DHARMA MASTER YAO SHENG

I was born in the Southern province of Taiwan, in the little town of Chia I. My family was not wealthy, but life was full and comfortable. During my youth, the following verse was a source of constant reflection:

For the sake of a moment's pleasure,

You cause yourself long-term sorrow.

If you don't work hard in your youth

When are you going to apply effort?

Because I was stubborn and fiercely independent, I did not care to plow through the lifeless education assembly line. At sixteen, upon finishing high school, despite stern opposition from my parents, I went out into the world on my own. I drifted amidst the "white waves and red dust" for some three or four years.

These years brought me awake to this realization: In this modern age, in order to endure a high moral standard in society, it is essential for young people to gain a comprehensive and practical education that can enable then to mold their character, purify their bodies, and transform their minds.

In search of this requisite, I attended P'ing Tung Tung Shan Buddhist Institute. Within the first few months of study I was greatly relieved to discover the firmness of the foundation of noble truths in Buddhism. A body and mind that originally drifted aimlessly in a turbulent sea now found a place of refuge. I bowed to the Rev. Bhiksuni Pan Hung of P'ing Kuan Monastery at Taipei as my master, and started to live the life of a novice trainee amidst the left-home community. After three years of training I received the full precepts. At which point I made a vow:

I do not want to be a Sanghin in name only, not somebody who still abides in the vulgar manners of the world even after her head is shaved. I want to be a Sanghin who truly merits being called the Buddha's disciple.

      Five years ago I entered Fwo Kuang Shan Buddhist Institute. My main course of study centered on the Vijnanamatra (Mind Only) School. This is a magnificent and complex teaching propagated by the Great Master Hsuan Tsang who in the T'ang Dynasty went to India and after enduring many ordeals and hardships, brought the sacred teachings back to China. The Mind Only School flourished in the T'ang, but, being a system of intricate analysis, faced over the centuries. Not until the twentieth century are we witnessing a resurging interest in if from both Eastern and Western Buddhists.

      Drawn by the magnanimous vision and example set by the Venerable Abbot Hsuan Hua, who despite the difficulties has planted the seeds of the Proper Dharma in America, I have come to the West to support this important cause.

The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is refreshing. Here, there is real cultivation. One need not worry about such things as provisions or money. This accords with the Buddha's admonition to live a life of "few desires and to know contentment." Since we've already left the home-life, why still run after name or gain? If we still lay stress on material comfort or success, the search for spiritual truth is bound to suffer.

Having witnessed the forms of degeneration in some aspects of Buddhism is Asia, I have come to the West full of resolve to help the Proper Dharma flourish. If the Dharma must fade in the old country, let it's light grow bright in the New World.

In Taiwan we heard a lot of rumors about the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas--that the suffering was intense, with left-home people taking one meal a day, sleeping sitting up, and many of them not handling money, etc. The rumors were designed to make it a place of unbearable asceticism. I was doubtful that I could endure it. But then I thought to myself, "If you aren't willing to try out anything new, how can you make progress?" So I was determined to come and do the best I could.

To my delight, I fit right in here, like a fish to water. The City of Ten/Thousand Buddhas is a Pureland in the Saha. Acres of acres of wooded lawns, a sky full of fresh air and you wake up to sunshine and the songs of a hundred birds! It's a virtual paradise in the world of the five turbidities. I quickly adapted to my new life. Now I keep a busy schedule of studying English, translation, delving into the works of Chinese philosophers like Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu, as well as investigating the Avatamsaka, the Dharma Flower, and the Surangama Sutras.

I quickly got used to eating a meal a day--I adopted that practice myself, no one asked me to. And Iíve never felt better! There is a feeling constant light ease. Looking back at the time I was worried for the sake of my stomach, I cannot but laugh at my own fears, which were totally groundless. Iíve never been sick since I got here. I attribute this state of improved health to the simple practices and vigorous cultivating atmosphere here. This place offers an unsurpassed combination of pure thinking, teaching, and living all blended in the most sensible and perfect balance. This is a true Way-place, a place where the precepts are purely upheld, the Sutras disseminated, and the true Dharma realized. The single most valuable gift is the chance to draw near to a Good Knowing Advisor and to learn the Dharma of the Heart at his feet. This is a rare opportunity to meet anyoneís lifetime.