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A Brushstroke: HBMLP 2018

Zhaoming Temple in Fuding hosted the 2018 edition of the Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program. Over seventy students from 18 different countries decided to partake in the demanding experience of living in a rural monastery, engaging with Chinese culture, scholarly study and Buddhist monastic principles. At the end of the month we travelled to Putuoshan, boddhisattva Guanyin’s sacred mountain (bodhimanda), where we performed a pilgrimage.

When I was asked to write up this post, I found myself looking at the blank page trying to figure out how to best write a text that would be true for all. Both staff and students have a core common experience, but each of us brought home a different treasure from it. One of the most beautiful aspects of HBMLP is finding it finished, or in other words, finding you’re thrown back to what you considered was your real life.

Reminiscing this experience, some of us might talk about the generosity of Zhaoming’s abbot, Master Jie Kong, and how one day he led us to a secluded monastery for us to pick white tea together. Others might still have Yifa’s words echoing in their mind, reminding us that what’s not a blessing is a cultivation; while some would say how we survived Typhoon Maria and the sweltering heat prostrating every three steps and chanting namo guan shi yin pusa.

HBMLP is an opportunity to practise, to create, to heal – but, most importantly, HBMLP teaches us that every moment is an opportunity to practise, to create, to heal. This programme has many expressions and outcomes, as many as the people that take part in it. This post is just a mere brushstroke of the collective painting, and even if we were to isolate and explain each brushstroke, this would still be incomplete. Furthermore, what would the need be of dissecting the HBMLP experience on these terms?

HBMLP is waking up at five twenty in the morning to practise taiji in the mountain’s fog, and aiming to master chopsticks. HBMLP is “eyes to your nose, nose to your heart”, and the pain during meditation. HBMLP is incense and head-stretching as well as laughter and rice. In general terms, there are two answers to the question of what HBMLP 2018 was: this post is one. The other would have been leaving the page empty.

Many thanks to Zhaoming Temple for being incredible hosts and Venerable Yifa for making this possible! This text is coming to an end, but before that, as Master Jie Kong would often say, “let’s sing three songs!”. Care to join?

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