Chinese Buddhism – Teachings
Selected Translation of Miao Yun.
by Venerable Yin Shun
Venerable Yin Shun’s expertise and writings in Buddhism have been
widely acknowledged by the Chinese Buddhists this century. The “Miao
Yun Collection” written by the Venerable provides us with important
information and a systematic approach to Buddhism, giving us a better
insight and understanding of Buddhism. We would like to take this
opportunity to thank the Triple Gem, and hope that more people may
benefit from the Venerable’s writing.
In Australia, there are very few English books on Mahayana Buddhism. In
order to introduce the Buddha’s teachings to Westerners, members from
the University of New South Wales Buddhist Society, the Sydney
University Buddhist Society and the Hwa Tsang Monastery Inc. thought
about translating the Mahayana sutras and texts, and chose Venerable
Yin Shun’s work as the choice of translation. The collection of this
translation will be called “Selected Translations of Miao Yun Part I”.
We have selected and translated eight articles from five books in the
Third volume of the Miao Yun Collection; namely “The Dharma is the
Saver of the World”, “The Three Essentials in Practising the Teaching
of the Buddha”, “The Buddha lives in the world”, “To investigate the
Dharma according to the Teachings of the Buddha” and “My view on
Religions”. Some of these articles were translated before and were
collected in the book “A Translation of Works by Venerable Yin Shun”,
published by the Mahaprajna Buddhist Society, Singapore.
We apologise for not being able to contact and consult the original
translators but we have obtained the approval from the original
publisher, Venerable Hao Zhong, and edited these articles in accordance
with the interests of Western readers. To aid readers, we have chosen
to translate according to the meaning instead of direct translation in
This is our first attempt in translation and it is possible some
passages may seem difficult to understand. Your advice would be most
appreciated. To ensure the consistency of the translated works and the
original articles, and to ensure the fluency of the translation, we
have repeated the process of editing and proofreading several times. We
have also invited an Australian Buddhist, Mr. Kiddle to assist us in
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Venerable Tsang Hui for
his guidance and encouragement, Mr. Khoo Cheang Jin for his design, and
Mr. Mick Kiddle, Mr. Chai Gao Mao, Mr. Mok Chung, Mr. Lin Yang, Mr.
Beng Tiong Tan and other members for assisting in the translation. We
would also like to thank Venerable Xing Ying, Mr. Xu Yang Zhu and Mr.
Guo Zhong Sheng for their proofreading and suggestions, and Mr Gregg
Heathcote and Mr. Simon Paterson for refining the articles.
It is hoped that with the publication of this book, more Buddhists who
are well versed in both English and Chinese will take the initiative to
participate in tasks like this, so that more people may benefit from
the work of Venerable Yin Shun and hopefully appreciate and practise
Neng Rong, June 1995
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. How I came to follow the Buddha’s Path
2. The Basic Purpose of Following the
Teaching of Buddha
3. The Path from Human to Buddhahood
4. The Three Essentials in Practising the
Teaching of the Buddha
5. A Commentary on the Excellence of the
Three Birth, and Cause and Effect Theories
6. Common Buddhist Misunderstandings
7. The New Idea We Ought To Have
8. The Position of Chinese Tripitaka in
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Buddha Dharma is the Light of Deliverance
2. Buddha Came To Save And Protect Us
3. A Discussion of the Three-Vehicle and
4. Buddhism-The Middle Path
5. The Two Distinctive Characteristics of Buddhism
6. Sunyata (Emptiness) in the Mahayana Context
7. The Critical Issue of Life and Death
8. The Immense Teachings on the Expedient
Path of Buddhist Practice
9. Dharma About Lay People for Lay People
10. Let Go of Your Sorrow
11. From Relieving the Suffering of the Mind
to Relieving the Suffering of the Body
12. What is the Significance of Life?
How I came to follow the Buddha’s Path
As we travel the journey of life, we are bound to encounter darkness
and many unexpected difficulties. However, darkness is not eternal and
difficulties are sure to be overcome in the end. We who are born into
the human realm must rely upon our human existence to progress towards
a higher and brighter realm. We must preserve the health and harmony of
our minds and bodies. We must be rational, warm and faithful, and not
fall into empty despair. Thus, religious faith is necessary.
Anyone who has no faith or lack of faith in religion is easily
frustrated and tends to reject themselves. They often reside in a state
of melancholy and despair. Such a person may descend into a state of
mind where he mistreats others, suffers severely from hysteria, or
commits suicide. Human life which has become evil and corrupt is indeed
fearful! This is especially so in these modern times. Human minds are
forever pursuing greater riches and material assets. There is emptiness
within their hearts. They lack purpose in life. Moral virtues too, have
become more and more attenuated. Religion which sets out to heal the
hearts of human being is clearly more needed today than ever before.
