FGS Insight Vol. 2 Issue 1

Page 1


February 2023 | Volume 2, Issue 1


Ven. Master Hsing-Yun | 4 Lunar New Year Greetings

Ven. Chueh Fan | 6

Let Your Inner Light Shine


Cultivation through Cleaning

| 7

The 2023 Annual One-Day Temple Cleaning Event

Blessings through the Generations | 8

2023 Fo Guang Baby New Year's Blessing Ceremony

Who is Guan Yin Bodhisattva? | 12

Insight into the One and Only Guan Yin Bodhisattva; origins, names, and celebrations

Ringing in the Lunar New Year

| 15

Lunar New Year Celebrations at the Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto

Spreading Warmth Together

| 17

6th Meadowvale Scout Group revisit Scout campfires with a twist

Donations of Joy | 18

Buddha's Light Choir of Toronto spread joy by donating toys to the Salvation Army

On the cover

Valentine's Day's Best Gift? | 9 Different types of love and intentions

Illustration by Kiana Yue

- Positive Forecasts for Life


Origami Lotus instructions | 20 Learn how to make an origami lotus with FGS Insight!


Taming the Elephant Three Ways | 21




Jennifer Zhong

Senior Editor

Brian Choi

Managing Editor

Michelle Tan

Copy Editors

Martyn Knowles (Sr)

Bernard Teoh, Gregg Astoorian

Section Editors

Jada Chau, Novia Ng

Photo Editor and Illustrations

Aiqing Liu, Melissa Chong, Kiana Yue

FEBRUARY 2023 3 {{
A joyful mind throws all troubles and worries into the ocean; never bring your worries to bed, and never take your worries to the next day.

Lunar New Year Greetings

Happy New Year!

The Heaven gains days while people gain longevity.

The breath of spring fills the world bringing blessings to every household.

The morning hours are the best time of day. Spring is the best time of year.

So every New Year in the time of the Spring Festival, in Chinese culture, everyone is busy enjoying the festive season.

Above all, this festive time signals the beginning of a new year.

Let us take the past year as the past.

In the year ahead,

Let us look forward to a fresh start to the new year. Let us begin anew and tomorrow will be better.

Let us think this way,

If I have fallen short, the last year is already the past.

This year I shall remedy my flaws.

If, in the past year, anything was left unfinished, this year is a good time for me to seize the opportunity.

In this Humanistic Buddhism of ours, we are promoting Humanistic Buddhism. A human world where everyone is happy. Everyone is at peace, everyone is joyful and wealthy.

Wealth does not mean only money. Our health is wealth. Our peace is wealth. Our joy is wealth. Having good affinities with others, Can be considered as our wealth.

We have wisdom, compassion and the Dharma, all of which are our wealth.

So every Spring Festival, people wish each other prosperity.

In fact, wealth is within our own mind. Making aspirations is wealth. So we are making affinities in the world for charitable endeavors. We shall aspire to do more as this is our wealth.

Our society today emphasizes service for society as a whole and the public.

Humanistic Buddhism gives others faith, Gives others joy, gives others hope, gives others service.

I believe that we can all practice this in this Spring Festival.

Let us encourage each other with mutual blessings.

In the Spring Festival for the New Year.

I wish you all wealth, peace, and happiness!

“In the Year Of the Rabbit, may kindness and compassion be the keys to wholesome outcomes.”
Dear Fo Guang Members and Everyone,

The Keys to Wholesome Outcomes

“May Benevolence and Harmony Bring Peaceful Wellbeing, Let Abundance and Joy Yield Auspiciousness in Our Lives.” is the 2023 lunar New Year's message from Venerable Master Hsing Yun.

We have spent the past three years in the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to numerous challenges for us to overcome. Despite what we went through in the past, a new year always marks a brand-new start. Venerable Master Hsing Yun encourages us, “In the Year of the Rabbit, may kindness and compassion be the keys to wholesome outcomes.”

thoughts, speech and actions are made with compassion and loving-kindness, we will see positive changes in our lives.

