《Buddhism as an Education》

Venerable Master Chin Kung (淨空法師)

 

CHAPTER THREE:THE AUTHOR'S OWN EXPERIENCE WITH BUDDHISM

When I was a young student in Nanjing, I did not   believe in any religion. I went to church with some   classmates to learn about Christianity. Although I   tried to understand it, I could not find a way to accept it. My favorite religion at that time was Islam   because its emphasis was on moral principles and   ethics, and I thought that this was rare among religions. When I encountered Buddhism back then, the   monks were not very convincing. Therefore, I could   not accept Buddhism either and it was the one I resisted the most. I was too young at that time and   had not met a true practitioner.

After I arrived in Taiwan, I heard of Professor   Dong-Mei Fang(方東美), who was  then a famous philosopher   and a professor at the National Taiwan University.   Having become an admirer of his, I wrote him a letter   asking about taking a class from him at the university.   Professor Fang was only in his forties at that time. He   invited me to his house and told me, "Nowadays in   school, professors do not act like professors, and students do not act like students either. If you come to   the university and expect to learn something, you will   be sorely disappointed."

When I heard this, I was pretty upset since he had basically poured cold water over my plans. Finally, he told me: "Well, why   don't you come to my house every Sunday, and I will   give you personal instruction for two hours." I could   not believe that he was so compassionate towards   me. I learned about philosophies at Professor Fang's   small table in his little living room, one on one. This   was extremely precious to me.

He introduced the   philosophies of the West, China, India and finally   Buddhism. He taught me that Buddhism is the pinnacle of the world's philosophy and that it provides   the greatest enjoyment for humanity. What he told    me was fascinating and soon I realized that Buddhism contained something magnificent. I started to   visit the temples in Taipei. However, the monks I met   in those temples just could not clearly explain Buddhism to an intellectual skeptic like me. However,   the monks are much better in teaching Buddhism   today.

Then I set my first sight on Shan-Dao-Si(善導寺), which   was a large temple in Taipei with a vast collection of   sutras. During that period of time, the wide publica  tion and circulation of Buddhist books was very rare.   The monks at Shan-Dao-Si were extremely kind to me   as they allowed me to borrow many of the precious   and rare sutras. This was a great help to me.   

Soon after I started to learn Buddhism seriously, I was fortunate to meet Master Zhang-Jia(章嘉大師). He was a   well-accomplished Esoteric practitioner who taught   and guided me in my study and practice. Just like    Mr. Fang, he taught me two hours every week for   three years until he passed away. I then went to Taizhong to follow Mr. Bing-Nan Lee(李炳南)- and started study  ing and practicing with him.

Buddhism is a special kind of knowledge; it is not   a religion. In order to derive true benefit from it, we   have to understand its true nature. I have the utmost   respect for Buddhism and I believe Buddha Shakyamuni to be the foremost educator in the history of   the world. He was just like Confucius in that he   taught everyone tirelessly and without discrimination.

 

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