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Venerable Master Sheng Yen's Western Disciples Dharma Exchange

On 6 June 2008, fifteen members of the Western Chan Fellowship from Great Britain visited Dharma Drum Mountain World Center in Jinshan Township, Taipei County. The three-day Dharma exchange was the first time members of the Fellowship have visited Dharma Drum Mountain. The team was led by Dr John Crook, who received Dharma transmission from Venerable Master Sheng Yen in 1993 and is one of the Master's five Western Dharma descendants.

After receiving transmission in 1993, Dr Crook established the Fellowship in Great Britain with the purpose to spread the Buddhadharma and propagate Chinese Buddhism in the West. The Fellowship now has twenty branches throughout Great Britain. For these disciples, it was a trip of "returning home".

During the three-day visit, the team visited Venerable Master Sheng Yen, Venerable Guo Dong, Abbot President, and engaged in Dharma exchange with students from Dharma Drum Sangha University. In addition, seven members of the Fellowship took advantage of this great opportunity and received the Five Precepts transmission as well as took Refuge from the Master to formally become Buddhists.

Dr Crook said that the purpose of this trip was to visit Venerable Master Sheng Yen, whom he had not seen for a long time as well as to thank the Master for publishing Chan Buddhism books in English and introducing Chan meditation methods such as Huatou and Silent Illumination to the West.

On 7 June, a question was raised during a discussion with the Master, as to how could one accurately introduce Chinese Chan to Western society. The Master's reply was that teaching Chan is just like one pointing his/her finger at the moon to show followers where the moon is, but in order to realize the true meaning of Chan, followers must let go of attachments in the mind and truly put themselves into the practice.

Following the meeting with the Master, Dharma Drum Sangha University (DDSU) invited Dr Crook and Dr Simon Child for discussions on Dharma with DDSU students. During the discussions, Dr Crook admitted that the Dharma transmission he received from the Master was not only an encouragement to practice well but was also approval to spread the Dharma to the West. In appreciation, it was noted that the Master had affected positive transformations in the field of Chan and provided great inspiration in the field of Dharma teaching.

Dr Child introduced an interesting concept, called "Western Chan" to the students. Western Chan, based on communicative theories taught in psychology, is a specific method for Westerners that allows practitioners, before commencing a Chan retreat, to release inner pressure. By letting go of attachments in this way, practitioners find it easier to walk on the right path of practicing Chan.

To everyone, the three-day exchange was meaningful and beneficial to the propagation of Chinese Buddhism in the West.

(translated by Jin Yang/edited by DDM Australia Editing Team)

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