Yuan thus described his teacher, "The more you look up to his teaching, the higher you feel it is. The more you are engaged in the study of it, the more profound you find it is. Confucius is a good master, teacher and guide. He instructs me to read a wide range of classics and teaches me to discipline myself in line with decorum. Now I have been led to the right track and cannot help but make greater efforts." The disciples of Master have the same feeling toward their esteemed teacher. Many choose the path of mind cultivation because they meet Master. This is an indication of his surpassing qualities. Many people's lives have changed because of his influence.

Ⅶ Skill in Instructing Disciples

According to the scripture, "'Skill in Instructing Disciples' refers to being both skilled in the process of leading disciples and adept at causing them to understand." Yet this skill does not mean being rhetorical. Instead it comes from the teacher's tender care and true concern for others, understanding for others' feelings and dedication to help them in the process. 

Master is good at associating with people of various backgrounds. In conversations and interactions, he never fails to benefit others in the right way and at the right time. Once at a Dharma Assembly of Monastic Life Experiencing Camp, he talked with the camp members and answered their questions. He was so learned, refined, flexible, grave and humorous that the participants were thoroughly impressed. One camp member developed faith in Master right away and stayed behind at the Monastery, becoming a monk immediately after the Assembly.

On one occasion, a woman suffering from the last stages of cancer came to visit Master. Dreading death, she wanted to know how to face it. Master encouraged her in a relaxing way, "Death is nothing to be scared of. You have accumulated so many merits and virtues. This is a chance for you to go to heaven and enjoy your blessings." His words greatly relieved her anxiety and changed her state of mind. When something is said, its significance lies not in how well it is said, but whether it benefits others. A monk disciple, after hearing this story, remarked, "In my learning and practice of Buddha's Teachings, I only learn to be in line with the Teachings and do not know how to fit them within every situation I face. If asked the same question, I might have told the woman, 'Be mindful of death', 'Reflect on the fact that the three Evil Realms are nothing but sufferings', 'You have to repent, to seek refuge, and to pray'. The result would have been the opposite of my intention. My reply would only add to her psychological strain." With just one remark, Master took the burden off her mind. He was able to do this because he truly understood her feelings that he was able to benefit her, suiting his reply to her condition.

The preciousness of Buddhism lies in that the Teachings are relevant both to the truth and the specific conditions of people. In many cases, living beings are not difficult to teach, but the Teachings are given inappropriately due to lack of wisdom and compassion. Master thinks that to deliver living beings requires compassion, wisdom, and skills of all means. Compassion can move a person, wisdom helps one to choose among options, and a skillful teacher never fails to find approaches to a problem. Our theory will be mere words if we are not skillful in means to handle things, despite our compassion and knowledge of the Teachings. Compassion, wisdom and understanding people's conditions are indispensable to a successful guide. Imposing one's own criteria onto others closes the door for others. Teachings must relate well with people's conditions. Only through this method can Buddhism be spread. When socializing with visitors from all walks of life, Master always explores subjects in various fields with them. With his broad-mindedness, far-sighted thinking and deep cultural knowledge background, he almost never fails to get visitors to return productively.

Currently, many people, including some beginners in Buddhism, do not truly know what Buddhism is. Considering this phenomenon, Master has given a series of Dharma talks since the latter half of 2006 at the Dharma assemblies and intensive collective practices held at Beijing Longquan Monastery. The talks have been titled  "Understanding Life", "A Life of Suffering and Happiness", "Knowing Life", "The Inner World: Lecture on the Treatise on the Illumination Door of the One Hundred Dharmas", "Lamrim Chenmo: Vipashyana", "Breakfast Talks", "The Path of Refuge", "The Path to Enlightenment", etc, and are released in print or on DVD. 

Moreover, Ven. Master Xuecheng's Blog: Essay Collections (Vol. I—VII) were published in 2008. At the beginning of 2009, Ven. Master Xuecheng's Blog: Message Collections (Vol. I—VII) were published. The publishing of Master's blog continues. As of October, 2012, 4 series (100 volumes in total) of blog collections have been published.

Dharma talks on life, DVD series

These lectures and essays are simple but profound, providing very practical guidance for disciples to integrate Dharma into daily life. These essays were given attractive titles to be easily remembered by the readers. They include "Reflection on the Secular Pleasure and Buddhist Bliss", "The Significance of Building Up Ultimate Faith", "Seeking for a Life Instructor", "The Significance of the Wholeness of Life", "How to Get to Know the Symptoms of Inner Disease", "Correctly Discriminate States of Mind", "Break Self-centeredness", etc.

Ⅷ . Possessing Loving Concern

The scripture claims, "'Possessing Loving Concern' refers to having a pure motivation for giving the teachings. That is, the teacher teaches with a motivation of love and compassion and does not look for gain, respect, and so on." His sole concern is to relieve living beings from agony and vexation.

Master once observed, "The most important thing in Mahayana is one's aspiration. We should use every thought to figure out how to benefit living beings and rid them of suffering." In a text message sent to one disciple, he said, "Whenever I think of the disciples who are inseparable from my life, I find no reason not to devote all I have. What do hardships matter? If I did not make endeavors, my life would be meaningless."

Master uses every opportunity to build favorable relationships with living beings and guide them on the path to Buddhahood. This is an example of his great compassion. When he goes to attend Buddhist activities, usually he has a fairly tight schedule. However, there is always a constant stream of people coming to pay respect to him or listen to his teachings from day to night. His attendant worries that such highly intensive receptions would be harmful to his health, but Master does not care at all. Occasionally Master shows signs of fatigue, yet he looks even better after talking with guests. He forgets his own fatigue while thinking of the suffering of living beings.

