The local monastery I entered, like most others
in China, was called a Chan temple. But, in fact
the theory and practice of Chan was almost never
discussed there. As young monks, most of us did
not have any clear idea of what Chan practice really
was. Our training simply consisted of the rigorous
discipline prescribed for monks everyday activities
such as washing clothes, working in the fields,
cooking and performing daily services. We also studied
major sutras such as the Amitabha, the Lotus, and
the Diamond sutras. Daily chores, however, were
not a problem for me; the worst thing was memorizing
sutras. There were so many to master, and I felt
very stupid. My master told me, "Your karmic
obstructions are very heavy. You should make a strong
effort to atone for them. Go prostrate to Guanyin
There was little time for practice during the day,
so I prostrated to Guanyin five hundred times at night,
and again in the morning before the other monks woke
up. After doing this for three months, I was overcome
one day with a very refreshing and comfortable feeling.
It seemed as if the whole world had changed. My mind
became very clear and very bright. Memorization was
no longer a problem, and I began to learn very quickly.
To this day I believe Guanyin gave me assistance.
Most important, there arose in me a deep sense of
responsibility towards the Dharma.
I was thirteen years old and knew nothing about the
history of Buddhism, yet I felt that Buddhism was
on the way to extinction. Most Chinese had little
understanding of the Dharma. Teachers were very rare,
and what I knew came only from memorizing the scriptures.
Chinese Buddhism did not provide a systematic education
for monks. A monk's training was usually completed
gradually and imperceptibly through the experience
of everyday life. There simply was no planned education.
I felt sympathy for those who had never heard the
Dharma, and realized the importance of reviving Buddhism.
I vowed to learn more about the Buddha Dharma so that
one day I might bring it to others.