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Overlay Chinese Year

Overlay Chinese Year
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Overlay Chinese Year
Buddhists What dictated Your choice of Sect?

Please give details of how long You have practiced

I study the Mahayana Buddhism because it encompasses everything, just as the Buddha spoke the sutras when speaking about other realms, other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, sages, arhats, demons, hells, King Yama, ghosts, spirits, dragons, etc etc etc.

I learned Buddhism as a whole because that's how I was taught. The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua was my teacher. I've been a Buddhist for over 20 years, practicing and studying his lectures, Buddha's sutras with the Venerable Master's commentaries, etc. I also practice other dharma doors the Buddha spoke of as my daily practice day and night, for over 15 years, just as how some have chosen to meditate daily.

The reason why I didn't study by sect, and why the Master taught all the schools of Buddhism together, was because of the simple logic as follows:

If you try to draw a map of San Francisco, and all you do is walk along Market street, you can only see so far and draw so much. But if you study Buddhism as a complete whole and all schools, then that means you would have walked every street in the city. Now you tell me, who has the more complete perspective on San Francisco? Who would you hire to draw the map?

So, I study Buddhism as a whole, just as Buddha taught it. Sectionalization and denominations came as a result of humans, after the Buddha's nirvana. So the Venerable Master simply modeled after the Buddha. Each fundamental or dharma door that the Master taught, I didn't know which school it came from, and that wasn't important. It was the principle, context, and fundamentals that the Master found important!

Here are a few excerpts from his biography to describe why he taught in such a way; why he was chinese but NOT a Chinese Buddhist; why he came from the zen lineage/sect, but didn't teach just one sect/school; etc.

I SHOULD NOTE, the Master also stated that the sects were born from Buddhism, therefore, can lead back to Buddhism. All paths lead to Rome.
It's my personal experience that having learned the principles of Buddhism, and not just those from a particular school/sect, things are easier to understand.

2. The Master as Reformer

The Master was determined to transmit the original and correct teachings of the Buddha to the West and was outspoken about not infecting Western Buddhism with corrupt practices that were widespread in Chinese Buddhism. While encouraging his disciples to learn the ancient traditions, he cautioned them against mistaking cultural overlay and ignorant superstition for the true Dharma. He encouraged them to understand the logical reasons behind the ancient practices.

Among the reform that he instituted were the following: he reestablished the wearing of the precept sash (kashaya) as a sign of a member of the Sangha; he emphasized that the Buddha instructed that monks and nuns not eat after noon and encouraged his Sangha to follow the Buddha's practice, which he followed, of eating only one meal a day at noon; he also encouraged them to follow his example in the practice of not lying down at night, which was also recommended by the Buddha....

.... The Master also criticized the current Chinese practice among many Buddhist lay people of taking refuge with many different teachers, and he himself would not accept disciples who had previously taken refuge with another monk.

Some of the Master's American disciples were initially attracted to the Master and Buddhism because of their interest in extraordinary spiritual experiences and psychic powers. Many of them were trying to understand remarkable experiences of their own, and many with special psychic abilities were naturally drawn to the Master. Clearly recognizing the danger of the popularity of the quest for special experiences in American culture, the Master emphasized that special mental states can be a sign of progress in cultivation but can also be very dangerous if misunderstood. He taught about the Buddha's monastic prohibitions against advertising one's spiritual abilities and made clear that spiritual abilities in themselves are not an indication of wisdom and do not insure wholesome character.

Generally speaking, the Master was concerned with the pure motivation of those who left-home under him and did not want the American Sangha to be polluted by those who had ulterior, worldly reasons for leaving the home-life. To that end he established these fundamental guidelines for monastic practice:

Freezing to death, we do not scheme.
Starving to death, we do not beg.
Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing.
According with conditions, we do not change.
Not changing, we accord with conditions.
We adhere firmly to our three great principles.
We renounce our lives to do the Buddha's work.
We take the responsibility to mould our own destinies.
We rectify our lives as the Sangha's work.
Encountering specific matters, we understand the principles.
Understanding the principles, we apply them in specific matters.
We carry on the single pulse of the patriarchs' mind-transmission.

In addition he summarized the standards of conduct that he upheld throughout his life for all his disciples, both Sangha members and lay people, in Six Great Guidelines: not contending, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal profit, and not lying.
One of the Master's more remarkable endeavors in the area of monastic reform was his attempt to heal the two thousand year old rift between Mahayana and Theravada monastic communities. He encouraged cordial relations between the Sanghas, invited distinguished Theravada monks to preside with him in monastic ordination ceremonies, and initiated talks aimed at resolving areas of difference....


1. What the Master Taught

In retrospect, the vigor, depth and breadth of the Master's efforts in teaching in the West are nothing short of incredible. In his early days of teaching Westerners, he often had little or no help. He cooked, taught them to cook, sat with them in meditation and taught them to sit, entertained them with Buddhist stories, and taught them the rudiments of Buddhadharma and Buddhist courtesy and ceremony. He gave lessons in Chinese and in Chinese calligraphy lessons, and taught the fundamentals of the pure Buddhist lifestyle.

As his Western students progressed in their understanding and practice, he did not slack off in the least. He continued not only to lecture daily on the Sutras, but to give various other classes. He lectured on the four major Mahayana Sutras, completing the Shurangama Sutra, the Lotus (Dharma Flower) Sutra, and the Avatamsaka Sutra, and finishing a substantial portion of the Nirvana Sutra. He also lectured on the Heart Sutra, the Diamond (Vajra) Sutra, the Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra, the Earth Store Sutra, the Song of Enlightenment and a host of other Buddhist works.

He also trained a whole staff of translators and taught many disciples how to lecture on the Sutras themselves. In almost every formal teaching situation, in order to train his disciples, he would first ask them to speak and only speak himself after they had had the opportunity.

The Master's teaching methods included yearly Sutra lecture and cultivation sessions modeled on the first Shurangama Sutra Session. He laid down vigorous standards for meditation and recitation sessions, giving frequent instructional talks during the sessions. He explained the importance of the Buddhist Dharmas of repentance and encouraged the bowing of the Great Compassion Repentance, the Great Repentance Before the Ten Thousand Buddhas, and other repentance ceremonies.

Much of the Master's most important teaching took place outside of his formal Dharma lectures. For the Master, every situation was an opportunity for teaching, and he paid little attention to whether the recipients of instruction were formal disciples. For him every worldly encounter, whether with disciples or politicians or realtors, was an opportunity to help people become aware of their faults, change them and to develop their inherent wisdom. The Master was always open, direct, and totally honest with everyone in every situation. He treated everyone equally, from the President of the United States to little children. Everything he did was to benefit others and never for himself...

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