On October 31, 2016, UWest community members and friends gathered in Ken Locke Hall to listen to Venerable Miao Guang’s talk on Venerable Master Hsing Yun. The event began at 4pm with Dr. Jane Iwamura, Department Chair of the Religious Studies Department, introducing President Morgan and Venerable Abbot Hui Dong. Venerable Abbot Hui Dong thoughtfully introduced Venerable Miao Guang’s background including her current and past roles.
As Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s English translator, the university community was thrilled to have Venerable Miao Guang visit the campus and speak in detail about Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s life and history. The following is a synopsis of her lecture:
Venerable Master Hsing Yun never received formal education growing up and he learned to read from his maternal grandmother who memorized and recited a few verses to him everyday. He had great memorization and he would be able to repeat after her. At the age 12, he traveled to Nanjing to seek his lost father who left for business and never came home. There, a Buddhist monk approached him and asked if he would like to become a Buddhist monk and he replied “yes.” As a man of his word, he joined the Chi Hsiang Temple and began attending the Buddhist College.
At Chi Hsiang College he learned three lessons: cause and effect, his inner world, and the need to be of service to others.
His first lesson was learning cause and effect. As he was passing by the main shrine one day, he witnessed a monastic severely beating another monastic with a stick. The one being beaten had received a donation and kept it as his own. The elder monastic noted that what is donated to the temple does not belong to you. If you take it for yourself, then you have to imagine what you have to do to repay this kindness.
As a curious young boy, Venerable Master would always be looking around and talking to others. Since his instructor would punish him for this behavior, he decided to stop talking and looking for a whole year. This led him to his second lesson: self-awareness. He realized if he never stopped looking on the outside, he wouldn’t be able to realize what was on the inside.
At Chi Hsiang College, Venerable Master Hsing Yun would collect buckets of water, clean, and serve meals for hundreds of people for six years. Before you want people to do something for you, you must collect enough merit to do so. Usually the way to do this is by providing service for others and helping others. This lesson taught Master Hsing Yun that everything you do is training for your mind.
At the age of 23, Venerable Master Hsing Yun arrived in Taiwan, but no temple would take him in. When he finally had the resources to build a temple, he chose to build a Buddhist College. People thought he was financially irresponsible because this meant students would receive free education and food. He said, “I’m here to create the future of Buddhism, and the future of Buddhism does not lie in the shrine of Buddha statues with a few collection boxes where it’s visited by all people who come in to pay respects and they leave. Instead the future of Buddhism lies in a great lineup of talents and people who are able to continue the flame so that the dharma can exist forever.”
When young people enter the world of Buddhism, Venerable Master believes that they should have greater aspirations. Instead of trying to die a great death, think about how to live a great life. At the Buddhist Colleges, students learn the values of contribution, building the future of Buddhism, and providing service.
Venerable Master established monastic Sangha education at Tong Ling University. This place was unique because the buildings were being built the same time as classes were being held. The students all had chores for half of the day and one of the chores was to carry bags of sand and concrete from the bottom of the hill to the top of the building. If he hired a worker, the worker would be able to carry 2 bags and it would take an hour and cost 20NT. However, he gave the opportunity to 20 students who were not familiar with this type of work. It took two students to bring up each bag and so in four hours, only half of the work was completed. At the end of the day, Master Hsing Yun bought each student a bottle of Fanta, adding up to 40NT. Again, people criticized his ability to manage money.
“What I am doing now is to invest on their time and give them an opportunity to grow with this college” said Master Hsing Yun.
When the students of a school are given the chance to grow with the school, the bond becomes so stronger. Thus, he was willing to spend more money but his return on investment is much greater than getting the building done.
The type of education Venerable Master offers is the chance to uncover the Buddha nature within us; have faith in ourselves and the willingness to break up boundaries. The Master hopes to offer the type of education that helps students find their confidence and hope in life.
It is not an easy task to support five universities around the globe. Instead of finding major sponsors, Venerable Master Hsing Yun thinks about the day when he decided to establish education because he wasn’t given the opportunity. Venerable Master said, “One day, if I can have the ability, I will make sure that all those who wish to have assistance in education, will get their assistance.”
This idea sparked the Million Member Fundraising Campaign. Each person contributes about $3 per month (100NT) and the amount cannot be paid as a single payment. The idea of paying every month helps show the continued support toward education and it helps people fulfill their dream of going to a university. For others, they are able to help sponsor students to attend a university. Master Hsing Yun believes that we should nurture students’ abilities to receive so that one day, they may take their power to give.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun believes that education and lessons come to us in many ways every day. The four main points of his vision is: self-awakening, day to day education, tailored education, and soteriological education. Together, this vision provides a whole-person education which can be realized and found through all of Fo Guang Shan. A whole-person education helps us grow as a whole person, including our character, how we interact with others, our relationships, and the goals we choose to pursue.
University of the West wishes to thank Venerable Miao Guang, Venerable Abbot Hui Dong, Hsi Lai Temple, Fo Guang Shan, and members and friends of the UWest community for this eye-opening event. University of the West is delighted to announce Venerable Miao Guang will teach a Religious Studies course in Spring 2017.