English Version (Credited to Andrew N. & Avelyn B.)
Title: Birth and Death, No Birth and No Death, and Non-Duality in Birth and Death! Inspired by Most Venerable Hsin Bau
The 2023 BLIA North America Fellowship Meeting concluded in mid-July. Then, in early August, a featured news clip from FGSBLTV (see link) was released, and it mentioned Fo Guang Shan Monastery Chief Abbot Most Venerable Hsin Bau’s keynote speech. The headline read, “Most Venerable Hsin Bau Discusses Birth and Death, Guiding the Audience to Contemplate the Source of Life.”
Most Venerable Hsin Bau said, “The terms ‘birth’ and ‘death’ are profound in reality because they are truths. What all buddhas of the past have said, what the buddhas of the present are saying, and what buddhas of the future will say are all the same.”
Birth and Death
Volunteer journalist Pan Qingxia attended the Fellowship Meeting; in her news release, she wrote, “Most Venerable Hsin Bau encourages BLIA members when facing the impermanence of all things, they must try to contemplate the reality of life through the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, allowing life to elevate.” After watching the featured news clip, she felt she had only mentioned the first aspect of birth and death, “everything arises and ceases to exist, having life and death.” While this was correct, birth and death held a deeper significance. Otherwise, Most Venerable Hsin Bau wouldn’t emphasize that past, present, and future Buddhas all speak of birth and death.
No Birth and No Death
Most Venerable Hsin Bau’s mention of “contemplating the reality of life through the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination” led Pan to wonder whether exploring the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination can help her to understanding the concept of “no birth and no death” as described in the Heart Sutra. Can we find eternity within the cycle of birth and death? So, what is the meaning of “no birth and no death” in the Heart Sutra? Is this the reality of life? This was the second aspect that Pan contemplated.
Non-Duality in Birth and Death
One day, she had a sudden realization and thought of the third aspect: the non-duality of birth and death. Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Founding Master of Fo Guang Shan Monastery, explained in his work “Joyful Practice in the Human World — The Vimalakirti Sutra”:
Birth is existence on the surface, and death is cessation, nonexistence. Existence and nonexistence are surely two different things; how can birth and death be considered as one? The gate of Fo Guang Shan is called “Bu Er Gate” meaning gate of non-duality. On both sides of the gate, I have written a couplet: “The gate is called non-duality, but duality is not dual, for it is one’s own true face. The mountain is called Vulture Peak, yet it is not a mountain; for it is nothing but my own pure body.”
People often ask me, “Why is it named ‘Gate of Non-Duality’?” Because Fo Guang Shan sits north and faces the south, directly facing the Gate of Non-Duality. The east is where the sun rises in the morning, and the west is where the sun sets in the evening. The rising sun symbolizes a person’s birth, and the setting sun symbolizes cessation. But in reality, birth has never truly been born. When evening comes, the sun sets; yet cessation has never truly ceased. When morning comes, the same sun rises again. Similarly, birth and death are non-dual, hence the name “Gate of Non-Duality.”
Pan scratched her head, admitting that despite her desire to comprehend the essence of Most Venerable Hsin Bau’s speech on “birth and death” but following the teachings and practicing them remained a challenge.
“Up until I read this passage with its distant and interconnected content related to birth and death, it feels less difficult and is certainly feasible!” Pan concluded by sharing her favorite passage “Causes Arise and Cease” from Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s “365 Days for Travelers”, with the hope that readers might view both difficult and easy situations as non-dual and thereby understand the true essence of Most Venerable Hsin Bau’s “birth and death.”
Causes Arise and Cease
—from Chang Ai-ling De Qingcheng Wangshi (The Exceedingly Beautiful Past of Eileen Chang)
Remember it doesn’t mean eternity,
Forgotten doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
Causes arise, holding hands with you, gazing at the sky,
Causes cease, peach blossoms accompany me, smiling in the spring breeze.
Link (In Chinese)
2023 BLIA North America Fellowship Meeting 700 BLIA Members enjoying the delightful assembly