At the Feet of Master Ji Qun

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on June 26, 2017.)

Master Ji Qun goes over notes outside a hermitage near Huayan Temple, Ningde, Fujian

In the summer of 2006, I had the extraordinary opportunity to spend a week in a remote mountain temple, teaching Buddhism in English to about 100 kids. There I met a great Master who also joined us in teaching the students.

Master Ji Qun is Abbot of the ancient Xiyuan Temple in Suzhou (which I visited a few years later).  Devotees have described him as one of the foremost Chinese monks of the 21st century.  Yet, I found him delightfully humble and unassuming.

One of the best parts of the week was the evening where the Master held a "Q & A" session with the students. Here are some of his very practical answers (paraphrased from notes I made with the help of a translator).

Q: How can one be happy?
A: Know who you are.

Q: Who are you? [This question was greeted with gentle laughter.]
A: There is no me. [lifting his tea cup] "My" cup has no [intrinsic] relationship to me. Just so, my body is not "mine" in any real sense. It came to me as the cup came to me. This is simply the result of Cause and Effect. When we view a photo of ourselves, we may point to it and exclaim, "That's me!" But the photo is not me, and just so the body is not me, because there is no me--only a concept of me.

Q: How can one have a calm heart?
A: (1) Simple life, simple heart. (2) Don't care too much about things; move through life like a bird passing through the sky, not clinging to anything. (3) Let Dharma [the Buddha's teachings] teach us wisdom. (4) Pray or sit daily.

The Master had several more things to say. Perhaps I will share more next time.

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