果舟居士用分組報告方式妥善地在一週內解說兩卷經義，他並介紹翻譯經典的樂趣與難處，像梵文Tathagata-garbha通常譯為如來藏，卻不能完全表達原義，因為garbha還有「胎」之意。翻譯委員決定英譯文將改為 “atrix of the Tathagata”，因為“atrix”有母胎的意思。有人提出目前用“atrix”會使人聯想到電影The Matrix那個受巨大電腦母體控制玩弄的人性形象，可見翻譯也要克服很多困難。
The Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth’s (DRBY) annual Summer Sutra Study Retreat focused on the
Shurangama Sutra this year. The retreat lasted from June 14 until August 15, 2003, a total of nine weeks, and included explanations of the entire
Shurangama Sutra given by a total of nine lecturers, the Guanyin Session, and a trip to Buddha Root Farm in Oregon. The participants, of which there were twenty to thirty, were students from many different backgrounds, including Mexico, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Canada, and the US. Several residents of CTTB attended as well. It was the second time in DRBA that the entire Shurangama has been lectured over a summer, the first of which was in 1968, when the Venerable Master Hua held a summer session for a group of Westerners at the Buddhist Lecture Hall on Waverly Place in San Francisco. The first session inspired five Westerners to leave home. Thirty-five years later, at CTTB, we see yet another turning of the Dharma Wheel with the DRBY’s Shurangama Retreat. During this year’s retreat five participants took refuge with the Triple Jewel, and some took the five precepts and the eight lay precepts as well.
After revising the schedule twice, the participants settled on three hours of meditation, four-and-a-half hours of lecture, and three hours of ceremony, one hour of community service, and one hour of mantra recitation and memorization. By participating in the CTTB daily schedule, people had the opportunity to experience the monastic schedule offered at CTTB. John, who is an English teacher in Japan, mentioned how he felt carried by the energy of everyone as they followed the schedule together, so that he may successfully complete the session. Whit, a physics graduate student at UC Berkeley mentioned that before the retreat he was convinced he needed eight hours of sleep a night to function, but after participating in the schedule that only allowed about five, he realized this was not true.
The following is a description of each week of the retreat.
Week 1: Dr. Martin Verhoeven, Shurangama vol. 1
Since many people were new to the Dharma, Dr. Verhoeven laid the groundwork for the entire retreat and spoke a lot about basic Buddhist history, principles and practices. Two or three days were spent just discussing the first four words of the sutra, “Thus I have heard.” He emphasized that as a cultivator reaches higher levels of attainment, he should be all the more careful with regard to details, such as precepts and deportment.
Dr. Verhoeven encouraged all participants to keep a journal. He would read the journals and write comments, as well as share quotes that might help us along in our study.
Week 2: David Rounds, vols. 2 and 3
Mr. Rounds accomplished the difficult task of explaining two volumes in one week. He had everyone divide into groups to study and present different selections of the text. He also discussed the joy and challenge of translating Sutras. For instance, the Sanskrit word
Tathagata-garbha is often translated as the “Treasury of the Thus Come One,” but this does not encompass its entire meaning. Besides “treasury,” the word
garbha means “womb.” The translators decided to use the “Matrix of the Tathagata” in the new translation, because “matrix” also has the meaning “womb.” The participants further revealed the complexities of translation by noting that currently, the “matrix” is a word that causes most people to immediately think of the popular movie
The Matrix, invoking images of humanity ruled and deceived by a huge computerized “matrix.”
Week 3: Ron Epstein, 1st half of vol. 4
Dr. Epstein began his series of lecture with an account of the first Shurangama session in 1968. He mentioned how the expectations of the Venerable Master seemed far beyond anything the participants, of which Ron was one, could imagine themselves accomplishing. He said, “We have a limited view of what we are capable of doing. The Buddha says there is no limit to what you can do. You have to let go of your restricted mind.” He encouraged the students to ask questions, and he asked a lot of challenging questions of the students, himself. He also encouraged the students to use the summer as a chance for changing habits for the better, to learn to be a genuine Buddhist.