Looking back to when the pandemic first started, Venerable Master Hsing Yun advised us to face fear and anxiety with compassion. The word compassion in Chinese consists of two separate Chinese characters 慈悲. Being “慈”(Loving-kindness) is wishing all sentient beings to be happy, while “悲” (compassion) is the strong feeling of sympathy to free others from suffering. When one truly gives rise to compassion, fear transforms into strength and determination, this will help us overcome the difficulties and obstacles caused by the pandemic.

We have to cherish the Dharma words from our Master, to treat others with compassion, benevolence, and loving-kindness in our daily lives. When our

Compassion is like purified and refined love; it constitutes service and assistance that is selfless and wise. It is given unconditionally to fulfill the wishes of others. When we cultivate compassion, our hearts will grow gracefully in virtue. One who gives rise to true compassion will be determined to make a change in life with wisdom.

In the Year of Rabbit, let’s have the resolve to benefit and serve everyone with loving-kindness and compassion.

Venerable Chueh Fan Abbess, Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto
“In the Year of Rabbit, let’s have the resolve to benefit and serve everyone with loving-kindness and compassion."

Cultivation Through Cleaning

The 2023 Annual One-Day Temple Cleaning Event

Towards the end of the year, we shall bid farewell to the old and welcome the new.

On the morning of January 7th, 2023, volunteers from Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto returned to the temple with joy, and started the first yearend Temple cleaning since the pandemic. More than 200 volunteers participated in the year-end cleaning in the designated area ahead of schedule under the leadership and planning of monastics.

At 9:30am, the Abbess, Venerable Chueh Fan, thanked everyone for coming to help the temple cleaning together. Before the start of the annual spring cleaning, to bless all the volunteers, the Venerable led them in reciting the "Heart Sutra" and respectfully read the "Prayer for Volunteers'', written by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, founder of the Fo Guang Shan.

The Abbess also hoped that everyone could learn and understand the spirit and virtues of "volunteering", and devote themselves to work with joy to solemnize the temple.

After the chanting, volunteers were grouped accordingly as planned. The Venerable reminded everyone that "while cleaning the temple, one shall also purify one’s heart." Volunteers followed Venerables and team leaders to their assigned locations and started their hard work. Whether it was cleaning Buddha statues, meditation mats, windows, or the meditation halls, cabinets, aisles, and washrooms, everyone did their best and gave with compassion and joy.

What is worth mentioning about this event is that each group included parents and their children. Among them was

Charoo Li, one of the committee members of the BLIA English sub-chapter, who carried her three-month-old daughter, and was joined by her husband Tyrie Norris. Together they cleaned the stairs. Everyone was deeply touched by their faithful devotions towards the temple.

One of the groups who cleaned the copper buckles on the Buddha hall gate needed to remove the buckle one by one and the patina surface that had oxidized in the past four years has been restored to its original sheen. The team leader Mandy Kwan said that the wiping work seemed simple, but it took a lot of effort, and the entire team worked quietly, and focused on the solemnity of the temple.

All the participants worked collaboratively and they enjoyed the one-day temple cleaning event. ◆


Blessings Through the Generations

2023 Fo Guang Baby New Year’s Blessing Ceremony

OnNew Year’s Day of 2023, FGS Temple of Toronto held the 2023 Fo Guang Baby New Year’s Blessing Ceremony. Parents took their children to the temple at the start of the year to receive the blessings of Buddha and the wishes from the venerables; in hopes for their children’s physical and mental health, their safe growth, and their connection with the righteous Buddhist faith.

In early December 2022, Posters for the Fo Guang Baby New Year’s Blessing Ceremony began circulating. FGS members rushed to tell relatives and friends about the ceremony, and the registration continued to rise. There were 61 children aged 0 to 6 years old, accompanied by over 150 family members who attended the ceremony. The blessing ceremony also attracted devotees who came to the temple to pay respects to the Buddha.

Venerable Chueh Fan, the Abbess,

first explained the origin of the ceremoney. The ceremony satisfies the common wish of parents worldwide that their children grow up safely, healthily, and happily. With COVID restrictions lifted, it became imperative for the FGS Temple of Toronto to hold the Baby Blessing Ceremony on New Year’s Day of 2023. The ceremony consisted of reciting sutras and the “Prayer for the Fo Guang Baby” by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, purifying and blessings, and gifts.

