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Home Our Founder The Mentor of Master Cheng Yen The Story of Dharma Master Yin Shun

The Story of Dharma Master Yin Shun

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Article Index
The Story of Dharma Master Yin Shun
Winding road to Buddhism
Decline of Buddhism
Seeing the Buddha
My heart will never change
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Whenever people speak about Buddhist philosophy, the name Master Yin Shun often pops into their minds. His numerous writings have restored the fundamental meaning of Buddhism and, at the same time, opened up a new dimension for people today to investigate the Buddhist doctrines built up over the last couple of millennia. Now aged ninety-seven, the old master has been dubbed The Gem of the Buddhist Land" or simply "The Mentor" by most Buddhists on Taiwan.

On March 12, 1906, Chang Lu-ching was born prematurely in a little village in Zhejiang Province, China, near Shanghai. On the eleventh day after his birth, a critical illness nearly snatched this feeble life from the world. Who would have guessed that this weak infant would later become a leading mentor of Buddhism?

Birth of a writer
The end of the last Chinese dynasty, the Manchu Dynasty, was a turbulent period. Revolutionary movements ended the imperial governments that had lasted for thousands of years. After the first day of January 1911, men cut off their braids and women abandoned the inhumane practice of foot-binding. Without any notice, Chang's father suddenly snipped off the boy's braids one day. Shocked and unaccustomed to short hair, the seven-year-old Lu-ching howled in protest. His father then took him to a neighboring town to receive his preliminary education.

Four years later, Chang left home to attend a boarding school for three years. Not knowing how to take care of himself and feeling inferior to other wealthy children, he was very lonely. He isolated himself and shied away from speaking with other boys.

It was his composition class that rebuilt his confidence. In his last year of middle school, the composition teacher gave him full marks plus an extra two points on an essay he wrote. The extraordinary top marks, like sunlight, illuminated his gloomy, depressed life. Through this newly discovered talent, Chang could comfortably express his thoughts. He later devoted his life to philosophic and religious writings.

Quest for the Truth
Life took another turn after Chang graduated from middle school. His father encouraged him to study medicine. If his schooling had equipped him with his writing skill, then his medical studies accidentally awakened his otherworldly pursuits. Through his studies, he stumbled across books on immortality and was deeply intrigued. He fervently read many books on the subject and even planned to look for various kinds of deities. Before he could dedicate much time to this new arena, his parents realized there was something inappropriate going on and decided to put him back on track by requiring him to teach at primary schools.

Then Chang turned his attention to Taoist philosophy and Confucianism. Yet neither could quench his thirst for the Truth. He desperately needed an answer to fill the growing emptiness in his heart.

Christianity, which spoke of faith, hope and love, sparked a light within his heart. Its societal characteristic of loving others as you would yourself appealed to him. He devoured the Old and New Testaments and read Christian periodicals. He prayed and even attended revivals. However, after two years, Chang was still unable to fully commit himself to Christianity. The light that once lit his heart had started to dim.

The sense of emptiness again descended upon him. Deeply depressed and perplexed, he read anything he could get his hands on to kill the time. Amidst his aimless reading, he stumbled upon the words, "the Buddha's teachings." His heart leapt upon reading this phrase. He began zealously searching for books on Buddhism. He was twenty years old then.

As a neophyte, it was naturally difficult for him to understand the profound meaning that these books tried to convey. But his failure to understand the Buddha's thoughts propelled him to work harder to perceive the essence of Buddhism. "I was like a child, fascinated by all the interesting activities done by adults, trying to figure out what was going on," he later reminisced. "Partially aware and partially bewildered, I came to realize how boundless the depths of Buddhism could be."

Chang knew that Buddhism was his refuge. The empty place in his heart was filled. Through his studies, he progressed steadfastly on his selected path.

In the spring of 1928, Chang's mother suddenly died after having been ill for only four days. In the autumn, his granduncle, who lived with their family, passed away, and his father died the following June. Overwhelmed with providing care and medicine and then managing funerals for his loved ones, Chang was upset with the suffering and misery that life had brought him. "What could I ever get out of leading such a busy life?" Depressed and melancholy, he resolved to become a monk in order to acquire peace of mind.

There was no one in his family who needed his care now. He was free to do whatever he wanted to do. One big question had all his attention: Why was there such a drastic discrepancy between the Buddhist doctrines that he read about in books and the actual practice of Buddhism in real life? He yearned to dedicate his whole life to unraveling this mystery. His mind was set on finding places where Buddhism was still practiced the way it should be. He aspired to be a monk who could expounded the authentic meaning of Buddhism.

The reality of Buddhist practices outside his village was unknown to this young man in the countryside. Not knowing exactly what might come his way, he bravely strode forward into the darkness of uncertainty.

At that moment, a light was switched on for him.