I will just tell you a few of the highlights of the lectures since you will know that when there are lectures at Fo Guang Shan Temple, you should try and make time to attend because there are always surprises, small jewels of wisdom that each person can take home and allow it to help in his/her life. In my highlights, I might leave out a few things, but I hope you enjoy a little of what was said.
The Venerables each introduced themselves and told a little about why they decided to become a nun. Each Venerable had aspirations of being a nun from a very young age. One told about the actual interview that she had with Master Hsing Yun. She said that she was sitting before him and he kindly asked her to tell him her specialty. She felt bad because she sat there within those seconds and thought and thought and could not think of anything that she was really good at. She couldn’t sing or dance as well as others or at least she thought she was not as good as others. So she told him that she had no specialty. He looked at her and said, “of course you do. It is your smile. It opens the heart of the world and radiates joy to all.”
This nun also told us of what happened to her during the Ancestors Memorial ceremony. She asked everyone in the room who attended it on Sunday and most of us raised our hands. She said that when we all went outside to burn the offerings in the upright ovens, as everyone was chanting, she had to stop. The most amazing thing happened. The clouds above her parted and there within the sky was Kwan Yin with her palms together bowing towards the congregation. She said that she had to stop chanting because she could not believe her eyes and wondered why everyone else was chanting because there was Kwan Yin right above all of us. She said afterwards, she told the rest of the Venerables and they all said together, “You should have stopped us and told us! We wanted to see her too!” It was a charming account of what sometimes is before each of us, if we pause a moment and just look.
Several of the lectures centered on attachment and the suffering that surrounds being attached. One Venerable stated that we must try and reduce the attachment to self and forms and to the dharma. (I, as well as many English speakers, were not sure what the attachment to dharma meant. Maybe we can discuss that in our English dharma class on Thursday to have a clearer understanding of it.)
There was a lecture also on generosity and the importance of the gift. The gift should always be something that you value yourself. It matters not the material value of it. It matters most the value of the heart in the giving. The equation was: Heart + object = gift/generosity. The heart must always outweigh the object or the outcome is substantially less and is subtracted from the generosity. So everything when given depends on the heart. If you do something not from the heart, there is no generosity that comes from it.
There was also a wonderful lecture on stress and worry and the causes and how to relieve the suffering that comes from them. Which if you just remember the Heart and Diamond sutras and the teaching within them, you realize that life is impermanent, there is no self and that it always changes. If something is bad, it will soon change to something good. The question is the “badness” or “goodness” of anything. What is “bad” to you, might be “good” to someone else. So there really is no “bad” or “good” if looked at from outside the form of “self.” You accept the good and the bad and enjoy the seconds that you have without living in the past or the future. You create your own world and each of your moments within your mind. To eliminate suffering, you have to be willing to let go of pain/suffering and be free from attachments to self, to others and to objects of this world. The key to everything is in the one and only way the heart truly expresses itself – through compassion. Everyone must be willing to show compassion to each and everything in our world — it is the first step to relieving our own suffering.