Whew, what a week. No time to read newspapers, no time to blog. But what a fulfilling and revealing week too.
It started with last Saturday when we left at 6.10am for Orlando to attend the 2007 Buddhist Summer Camp with the theme Becoming A Buddhist Family. Practically too, I mean our entourage, except for our D at Oregon.
The camp actually started on Friday; however we could not attend then because of my work. It was solid eight hours of intense exposure to dharma teaching delivered by Venerables from as far as California. I attended the Chinese session on Friday, one of which is on Shurangama Sutra by Venerable Jian Hu, who is the Abbot of the Zen Center of Sunnyvale, California.
It’s actually a series of lectures spanning over three days (we missed those on the first day) during which Venerable Jian Hu went through verses by verses with cogent explanations.
Before today, I have heard that Shurangama Sutra is one the authenticity of which has been called into question. This is a misconceived notion based on some of the sutra’s coverage on demon states. Actually that’s also the reason why it is the first sutra to disappear from this world, an era termed the dharma ending epoch.
We were taught that each of us is endowed with the Buddha nature that is unchanging, vis-à-vis consciousness that is impermanent. But I will blog about that later and for now, I would just give a rundown of the events in the past week, and some thoughts on the happenings.
We did the same thing the next day, leaving home at 6.00am for Orlando, about one and a half hour drive. However, I alternated between the Chinese and English sessions this time, and it also marked the first time I listened to Venerable Jian Hu’s delivery in English, a flawless one I would say. This time we reached home earlier, at 10pm.
Then for the next two nights, we attended the Dharma Talk sessions by Venerable Jian Hu organized by the Middle Way Buddhist Association at its Pinellas Park venue. On both nights, we were assigned the duty of ferrying Venerable Jian Hu from Clearwater back to his lodge not far from our home. On the first night, I also picked up two CDs featuring Venerable Jian Hu, which I listened to while driving to work the next two days. Coupled with the occasional citations of his own Buddhist experience in his lectures and talks, including the time prior to his decision to become a Buddhist monk, I began to realize that his Buddhist journey is not unlike that of Matthieu Ricard, a French Monk who left for India/Nepal/Tibet to search for his spiritual destiny, becoming a Buddhist monk, not long after he graduated with a Ph.D. and worked as a researcher in cellular genetics. I’m presently reading his book, HAPPINESS – a guide to developing life’s most important skill.
Venerable Jian Hu emigrated to US at the young age of 14 with his mother. And he went on to CalTech for his first degree and graduated with a Ph.D. in computer science (majoring in artificial intelligence) from UC San Diego. He got interested in Buddhism while still in college but embraced Buddhism fully after he returned to Taiwan to seek a deeper purpose to his existence.
Because of his academic training in the rigor of the scientific method, he was able to see the parallels between Buddhism and science, and more since science cannot explain the mind beyond the “reality” of the material world. In fact, Buddhism is the science of the mind. Such parallels include the wave-particle duality, the time-space continuum, and the matter-energy equivalency as enshrined in the famous equation due to Albert Einstein, E = mc squared, that heralded the arrival of the age of relativity, except that Buddha had already alluded to them more than two thousand years ago as referenced in the Diamond Sutra (Form is emptiness and emptiness is Form).
Always spotting a child-like smile, Venerable Jian Hu explains the timeless teaching of Buddha succinctly, and more importantly, right to the point, in his unique confident tone of voice, always even and measured. He shared many of his personal anecdotes with us, illustrating the usefulness and applications of Buddha’s teaching using everyday occurrences, for Buddhist practice is an empirical one, and its benefits verifiable, though not in the sense that it can be measured. But in attitude change: an outward manifestation of serenity, calmness, compassion, and giving to others. I would in turn share these wisdom-filled anecdotes in due course.