It Seems A Light Has Appeared
---Wang Dingjun's New Chapter in Life
Mr Wang Dingjun, a well known prolific Chinese writer, recently visited our Shifu, Master Sheng Yen. During Shifu's short, one month stay in New York during late autumn this year, Mr Wang visited the Chan Meditation Center not once, twice but three times to be with a great master whom he deems difficult to meet.
Mr Wang migrated to USA in 1989 and is now eighty-two years old. His close friends nicknamed him 'Elderly Ding'. Elderly Ding is a Christian, yet he is thoroughly knowledgeable on Shifu's books, sutra recordings and television programs. He expressed gratitude to Shifu on all three occasions in very different ways for helping him make a break through in his literal writing.
His first visit was on 11 November at the Chan Meditation Center to attend the Late Autumn Spiritual Banquet. There were over a hundred guests and Eldery Ding and his wife were on the same table with Shifu and Abbot President Venerable Guo Dong. The program for the day was full and there were few exchanges between Shifu and Elderly Ding. At the invitation of the Master of Ceremonies, Elderly Ding gave a speech and expressed his admiration for Shifu for the first time in public, through his unique literary style.
"Every time I read Shifu's books, listened to Shifu's cassette tapes or watched Shifu's television programs,
I felt a light entering into my life,
I felt enthusiasm revealing itself in my life,
I felt the walls dismantling one by one in my life!
I regained confidence in literature,
I regained courage in writing,
I felt liberated - perhaps, this is a kind of awakening!"
"Consequently I always encourage writers to read more Buddhist books and spend more time listening to Shifu's cassette tapes. I share my experience with many people although there may be a difference between my experience and Shifu's original teachings. My friends say that I am an outsider of Buddhism who received transmission from Shifu. There is a common saying that it is not easy to come into contact with Buddhism, but I feel that the Dharma exists in heaven and earth, in the sun and the moon, in the mountains and the rivers, it is indeed every where; but meeting a great master is the most difficult thing to come by."
Elderly Ding's intonation and fluent rendition brought waves of warm applause. His loud, clear voice and poetic expression touched the audience in the same way as the experience he described - it seems that the light and his enthusiasm have knocked down the walls one by one. In that afternoon in late autumn, Elderly Ding presented Shifu with his book 'Guan Shan Duo Lu' and seekeed Shifu's critque.
The second visit was on the following day 12 November at the Refuge Taking Ceremony and Shifu!|s public talk at the Chan Meditation Center. The Abbot President conducted the Refuge Taking Ceremony after which Shifu gave his first public talk in USA this year. Elderly Ding and his wife came early and sat on the second front row.
That day Shifu talked about his situation in the past one and a half years, the directions of Chan Meditation Center and Dharma Drum Retreat Center. The one thing that everyone was interested was why Shifu did not return to USA for an entire year?
"Last autumn I was extremely sick," Shifu told us. A red warning light was raised in respect to his health but he is much better now. However he is unsure if he can return to New York in future to meet everyone, to give talks, to conduct retreats and so on. When Shifu said this many people shed tears. Elderly Ding sat there silently as one of the audience in the crowd, listening to Shifu's spiritual journey which he had never known before.
His third visit was in the evening on 3 December at Chan Meditation Center, the night before Shifu returned to Taiwan. Elderly Ding brought along a framed work of his latest calligraphy which reads, "A Buddha and a Sage, Great Courage and Great Philosophy". Below it says, "Master Shen Yen, a learned deva, complete enlightenment with knowledge deep and wide, spreads the Dharma to save the world and forgets himself. Such a great master and profound teachings are difficult to encounter. His teaching is like a ladle of water from the river but enough to nourish the entire forest.
Let go and the truth can be seen, non-discrimination to all, a noble man from whom I have gained inspirations and support." At the end were the names Wang Dingjun and Wang Dihua.
That evening, bathed in the amber light of the Chan Hall on the second floor, Elderly Ding sat next to Shifu like a polite and attentive student, he asked, "Shifu, do you have any teachings to writers like us? I will remember them forever and share them with others." His humbleness was unexpected by Shifu and all the people in attendance. Then I thought, since Elderly Ding has mentioned in his work that the more difficult it is, the more he has to learn about it. In order to make a breakthrough in creative writing, he "held a Christian passport and applied for a Buddhist visa". His humbleness is not out of the ordinary.
The streets of New York in December are noisy and full of cars, yet inside the Chan Meditation Center which is located on a main street, the hearts of many were filled with fragrance upon hearing the Dharma.
Shifu(Master):Elderly Ding's writing is highly valued, I read the book you gave me the other day, I was very touched. We were of the same period, left China at a time of upheaval and joined the army. Now that we look back, life back then seemed to be very difficult, but I am grateful for it. It is only because of such a period that people like us are being strengthened.
Wang Dingjun(Wang): The fact that Buddhism can survive in Taiwan and benefit people through its teachings is unexpected. This is due to the compassion of Heaven, the compassion of Buddha, otherwise, one would not know what to make out of the situation now.
The first time I saw Shifu was in 1991 and since then I was greatly influenced by you and have benefited a lot. I wish to record this in my next memoir as this is very important to me. Shifu, just sitting here you would not have realised how every day, every minute you are influencing others. Some of the influence is indirect - through your followers, just like the analogy of 'transmitting the lamp' in the Buddha's teaching, each lamp lights up another lamp and yet another.
In this day and age, it is not easy for us to meet a great person. In times of war we can only see selfish people and can hardly learn anything of a high standard from them to make us have confidence in life. It is indeed rare to have someone like Shifu, and to be able to meet you is an extreme previledge.
Shifu, do you have any teachings to writers like us? I will remember them forever and share them with others.
Master: I don't really know how to give teachings. In fact I'm always learning, always practising; practising to be happier and to have fewer burdens in life, especially psychological burdens. Ordinary people have emotional burdens relating to their ideals, families, careers and all sorts of things that have nothing to do with them. The majority of people struggle to live with such burdens. For me, I learn to minimize burdens and to have no burdens at all, and if there were burdens, I let go of them immediately.
Ding: Shifu's writing gave me a lot of inspirations. I have read Buddhist books written by other people before but I could not understand them - except for Shifu's books. The Dharma that Shifu taught is easy to understand and yet of great depth, very beneficial to me. I'm very grateful to Shifu.
Master: For us writers, at the time of writing we have no idea where and who our readers are. Even after the book's publication, we have no idea as to how many people will read our books and if they will benefit from it. I have only one purpose in writing and that is to share the Buddhist teachings that I know. To me, Buddhism is so good and I have gained so much from it that I hope I can let others know about it so that they can also apply it in their life. This is my sole purpose in writing books. Even if only a few can benefit from it, it is still worthwhile
Elderly Ding's work is worth a fortune and influential. A great writer like you uses words to make a connection with other people, to spread the message of truth, goodness and the beauty of life. From a Buddhist perspective, this is following the Bodhisattva path with a bodhi mind. You want me to give you teachings but I have nothing to say, only to share. Blessings to you and your wife!
(translated by Agnes Chow)