Search for the Source of Life

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In October 2017, I had the opportunity to go on a dharma retreat in Taiwan with some Lamrim classmates. The theme was chosen as “The Search for the Source of Life” by Venerable Ru Zheng. Through the eight days in Taiwan, I developed a clearer understanding of Master Jih-Chang’s personal life as well as the noble intent behind his efforts in the dharma enterprises. There was also greater clarity on Teacher Zhen Ru’s efforts in the last decade. It was certainly an enlightening trip befitting the theme.

Overview of the program:

We arrived quite late at night at Zong Yang Building and were pleasantly surprised by the welcome waiting for us in spite of the late hour. Not only were there volunteers, there were also three Venerables present to extend their warm welcome to us for getting back to this spiritual home. We quickly settled into our respective sleeping quarters, orientated ourselves within the building and familiarise ourselves with the schedule for the next few days.

In brief, the first day was packed with sessions of sharing by the senior students of Lamrim in Taiwan with respect to the dharma enterprises. The second day was the Master’s Remembrance Day, held at Kaohsiung (K-Arena) with the Sangha members in attendance. The third day consisted of more detailed sharing on the roles of the Culture and Education Foundation, and the Dream Lotus Culture and Art Foundation. On the fourth day, we went through our refuge -taking ceremony conducted by Abbot Ru Jing. There were also a few discourses by different Venerables. Venerable Jing-Yuan was also present and made an impromptu appearance to show his concern. We were delighted by the three pieces of voice- offering by Venerable Jing Yuan.  Whilst we spend most of the time in the Zong Yang Building initially, the last two days involved activities outside the building.

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We visited the Bliss and Wisdom Sangha Community- Hu Shan branch

early in the morning. This is where most of the Sangha members currently reside for their monastic training and studies. We also paid respect to Master Jih-Chang’s relic stupa housed at this site. In the main shrine hall, there is also a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha where a lot of blessed items of various renowned Masters and a robe belonging to the His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama were embedded. In the afternoon, we visited the Tse-Xin farming site to learn about green farming. Pesticides are not applied and there is almost zero waste as all waste are converted and reused in the farm as energy sources.

The last day was another highlight in itself as we finally visited Feng Shan Monastery, a nondescript and humble abode, the first monastery founded by Master Jih-Chang. Venerable Ru Da gave a brief summary of the recent dharma seeking trip to India by the Sangha members.

Learning points:

Master Jih-Chang listed three broad principles when he started the dharma enterprises - Bliss and Wisdom Buddhist Foundation, Bliss and Wisdom Foundation of Culture and Education, Tse-Xin Organic Agriculture Foundation, Leezen Company, Dream Lotus Culture and Art Foundation, and Bliss and Wisdom Educational Park— to promote various charitable work that focus on spiritual growth.

1-   The dharma is the only instruction to lead us completely out of suffering. There are three vehicles for this path, but in the end, there is only one vehicle which is to develop the spirit of Bodhicitta and become a Buddha.

2-    To become a Buddha, it starts from making aspirations and through several infinite lives, we keep on purifying ourselves. Through the Mahayana vehicle, we keep on improving ourselves spiritually life after life.

3-   In order to be able to swiftly improve ourselves life after life, we need to stay within this dharma enterprise environment so as to quickly meet the dharma and practice as soon as we can. In this environment, we rely on excellent teachers who had inherited the complete lineage and realized the right teachings and a group of virtuous friends who share the same aspirations. Together, all will strive to act in accordance to the dharma teachings. This would increase the collective virtuous karma, so as to move towards the path of complete enlightenment.

Contemplating on this, the afore mentioned environment really refers to the various avenues that were developed under the guidance of Master Jih-Chang and Teacher Zhen Ru. Depending on our level of connectedness to the different avenues and our needs, we could consciously learn and practice the Lamrim teachings together, life after life. These avenues include events like Master’s Remembrance Day, working in shops like Leezen or Yes Natural, and setting up the Tse- Xin farm or in the context of Singapore, the Fire Flies Health Farm. Similarly, the Zong Yang Building, Bliss Wisdom Educational Park and Feng Shan Monastery are all part of this environment for us to return to.

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What the community says:

Whilst at Feng Shan Monastery, Venerable Ru Da shared that in the recent trip to India, some of the Sangha members engaged in monastic debates with some of the Tibetan monks and Rinpoches. The debates allowed the Sangha members to demonstrate their understanding of their dharma learning. The collective feedback from India was very positive with comments that the standard of the Sangha members was one of the highest in current times.

In conclusion, as the Chinese saying goes, in the mundane world, setting up an enterprise is difficult, more so to keep it sustainable and bring it to greater heights. It is without doubt that what I saw and experienced during the trip took years to get to where they are now. It was definitely done with determined efforts and close adherence to Master Jih-Chang’s three broad principles. This could not have happened without the blessings of the Triple Gem as well as the compassion and wisdom of both Master Jih-Chang and Teacher Zhen Ru.

Leow P Shan (15G023E)