The temple collected photos of FGS youths who are now married and working in their professional careers to make a video called “Buddha’s Light Shines Universally - Growing Up in FGS Temple of Toronto,” which played during the ceremony. The adorable video recorded the children exposed to Buddhism from a very young age who have grown up in the FGS Temple of Toronto. Those children are optimistic, intelligent and willing to learn and provide

services. The video helped parents understand that children who study Buddhism will not be misguided, along with the importance of passing on the faith.

After the ceremony, volunteers prepared six games for parents and children of different ages: Snatch the Prize, Eye on the Prize, Where am I, Musical Chairs, Guess What, and Shoot the Hoop. With the help of the Chinese school teachers and the FGS volunteers, parents and children enjoyed the games, with the Main Shrine becoming a warm playground with laughter everywhere.

Besides providing a delicious lunch for everyone, the Dining Hall also has a photography zone where people can take photos of family and friends. At the same time, there were volunteers in Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse costumes walking around, giving people happiness and adding joy to the ceremony. ◆


Valentines Day’s Best Gift?

OnFebruary 14th we celebrate Valentines Day which has a long history starting in the 8th century with the celebration of Saint Valentine who’s martyrdom is a tale of selfless sacrifice. Starting in the 18th century, the day began to celebrate the ideal, romantic love expressed to your dear one through cards, flowers and other gifts. Today it seems to center around the practice of gift giving and perhaps expectations as to what one might receive.

How do Buddhists choose to celebrate this holiday and what should be our focus? I asked our Subchapter for their remembrances of Valentines Day and one response was very notable. It was told that before school class began, this person would anonymously leave a candy or chocolate on all the desks in the class without a note. In this way, each person would receive a gift without discrimination or expectation and no one would be left out. It inspired some reflection on this celebration of love in a Buddhist practice.

The Greeks believed in four types of love; Philia- Love of friendship and brotherhood, Eros- romantic love or “being in love”, Storge – Familial love based on nurturing, empathy and free of judgement and finally, Agape – the selfless divine love, unconditioned by conditionality. A complete life would contain all these forms of love but each is transcended how we love.

This intention of loving is one of the greatest

motivations but often not ventured or expressed due to fear of heartache that seems to accompany so many expressions of love like thorns on a rose. When we look at these times of heartache, we can see their causes in expectations, clinging, possessiveness, and anger. With heartache, blinded by pain, we tend to not see these causes and often, we close up to protect our hearts. In light of this outcome, we can ask; how should we aspire to love? To answer, I look to the four intentions that can guide us to generate a love that is liberating and expansive.

• Aspire to carry the intention of compassion; to love not out of expectation but rather with generosity and concern for the other. This would free us of waiting of our own validation or reward.

• Express our love to others with acts of loving kindness; focussing on the well being of others for their happiness and validation free of judgement.

• Aspire to find joy in the happiness of others; by seeking to provide conditions for another’s happiness, we are released from the transactional nature of selfish love. Love does not ask for a balance sheet, it is not a practice of waiting for reward.

• Express your view of equality through love; focussing on love without judgement as you do not wish to be judged other than a work in progress, which is


what we all are.

This reminds me of a story of a teacher who asked her class of young children to write down on one side of a piece of paper a list of one thing they did not like about each student in the class and, on the other side of the paper, write one thing they really liked about each student. After the conclusion of the class, the teacher tore each sheet in half and discarded the dislikes and gathered all of the individual likes for each child. On valentine’s day, the teacher gave a valentines card and within it was all of the likes for each

child. Many years later, one of the students met the much older teacher and thanked her for the gift and showed the teacher the yellowed paper containing the liked comments kept in his wallet that he referred to frequently whenever he needed a boost.

This story is a great example of love for another with no reward for the giver and no expectations, without judgement and out of kindness. This act of love from the teacher had carried the student through the years of his life as a treasure.

A Sage once said that “wisdom teaches me that I am

no thing and love teaches me that I am everything”. It is the nature of selfless love to encourage and, yes, even challenge us to loosen our self involvement and, with open arms, provide the love that we all cherish. This is our true nature and practice. As we practice love, we become. Perhaps the best Valentines Day gift is a more loving attitude that will carry you through the year.

