Although We’re No Crack Troop (Jin Gwo Shr)
If we were a team of soldiers, there would be Japanese soldiers, American soldiers, Chinese soldiers, etc. We’re made up of people from different backgrounds. The Japanese soldiers move forward boldly, always obeying every command for each move without thinking about it. American soldiers are independent and assertive. They ask about everything and don’t do anything unless they’re clear about it. Chinese soldiers will see how things go and play it by ear while they try to keep the peace.
The traits of these three types of soldiers exist in the preceptees. Some have two or three personalities simultaneously, though in different portions. We also have three types (or more) of officers in our instructors. Sometimes American officers teach Japanese soldiers, Chinese officers teach American soldiers. . . this is a special way to teach us. There is no right or wrong and there is no fixed dharma; however, from this we’ve learned to understand each other’s intent and humbly accept the instructors’ compassionate teachings, respect each other’s views, change our habits, and learn to be an international Sangha that’s in harmony.
Although we’re not the best troop, we stand united, bringing along the old and the young. With our backs to the wall, we fight birth and death.
The Written Precepts Are Alive (Jin Cang Shr)
Ever since the moment I left home, I felt fortunate and honored to be a member of the DRBA Sangha. This feeling is especially strong at this moment in time. The DRBA precept platform maintains many traditions that help us with cultivation. What distinguishes us from other precept platforms is that besides having Vinaya texts as teaching material, we have our most important base in the Venerable Master’s talks on comportment and rules for everyday life. The Venerable Master always reminded his disciples that the essence of the precepts lies in the Six Great Principles, which teach us to be selfless. The Venerable Master’s teachings breathe life into the precepts written on paper so that the precepts may be applied to our daily life.
This precept period is full of goodness because of the contributions of so many people. The precept lessons, the power of repentance, and the encouragement from fellow preceptees in this precept period led me to break through an earlier bottleneck in my cultivation. Having been nourished by the rain of Dharma, my earlier withered Bodhi sprouts now have new signs of extended branches and unfolding leaves. Now I am full of confidence and ready and waiting for the next new challenge.
At the City of the Dharma Realm, 26 preceptees shared a most important period of time in our lives. We do community work, attend classes, and work together to develop the attitude and tacit understanding of working according to the Dharma. This experience has a proactive and positive impact on our cultivation for the future. I hope that we will further widen our heart of upholding the precepts and use the true essence of the precepts, being without selfishness and self-seeking, to help living beings. Also we hope to always look inward and reflect, to seek the cause in ourselves. May the pure precept substance freely wield its capability to stop evil and do good, so that we may realize the great vow of Bodhi, seeking above to become a Buddha and transforming living beings below.
Respect and Harmony That Are Just Right (Jin Hsien Shr)
This precept platform was a wonderful and healthy training for monastics. Some of the preceptees felt that the schedule was too tight while others said that it was a little loose. To me it was just fine—not too loose or too tight. I am very grateful to our teachers for their spirit, energy, and time that they put in to make this platform possible. I would also like to express my appreciation to the rest of the Dharma Masters and fellow cultivators who directly or indirectly supported this platform.
We are living in a world where we mutually depend on one another. There is not one single person who can completely rely on him or herself without the aid of another. On a larger scale, everyone definitely supported this platform. On a smaller scale, the preceptees gave each other a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on for moral support. It is amazing how the 26 of us from various branch monasteries and four different countries, each with her own different learning and experience, from ages 20 - 63, could get along so well. Is it that all of us have attained a certain level of sagehood, and that we no longer are affected by criticism, or have afflictions, and have become completely compliant? No, I don’t think so. Even people who come from the same country, speak the same language, are born into the same family, are still in conflict with each other because of different personalities and needs.
So then, what is it that held us 26 preceptees together? First, it was the examples that our teachers set for us. For instance, one of the teachers said, “It’s amazing how we two American nuns with our liberal thinking can work so well with two Asian nuns with their traditional thinking.” Their willingness to adopt each others’ good points for the sake of the preceptees and their respect for each other generated a positive energy at the start of the platform.
