比丘尼恆音 講於2012年5月3日星期四晚 萬佛城大殿 A talk given by Bhikshuni Heng Yin on May 3, 2012 (Thursday) at Buddha Hall of CTTB
最近，我覺得對我有幫助的課程是，一個出家人要了解現代的社會，閱讀一些西方的哲學、心理學著作，同時讀一些佛教的經與論。比如說我們學 Freud（弗洛伊德）跟 Jung（榮格），同時也學唯識；隔一年，我們又學龍樹菩薩跟尼采，還有 William James（威廉•詹姆斯）－他創造了一個美國「實用主義」哲學。有一個學期我們學習古希臘哲學及修行方法。我發現西方的思想家與佛教有很多的共同處，而且對心理跟世界的分析，有著很深的了解，能夠讓我深入了解佛法，將佛教的道理與現代的社會相連。
在美國，一個大學必須得到當地認證機構的認可才能被承認與招生，法大所在地的認證機構為西區大學院校協會（WASC），要有 WASC 的認可才能核發簽證給國外的學生，這是很重要的，因為許多國外的學生可以來申請法大。我參與育良中學的認證事務，但大學的認證是困難得多了，因為要具備教授大學程度課程的資格。
Ven Master, Dharma Masters, Friends in the Dharma, Amitofo,
I’d like to take this opportunity, when we have many disciples from afar, to share about some exciting things that are happening at Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU). Many of you may have heard of the university, but not be aware of what is happening within it. I am not directly involved, but I do have a long history as a DRBU student.
DRBU, like the elementary and secondary schools, are part of the Ven. Master’s vision to bring Buddhist education to the world, primarily through non-religious means. Through the teaching virtue and principles of how the mind works, through teaching meditation, through teaching an appreciation of the religions, literatures, and philosophies of both east and west, the schools and university can help people of all religions learn to lead happier, more meaningful and harmonious lives and to learn to walk the bodhisattva path.
In fact, DRBU is the reason I first came to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB). I was first attracted to Buddhism when the Ven. Master and disciples visited theUniversityofTexasand held a meditation retreat. The experience of meditation was life changing, as were the principles of filial respect and virtue that the Master spoke of. I then came for a summer Chan session, which was pivotal as well. It made me want to pursue Buddhist study and practice fulltime. But there was one problem. I don’t think I would have been able to suddenly stop my studies at UT, as a first year PhD student in the computer science department, turning down a generous fellowship that covered my costs, just like that. I am not sure my parents would have agreed either. It would have been too drastic.
Fortunately, though, I had ordered a DRBU catalog, and after looking at the courses and program, it seemed like a very reasonable thing to continue my graduate studies by transferring to this Buddhist university. So I applied to DRBU that summer. A few months later, I received an acceptance letter from DRBU so I happily packed and prepared to stay at CTTB longterm.
While taking classes in DRBU, I participated in the daily ceremonies and community service, taught in the girls’ school, and learned how to translate Chinese Dharma talks and commentaries into English. I soon developed a strong conviction that I wanted to leave the home life because I needed to devote myself fulltime to learning and practicing the Dharma. Not long afterwards, I became a nun. I still continued at DRBU and completed a Master’s in Translation of Buddhist Texts. That was not the end of my studies at DRBU, however. After spending some time at other branch monasteries, when I came back I started taking classes at DRBU again as a special student. Several years later, I enrolled in another of the Master’s programs, this time in Buddhist Studies and Practice.
Over the years, I have gained a lot from DRBU in many areas of study – starting with languages, learning to translate modern and classical Chinese to English, learning enough Sanskrit to read some Sutras, and more importantly, learning how to explain Buddhist concepts to young people in the modern world, which means translating them out of a traditional Chinese context into terms that people today can understand. Also, I have taken several semesters of classes exploring Buddhist education, how to teach world religions, Islam, Buddhist ethics, Buddhist hermeneutics or way of interpreting texts, etc. There have also been classes focused on studying one particular sutra, such as the Avatamsaka Sutra or Shurangama Sutra, or a particular shastra.
More recently, the courses that I have found most helpful to me as a Buddhist nun trying to relate to the modern world are courses where we read Western thinkers in philosophy and psychology in parallel with Buddhist sutras and shastras. For example, we studied Freud and Jung in parallel with Yogacara philosophy; another year, we read Nagarjuna in parallel with Nietzsche and with William James, a founder of American philosophy of pragmatism. One semester we studied ancient Greek philosophers and the spiritual exercises in their teachings. I discovered that Western thinkers have much in common with Buddhism and have comparable depth in their analysis of the mind and the world, which can enhance my understanding of Buddhism and help me to connect Buddhist concepts to the modern world.
