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The Story of Dharma Master Yin Shun - My heart will never change

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My heart will never change
The civil war between the Nationalist and Communist armies took Master Yin Shun to Hong Kong in 1949, and then three years later to Taiwan, where he has resided ever since.

The master values education because he believes faith in Buddhism should be developed from Right View--only with a correct understanding of the Buddha's teachings will one's faith in the Triple Treasures [the Buddha, dharma and sangha] be genuine. Such a devout faith will lead one unswervingly to bring benefits to oneself and others and further one's progress on the Path of the Buddhahood. In the 1950s, the master observed that the Buddhist monks and nuns in Taiwan, just like those in his hometown, seemed to be only concerned about performing rituals, and not educating other monks, nuns or laypeople with the Buddha's philosophy. Worried about this unfavorable situation, Yin Shun decided to reverse the trend. The society, including the Buddhist sangha, of that time saw women as inferior to men. Women had few chances to receive an education. Inspired by Master Yin Shun's belief that studies would enhance a nun's spiritual growth, Master Shuan Shen opened the Hsinchu Women's Buddhist Institute in her convent. In addition, Master Yin Shun set up the first Buddhist lecture hall on the island--the Hui Jih Lecture Hall. Through lectures and discussion, attendees were encouraged to study the orthodox Buddhist teachings. His efforts paid off. Quite a few Buddhists have learned to behave properly according to the Buddha's teachings.

Wherever he went, no matter how frail he was, he always promulgated humanized Buddhism. In November 1954, a checkup revealed that the master had long been inflicted with pulmonary tuberculosis. His lungs were calcified and the tracheae were abnormal. He needed to receive immediate medical treatment and get adequate rest. Still, he had to fly to the Philippines to give a series of lectures. When he finally returned to Taiwan, five months had passed. The trip took a heavy toll on his health. He barely had the strength to eat or talk. However, when people came to him with questions on Buddhism, he would summon his strength and answer spiritedly.

In 1999, another life-threatening illness befell him. Because of months of incessant diarrhea, the signs of life were fading from the 94-year-old Mentor of Buddhism. Such pain and fatigue would be unbearable to any robust youth, let alone a man of his age. Yet never once did Yin Shun panic or complain. Dr. Lin, his attending physician, said the master always greeted all visitors with a smile. Whenever guests came to visit the venerable master, he summoned up his spirit to speak to them. "As a physician, I knew he was clenching his teeth to endure the pain and the fatigue and the numbness from sitting, because he didn't want to frighten away his visitors," Dr. Lin said. "I think this could hardly be achieved unless a person has attained a very high level in his spiritual cultivation." The master again set a good example for his disciples to follow.

In Authentic Human Buddhism, Master Yin Shun described himself as follows:
"True, I have done a lot of research on the Buddha's teachings, and I have written some and talked some about Buddhism. But I am neither a sectarian, a theoretician, nor an erudite Buddhist scholar. Much less do I intend to open a dharma department store that gives you whatever you need (like an accomplished bodhisattva who can give whatever you ask for). I am only receiving and forming theories to prove the concept of my own teacher, the Venerable Master Tai Shu, that Buddhism is not about worshipping ghosts or deities, but about putting the Buddha's teachings into practice in our daily lives. Although my body is fading away with age, my mind will forever dwell joyfully on the Buddha's teachings. I am committed to being reborn in this world [not in heaven] again and again to be a messenger of the Buddha."

"Humanized Buddhism is the core of Buddhism," Master Yin Shun reiterated. His efforts in promoting this idea have yielded fruit. Some of his eminent disciples have gone out into the world to serve all living beings with an otherworldly spirit--Cheng Yen founded the Tzu Chi Foundation, Chuan Tao is raising public awareness on the environment, Chao Hui is promoting the integrity of all lives, etc. All this originated from the day Master Yin Shun started to promote humanized Buddhism over sixty years ago.

By Pan Shuen
Translated by Teresa Chang and Adrian Yiu
Source: Tzu Chi Quarterly Summer 2002