Hui Yuan of Mount Lu (334-416) was a famous Chinese Buddhist monk, founder of Pureland Buddhism in China..
Mount Lu is in the centre of China, just south of the Yangtse River, nowadays close to the city of Jiujiang. The area is a national park with spectacular scenery. Throughout history there have been many hundreds of temples - Buddhist, Daoist and Confucian - in the area. It is nowadays a popular tourist destination.
Hui Yuan was well versed in Taoism and Confucianism, which he studied in his youth and was from an early age noted as a remarkable scholar. He was always enthusiastic for learning and when he was 21 he set off to study with the Confucian Fan Xuan. However, he was prevented from getting there by warfare that was going on in the area and stopped at Mount Heng where he found the thriving Buddhist monastery of Dao An (道安, 314–385). Hui Yuan’s brother Hui Chi joined him there and the two brothers became enthusiastic disciples of Dao An, accompanying him on many journeys through the war ravaged land. During this period, Hui Yuan studied and wrote about the relationship between the Buddhist principle of Prajna Paramita and indigenous Chinese philosophy and religion.
Arriving at Lu Shan
By the year 386, Hui Yuan was already an important monk. However, the progression of the war forced him eventually to part company with Dao An and the two brothers travelled south to safer country. They stopped to visit a friend at West Forest on Mount Lu and were greatly impressed with the area which was “pure, serene and suitable for calming the mind”. They decided to stay and Hui Yuan resided there for the rest of his life.
A Gift from Buddha
He resolved to establish a temple, but was not sure if it was proper to build one in the middle of a forest. He prayed to the Buddha for guidance. That night there was a great storm. Many trees were torn down, thus creating a clearing for the temple and also providing the wood for its construction. He took this for a sign and engaged the local magistrate who organised the building. The main hall of the temple is, in consequence, called the Shen Yun Hall, which means that it was donated by the Buddha.As the temple was to the east of where his friend lived it was called Dong Lin Temple (East Forest Temple).
For 2020, I am deeply advocating for our collective and individual realization of wise hope, hope grounded in boundless compassion.
Wise hope reflects the understanding that what we do matters, even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can really know beforehand. Our vows, our actions, how we live, what we care about, what we care for, and how we care really do matter all the same.
The peacemaker Daniel Berrigan once remarked “One cannot level one’s moral lance at every evil in the universe. There are just too many of them. But you can do something; and the difference between doing something and doing nothing is everything.” Berrigan understood that wise hope doesn’t mean denying the realities that we are confronted with today. It means facing them, addressing them, and remembering what else is present, like the shifts in our values that recognize and move us to address suffering right now.
For many of us, it is an imperative to march for peace, to work for the ending of nuclear proliferation, to engage in climate protests, to put pressure on the US government to re-sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It makes sense to shelter the homeless, including those fleeing from war and climate devastation; it makes sense to support compassion and care in medicine in spite of the increasing presence of technology that stands between patients and clinicians. It makes sense to educate girls and vote for women. It makes sense to sit with dying people, take care of our elders, feed the hungry, love and educate our children. In truth, we can’t know how things will turn out, but we can trust that there will be movement, there will be change. And at the same time, something deep inside us affirms what is good and right to do.
So my aspiration for you, for me, in this coming year is to actualize bravely wise hope, hope that is based in unconditional compassion. May we do this together, for the benefit of all beings.
I’ve been contemplating which word would inspire me for 2020. This is a practice that Satya started either last year or before.
Of course the words that come to mind, immediately, and the only ones that really matter, are the nembutsu - Namo Amida Bu or, in one word form, Namandabu.
But for this year specifically?
Having relinquished some of my responsibilities recently, I am drawn to spend more time contemplatively. And to put more attention on reading and crafting. This won’t preclude other activities or activism. But I’m not feeling shouty. There are enough people shouting. And shouting does have its place - there’s a lot going on politically and, most critically, environmentally, that should be brought to peoples’ attention, along with urges to ‘do something’ or to ‘stop doing …’.
What are the words that are coming to me to consider? Quiet or the Scottish form, which I prefer, Wheesht (I'm reading an excellent book on creativity called Wheesht, by Kate Davies). But the word that seems to claim me, seems to have chosen itself, is Listen.
So stopping, not clamouring or being taken over by clamour, which can drown out important messages, but listening. What is that person really wanting to say? What response is appropriate at this moment, if any? What is nature telling me? What am I learning - and it seems that my ageing confirms how little I know? What can I create that chimes with this mindset?
And onto my Facebook page this morning - how synchronous - popped something I posted two years ago:
“When you talk you are only repeating something you already know. But, if you listen you may learn something new “
The final talk of our Bodhi gathering 2019. In this talk Dharmvidya speaks about how the path to innocence is through the nembutsu and reflection on the precepts. He also answers a question about the language of Buddhism, and one on dealing with trauma.
Bodhi gathering 2019 - talk one. Rev Master Dharmavidya David Brazier gives the first talk of our Bodhi gathering.
"In this time of materialism it is not even possible for people to follow the path of faith with any ease. In fact, many people have become inoculated against faith by exposure to its degenerate forms. What can possibly avail us in these latter days? Life has become immensely complicated. People are under pressure from all sides to conform to the path of worldly success." "The innocent heart is unselfconscious. Through innocence one can find faith renewed. Through faith renewed one can find the real meaning of the practices. In these real forms one can meet the Tathagata. Meeting the Tathagata one can receive the transmission. It all unfords naturally. We are in the fourth age, the Post-Mappo, and a return to the simplicity of innocence is now the only gate that is not locked."
Women in Vellore, India, have resurrected the Naganadhi river and the agriculture of the area that were almost lost to drought. In 2014, the women took matters into their own hands and worked with engineers and hydrologists to build 600 recharge wells by hand: digging wells, making cement rings, placing the rings and stones, and planting drought-resistant saplings along the river basin. This labor-intensive work has resulted in wells that help replenish the groundwater. They have not only brought a dead river back to life, but have ensured their children do not endure the hardship they did.
I'm a Minister with Amida Shu, a Pureland Buddhist Order. Now semi-retired, I teach on-line and hold Pureland Buddhist sangha gatherings in Perth, Scotland. This site is mainly Buddhist in content. I share the teachings of the Head of our Order, Dharmavidya David Brazier