Happy Valentines Day!


as a nun. Her father was enraged at her defiance, and arranged for her to do the toughest chores, and even tried to burn down the temple to discourage her. Miraculously, she managed to put out the fire with her bare hands. Struck by fear, the king ordered her to be executed, but Miao Shan was rescued and eventually retreated to the Fragrant Mountain to meditate.

Who is Guan Yin Bodhisattva?

Insight Into the One and Only, Guan Yin Bodhisattva

A Bodhisattva is a Buddhist figure who is an awakened being, highly enlightened and dedicated to the awakening of all sentient beings. Guan Yin Bodhisattva is one of the most well-loved bodhisattvas. Also known as the all- compassionate one, she has mercy and pity upon all living beings, manifesting to save the suffering upon hearing their calls.

Onelegend about Guan

Yin Bodhisattva is that she was born as Miao Shan, the third daughter of the

cruel King Miao Zhuang. She defied the king’s order to marry a wealthy man, and instead entered a monastery

Many years later, the king was struck by illness and was told that the only cure was to seek help from a hermit on the Fragrant Mountain and use their arm and an eye to make medicine. Upon receiving the king’s messenger, Miao Shan immediately gave up both eyes and arms without hesitation. Afterwards, the king and queen visited her and were shocked to find out that she was their estranged daughter. Overcome with regret, they begged her for forgiveness, weeping bitterly.

Miao Shan replied, “Having given up these human eyes, I shall see with diamond eyes. Having yielded up these mortal arms, I shall receive golden arms.”At those words, Miao Shan transformed into the thousand-armed, thousand-eyed Guan Yin Bodhisattva. She rose to hover above her parents, then ascended into heaven.


Names and depictions

The name “Guan Yin” is an abbreviation of her name Guanshiyin (觀世音), translated from the Sanskrit name Avalokiteśvara. This refers to her ability to hear the sounds of all sentient beings of the world, and her commitment to rescue all of them. According to common belief, her name was abbreviated to Guan Yin to avoid the word “shi”, out of respect to the name of Taizong Emperor Li “Shi”-min of the Tang dynasty.

Another common name you might have encountered is Guanzizai (觀自在). This name is based on both the Sanskrit name and the path that practitioners must follow. In the Heart Sutra where this name is referenced, it reveals the concept of emptiness and the fundamental truth that nothing is permanent. A Bodhisattva is one who recognizes (觀) this emptiness, and in letting go of their worldly attachments, achieve great freedom (自在). Thus, Guanzizai Bodhisattva can hold all sentient beings in her heart and rescue them without obstacles.

Did you know that Guan Yin Bodhisattva wasn't originally female? In general, Bodhisattvas in India are depicted as male or genderless, it wasn’t until she entered China that she

started to be depicted as female. As a Bodhisattva, she can manifest on earth in countless ways, and has been depicted in many different forms.


To honour Guan Yin Bodhisattva there are three major celebrations in a year; all in different months but

following the same day of the month. To begin, the first day falls on the nineteenth day of the second lunar month. This day signifies the birthday of Guan Yin Bodhisattva in which she was physically born as a human. The second celebration takes place on the nineteenth day of the sixth lunar month.

This day is called Guan Yin

FEBRUARY 2023 13
Guishan Guan Yin of the Thousand Hands and Eyes, Ningxian, Hunan

Bodhisattva Enlightenment day which celebrates Guan Yin’s achievement of enlightenment and becoming a Bodhisattva. The third and last day is on the nineteenth day of the ninth lunar month. This day represents the commencement of her journey into the path of enlightenment and is called Guan Yin Renunciation day. We celebrate these special days to commemorate the important parts of Guan Yin’s life, showing our love and compassion to the one who does the same for us.

On these special occasions, Buddhists all over the world come together to celebrate Guan Yin Bodhisattva, both at temples and at home. These celebrations are filled with prayers and connecting items like Joss sticks for incense, wonderful foods like fruits and pastries and beautiful flowers. A day before the

celebrations, many families make and arrange food offerings such as fruits and sweet cakes, along with dry items like sugar and rice.

