Nearly Spring-like greetings from Taiwan.

Although I still have aspirations to begin what I hope to be a series of posts introducing the Lotus Sutra and some of its teachings, I have not made sufficient time thus far to truly begin. So, this particular post will mostly be an update of meanderings, with what will most likely be almost an introduction to the Lotus Sutra to follow.

First of all though: How are you?

I hope very well.

As for me: things seem to be Ok. The next semester of Chinese classes will begin tomorrow, and I will be taking my first class into the world of Classical Chinese, a necessary step to acquire the skills needed to read Buddhist texts. I have read that Classical (or Literary) Chinese is to the Chinese was Chaucer is to English speakers: neigh impossible to read without substantial study. So…here I go.

We have had a blessed week of no classes between semesters, after having last semester culminate in our final presentations to the school. My topic, self-inflicted, was “What is the true meaning of happiness?” Not the easiest of topics, but enjoyable to give. (I’ll give you a hint to the answer: I think it is the wrong question to ask…:) For any Chinese-speakers, here’s the text of the presentation.

I was also able to visit a very interesting temple just outside of Taipei last weekend with some fellow monastics and a few students from Dharma Drum’s Buddhist College. The temple is called 承天禪寺, which may be awkwardly translated as “Holding up Heaven Zen Temple.” It was founded by an eminent Chinese monk named Venerable Guang-qin (廣欽老和尚). His story is quite something. Here’s a bit in English about him, and here are some very lovely teachings of his online (here are the same teachings I complied into a .pdf file.)

His most famous statement, stated at the time of his death in 1986, was:

No coming, no going, no substantial anything

承天禪寺 - Cheng Tian Chan Temple (sorry about the big telephone cable in the view)

One of the gates at the temple. This is a pedestrian gate, leading to a path outside for pilgrimage practice.

Venerable Guang-qin's memorial hall.

I was also able to visit a fellow western monastic last week for a few days over on the east-side of Taiwan, near a town called Jiaoxi. The monk, Ven. Huifeng, teaches at Foguang Shan’s Buddhist College (here’s his blog). The college is unique in that they offer their Master’s program all in English, so I was able to sit in on a number of very interesting and helpful classes. Although the weather was a bit poor during my time there, it was a lovely visit nonetheless. In addition, Ven. Huifeng is studying some very interesting and important aspects of Chinese Buddhism, so I enjoyed speaking with him at length about this work.

Although I keep forgetting that I have my camera with me on trips like these, I did manage a couple of photos:

View from the mens dormitory at Foguang Shan Buddhist College near Jiaoxi, Taiwan. This was my last morning there, and the one with by far the best weather. Beautiful setting.

A very meticulous and geometrically precise spider at the college.

So, school begins again tomorrow….

With all hope, the next post will begin to introduce the Lotus Sutra.

As always, hoping this finds you well.