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Steering the wheel of life

(China Daily)

14:54, August 15, 2011

Shi Guangquan, the 50-year-old abbot of Lingyin Temple in Zhejiang's capital Hangzhou, presides over a Buddhist ritual in this file photo. (China Daily Photo)

Hangzhou - Shi Guangquan once worked behind the wheel of a bus. Now he is a driving force behind the promotion of Buddhism in China.

"Buddhism let me know how to understand this world, and it also tells me how to make my life meaningful," said Shi, 50, one of the most revered Buddhist masters in China.

Shi is the abbot of Lingyin Temple, which lies in the cultural West Lake landscape of Hangzhou in East China's Zhejiang province. Founded in AD 328, it literally means Temple of the Soul's Retreat.

The master said he was not impressed by Buddhism at an early age. From 1979 to 1989, he worked as a bus driver in Hangzhou, and even tried to join the army when he graduated from high school.

"But I was refused due to my poor eyesight," said the bespectacled abbot, smiling.

However, his father's death in 1984, which made him feel the impermanence of human life, changed his future.

"At that time I often went to a local temple to hear the monks chant for my deceased father, and I felt peace of mind in that situation, with the sound of chanting and the aroma of incense."

He then started to learn Buddhist mantras at home and became an ardent volunteer serving a nearby temple.

"I enjoyed the years of being a lay Buddhist, in which I learned many Buddhist doctrines, including doing good things to elevate the soul and accepting whatever happens to you."

As fate would have it, a dream he had in 1989, in which he became a monk of Lingyin Temple, made him determined to convert.

"Things happen for a reason, and I heeded the call of the spirit," the master said.

His decision didn't sit well with his family. His mother cried for three whole days before giving her consent.

"My mother cried because she misunderstood Buddhism, just like lots of Chinese people do," said Shi.

His mother and many Chinese people think that once a person converts to Buddhism, he or she will have no connection with family anymore.

"It is regulated in the Buddhist doctrine that you should take care of your parents," said the abbot.
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