4th Week: DM Tso, 2nd half of vol. 4
DM Tso, besides lecturing on the sutra text, described how Master Hua really encouraged people to push themselves. He suggested a revised schedule, which added a third meditation and deleted the afternoon rest period. He emphasized the importance of attending meditation and ceremonies. Although it meant less sleep, everyone ended up appreciating the changes in the schedule. One slogan that stuck in many of the participants’ minds was “no meal offering, no lunch,” which was something Master Hua advocated in the past.
5th Week: Doug Powers, vol 5, Guanyin Session
During the daytime, the students participated in the Guanyin Session reciting the Universal Door Chapter of the
Lotus Sutra twice a day, and in the evenings Mr. Powers went over the
Shurangama Sutra, particularly the portion “Returning the hearing to hear the self-nature.” On the last night of the session, five participants shared their experiences before the great assembly.
6th Week: Doug Powers, vol 5 (Oregon, Buddha Root Farm)
At this point, DRBY took a trip to Buddha Root Farm in Oregon, where Master Hua had held an Amitabha session in 1975. Bill Brevoort, who hosted DRBY, told the participants upon their arrival, “I have been waiting thirty years for you.” Buddha Root Farm is a very different environment than the City because it is completely immersed in nature with very few buildings. The Chan/Buddha Hall was a simple wooden structure in the middle of the forest. It was a wonderful place for meditation—very silent and peaceful.
During the three days spent in Oregon, there were two lectures each day covering the 25 sages’ methods of achieving perfect penetration. We also discussed the importance of the monastic role in the establishment of Buddhism in the West. Besides lectures and meditation, there were nature hikes and outdoor recitations. People expressed the wish to have an extended retreat in Oregon in the future.
7th Week: DM Chih, vol 6
This week emphasized the Four Unalterable Aspects of Purity and the Shurangama Mantra. We spent the first few days discussing how the precepts are the foundation for cultivation of the Mantra and samadhi. We talked about why the Four Unalterable Aspects are one of the reasons the Shurangama is being attacked. A deviant teacher can’t lecture the precepts as being unalterable while breaking them and still claim to be a Good Knowing Advisor.
The rest of the week was filled with talk about the Shurangama Mantra and tales of its efficacy. Dharma Master Chih shared many fascinating personal experiences regarding the Mantra.
8th Week: DM Jen and DM Jhuang, vol 7
DM Jen and DM Jhuang provided a good foundation in the basic Buddhist principles and an overview of the makeup of the Tripitika. DM Jhuang began the week with some explanations of the teaching schools in China, which helped us understand where the
Surangama Sutra fits into the history of Buddhism. DM Jen taught about karma and precepts, using real life stories. At the end of the week, we divided into six groups to present summaries of Volume 1 through Volume 6. This was an excellent way to review and share what we had learned since the beginning of the retreat.
9th Week: DM Sure, vol 8
DM Sure covered the entire Fifty Skandha-Demon States in five days. During the afternoons, he brought the class outside to sit under trees by the Administration Office. It felt like sitting under the Bodhi tree back in the days of the Buddha. On one day, two Jain nuns from India stopped by. They commented that, “When holy people sit under a tree, the tree becomes holy.”
DM Sure told many stories emphasizing the importance of finding a Good and Wise Advisor, and in studying Buddhism how careful people should be and not to be deceived by false teachers seeking personal fame or profit.
The last day, DM Sure encouraged people to be mindful of the Ten Good Deeds and bring the principles and practices learned in the past two months back into their lives. Although most are leaving the external conditions of CTTB, there are many internal aspects that can be taken with us and applied in daily life, such as the Six Great Principles. We may not be able to continue to get up at 3:30 to do Morning Ceremony, but we can all try a little harder not to get angry and to be a Buddhist with the right knowledge and right view at all times.
For this group of young people to set everything else aside and come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to study the
Shurangama Sutra is rare indeed. During these nine weeks, they strove to live up to their potential, forgetting their fatigue and successfully meeting the challenge. In class, they studied seriously and raised all kinds of challenging questions. In the Buddha Hall, they chanted with single-minded earnestness. Their instructors were inspired to teach everything they could impart, because these students have great potential for carrying Buddhism forward. May they advance on the Path, never retreat from Bodhi, and dedicate their talents to benefit living beings and help the world!