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Songshan Shaolin Temple

Songshan Shaolin Temple

The Songshan Shaolin Temple was founded in the 19th imperial year of Tai He in the Northern Wei dynasty in 495 AD.

It is popularly regarded as the birthplace of Chinese martial arts. The first patriarch of Shaolin Monastery, who established Shaolin Kung Fu, was an Indian Buddhist monk called Bodhidharma (known as Da Mo to the Chinese). Upon arriving at Shaolin Temple, he was moved by the poor physical condition of the monks, and set about creating an exercise program for the monks that involved physical techniques that were efficient, strengthened the body and eventually, could be used practically in self-defense. His primary concern then was to make the monks physically strong enough to withstand both their isolated lifestyle and the deceptively demanding training that meditation requires. It turned out that the techniques served a dual purpose as a very efficient fighting system, and eventually evolved into a martial arts style called known as Kung Fu. By practicing Kung Fu, one can cultivate the body and the mind. Since ancient times, Shaolin Martial Arts has spread beyond the boundaries of the temple, and was often involved in protecting the country and its people. Over time, Shaolin Temple became renowned at home and abroad for its unique combination of Ch’an (Zen Buddhism) and Wu (Martial arts). Ch’an is the school of Buddhism commonly practiced in China, Japan, and Korea. It is respected and accepted by people all over the world.

Chan Buddhism (Zen)

Bodhidharma (Da Mo) was also the founder of the Chan or Zen school of Buddhism in China. Chan texts also represent him as the 28th Chan patriarch in an uninterrupted line starting with the Buddha, through direct and non-verbal transmission of insight. The canon of the Chan sect was later spread to Japan where it became known as Zen.

Abbot Shi Yongxin

Abbot Shi Yongxin was born in Yingyang (Anhui province) in 1965. Before he enter monk hood, his name used to be Lin Ying Cheng. At present, he is the 30th generation abbot of the Shaolin Charity Welfare Foundation, the standing director of the Nan Buddhist Association, the representative of the people at National Congress, and a member of the National Youth Federation. Abbot Shi Yongxin embraces tradition while at the same time, establishes new frontiers. Besides managing temple affairs, he writes books. Recently, Zen books that he edited were published. He is also the author of many books that play important roles in spreading Zen and martial arts.

Who was the Buddha?

The Buddha was not a god. He was a human being who became enlightened and was also the first to teach about the path to enlightenment. Anyone has the potential to become a Buddha. There have been many Buddhas in the past and there will be others in the future. The historical Buddha who founded the teachings of Buddhism was born into a royal family in the region that is now northern India, in the year 536 B.C. He grew up in wealth and luxury, but eventually realized that worldly comforts do not guarantee happiness, and that no one is entirely free of suffering. Buddhists view suffering as any state of imperfection that mars perfect happiness, be it physical, emotional or mental. At the age of 29, he left his family and the life of royal comforts and set off in search of how to overcome suffering so that other people such as his loved ones may be free of it. After 6 years of studying under great religious teachers, meditation and personal experiences, the Buddha achieved enlightenment under a Bodhi tree while in deep meditation.

The Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are the foundation of Buddhism, and was taught by the Buddha during his first sermon:

  1. Suffering (Dukkha) exists in the world we live in
  2. Attachment or aversion causes suffering.
  3. Suffering can be ceased.
  4. The way to end all suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

When someone takes a vow to become a Buddhist lay person (not a monk or nun), they vow to follow the Five Precepts:

  • Not to kill
  • Not to steal
  • Not to engage in sexual misconduct
  • Not to lie or to use harsh speech
  • Not to take alcohol or drugs (unless for medical reasons) that may otherwise lead to carelessness and cause harm

Buddhists ‘take refuge in the Triple Gem’ (Triple Treasures). The triple Gem refers to the Buddha, the Dhama (the Truth the Buddha taught) and the Sangha (the past and present ascetic disciples of the Buddha, i.e., Buddhist monks and nuns).

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