Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Book Review -- Footprints in the Snow: The Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk
The book is available at Amazon here .
I could not keep the book down once I started reading it. Chan master Sheng Yen gives a very open and honest account of his journey and that is what I liked most about this book. The chapters are not too long and flow smoothly.
He talks about his successes as well as challenges, how things looked very promising at one point and how they turned out to be nothing. It is very inspiring to read about how he stayed focused on the path in face of challenges and was eventually able to overcome various difficulties and went on to spread Chan knowledge in US. This book also allows reader to get an idea about course of Buddhism after the cultural revolution in China, we read and hear a lot about modern history of Buddhism in Japan but not so much in China.
Master Sheng Yen, also known as Shifu, was born in a poor farmer's family and for a long time, he did not show any signs of much intelligence. His family thought he would be a slow learner. He did end up going to school and learning to read and write. He was taken to Wolf Mountain Monastery by a family friend when he was in his teens and he ended up getting trained as monk. His situations led him to become a soldier in Nationalist Army and he believes it was his faith in Bodhisattva GuanYin that enabled him to leave army and reenter monkhood. He trained in a solitary retreat for 6 years at one point in his life. Since there were not many opportunities for Buddhist studies in China, he ended up going to Japan and got a PhD in Buddhist Studies.
He eventually travelled to US and after going through several challenges including the language barrier, was able to establish a flourishing Chan center here. He describes in the book as to how he was homeless and had nothing at one point and yet he was happy and satisfied, he called himself a wandering monk at that time.
It is a great book, specially if you are interested in life of dhamma teachers. The book does not contain any miracle stories, just the facts of life from a monkÂ¿s viewpoint and that is what I liked the most.