On September 27, Venerable Master Hua wrote the Chinese sentence, "Professor Yang, the Honorable One of the University, teaches foreign language; Yang (a name) and Yang ('foreign') are the same sound, but not the same word," and asked everyone to write a second line to form a matching couplet. "Professor Yang" refers to Professor Richard Yang, the Director of Dharma Realm Buddhist University's (DRBU) Chinese Language Program. The Venerable Master had asked Professor Yang to be the Chancellor of DRBU, but he declined, so the Venerable Master gave him the title "The Honorable One of the University" instead.
At their first meeting, the Venerable Master Hua and Professor Yang struck up a conversation about Chinese poetry and matching couplets. Feeling like old friends at first sight, the two chatted continuously for four and a half hours.
In early childhood, Professor Yang attended a rural school in China. At age twenty, he took the college exams and was admitted to Yenching University, where he majored in journalism. In this period of study, he gained a thorough background in Chinese literature; his knowledge is broad and profound in ancient as well as modern literature. During the War of Japanese Resistance, he served as editor, translator, and reporter for various news agencies, thereby learning to use language in a skillful and sensitive way.
In 1948, he began studying at the University of Washington in Seattle, and obtained his Ph.D. in Chinese Language and Literature seven years later. In 1960 Dr. Yang commenced his career as a professor of Chinese Language and Culture at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He has also been Visiting Professor at Regensburg University in Germany, and Professor and Chairman of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1983, he retired from active teaching and became Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh.
During his extensive teaching career, Dr. Yang created a "Chinese Character Tones Spelling Method," which has helped promote Chinese language learning in the West. A second edition of
College Chinese, published by Dharma Realm Buddhist University, has a detailed introduction to this method.
As a child, he saw his mother observe a vegetarian diet and bow to the Buddhas, and following her example, he himself was vegetarian for twenty years.
After reading the Avatamsaka Sutra, the
Sixth Patriarch's Jeweled Platforrri Sutra, and the
Earth Store Sutra recommended by Venerable Master Hua, he says with great feeling, "Why hash't Buddhism become widespread? It's just because there haven't been any clear, easy-to-understand explanations of the Sutras." For many years now, the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has been translating the Sutras into English, and he feels this is an excellent way to help spread the Buddhadharma.
The wonderful words of the humorous Professor Yang are like pearls, stimulating everyone's interest in learning. Still vigorous at his advanced age, he has come to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to introduce Chinese culture to a group of Asian and American students, and to contribute his talents to the community. Passing through life's hardships has cultivated his wisdom, endowing him with a carefree, content attitude of life. Although he modestly says he does not understand Buddhadharma, his life and conduct, his humaneness and righteousness, and his vigor in old age, are truly worthy of our respect and study.