Training Teachers is the First Priority
In 1991, during the forum on China’s Buddhist education that was held in Shanghai, Mr. Zhao Puchu, [late] President of the Chinese Buddhist Association, made a statement that Buddhist communities around the world still remember to this day. He said, “Now and in the future, the most important task for the Chinese Buddhist community is to train [Dharma] propagators. The second important task is to train [Dharma] propagators. The third important task is still to train [Dharma] propagators.”
More than a decade ago, the first time the master visited Mr. Zhao in Beijing, they talked for four and a half hours. In regards to Mr. Zhao’s statement, the master sincerely made the following suggestion:
China should establish modern cultivation centers. An ideal modern cultivation center should be like a school. The school itself will be like a city, like an American college town. Ten such cultivation centers, since Chinese Buddhism has ten schools, are enough for the nation. Each cultivation center should be divided into two divisions: a cultivation center, which is for practice, and a learning college, which is for teaching.
Take the Pure Land school for example. A Pure Land town could be established with a Pure Land Cultivation Center and a Pure Land Learning College.
The Pure Land Cultivation Center should focus on the practice of Buddha-name chanting. There should be many cultivation halls to accommodate practitioners practicing different forms of Buddha Remembrance, such as Buddha Remembrance by visualization, by contemplation of an image, and by Buddha-name chanting.
The Pure Land Learning College should focus on teaching the sutras and training teachers. There should be five to ten lecture halls for lecturing on the five Pure Land sutras and one treatise. Everyone will be welcome to come listen to the lectures.
Today, traveling is very easy. People from all over the country, and even from around the world, could come to this Pure Land town to learn Buddhism. The Zen school, the Precepts school, the Avatamsaka school, the Tiantai school, and other Buddhist schools could build their own cultivation centers and operate based on this model.
Monasteries have great historical value and can become tourist attractions. There could be trained guides to explain Buddhism to visitors and introduce the architectural significance of the monastery. They could also explain the educational significance of the images of Buddhas and bodhisattvas and various offerings. Visitors from all over the world will have an educational and worthwhile trip.
For training Dharma propagators, the master emphasizes the importance of repeating the lectures of one’s teacher. He said:
A method that has long been practiced in the Buddhist community to train lecturers of the sutras is to have students repeat their teachers’ lectures. Those with good learning capabilities and good memories will be chosen for training. Wisdom taught in Buddhism is different from worldly intelligence. True wisdom must be based on the foundation of precept observation and meditative concentration. Repeating the lectures of one’s teacher is cultivating precepts, meditative concentration, and wisdom. The first person in Buddhist history to repeat his teacher’s lectures was the Elder Ananda, who had been a student and personal attendant of Sakyamuni Buddha for many years.
In 1995, invited by the Singapore Buddhist Lodge and the Amitabha Buddhist Society of Singapore, the master went to Singapore to direct a training program for Dharma lecturers. The training method used had the students repeating the lectures of the master. This program, held four times, lasted three months each session. The students followed the guideline of “delving deeply into one field,” and each focused on lecturing on one sutra. Within a short period of a few months, most of them were able to grasp the skill of lecturing quite well.
An old proverb says: “To cultivate trees, you need ten years. To cultivate people, you need one hundred years.” How does one train a teacher whose understanding and practice go together and whose character and learning are both good? The master pointed out sincerely:
(1) A student must truly have the qualities of “filial piety and integrity, sincerity and respectfulness, and a love for learning.” This student must be able to abide by the precepts and be able to endure hardships. He or she must be resolved to pass on the teachings of the ancient sages for future generations and achieve peace for the whole world. He or she must let go of all worldly concerns, and remain in the college to diligently study for a total of ten years.
(2) A student must truly practice the Confucian Guidelines for Being a Good Person, the Buddhist Ten Virtuous Karmas Sutra, and the Taoist Accounts of Request and Response (monastics should also abide by the Precepts for Novice Monks) in order to lay a foundation for the moral conduct of a sage. Otherwise, even if this student reads extensively, he or she will only be engaging in academic studies and will not be able to transform his or her disposition. He or she will not be able to transform from an ordinary person to a sage.
(3) After the student has laid a good foundation of the three roots [Guidelines for Being a Good Person, Ten Virtuous Karmas Sutra, and Accounts of Request and Response], he or she could choose a book from either the Confucian texts, the Buddhist canon, or the Taoist scriptures, delve deeply into it, and immerse him- or herself in it for a long time (ten years). Every student should present a half-hour learning report every day.
(4) Each student delves deeply into his or her chosen book and, at the same time, has an opportunity to listen to other students’ reports on their learning. Thus they learn from one another every day. After concluding the ten-year program, they will definitely succeed in their cultivation of virtues and learning. They will truly become good teachers who are able to propagate and pass on the teachings of the sages.
A Brief introduction of
Venerable Master Chin Kung’s