DDM Global News

​Lecture Series "Classics and Life"–Ven. Guo Goang Gave a Dharma Talk at DDM San Francisco Bay Area Center

From January 13th to 16th, Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM) San Francisco Bay Area Center hosted the first Dharma lecture series for 2024, featuring Ven. Guo Goang and Ven. Chang Hwa. The lecture series consisted of five sessions. Ven. Guo Goang shared with the audience on three topics: "the Āgama Sutras' Buddhist Perspective on Life and Death," "the Āgama Sutras' Buddhist Perspective on Cause and Conditions," and "Reflections on Solitary Retreat: Empty Sword and Empty Shield." The lecture covered the interpretation and clarification of the Buddhist scriptures as well as the cause of and reflections on her spiritual practice. She also gave sincere advice and encouragement to the followers for their spiritual cultivation based on the Buddhist scriptures. 

In her lecture "the Āgama Sutras' Buddhist Perspective on Life and Death," the Venerable began by introducing the significance of the Āgama Sutras. These sutras constitute the fundamentals of Buddhadharma, and are closest to the primal teachings of the Buddha. At that time, Prince Siddhārtha began to practice meditation and asceticism, due to major unresolved questions about birth, aging, sickness, and death. He then attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, realizing that life arises as a result of causes and conditions. Since boundless kalpas ago, sentient beings have been wandering in the cycle of birth and death incessantly and have no way out of it. If we can truly realize the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination (Twelve Nidanas), we will be able to transcend and liberate ourselves from life and death.

In her lecture "the Āgama Sutras' Buddhist Perspective on Cause and Conditions," continuing from the previous talk, the Venerable further analyzed the twelve nidanas in-depth. The dependent arising (pratītyasamutpāda in Sanskrit) is the Buddha's unique insight and the essence of the Dharma. Only through understanding the twelve nidanas can we realize the root cause of life and death. The Venerable explained that all phenomena in life do not happen by chance, but have their own causes and conditions behind them. Ignorance (avidyā) is the inability to truly understand name-and-form (five aggregates). Consciousness arises just as ignorance arises. When consciousness comes into play, name-and-form is perceived as self, causing the mind to generate karma, and be hindered by ignorance, volitional formations, and cravings. This leads sentient beings to "take consciousness as self, thus wandering between life and death." The Venerable exhorted everyone to examine our mind, which has long been contaminated by greed, anger, and ignorance, and encouraged everyone to dedicate themselves to diligent practice of wholesome deeds and the Eight Noble Paths to transform our lives. 

In the third lecture "Reflections on Solitary Retreat: Empty Sword and Empty Shield," the Venerable shared her personal journey, beginning with seeking the answers to life's questions from a young age, then continuing to describe her learning of Buddhism and meditation practice, her ordination, and the opportunity of her six-year solitary retreat which started in 2013. Despite her busy schedule, the Venerable always put her aspiration for the Way and spiritual cultivation at first, and continues to practice her routine rituals every day. During her solitary retreat, in addition to the morning and evening services and sitting meditation, the Venerable also practiced sutra prostrations and repentance prostrations to free her mind from illusory thoughts. The Venerable maintained that, with a clear mind, we can peacefully go through the difficulties during our spiritual cultivation. 

Of the three Dharma lectures by Ven. Guo Goang, two were presented both physically and online, drawing over a hundred participants from North American and Taiwan. In each lecture, the Venerable took several minutes to answer numerous questions from the audience. Equipped with the Venerable's profound, detailed, and extensive responses full of compassion, participants were filled with the joy of the Dharma. 

Text and Photos: Dharma Drum Mountain San Francisco Bay Area Center

Translation: Siang-ling Li
Editing: Keith Brown, YKL