Celebrations can vary slightly depending on the location. For example, in Malaysia, many devotees visit temples on the days of celebrations. Here, they pray to Guan Yin Bodhisattva. Vegetarian foods like fried noodles and porridge are often prepared by temple volunteers for the visitors that come into the temple. Many festivities take place like the hanging of coiled incense sticks, burning joss paper/spiritual paper and performances put on in the temple like the puppet shows held at the Goddess of Mercy Temple in Pulau Pinang. Along with the offerings, lotus-shaped candles are lit and offered as part of prayer. The light from the candles is seen as representing the

wisdom Guan Yin will give to others through guiding them down the right path.

[Guan Yin] chose to step down and return to our realm as a Bodhisattva..

When it comes to prayers for Guan Yin, it is important to be as sincere as possible. One should also visualize the image of Guan Yin while thinking about and embodying all of her teachings. Asking her for good wishes to come can be another part of the prayer, however, one should be conscious of how much they ask for, making sure to not ask for too much at once. It is better to focus on a main part of your life that you can make better. On another note, many devotees also like to recite the Heart Sutra which is about wisdom and its perfection. This Sutra is sung to cultivate the same kindness, love and generosity that Guan Yin embodies.

This month, we will celebrate Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s birthday in honour of her mercy and compassion. Although she attained buddhahood, she chose to step down and return to our realm as a Bodhisattva in order to help us, and is thus one of the best-loved Bodhisattvas. ◆

Lotus shaped candles are offered during Guan Yin Bodhisattva celebrations

Ringing in the Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year Celebrations at Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto

The crisp January breeze ushered in the Year of the Rabbit and helped dispel the pandemic's haze. The Lunar New Year brought unseasonably warm and sunny weather to the Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto, where over fifteen thousand people came to pray to the Buddha. Families of all ages and ethnicities

filled the temple. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade of Canada, Mary Ng, recorded videos in advance with congratulatory letters to give New Year greetings. The gathering of all these individuals highlights that Lunar New Year is not only

an important festival for the Chinese community but also for Canada's cultural diversity and its emphasis on traditional Chinese culture.

On the evening of January 21st, after New Year’s Eve Dharma Service, Venerable Chueh Fan, the abbess of Toronto FGS, gave a speech that conveyed the blessings

FEBRUARY 2023 15

from Venerable Master Hsing Yun, founder of FGS, for the year 2023. "May Benevolence and Harmony Bring Peaceful Well-Being. Let Abundance and Joy Yield Auspiciousness in Our Lives." In Venerable Master Hsing Yun's New Year blessing video, he taught, "New Year is a new start. We must take good care this year to correct our shortcomings. We should make pledges and serve more. There is more to gaining wealth than financial gains. Health, safety, peace, joy, relations, and wisdom are also considered wealth. Making a New Year aspiration is also a way to become wealthy; promoting Humanistic Buddhism leads to happiness and peace.”

Most Venerable Hsin Bao, the Abbot of FGS, also taught in his New Year greetings video, “The past is in the past, so we must face the future with great enthusiasm. The Master’s blessing for 2023 is

for us to value harmony and each other. With harmony, we can create wealth, and when everyone cares for and helps each other, we have auspiciousness."

In PM Justin Trudeau's New Year's greeting video, he wished everyone longevity and a peaceful Year of the Rabbit. He affirmed that Chinese immigrants had injected rich culture, customs, and traditions into Canada. The Hon. Mary Ng, MP, and Senator The Hon. Victor Oh and MP Dong Han have all sent greeting videos endorsing the Lunar New Year celebrations organized by Toronto FGS and BLIA of Toronto. The New Year celebration welcomes everyone to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit with joy.

With the celebrations on the evening of January 21st, more than 20 notable guests joined the crowd coming to Toronto

FGS to pray to Buddha, ring the New Year’s peace bell, and give New Year’s greetings to other guests. The notable guests include MP Rechie Valdez, MP Iqra Khalid, MPP Nina Tangri, Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Councillor Martin Reid, Councillor Alvin Tedjo, Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Director Chen Jinling, and Taipei Cultural Center Director Sun Guoxiang.