How Master teaches the disciples is their most unforgettable experience of cultivation. Once, Master was about to go out. Before departing, he asked his attendant some questions. The attendant, who happened to be vexed at that moment, gave quite confusing answers. "You did not answer my questions. You should be honest with yourself!" reproached Master. Later, the attendant came to understand why Master reproached him. It might because he was older than many others, therefore, he would have few chances to be criticized and correct his negative habits thereupon.

Summer retreat ritual, Jianxing Hall, Beijing Longquan Monastery. May 29th, 2010

Ⅸ. Being Energetic

The scripture says, "'Being Energetic' refers to constant delight in others' welfare." A teacher should be resolute and determined when doing good for others.

In order to gather good karmas extensively and revitalize Buddhism, Master has, for many years, been working hard at rebuilding the learning and practicing system of Han Buddhism. He has proposed the idea of "Creating collective karma by working together on the Buddhist endeavors, and promoting Buddhist endeavors by relying on collective karma." Master is not only concerned for the monasteries that he presides over, but also for what course Chinese Buddhism and world Buddhism as a whole will follow. Such selfless resolution to work for the benefit of Buddhism and living beings is not just an empty slogan. It has been put into constant practice and can be seen through the growing number of Dharma assemblies, education programs for monks in Buddhist academies, and the work and duties assumed at BAC. Master is always at work without a moment's pause. He once said, "Now that I am in a certain position, I do things not on behalf of myself, but on behalf of the whole Buddhism and the fourfold assembly of disciples."

Despite being busy, he never neglects learning and practice, always acting as a good example. Together with other monks, he participates in morning and evening recitations in the Buddha Hall and eats at the refectory every day. He has been following such rituals for more than twenty years. He often says, "How could a monk not live a religious life? The head monk should take the lead for others and be a role model in learning and practice." Once in Famen Monastery, Master was preparing for a lecture and missed his meal. When he realized it, it was time to go to the Buddha Hall for recitation. The attendant intended to prepare some food, yet Master stopped him. "Food I can do without, but going to the Buddha Hall, that I must do." He said firmly.

Master very often rests for only two or three hours a day. When monks awake at midnight, they will quite often find the light still on in the Abbot's Room. In the morning, he gets up after hearing the beating of the board, which serves as the morning call. Sometimes he even gets up earlier. Then he sits in meditation. He also reflects on the Buddha's Teachings, takes refuge, makes Bodhi resolves and makes a plan for the day or does some reading. After that, he goes to the Buddha Hall for morning recitations and has breakfast together with his disciples. When the breakfast is over, he walks around and inspects the Monastery. Then he returns to the Abbot's Room for a one-hour meditation. In his early years, Master used to have summer and winter retreats for concentrated practice. Now he is tied up with many affairs and yet he still often manages to find some time for concentrated practice or a brief retreat. He once taught his disciples, "Our today is hard-earned and precious. We should not allow ourselves any slack. One fruitful day counts for more than a life in barrenness." Master's diligence encourages his disciples, acting as a voiceless reminder to fully use every moment and not to let oneself loose.

Working in spite of illness. July 4th, 2006

Ⅹ. Having Abandoned Dispiritedness

The scripture says, "'Having Abandoned Dispiritedness' refers to never being tired of giving an explanation again and again—to bearing the hardships of explaining."

Master's knowledge and moral integrity win the admiration of people from all walks of life. Whenever he goes out, many people become attracted to Master and want to stay close to him. He tries his best to satisfy their wishes. Once after a Dharma assembly, dozens of admiring disciples remained in the room and even the corridor was filled with devotees who wanted to see him. They all asked for Master's calligraphy as souvenirs. Master wrote over 30 pieces of Dharma words for the devotees, encouraging them not to neglect Buddhist practice. Seeing that Master was too tired, people did not have the heart to ask for more. Just when they were hesitating, Master asked, "Any more? All of you will get your wish realized today!" Afterwards, he told the attendant, "To cultivate good relationships and to have photos taken together with them are also Buddhist practice. We should be patient, compassionate, and considerate. Facing with situations, keep practicing the teaching on 'exchanging yourself with others'. If you put yourself in others' positions, what would you expect a master to do if you were the devotee?"

During Longquan Monastery's monastic summer retreat in 2006, Master had to go back and forth between downtown and suburbs every day. At 5 a.m., he set off from the Monastery for work in BAC. In the afternoon, he would be back at the Monastery around 5 p.m. From 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., he would lecture on Bhikshu precepts for monks. When class was over, though exhausted, he would satisfy the monk disciples who eagerly followed him into the Abbot's Room to ask questions. Sometimes, the disciples would not leave until late after bedtime, or even midnight. It was then that Master had time to take up other business and begin his own routine practice. 

Master once said, "I'm fully engaged every day. Without the blessings of the Three Jewels, I won't be able to manage. I am always in a position to take responsibilities when meeting with all kinds of people and things." Master preserves the Buddha's Teachings and perpetuates the wisdom of his disciples by dedicating his own life. "He never grows weary of learning or becomes impatient when teaching." "He forgets his food in his eager pursuit of knowledge; he forgets his sorrows in the joy of its attainment, and he does not perceive that old age is coming on." 

Being able to integrate learning with practice and cultivate virtue before its being manifested, in his disciples' minds, Master is such a true teacher. He has taken the lead and sets good examples for Buddhist practice, upholding and protecting Buddha's Teachings. He has achieved affirmative appreciation from Rev. Zhao Puchu who once remarked on Master in a poem. "He is strict with himself, yet he handles things gently. Though he studies and practices within the Monastery, his teachings are spread far and wide. How does one establish a place for Buddhist practice? One may find the answer in his example." Such is the sincere approval and ardent expectation of a young monk, given by a prestigious elder, a century figure. 

Tags:Ven. Master Xuecheng, wisdom

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