Thinking of my teacher Rev. XianMing
Reading the letter sent from Rev. MingGuang through secretary of BAUS Wayne, I realized though being a student of Rev. XianMing, I have never written any words on Rev. XianMing’s Tian Tai teaching. I told myself it is not right. As Rev. MingGuang, himself a dear student of Rev. XianMing, is initiating an effort to publish collection of articles from BAUS members in memory of his teacher, I would take this opportunity to say what I know.
I am actually the first student of Rev. XianMing in the US who took refuge of the 3 precious ones through him. So naturally I am among the first group of students who learned Tian Tai’s teachings from him. Those were the ‘good old days’ of Temple of Great Enlightenment in the Bronx, for there were dharma talk every week there, and we all learned a lot during that period of time. One of the thing I remember so well from Rev. XianMing is that he did not want us to take note in his dharma talk, with a very good reason. He said when a Tian Tai dharma master is giving talk on Buddha Dharma, it is the flowing of dharma itself. A student should give full attention to it, not only to understand, but also to “feel” it. Taking down any note will be a distraction and will divert one’s focus, and the full scope of dharma flow will be obstructed. That is the reason why at the beginning of many sutras, Buddha always reminds listeners to “listen carefully and give it a good thought”. So I never took any note from Rev. XianMing, but I still learned a lot.
Even though my major goal of spreading Buddhism today is through its modernization, not reviving Tian Tai school, I know deep down inside that Rev. XianMing’s teaching provides the foundation of my learning of dharma. It is through him I came to understand the depth and Core teachings of Chinese buddhism. And that understanding helps a lot on my modernization endeavor.
He was not only a very wise and learned person, but also a man of a very broad and open mind. When he was the abbot of Temple of Great Enlightenment, there was a Chinese monk coming out of China who followed Tibetan Buddhism tradition and was the carrier of Red school’s dharma lineage. Many young Buddhists like me and TsuKu were attracted by him, and practiced “esoteric doctrine “ for a period of time. That was the time when I was exposed to Tibetan tradition. Later on for some reason that group was disbanded, and we no longer followed that esoteric practice no more. But during that period, Rev. XianMing never utter a word to stop us learning Tibetan buddhism , even though he himself might not totally agree with their practice. Rev. XianMing became the live example to me, who completely followed the path of a Bodhisattva : “Praise and support all beneficial practices for sentient beings, even though their teaching is different from one’s own belief”.
Beside all these, Rev. XianMing is a very loving human being. More than once did I hear him talked about the western Pure Land, with Amitabha Buddha there. He said he would stay in this world to help others be born there and be on their way toward complete Enlightenment. And if there is still one single sentient being suffering in this world, then he himself will not go. He talked about this vow of his in a very casual way. But it is very touching to me. For he really meant it. He let me see the nature of Bodhisattva Earth Store’s vow in a magnificent way.
He was the 45th generation of patriarch of Tian Tai, the largest Chinese Buddhism school teaching Bodhisattva Nagajuna’s treatises on Sunyata and Middle Way. His teacher was Master BaoJing, the 44th patriarch. He could have left BAUS and formed his own temple and organization, but he did not. That was not his priority in life.
I am very happy and thankful that I have been one of Rev. XianMing’s students in this life!