Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters and all friends in the Dharma: Amitabha. Tonight is samaneri QinJie Jinlian's turn to tie Dharma affinity with the assembly. During my talk, if there is anything I said is not according with the dharma, please compassionately correct me.
To be honest, sitting here, tying dharma affinities with the assembly is not easy, especially to novices. We have to be very careful with everything we are talking about, even our names. Actually, it is quite innocent of us that from the very beginning we were told that: these are your names and from now on use them, cherish them and make them glorious, so we obeyed. Some Dharma Masters criticized us saying we are arrogant to use our name in this way. We are so confused that we asked our teachers for many times what should we do. But you know, everything teacher had different opinion, and finally, it is very lucky for us, our current teacher made the final decision for us: according to the Chinese tradition, using your full Dharma Name to address yourself. Finally, this historical problem is settled.
But the problem is what the Chinese tradition is? I was born and grown up in mainland China for several decades, in my memory, only when I was in elementary school; in my Classic Chinese class talked a little bit of some Chinese traditions. My teacher did mention that in ancient china, poets or educated people had lots of names to address themselves at different places, different time, even in different moods. Though my teacher spent lots of energies trying to describe and inscribe this very unique custom to our minds, we, his naïve students still could not fully understand why those strange ancients loved to make that many names for us to memorize. So when I finished my elementary school, I totally forgot everything about that. I love science, tradition? Forget about it.
We, as a new generation, are growing up in a very fast society, everything is fast. We buy a quick café latte from a coffee shop, eat a takeaway burger, and leave the pet with its own "single serve" convenience food, a liberal application of hair gel to counteract the effects of a high-speed existence. This is the life we have. Traditions have been being intentionally or
accidentally ignored by us. Sometimes, I tease myself, if, if you had not studied the Buddha Dharma, what would you be like? Of course that is a very stupid question, I never answer it. But here is a very meaningful story happened just after my studying the Buddha Dharma, and now I would like to share it with everyone, and if in the future, in case, I forgot it, please remind me.
It happened in Calgary, Canada. It was the first time I went to the Avamtasaka Monastery to attend the Shurangama Mantra Session. We arrived there a few days before the session started. So the host invited us to climb the Mountain Manjushri. Actually it is a very small part of the Rocky Mountain, and once Venerable Master took a plane and when the plane passed over the mountain, Venerable Master said there is a dragon dwelling in the mountain and the mountain would bring wisdom to the people. So from then on, disciples of the Venerable Master named the mountain as the Mountain Manjushri. I was quite excited to climb the mountain because people said everyone climbed the mountain would get wisdom. And if you are lucky you could see dragons. I really wanted to try it out not for dragons, just for fun.
So we around 30 people went to the mountain with one guider. It was early spring; the snow had not melted away. We started at 7:30 AM. The guide told us, usually, people would spend 2 or 2 hours and half to get to the top, and however, because there were still lots of snow on the mountain, so probably, we had to spend more than 3 or 4 hours to climb the mountain. Anyway, I just wanted to follow the guide as close as possible and to get to the top as soon as possible. So I was in the front group with the guide. At the beginning, there were several people in the front group with the guide, then gradually, less and less. And finally, I was the only one following with the guider. At the beginning, I could hear people's talking and laughing, then gradually, quieter and quieter, and finally, I only heard the squeezing sound of the snow under my feet. When I looked back, wanting to see where the others, there was no any more sign of them. I felt in the huge mountain there was only the guider and me, no one else. The two of us were still marching towards the top. But later the guide was walking faster and faster, I could not follow any longer. I thought maybe I was too slow, but that was all I could do. Anyway, since the guide left his deep footprints on the snow, I really did not care climbing the mountain by myself.
Walking alone in this deep quiet mountain in the early spring with white snow around you was extremely amazing. I felt I was incidentally running into a celestial realm. Although I knew the guider was far ahead of me, lots of people were following me, and I was just a passenger, I still felt that I was something that without precedents and latecomers. Just when I was indulge in this kind of narcissism, the Mountain Manjushri got angry. Suddenly, the sky got dark and it began snowing, a heavy snow. At the beginning, I did not pay much attention to the snow until I found that the footsteps of the guide were shallower and shallower. That really terrified me. If the snow covered up the footprints, then I would be totally lost in the deep mountain. I would die here, all my hairs stood up. Gathering all my attention, I carefully checked every step of the guide and followed it without any casual, because I know if there was any mistake, if I stepped on a wrong way then the result would be a disaster, no one could save me.
It was until I closely paid attention to the guide's footprints then I found out that actually there were lots of animals in this mountain. Because on the ground, there were lots of other creatures’ footprints in the snow. Some I could tell like: chicks, birds, some like cats, dogs or deer. But there were still lots I could not tell. Maybe a tiger or wolf or something likes that? I could not think any more, I was startled by my own false thinking. Focus, focus I told myself. Looking at the footprints, stepping exactly on them, without any thinking, bringing up all my energy to compete with the heavy snowing and the time, I only could hear the sounds of my breathing, the beating of my heart, the sound of the rubbing of my clothes, nothing else. Everything was so deadly quiet.
All of a sudden, a thought flashed in my mind. Yes, that is right. Just exactly step on the footprint, focus on it, then you could escape the death. The footprint is the way, the footprint is the guide, though he was not with you in person, but with his footprints, he never left you. Venerable Master is the same. Though he could not with you in person, but his words are still in the world, his teachings are still being practiced, his principles are still admonishing all his disciples, so he is still with you, and he never left you. Following his guidance, you could transcend the birth and death. That thought really moved me in tears. Yes, I should follow the footprints to find the right way to get to the top, I also should follow the tradition that Venerable Master established to step on the right way to transcend the birth and death. That is what I should do. In that deep mountain, I made my first resolution. Maybe that was a coincidence, when I made that decision, the snow stopped. When I looked up, I saw the guide waiting ahead. He looked at me and said: "you spent 1hour and 45 minutes to climb the mountain. Congratulation! You made a new score." I smiled at him; I knew I got something that far more than a new score. That is a terrific experience.
This year, it is my honor that I had this opportunity to attend the 21-day Chan Session with the traditional schedule. When I recall, it was also Venerable Master's ascetic practice that intrigued my respect and interest in the Buddha Dharma. I read some of the books talking about the 98-day Chan Session hosted in 1970s. But I never thought I could also have the blessings to attend this kind of session after more than 30 years. Just as Venerable Master said, the Chan Hall is the Vajra Hall, the Prajna Hall, and this is also the place that training the future Buddhas. Participating the session, I really could feel the sharp and forceful power of the tradition of the cultivation, even now 30 years later, it is still that strong. 14 incenses, 21 hours a day, for 21 days, no break, it is really a big challenge.
On the last day of the session, one of my fellow practitioners teased me: "have you opened your eyes?" I said: "yes." I saw her eyes widely opened, it was quite funny, "a big hole on my leg." I continued. Though cultivation is very difficult, but we are still trying our best to do it. The snowing of the Dharma Ending age is heavier and heavier, blurring our vision. The footprints of the Venerable Master, being covered by the snow, are also becoming shallower and shallower. Really hope all of us could step on Venerable Master's footprints, and quickly climb Nirvana Mountain.