At noon on January 22nd, MP (Richmond Hill) Leah Taylor Roy, Councilor (Markham) Isa Li, Councilor (Richmond Hill) Castro Liu, Peel District Police and over ten notable guests came to pay respect to the Buddha and celebrate New Year. In their speeches, MP and city councillors expressed their excitement and appreciation for being invited and wished everyone a happy, auspicious Year of the Rabbit.◆


Spreading Warmth Together

6th Meadowvale Scout Group revisit Scout campfires with a twist

OnDecember 18, 2022, 6th Meadowvale Scout Group hosted their classic campfire, but this time in a different setting. Campfires are usually held at actual campgrounds when Scout groups go camping whether for summer, fall, winter or spring camp. In recent years, however, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it has been difficult for groups to do actual in-person camping. The Venture group were able to do their own small camping trip in August of 2022. For the rest of our Scout groups however, camping is something they either have not experienced for a while or not at all.

This year's campfire was held at the Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto which is where all 6th Meadowvale groups host their weekly meetings. Groups prepared in advance for the campfire to conduct their usual campfire activities. The campfire featured a simulated but glowing fire pit with flames and chairs in a circle formation all around the fire. Although not an actual campfire, members and leaders could feel the warmth that surrounded them throughout the temple lower level auditorium.

The Cubs and Beavers presented a few songs to bring cheer and Scouts also sang songs with live instruments such as a guitar and shakers for a beat. The Ventures put on a skit that discussed the importance of food banks and their significance, especially during the holiday season. While doing so, they took the opportunity to thank everyone from the Temple and Scouts who donated to their recent annual food drive. To conclude their segment, Ventures did a sing-along of Jingle Bells when the whole group was accompanied by one of the Venture members playing the song on the piano.

To finish the campfire, an inspiring and important

message by Venerable Ruan was given to the group which was applauded by people stomping their feet on the ground as it is a campfire rule that there is no clapping. The campfire wrapped up with the elephant game where a song is sung and as the game goes on, more and more people are added to a line which moves around the campfire circle until everyone from the campfire is in the line and signing.

Although the 6th Meadowvale Scout Group looks to hold this campfire again at the actual campgrounds, the Temple is the next best thing and all Scout members and leaders had fun participating in this group event. ◆

FEBRUARY 2023 17

TheBuddha's Light Choir of Toronto responded to the invitation from the Dolce De Soleil Music Group to support their 2022 "Toy Mountain Campaign with the Salvation Army". Toronto Buddha's Light Choir joined the toy drive with the intention of bringing joy to families in need. In a short period of time a total of $450 worth of toys were donated. This great cause also is in harmony with one of the four objectives, that being: "benefiting society through charity".

With donated funds, Toronto Buddha's Light Choir purchased 68 new toys for children 13 years of age and under. Miranda Zhu, John Chiu and his wife, delivered the toys to the Dolce De Soleil Music Group on behalf of the Buddha;s Light Choir on December 3rd, 2022, at the Buddha's Light Markham Centre. Benny Chen (first from the left, photo a), representative of Dolce De Soleil Music Group accepted the toy donation. Mr. Chen also added that the Buddha's Light Choir was the first group to respond to the fundraiser.

Additionally this year, Dolce De Soleil Music Group plans to hold a "Christmas Angels Concert" with a band, choir, dancers, vocalists and other musical performances in hopes of raising funds and collecting toys. The concert will take place at the Salvation

Donations of JOY

Spreading Warmth by Donating Toys to the Salvation Army

Army Mississauga Community Church. The Salvation Army of Mississauga plans to deliver all the toys to the Greater Toronto Area Salvation Army on December 15. All of this activity is to achieve the goal of the event which is to "Help put a smile on a child's face this Christmas!"

Many members of the BLIA came together to cooperate and contribute to the toy drive. The members had hoped the "happiness and peace" in humanistic Buddhism would help to spread laughter and warmth to all in the community, and that all children would be full of joy at this time of year.

(a) On December 3rd, 2022, at Buddha's Light Markham Centre, Miranda Zhu (third from right), John Chiu and his wife, delivered the toys to Dolce De Soleil Music Group on behalf of the Choir. Benny Chen (first from the left) of Dolce De Soleil Music Group accepted the donations. Photo by Au Jianguo (b) Toronto Buddha's Light Choir practicing the principle of "benefiting society through charity", responded to the invitation from Dolce De Soleil Music Group to support the "Toy Mountain Campaign of Salvation Army" toy drive. Photo by Miranda Zhu
20 FGS INSIGHT Origami Lotus Instructions by origamifun! URL: https://www.origami-fun.com/origami-lotus.html ~origami lotus~

Bodhi Light Tales Podcast

Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

Storyteller: Venerable Miao Guang

Taming the Elephant Three Ways

Once upon a time, there lived a householder named Atidharma, who had long admired the Buddha’s virtue. One day, Atidharma went to see the Buddha at Jetavana Monastery. After paying his respects to him, he stood aside and waited.

