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The Story of Dharma Master Yin Shun - Winding road to Buddhism

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The Story of Dharma Master Yin Shun
Winding road to Buddhism
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Winding road to Buddhism
"Beijing Bodhi School Recruits New Students!" An advertisement printed in a local newspaper in June 1930 drew Chang's attention. The wonderful news was like a beam from a lighthouse showing him the right direction in life's journey. The entrance exam consisted of an essay to be written and mailed in to the school. Chang's essay was entitled The Buddha's Teachings Are Aimed at Eradicating Suffering and Obtaining Joy. The reply from the school came a few days later: "You passed the exam and are admitted to our school." But then the notification for the school commencement never appeared in the paper. The longer he waited, the more anxious he became. Unable to bear the torment of waiting any longer, he decided to go to Beijing to see for himself.

Chang's determination to pursue the Buddha's teachings was firmly set. On June 29, 1930, at the age of twenty-five, he left home alone for the first time and renounced his worldly life for good. Traveling night and day from Shanghai, he finally reached Beijing. There he found out that the school had been shut down due to military confrontations among warlords. Although his high hopes were shattered, his zeal was not dampened. After pondering for a while, he could do nothing but return to Shanghai.

"Where should I go next?" Chang asked in bewilderment. In a little inn in hustling, bustling Shanghai, Chang sat alone. A few days passed as he killed time by browsing through some of the Buddhist sutras that he carried. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the name "Tien Tung Temple" flashed through his mind. Seizing the thought, he boarded a boat sailing toward Ningpo. To his dismay, he was told by the locals upon his arrival there that the temple could not be reached by means of rickshaws, a commonly used means of transportation then. His hope seemed to diminish quickly.

"Pu Tou Mountain [one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China] is not far away," he thought. "Why don't I simply go over there to pay homage to the Buddha?" As the boat rolled on a sea dotted with hundreds of islands, Chang was finally getting closer to the buddha-land.

He lodged in a temple on Pu Tou Mountain. One day, a young man walked by and caught a glimpse of the sutra that Chang was reading. "My name is Wang, and I'm here to be ordained as a monk," he amicably introduced himself. "I want to be a monk too," Chang exclaimed. It was the first time that Chang had shared with anyone else his secret desire of becoming a monk. The stranger standing before him soon became his close friend.

The two of them thoroughly scrutinized The Guide to Pu Tou Mountain for a place where they could wholeheartedly study the Buddha's teachings. "The Prajna Abode has a rich collection of sutras and is headed by a well-cultivated abbot." Upon reading that, they felt that it was the place where they should go.

The abode was a little hut. After they knocked at the door several times, an old monk finally came to the door. "We want to study Buddhism," the two of them said bluntly. Sensing their sincerity and aspiration to learn, the old monk briefly expounded the essence of Buddhism for them. His voice was stern but serene.

"Many pilgrims visited the temple where we were staying, so we hope to move to a quiet place for a couple of months where we can study the fundamental thoughts of Buddhism," Chang explained.

The old monk nodded with understanding. "I see. There is a Fu Chun Monastery located less than half a mile from here. Just tell them that it is I who referred you to them!"

After thanking the monk, the two hurried to Fu Chun Monastery. There, the abbot, with his gray hair and beard glowing under the sun, looked extremely dignified and holy. After listening to their explanation, he nodded in agreement.

Together, Chang and Wang stayed at the monastery and began to delve into the Buddha's teachings. Finally, the drifting seed had settled on the buddha-land.

Master Ching Nen, the abbot of the monastery, made that seed sprout. On October 11, 1930, the old master shaved Chang Lu-ching's head and gave him the religious name of Yin Shun, the monk who would later give new light to Chinese Buddhism through his writings.