Dharma Panel: Finding Our Way Out of Crisis—Part 2

Panel Topic: Finding Our Way Out of Crisis

Ven. Chueh Fan, Abbess of FGS Toronto
Ven. Juewei, Director, Humanistic Buddhism Centre, NTI
Ven. Miao Guang, Deputy Chancellor of FGS Institute of Humanistic Buddhism

Ven. Zhi Yue, FGS Institute of Humanistic Buddhism

Question 2


Thank you Venerable Miao Guang for that wonderful outline of the Noble Eightfold Path, so that we can see the Noble Eightfold Path in three parts: first, right view and right thought talks about a new attitude we should have in face of any crisis. Second, the actions that we should teach comes in through right speech, right action, right livelihood. Third, right effort, eight concentration, and right mindfulness teaches us to stay focus and alert on the changes we can make.

So as Buddhist practitioners, we know that the practice of this focus and alertness is not something that is achieved in a day, but something that requires constant practice and perseverance. I would like to direct this question to Ven. Chueh Fan, the Abbess of FGS Toronto. I would imagine that you’re very busy, and that you can serve as an example for the rest of us in our hectic lives.

Could you tell us a little bit about what you do?
How do you make sure you are always staying focus and alert in applying the Eightfold Path to such a busy life?

Ven. Chueh Fan, Abbess of FGS Toronto:

I. Roles and Responsibilities of a Monastic

Thank you very much, Venerable Zhi Yue. So, referring back to the question: what do I do? As a monastic, I think our own cultivation and practice are definitely a must. However, cultivation is at everywhere and in every second. It is not only about sitting there, reading the sutra, chanting, or meditation.

I do everything. I have to do what I face in my monastic life. As a monastic, I live in a sangha community, so we have our group practices and individual practices that we have to follow. For example, morning and evening chanting, study the sutras, and meditation as well. But other than that, as a guardian of a temple, a place that cultivates my mind and soul, I learn how to take care of this important environment and place. It means maintaining and repairing things that has been broken. For example, re-roofing. If the roof is leaking, you have to deal with it. The air-condition, just like what happened today in our Main Shrine, it was broken and tomorrow we have a Dharma service, so we have to find someone to come fix it. These are the regular things that I have to deal with, just like you in maintaining your home. Sometimes, I need even need to deal with septic tank. I came from a country, from Malaysia, since I lived in in a city, I have never seen a septic tank. When I was in my previous temple in Orlando, I have to deal with septic tank. Eventually, after 13 years, I have to repair the whole system three to four times. So I think I’m quite a professional to deal with people, with the vendors. So this is what I have learned from maintaining my temple.

But I think as a monastic, we also serve the community. I serve whomever that comes to the temple by observing their needs and providing comfort, and try to calm them down. Whenever I see someone, especially, a young man or a senior, you feel the pain in their lives and you need to talk to them and calm them down. Lead their thoughts as how the Buddha taught us to. What we have learned from Venerable Miao Guang, the Noble Eightfold Path, is definitely a path for me. I help them to have right mindfulness.

Also, as a lecturer, I share my experiences with whomever that come to class, sharing experiences from my learning journey and how it affects my life.

Lastly, as a leader at the temple, I have to deal with lots of temple administration and paperwork. Communication between temples and community agencies, government, sometimes even accounting. Don’t think that a monastic does not have to deal with these. As we are in a Humanistic Buddhism temple, I can’t leave everything behind, but need to face the reality as it is, such as accounting.

I also have to think about the future developments of the temple, and pay attention to social issues, and how we can cope with that by bringing out what we have learned from the Dharma and to the devotees.

Through these different roles and positions, I learned to manage my thoughts at any time. I learned to focus on the causes and conditions, and how to response with my physical, verbal, and mental actions. Everyone walks into your temple, and you need to know how to care for them and what they need.

II. Putting Humanistic Buddhism into Practice

What caught my attention about Buddhism, about 30 years ago, was Humanistic Buddhism. When I first heard about Humanistic Buddhism, I thought this is something I could apply to my life. That was the first year when I went to United States for my undergraduate. Since my childhood until college, almost everything that I have learned feels like it is a preparation for examination, and I have forgotten most of what I have learned. When I first found Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles, and met Venerable Master Hsing Yun and heard teachings of Humanistic Buddhism, it was like a light in my mind—I finally found something I can use in my life.

Almost 30 years later until today, what caught my attention again on Humanistic Buddhism is Venerable Master’s explanation of Humanistic Buddhism: “What the Buddha taught, what is needed by human beings, what purifies, and what is virtuous and beautiful.” The word, “what is needed” put my attention on Humanistic Buddhism. How can I give what people need? When someone comes into the temple, can I recognize their needs? If I can’t recognize their needs, how can I comfort them? How can they receive the Dharma that fit their needs? These are some questions that I have when people walk into the temple. I would like to know what is actually needed by them, not what I want to give to them. This is my practice, especially during this pandemic. We really need to know what is their fear and worries. Moreover, I also remind myself that I’m cultivating through helping others to learn Buddhism. Whatever position or role I’m dealing with, my main purpose it help people recognize the Dharma in their lives and help them to go through their difficulties. More importantly, to have the right way, the correct path in their lives, in order to help them attain happiness and joyful state.

Venerable Master also talks about achieving world peace that comes from nations, communities, families, and individuals. I hope that we can all practice and begin as an individual and back to families, communities, nations, and the world.