The method of teaching in these courses is to do close reading of the primary texts, and then using them to reflect upon ourselves and our practice. This is very different from the Religious Studies model, which is the secular study of religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions that draws on multiple disciplines and their methodologies including anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and history. In other words, it is studying religion from the outside. The scholar need not be a believer or practitioner, and sometimes, is considered biased if he/she professes to be one.
Religious studies scholars might analyze the rituals, beliefs, religious art, and practices of worship, or study religion from the perspective of economics or psychology or history. Whereas at DRBU we study a sutra to know its teachings which lead to liberation, and as part of that study we put its principles into practice, a religious studies student will read the sutra and perhaps analyze whether it is authentic or apocryphal, the cultural influences and motivations of the author, how it is used in monastic communities today, the history of its transmission and translation and revision, and so forth. The most important point of a sutra, its teachings of practices for liberation, may or may not be the focus of the student’s study.
DRBU hopes to model its studies on the way the Ven. Master taught the sutras. He taught them to us directly by letting us read and study them in Chinese, with his explanations, translated into English and other languages. He emphasized the importance of learning some classical Chinese so as to understand the nuances of the text directly. He also asked his disciples to take turn explaining them, so everyone could activate their own wisdom and learn from each other. The schedule during his sutra lecture sessions, which could last for weeks or even years, also included daily ceremonies and several hours of meditation, during which students could ponder the meaning of the sutra. The Ven. Master did not encourage students to read scholarly opinions of the sutra’s authenticity, but asked us to study the sutras directly and decide for ourselves based on whether the sutra carried the essence of the Dharma.
His sutra teachings were profound, yet simple and directly applicable to our current situation and state of mind. He used the sutras and shastras to point out our faults and bad habits, and exhort us to repent and change – purifying our mind was the only way to reach Buddhahood; there was no shortcut. He encouraged us to practice all the different schools of Buddhism, from holding precepts, to Chan, to studying sutras, to mindfulness of the Buddha, to esoteric practices. As practice was an essential element for understanding the texts, it was integrated into the daily schedule. This you cannot find in secular universities teaching Buddhism.
In theUnited States, in order for a university to be recognized and to be able to attract serious students, it must be accredited by one of the regional accrediting bodies, in our case, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). It must also be WASC accredited in order to issue international student visas, which is an important issue for DRBU because often people from Buddhist countries would like to apply. I have been involved in gaining WASC accreditation for our high school, but getting a university accredited is much, much more difficult because of the level of qualifications required to teach college level material to adults.
Currently DRBU has a team of talented professional young people, many of whom are our alumni or members of DRBY, who have been doing intense research for several years into how to ensure that DRBU is aligned with the Ven. Master’s way of teaching and vision, financially sustainable, and WASC accredited. They have found a model that can meet these criteria: a curriculum based on primary texts. In universities with a primary text curriculum such asSt. John’sCollegeandThomasAquinasCollege, students study the Western classics. DRBU, though, will expand the focus to include both Eastern and Western classics, including Buddhist sutras and shastras. DRBU will also focus on Chinese and Sanskrit, two canonical languages. These universities as well as DRBU value a direct interaction with the text, as well as group discussion to uncover its meaning, rather than studying it from secular perspectives such as mentioned above. The professors or instructors also learn along with the students, and are gradually expected to be able to teach or facilitate the study of all the different strands of study – Buddhist texts, Eastern classics, Western classics, language, math, science, music, so that they also become well-rounded and develop themselves.
A question you might ask is: would such a program attract students? I think it would definitely appeal to both Westerners and Easterners, who are looking for genuine wisdom and a way to freedom from suffering. That is what not only Buddhist texts, but to some extent all the classics of the world, offer, and to be able to directly study them and put them into practice offers a light of hope for college students in this age of cynicism and anxiety. From the college students that have come for short retreats, we can see that many of these young people are yearning for something that gives them not only hope but also methods for achieving genuine freedom. This is exactly the vision that attracted me to DRBU, and I believe DRBU offers a meaningful curriculum to people searching for wisdom and truth and hope.
During the three annual Guanyin sessions, DRBU provides an orientation, morning guided meditation, afternoon question-and-answer session, and evening discussion in English for newcomers. Curiously, it’s not just for beginners, because the discussions can go very deep, and people keep returning. These discussions have helped people who otherwise would never consider joining the practice sessions and ceremonies, to take them seriously and benefit from them, and not be daunted by the fact that they are often conducted in Chinese.
It is clear to me that DRBU is an essential part of helping CTTB to bring the Dharma to the West, and to bring Westerners and young people of the modern age to CTTB.