Second, the beginning classes on the precepts and on deportment served as an excellent guide, instructing us on how to carry ourselves and how to treat others—we should closely watch our behavior and actions and restrain ourselves from doing what’s improper. The Bodhisattva Precepts class, on the other hand, stressed the importance of practicing great compassion. From the very start, we were given a vivid picture of how to think internally, how to act externally, and how to interact with each other in a respectful and harmonious manner.
Third, there existed a strong determination among the preceptees to receive the precepts. With this clear determination, and because the direction we were headed for was so well known, whenever any minor conflict or affliction presented itself, we quickly did our best to resolve it, not allowing it to get worse. Furthermore, the preceptees’ quest for the Dharma and their eagerness to share it with other people shone above all. At the end of each day, what really matters is only this and nothing more.
In conclusion, I have a suggestion that preliminary training be given to the newly left-home people for a few months before they are assigned to the branch temples, so they will know the importance of learning Dharma and cultivating as a harmonious Sangha member. As one of our teachers said, “As soon as one is born, one should prepare for one’s death. So as soon as one leaves the home life, one should prepare for ordination.”
My motto is: “If you can run, then run (but not too fast); if you can walk, then walk; if you cannot walk, then you can glide; if you cannot glide, then you can advance with your mind. No matter what, never retreat. In every moment, go forward.”
Wishing to Take up the Responsibility of Making Buddhism Flourish
A Talk by Bhikshu Jin Shang on August 13, 2005 at CTTB
Jin Shang is very grateful to the Sangha for giving me a Dharma name and for all the efforts they put into planning this 11th Ordination, and also to the Precept Masters and Preceptors who worked so hard. Further, my thanks go to all good advisors whose participation and sincere support made this ordination successful.
During the 108-day training period, I felt as if I were living in the furious churning of the sea. I couldn’t be the slightest bit casual. In addition to following and adjusting to the full training schedule, which included the intensive Bhikshu Precepts class, I endeavored to concentrate and examine my deportment and my thoughts in every moment. Hence everyday I felt as if I were walking on thin ice or standing at the edge of a steep cliff—I dared not be the least bit careless!
In my opinion, a preceptee’s receiving of the Precepts marks the end of the ceremony, but the beginning of his cultivation of the Way. The Buddhadharma is as vast as the ocean, and what I understand is only a small drop of water. With such little knowledge and understanding, how can I liberate beings on a vast scale? The only way is to be courageous and do my best to practice the Bodhisattva Path. As a saying goes, “I know there are tigers in the mountain, yet I still walk into the mountains.”
Since the Novice Training Program started, I have undergone all kinds of tests, accumulated a little good karma, and with the aid of wholesome conditions, my Bodhi sprouts have grown stronger. In the future I will not be slack, sloppy, or negligent, but will diligently cultivate precepts,
samadhi, and wisdom. I should be careful in my every move and every word – always being mindful. On the one hand, I will pay attention to my deportment; on the other, I will focus inwardly on the pure cultivation of precepts and gradually get rid of attachment to my ego. I hope that after building up some skill, I will be able to help beings leave suffering and attain bliss.
I have now entered the monastic order of Bhikshus, which is like being born into the Tathagata’s household, and thus shoulder greater responsibilities. I hope I can always maintain a grateful heart and truly follow the Venerable Master’s Six Guidelines. I hope that by cultivating sincerely, I can shoulder the responsibilities of the Tathagata’s household and perpetuate the wisdom-life of the Buddha.
Finally, I hope that after we receive the Precepts, we can dedicate the merit from our cultivation of pure conduct to the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association to repay the Association for their effort in ordaining us 28 preceptees. We will do our best to help Buddhism flourish and diligently propagate the Buddhadharma.