Let me explain how I came to have faith in Buddhism. In 1918, I began
my religious search, and ended by choosing Buddhism. The final step was
my entry into the monastic order. How did I come to choose Buddhism?
Now that I try to put it into words, I find the choice hard to explain.
I was born and brought up in a peasant’s family. Due to poverty, I had
to give up my studies at an early age. However, I began to study
Chinese medicine and the phrase “Medicine is the royal way to
Immortality” led me to revere the Way of the Immortals. Shen Nung’s
Materia Medica, [and other Taoist classics such as the Bao Pu Zi (Book
of the Preservation of Solidarity Master)], which refer to medicines
beneficial for the prolongation of life and alchemy(1) excited my faith
in the religion of the Way of the Immortals. In addition I sought after
the esoteric “Arts of the Miraculous”, such as divination by the
dexterous arrangement of the Celestial Stems and Earthly Branches and
by charms and spells.
I joined the Tong Shan Association in which I studied the arts of
Shamanism and hypnotism. During this period I was thoroughly engulfed
by the magicized religion of the Way of the Gods, paying great
attention to the phenomena of individual longevity and mysticism. This
enlarged my vision and this search for truth had a good effect upon me.
I groped around in the darkness of this faith for two or three years
before my father discovered what I was engaged in. He, of course, did
not approve of what I was doing and wanted me to become a teacher. With
the help of teachers and friend I began to study the work of Lao Tzu
and Chuang Tzu (the Taoist philosophers) and at the same time read some
modern works. The result was that my religious outlook began to change.
One cannot say that there is no connection between Lao Tzu and Chuang
Tzu and the later ascetic practices of the Taoists. The philosophical
principles of these two thinkers are exceedingly deep and far reaching.
They were opposed to the artificial, and demanded a return to what is
natural and they searched after an ideal simplicity. But this ideal of
theirs is unattainable. A philosophy which is firmly based in this
world and is concerned with refining human nature seems to be a
reasonable philosophy, but for me, their philosophy lacked the power
necessary for its fulfilment. Surely, a life of retirement led purely
for the cultivation of one’s own goodness cannot be of any positive
value to society. The thought of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu was a
contributing factor in my choice of Buddhism. Taoist philosophy and
Taoist methods of self-cultivation captured some of my sympathy.
Nevertheless, I was no longer a disciple of Taoism for I had awakened
from the beautiful dream world of the Way of the Immortals.
After my faith in Taoism was shaken I did not let it go. I followed it
haphazardly and returned to Confucian books which I had previously
studied. Confucianism was the absolute opposite of Taoism with its
completely esoteric character and its religious individualism.
Confucianism stresses the need for mental and physical cultivation.
Above all, it is concerned with a great political ideal. It is common,
down to earth, takes human affairs seriously and pays honour to
rationality. All these are principal elements in the culture of China.
I agreed with their philosophies and even praised them, but they were
unable to fill in the emptiness in my unsettled heart. Others thought
that I had become more pragmatic, but the fact is that I experienced an
Now that I reflect on it, I find that this experience was due to the
fact that Confucianism gives little emphasis to religion. To the
ordinary people, the practices of Confucianism seem common, and down to
earth. The establishment of one’s virtue, merit, and teachings solely
for this life cannot be constructed into an imposing and glorious
blueprint for living. Such a plan is lacking in foresight. It cannot
bring people into a state where their minds and hearts are at
peace(i.e. a state in which they are unmoved by gain or loss, suffering
or joy, life or death) and in this state stride forward along the path
of glory. My sojourn among Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Confucius, and Mencius
lasted four or five years.
I was in a state of agitation and emptiness when I was introduced to
Christianity. I became deeply interested in it. This is a religion with
a fully socialised character. It was from Christianity that I learned
the relationship of devoutness and a pure faith to the true meaning of
religion. Christianity, which had faith, hope, and love had something
that Confucianism had not. I studied the Old and New Testaments, and
Christian periodicals such as True Light and Spiritual Light. I
practised praying, and attended revival meetings. Nevertheless, I could
never bring myself to be a Christian.
