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Friday, July 21, 2006

People at Hua Yen Temple

Monks and Kids Who Became My Friends

The Condensed Version

I guess this is really a "Gallery" page, but it is in fact an adjunct to an entry in The Journal regarding my trip to Hua Yen Temple in Ningde, Fujian, in July 2006. The sections are:

  • The Wu Family
  • Monks
  • The Kidz
  • "The Life of the Buddha"

Wu Xian Shou and Wu Zhan (Diego)

My friend Mr. Wu Xian Shou has a most amazing son. Wu Zhan, known as Diego, has just graduated from Shenzhen Foreign Languages Middle School (one of the three best high schools in Shenzhen), and is headed for university this fall. He was my translator and friend throughout the trip, often dealing with difficult Buddhist ideas and vocabulary. He did an outstanding job, and he never gave up. I can't thank him enough.

"Diego" (Wu Zhan) with his mother and father

Diego with Venerable Dun Chao


Part of the monastic community at Hua Yen Temple

Venerable Hui Jing: The administrator at Hua Yen Temple, he became my teacher and my great friend. Monastics have a tendency to put on a stern face in photos; I wish you could see his infectious grin.

Master Ji Qun: Considered a Da Shi (great teacher, or Master), he came to share the Dharma with the kids at the camp. (Here he is reading some of the kids' papers.) Diego says he is well on his way to becoming one of the great monks of the 21st century.

Venerable Dun Chao: The administrator of San Feng (Three Peaks) Temple in Shouning, he has a burning desire to help the kids of that town obtain a decent education. He brought 18 of them to the camp (see below).

Venerable Dun Zhao: This young monk had a great spirit and became a good friend. He lives at Hua Yen Temple in Huadu, Guangzhou, where Mr. Wu and his friend took Lila and me in May of 2005. I hope to see him there soon.

Venerable De Ru: The youngest monk I met, he is only 21. He moves from temple to temple, playing his flute to calm his mind and instill a meditative attitude. He also spoke more English than any of the monks at the camp (but still not much).

Venerable Xuan Yuan: The oldest monk I spoke with (though not the oldest at the temple), he is kind and lively. He has only been a monk two years, having been a businessman most of his life. He said he studied Classical Chinese as a young man, which has enabled him to read the sutras fluently.

This monk (name unknown) lives at Lin Feng Temple. It's a small mountain temple about 30 minutes' hike from Hua Yen Temple. As far as I could see, no road went there; it's incredibly rustic, and seems like it would be a great place to practice. I'll probably make a page about my visit there soon.

The Kidz

I don't know this little girl's Chinese name, but I "dubbed" her ANGEL. (An obvious choice, wasn't it?) At just seven years old, she was the youngest child in the camp. When I look at this picture, I see the face of China's future looking back at me.

In addition to the formal classes, the kids had a lot of opportunities to hang out with the monastics, chatting...

 ...or just feeding the fish.

Bob: I tell his story in an entry in The Journal.

Brian: He became a kind of sidekick, seeking me out at every break. He was the first of many who told me: "This is the first time I've spoken English to a foreigner, for communication." Before that, they have only spoken English in class--or not at all. There's more about him here.

These are the kids of Shouning, Diego's hometown. Ven. Dun Chao brought them.

Just hanging out.

"The Life of the Buddha"

I was asked to teach two sessions at the camp. In the first, I introduced myself, and I took questions. Near the end, I distributed pages to nine groups, each one containing a portion of the story of the Buddha's life in English. The students were to read the stories, make sure they understood, then begin preparing a performance of their page. In the second session, they finished preparation, and performed their bits. Here are a few pictures.

King Suddhodana grieves that his wife Queen Maya hasn't had a baby. (Queen Maya was supposed to be grieving too, but she couldn't suppress her grin at the King's performance.)

Queen Maya has just given birth to the young Prince Siddhartha, the future Buddha (played by Angel). The people rejoice!

Prince Devadatta, Siddhartha's evil cousin, is about to shoot a beautiful swan (flapping in the foreground). This leads to a dispute in which Siddhartha shows his compassion for living things.

Here, the Prince as a young man is bored by all the entertainments his father provides in an attempt to keep him from the monastic life.

Ananda receives some of the Buddha's last words.

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