The Regular Daily Practice of Venerable Master Sheng YenVenerable Master Sheng Yen mentioned in his autobiography "The Journey Home" that when he became a novice at the age of thirteen at Guangjiao Monastery in the Wolf Hills in Nantong, Jiangsu, China, his master required him to, firstly, prostrate to the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara five hundred times every morning, to remedy his failure to memorize the contents of daily morning and evening services. After keeping this routine for three months, Venerable Master Sheng Yen could then memorize the contents of the liturgies so effortlessly that for the first time he became keenly aware of how beneficial keeping a routine is to Dharma practice.
After arriving in Taiwan, Venerable Master Sheng Yen once again took the tonsure to become a monk under Venerable Master Dong Chu. While in the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture, in addition to morning and evening services and sitting meditation, Venerable Master Sheng Yen also added a session of "The Great Compassion Repentance Ritual" to his daily practice, knowing that doing repentance prostrations would help reduce his numerous karmic obstacles in Dharma practice. Later on, when Venerable Master Sheng Yen went to southern Taiwan for a six-year solitary retreat, he still kept his routine of twice-daily practice and sitting meditation, despite being away from the monastery. In addition, every day he would first perform "The Great Compassion Repentance Ritual", followed by the "Amitabha Repentance Ritual" and, finally, ending with prostrations to the "Lotus Sutra", all with the aim of applying himself vigorously day and night, dare not having the slightest laziness.
While busying himself with a doctorate degree program, Venerable Master Sheng Yen still kept his unwavering twice-daily practice routine. He once said: "Monastics only have the necessities of life: we eat so we don't starve to death, take shelter so we don't freeze in winter, get up early each morning and go to sleep late every night and serve people during the day, as well as meditate, perform recitations and make prostrations in the morning and evening. We have no days off all year round, and no vacations for our entire lives." This shows the importance of a constant and relentless daily regular practice for monastics.
Later on, Venerable Master Sheng Yen went back and forth between the U.S. and Taiwan to spread Dharma teachings and to teach meditation, while in the meantime founding Dharma Drum Mountain. Having experienced the power and benefits that regular practice brings to his self-cultivation, Venerable Master Sheng Yen maintained different regular routines during each stage of his life. Even toward the end of his life, Master Sheng Yen maintained his Dharma practice by continually chanting the Buddha's name anytime and anywhere, with prayer beads in hand. From his tonsure at the age of thirteen to his death at the age of eighty, Venerable Master Sheng Yen always met life's ups and downs with constant and persistent daily practice, and ceaselessly kept on advancing along the Way.
Daily Practice Q & A: Q4: What is the difference between preliminary and daily practice?
Resource: Issue 326 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Issue 326 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Translation: Dharma Drum Mountain Translation Team
Editing: Shujen Yeh (葉姝蓁), Keith Brown