The external causes for this included the fact that there was an
anti-Christian movement at that time. Although this had no connection
with the Christian faith itself, yet the Christian Church, relying on
an international background, could not avoid the sin of cultural
aggression. My main reason however, was the difficulty I had in
accepting certain aspects of Christian thought, such as the promise of
eternal life for believers, and eternal fire for un-believers. Human
behavior and actions (both in the heart and externally) were not taken
as measures for this judgment. The standard of judgment was simply
whether one had faith or not. The slogan “Let live the believer,
condemn the unbeliever” exhibits a fiercely monopolistic and exclusive
attitude. All are to be destroyed except for those belonging to one’s
own side. Underneath this “class love” was revealed a cruel hatred.
There is also the view that a man’s spirit comes from God and that this
spirit is united to flesh and thus becomes man. According to Christian
doctrine, a human being can only be saved if he is born again. This
implies that the great majority of people are walking on the way to
Hell. To say that an omniscient and omnipotent God is willing to treat
all mankind, which He calls His sons and daughters, like this, is
beyond imagination and unreasonable. I could not believe that Jesus was
able to atone for my sin and redeem me.
The light I received from Christianity lasted less than two years and
rapidly disappeared. The feeling of emptiness and hopelessness
descended upon me, just like a tiny ship in the midst of violent waves.
I became emotionally depressed and at times perplexed and troubled. In
this state of deep depression I read anything to pass the time.
By chance I came upon Feng Meng-Chen’s preface to Chuang Tzu in which
he says: “Are not the texts of Chuang Tzu and the commentary by Kuo in
fact forerunners of Buddhist thought?” My heart leapt and I began to
enquire into Buddhism. However, it was difficult to get information on
Buddhism and it was not easy to obtain copies of Buddhist scriptures. I
visited monasteries and searched everywhere, but only managed to obtain
and read the “Lung-shu-ching-tu wen”, the “Chin-kang ching hsi-shu”,
the “Jen-tienyen-mu”, the “Chuan-teng lu”, the “Fa-hua ching”, a
damaged copy of the “Hua-yen ching shu-chao chuan yao” and the “Chung
Naturally, I failed to understand the writing for it was too difficult
for a beginner like me. Yet, it was my failure to understand which
caused me to pursue this course. I was like a child who was fascinated
by the luxurious surroundings and keen to know and learn. Although I
could only understand them partially, this is where I began to realise
the limitlessness of Buddhism.
Later, I came across Abbot Tai-Hsu’s article entitled “A Method for the
Study of Buddhism in the Home” and only then was I able to commence my
studies from the simple levels. I read a number of introductory books
as well as some works concerned with the Madhyamika and Vajrayana
Schools of Mahayana Buddhism. Although I was still lacking in
comprehension, Buddhism had become my glorious ideal and my faith grew
continuously. I firmly believe that the teachings of the Law of Karma
come closest to the reality of our situation in life. It is through a
knowledge of this that we leave what is evil and turn to what is good.
It is by following this path that we turn from being an ordinary human
being to becoming a sage. Even if we fall, in the end we shall progress
upwards and achieve complete enlightenment if we stay to the path. It
is not simply a matter of looking for a final refuge. Along our way to
enlightenment, there are also circumstances when the pathway appears to
be leading to a dead-end, and yet, we discover so often that a new road
appears. These situations spur us on, comfort us, and lead us on so
that we can continue on our journey of eternal hope.
I find that Buddhism is a religion that does not rely solely on faith.
It takes good or evil behavior as measure in justifying an ordinary
person and a saint. It stresses individual enlightenment and above all,
it emphasizes benefitting all living beings. Buddhism puts great
emphasis upon perfect enlightenment. It is only through such an
awakening that genuine freedom can be obtained. Buddhism is a unity of
faith, perfect wisdom, and compassion. The cultivation of body and mind
in Buddhism embraces the best to be found in Confucianism, and then
goes far beyond it. Conversion through trust, which is found in
Christianity, is also to be found in Buddhism.
In my opinion, Buddhism contains all that is best in all religions.
There is final truth and there is expedient truth. Each of them is able
to meet the need of every kind of person, logically leading them on to
that which is good.
I chose Buddhism to be my comfort in distress and the light which
brightened my darkness. Unfortunately I lack sensitivity by nature and
although I praise and look up to the eternal way of Bodhisattvas, I
have yet to experience it for myself. However, from the time of my
choice of Buddhism until now, I have lived quietly and securely,
knowing nothing else except bold and direct progress in accordance with
In 1928 my mother died and a year later my father followed her. The
time was appropriate for me to enter the monastic order. There was no
longer anything in my family which demanded my care. So, in the summer
of 1930, I decided to become a monk. May my body and mind be absorbed
in the Triple Gem and strive for Buddhism, the highest of religions.