Among all of his monastic and lay students, why did Late Master Jih-Chang choose Master Zhen-Ru as his successor?

Response:

The foremost student in spreading The Great Treatise teachings

After Late Master Jih-Chang spent over ten years spreading the teachings of The Great Treatise, he met Master Zhen-Ru who showed great desire to learn the The Great Treatise since she was young. Her understanding of the path to enlightenment, as well as her unwavering faith in Great Master Tsong-Kha-Pa was peerless among all the students of Late Master Jih-Chang. In 2000, at a very important meeting, Late Master Jih-Chang delightedly announced to key monastic and lay students that Master Zhen-Ru is his foremost disciple. There is a recording of Late Master Jih-Chang during the "Grand Offering of Light Ceremony in Memory of Great Master Tsong-Kha-Pa" of that year in which he publicly praised her: "Through her, the teachings of Great Master Tsong-Kha-Pa can truly bring brightness to the world." 

Master Jih-Chang has learned from many great masters of different lineages. Under their personal instruction, he listened and practiced their teachings. When he finally came upon the teachings of Great Master Tsong-Kha-Pa that was both perfect in theory and practice, he decided to take The Great Treatises as his principal practice in life. With his spiritual teacher's great anticipation, Master Jih-Chang devoted his life to spreading the teachings of The Great Treatise. After indescribable difficulties, he finally established the Bliss and Wisdom monastic community. When he finally met a disciple who could carry on the lineage, one could imagine the comfort and joy he felt.

In hopes of imparting his knowledge and understanding of Buddhism to Master Zhen-Ru—similar to transferring water from one vase to another—Master Jih-Chang spent most of his latter years teaching Master Zhen-Ru. Out of his students, she was the only one who completely understood his intentions. Not long after Master Jih-Chang met Master Zhen-Ru, he appointed her as the successor of the Bliss and Wisdom community. He passed on to her the great responsibility of propagating the teachings of The Great Treatise and carrying on the Buddhist endeavours. Up until his passing, Master Jih-Chang never once changed his decision. Master Jih-Chang has said himself that Master Zhen-Ru's decisions are just as his. He expressed his wish for his monastic and lay students to view Master Zhen-Ru as no different from him.

His last instructions, a compassionate wish

Master Jih-Chang greatly anticipated Master Zhen-Ru coming to Taiwan to succeed him in the monastic and lay endeavours. He frequently said "If you can come one second earlier, do not delay for another second." The Cross-Strait legal restrictions did not help this sense of urgency. As such, in his final days, Master Jih-Chang put aside his physical ailments and resolved to fly to China and personally hand over to Master Zhen-Ru the great responsibility of preserving and propagating the Buddhist teachings. This was despite his students expressing their concern over his state of health.  The moment the master and student met, Master Zhen-Ru reverently offered a string of 108 crystal prayer beads, devoutly asking him to impart upon her all of his profound Buddhist understandings. Master Jih-Chang then recited mantras as blessings while counting the prayer beads. With conviction, he placed the prayer beads around Master Zhen-Ru's neck and proclaimed: "Everything that is mine is now yours." His attendants Venerable Master Ru-Qi, Venerable Master Ru-Jun, and other venerable masters, were all by his side. Mr. Ke-Zhou Lu, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bliss and Wisdom, respectfully gave an offering to Master Zhen-Ru, symbolizing an official handover. This offering was prepared in accordance with instructions from Honourable Elder Master Jih-Chang. Honourable Elder Master Jih-Chang once again proclaimed to Master Zhen-Ru: "This represents all of my endeavours. I am now giving everything to you!"

In the short-lived moments during the week before Master Jih-Chang's passing, he left his students some key instructions. He believed that Master Zhen-Ru will use her life to protect these wishes: "If one cannot integrate the teachings with the heart and mind, what is the use of learning debate?" "To improve one's status life after life, one cannot do without the blessings from the spiritual teacher, Buddhist teachings, and companions." "This group must stay together." Master Zhen-Ru once asked Master Jih-Chang if he was worried about entrusting her with this great responsibility. Master Jih-Chang smiled and stated that meeting Master Zhen-Ru was the happiest occurrence in his life; he was not worried at all. On October 15, 2004, nearly 20 monks and laity including Venerable Master Ru-Qi, Venerable Master Ru-Jun and Venerable Master Ru-Wei were by Master Jih-Chang's side. At that time, Master Zhen-Ru persisted and sincerely urged Master Jih-Chang to continue living so that he could stand by and teach his students who still need his guidance. Originally silent, Master Jih-Chang teared up. Without hesitation, Master Zhen-Ru bravely vowed to Master Jih-Chang, "Master, do not worry, I will use my every effort to accomplish all the tasks you have given me." With this solemn vow, Master Jih-Chang's visage became divine and dignified, as if in the past when he was about to prostrate to Buddha. All loose ends tied and with no regret, Master Jih-Chang passed away peacefully.

