Since the inauguration of the daily paper, The Merit Times, in Taiwan on April 1, 2001, I have been writing an article each day for the column "Between Ignorance and Enlightenment." It is now nearly two years and I am still writing.
In the beginning, I was only trying it out, thinking I would finish in a couple of months. However, response from readers has been very enthusiastic, and I just could not stop writing.
According to the feedback from our readers, the staff at The Merit Times reported that many people subscribed to the paper because they wanted to read "Between Ignorance and Enlightenment." Some readers also indicated that after reading the column, their interests and skills in writing had improved. They were even able to gain acceptance to a university with their polished writing skills. Other readers made scrapbooks of the articles and used them as bedtime reading.
In addition, after reading the column some people who previously had numerous unwholesome habits have changed for the better. For instance, they have quit smoking, drinking, and gambling. There were also cases where family members had problems getting along with each other and they were inspired by the articles. Their families have become harmonious and joyful, filled with laughter and warmth. Some students wrote reports based on the articles and obtained high grades and commendation from their teachers.
These responses from different walks of life greatly reinforced my sense of duty for the column. Because of this mission, which I feel I must shoulder myself, I am motivated to write each and every day. Regardless of how busy my schedule in propagating the Dharma may be, I can always find time during the day to make connections with the readers through my writing.
The English section of the American edition of the Merit Times is also publishing the articles translated by Hsi Lai Temple. Many study groups organized by members of the Buddha's Light International Association are using the articles for their discussions. Numerous readers have since called for a collective publication of these articles, and their earnest requests are now fulfilled.
The meaning of "Between Ignorance and Enlightenment" is actually reflected in our everyday life where there are inevitably many situations involving both "ignorance" and "enlightenment." Sometimes, those directly affected are deluded, while those around them may see through the situation very clearly. Therefore, a few appropriate words will be of much help in pointing the way to breakthrough, providing food for thought at the same time.
In reality, ignorance and enlightenment lie in just a thought! A thought of ignorance may cause sorrow and pain, while an instance of enlightenment can bring out the sun of wisdom. Just as Buddhist sutras indicate, "Troubles are Bodhi, and Bodhi is trouble!" The sourness of pineapples and grapes can be turned into sweetness with sun-shine and warm breezes. Therefore, by being able to reflect and con- template on the sourness of our ignorance, we can taste the sweetness of enlightenment right here and now.
This short publication is the second in a projected series of at least ten volumes. Through "Between Ignorance and Enlightenment," I wish to share and to grow with all my readers!
Between Ignorance and Enlightenment, Volume 2 is an inspiring collection of articles by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, which have been reprinted from his daily column in The Merit Times newspaper. He offers us a wide array of topics concerning our daily life, ranging from good health and longevity, the four seasons, and sleep to advertising, gossip, the empty nest syndrome, and extramarital affairs. Venerable Master Hsing Yun offers us hope and practical advice to address our universal problems living in a contemporary, technological world of "fast food culture." He uses down-to-earth language and ancient Chinese and Buddhist stories to convey his message. "Where there is hard work, nothing is impossible. Where there is diligence, there are benefits. Nothing is sweeter than the fruits of labor, but there will be no fruits if there is no labor. If we have a plot of fertile land, harvest will only be possible if we diligently till the earth and sow the seeds. These are the truths of everyday life."
Venerable Master Hsing Yun through his engaging articles shows us the way to turn our suffering into happiness in this troubled world. We must be willing "to face our shortcomings bravely and then change them for good." He also warns us about the trap of materialism that surrounds us today. "The most valuable thing in the world is not gold and emeralds, nor expensive cars and grand mansions, rather, it is the affinity between people."
He urges us to take the "middle path" in life, avoiding extremes in our thoughts, emotions, and actions, as well as to follow the Buddhists' Five Precepts. Joy is found not only through our diligence but also in our practice of contemplation, the cultivation of a positive attitude, and the building of good affinity with others. We enjoy and spread happiness when we are tolerant and open-minded and "show compassion, kindness, joy, and generosity" to others.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun's underlying theme in each article is always clear and uplifting. "Every one of us has unlimited potential; it all depends on whether we know how to develop it, and if we are willing to be an almighty person." The challenge is ours. We need only to see that "our emotions, successes and failures, or our lives in general" are within the grasp of our own hands. We should act as our own masters. As the saying goes, ''There is no natural born Sakyamuni, nor such a Maitreya.' Everything depends on our own efforts. As long as we strive toward our goals, we will be rewarded accordingly.... "
There is an enormous distance between ignorance and enlightenment. By reading and practicing the wisdom offered by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, hopefully we can find our own paths.
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