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Steering the wheel of life (2)

(China Daily)

14:58, August 15, 2011

He now visits his mother once a year, usually on the eve of Spring Festival, the Chinese lunar New Year's eve.

Ordained into the Buddhist order in 1990, Shi studied Buddhist doctrines in Shanghai and returned to Hangzhou seven years later.

"There were almost no Buddhist activities in Hangzhou," recalled the abbot. "I felt it was my responsibility to promote Buddhism."

He founded the first Buddhist seminary in the city, offered courses in Buddhism, held meetings about religious communication and organized the world's first Buddhist forum.

Now as an abbot running a temple of more than 110 monks and the chairman of the Hangzhou Buddhist Association, Shi said that his busy daily life is "different from the previous one".

Besides work from his own temple, he also has to deal with affairs of local and national Buddhist associations, attend meetings in China and abroad, and from time to time welcome foreign heads of state.

However, the abbot said Buddhism faces problems in China, including a lack of religious people, a decline in the number of monks and poor promotion.

"Misunderstandings about monks are still prevalent in China," said Shi. Many people still feel strange when they see monks use cell phones, take public transportation or even read newspapers. Sometimes people even upload pictures of monks buying food or making phone calls.

"It's discrimination against monks and an interference with other's private lives," said the master. "Some people still hold the outdated idea that monks should be pale and live in remote mountains," he said.

"As the abbot of Lingyin Temple, I think my most important task is to help people understand Buddhism and the peace they can obtain through its teachings."

The monastery now often invites lay Buddhists and religious people to enjoy tea and music in the temple and holds a Buddhist cultural festival every year.

"Instead of waiting in temples for religious people to visit, Chinese monasteries should be more active in promoting Buddhism," said Shi. "When you stop moving forward, you're already on your way backward."

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