When the Buddha saw him, he asked, “What is your name? Where are you from?”

Atidharma knelt before the Buddha and said, “My name is Atidharma, and I was the elephant handler or mahout for the previous King. It is such an honor to finally meet you, Buddha.”

The Buddha smiled and asked, “What is bothering you?”

Atidharma replied, “Well, I have been following my family in the learning of your teachings, but I still find myself unsettled. I am plagued with troubles and worries. Please help me understand, Buddha.”

The Buddha then asked, “When you are training the elephants, teaching them, what methods do you use?”

Atidharma replied, “When training the elephants, I usually use three methods:

First is to use a stick with an iron hook to keep the elephant’s mouth closed, so that I can control it and it cannot escape.

The second is to reduce the amount of food it receives so it quickly goes hungry, and lacks the strength to resist.

The third is to beat it with a stick so that it feels pain and through fear becomes submissive. This is how I train them.”

The Buddha asked again, “What is the purpose behind your methods?”

Atidharma replied, “The hook in the elephant’s mouth can subdue its violent and untamed nature. Its ferocity is tamed by not allowing it to eat enough. Beating it with a stick will teach it never to misbehave. These methods are brutal, I understand that, but they work! I can tame the elephant and make it do whatever I want.”

The Buddha then inquired once more, “What is the purpose of taming an elephant using your methods?”

Atidharma said, “Once tamed, it is fit to be used as the mount of the king. We must ensure no harm ever comes to the king when sat upon it. Otherwise,

FEBRUARY 2023 21

elephants can be ordered to charge through enemy lines. We can easily direct it to move in any direction we wish.”

The Buddha asked his final question, “So, you can master elephants, but can you master yourself?”

Taken aback by the Buddha’s question, Atidharma remained silent for a moment, then said, “At present, I have no idea how to tame myself. Buddha, please teach me how,” Atidharma replied.

The Buddha said, “I also have three methods I use for people to master themselves. My methods fill one’s mind with the joy of purity. They are:

First is to guard one’s speech with sincerity.

The second is to subdue one’s stubbornness and willfulness with compassion and honesty.

The third is to purge one’s attachment, subjectivity, ignorance, and other defilements with wisdom.

I help all beings master themselves using these three methods, leading them to escape the three evil destinies and attain liberation. They will be free from the cycle of birth and death, and no longer entangled in worries, sorrows, and distress.”

Hearing this, Athidarma suddenly had a realization, his mind now clear like a cloudless blue sky. He exclaimed, “I now see how I am going to tame myself. Thank you so much, Buddha!”

This story highlights the skillful means of the Buddha. Using his own knowledge of how to tame elephants, the Buddha taught Atidharma how to tame himself. Atidharma’s methods of mastery consisted of physically forcing the elephant to obey his commands. However, Atidharma had no idea how to even master his own mind. The Buddha then asked what was the purpose behind his methods. He did this to help Atidharma understand the true motivations behind his actions. More importantly, one may be physically restrained but unable to settle mentally. Taming a

ferocious elephant does require skill, but taming an arrogant mind requires the wisdom and skillful means demonstrated by the Buddha.

The Buddha was a great teacher who never abandoned anyone and taught according to people’s needs and talents. With his compassion, he touched the hearts of the fearful. With his wisdom, he convinced those who challenged him. He was a trusted teacher to kings, ministers, and royalty. More importantly, he always helped the people, especially the distressed. To musicians, he would be a muse. To horse tamers, he would share his own experiences with horses to enlighten them. Not only should we learn the teachings, but we must also strive to learn the skillful means of the Buddha to master ourselves.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says, “Compassion is the heart of Buddhism; without compassion to liberate all beings, Buddhahood is unattainable.

Skillful means is the practice of Buddhism; without mastering skillful means, liberating all beings is impossible.”



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