Meticulously and carefully fulfilling his wishes

Before Master Jih-Chang passed away, he once said that all of his life's work was to lay a far-reaching foundation for Buddhism to thrive; he hoped Master Zhen-Ru would cap the foundation with the crowning glory: an in-depth Buddhist curriculum.

From 2000 to 2004, the year Master Jih-Chang passed away, Master Jih-Chang and Master Zhen-Ru constantly discussed many major developments concerning the future of Buddhism. The most important decision was made in the winter of 2003: to restore the Bliss and Wisdom monastic curriculum of the Five Great Treatises. By 2014, the pioneering class had finished the first round of the Five Great Treatises; the first group of qualified teachers was formed. This created groundbreaking history within Chinese Buddhism as the curriculum of the Five Great Treatises was established within the communities of monks and nuns. Thereafter, under Master Zhen-Ru's guidance, the first Buddhist Institute for Lay People that implemented a Chinese curriculum for the Five Great Treatises was established.

Over 20 years ago, because of Master Jih-Chang's far-reaching vision, the community of monks has established a solidfoundation in Buddhist teachings and the Chinese and Tibetan languages. Furthermore, Master Zhen-Ru has led the monastic community in creating a translation bureau that comprises of both a complete organizational structure and a rigorous translating procedure. They are devoting their efforts in revitalizing a translation bureau, the last of which was seen almost 1,000 years ago during the Northern Song Dynasty. The aspirations of Master Zhen-Ru reflect those of Honourable Elder Master Jih-Chang. They hope that through multilingual translations and teachings, all beings will truly benefit from Buddha's teachings.

Since his passing, Bliss and Wisdom students worldwide have increased from 20,000 to 100,000. The number of monks has increased from 200 to over 800; the number of nuns was approximately 70 initially and has increased to more than 600. After Master Jih-Chang's passing, the monastic and lay endeavours have abundantly thrived, and the prospects of Buddhism grows increasingly brighter. During Varsa 2017, there were over 120 monastics from Bliss and Wisdom who recited Treatise Differentiating Interpretable and Definitive Meanings: The Essence of Eloquence, making an offering to the 12,000 monastics during a ceremony. This was a rare scene in Buddhist history.

Looking back, Master Jih-Chang used his acute foresight and wisdom to select Master Zhen-Ru out of thousands to be his successor. He whole-heartedly entrusted her with his lifelong work. In return, Master Zhen-Ru gave her all and took on her spiritual teacher's endeavours with prudence. She ensured the monastics' spiritual growth and provided them with a good learning environment. Furthermore, she established a system of Buddhist learning and practice that abides by the teachings. She is also instrumental in leading the efforts of translating scriptures into Chinese thereby helping Buddhism flourish. Master Zhen-Ru brought light to Master Jih-Chang's aspirations that were both profound and far-reaching. She is fulfilling to perfection all responsibilities entrusted to her.

Notes:

 In 2001, due to Master Zhen-Ru's proactive suggestions, Master Jih-Chang began to encourage all to practice vast offerings. Under her proposal, Master Jih-Chang initiated the Monlam Prayer Ceremony within the Chinese culture. On the last day of the Monlam Prayer Ceremony, Master Jih-Chang also announced that the monastic communities will practice disciplining their senses through mindfulness. The practice of Dharmapala prayers was also established. These actions led to offerings made to monastic communities worldwide, inviting them to chant the Prajnaparamita Sutra.

 Since 2012, Master Zhen-Ru sought guidance from many Buddhist masters. She followed lineaged teachings and abided by her teachers' instructions. With this preparation, she began the annual admission of new students and simultaneously arranged for the systematic and orderly enrollment of classes in the curriculum of the Five Great Treatises. This, along with the great responsibility as the key proponent in establishing the Five Great Treatises curriculum was shouldered solely by herself. She spared no effort and was second to no male.

 In 2014, after the monastic community completed their studies of the Five Great Treatises, Master Zhen-Ru shared her vision with these monks to translate The Four Interwoven Annotations, the leading authoritative commentary on The Great Treatise. Inspired, the translators searched all over the world for the different versions of The Four Interwoven Annotations, referring to over 20 related explanations of The Great Treatise. Every translated comment was cross-referenced, and rigorously analyzed through intensive discussions. Great Buddhist masters were consulted for any unresolved issues. This translation process takes at least seven rounds to complete. In the publication, both classical and modern Chinese are laid out in a manner that is elegant yet easily understood with a clear line of logic. By translating and publishing the The Four Interwoven Annotations of The Great Treatise: A Colloquial Exposition, the deeper meaning of The Great Treatise is made easily accessible, benefitting both the beginner and the advanced practitioner.

 

 

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