Hello, my name is Dan Kendall and I am a follower of buddhist master Yu Tian Jian, or Living Buddha Dechan Jueren. I spent two years living and travelling with master Yu Tian Jian and this article is about one of my experiences while travelling with the master in China.
Yu Tian Jian:
Ancient Wisdom in the Modern World
By Dan Kendall
The smell of coal smoke hangs lightly in the air, and my feet crunch in the cold snow. Wishing I had worn another layer, I roll up the collar of my light winter coat to cover my neck. The streets are deserted and although it is black with darkness, snowflakes can be seen falling in the light of the street lamps. It is new year's morning in Beijing, China. Chinese New Year falls on the first new moon of the lunar calendar, usually around the end of January or early February. I have been in China for about a month, living and traveling with Buddhist Master Yu Tian Jian.
As we arrive at the back of the Yong He Gong Lamasery (Palace of Harmony or Beijing Lama Temple), the large green gates swing wide and we are graciously invited to enter by a tall young lama with bright red and yellow robes. His giant ridged yellow hat gives him the illusion of being eight feet tall, but maybe I am only sensing the stature of his spirit. We are welcomed with a smile, the master is well known here, and led into a beautiful courtyard surrounded by tall red buildings. Each building is built on giant red columns, has a sloping roof turned up at the corners, and is decorated with beautiful ornate colors. Yong He Gong used to be an imperial palace and was the birth place of the renowned Qing emperor Qian Long, also a living Buddha, who transformed it into a Lamasery around 1744. We stand for a moment in front of the Panchan Pavillion, which was built for the sixth Panchan lama. Above the door is a plaque in Mongolian, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese surrounded by dragons. Inside is the Bampa, a solid gold urn used to identify Living Buddhas by drawing ivory ballots, its twin sits in a temple in Tibet.
In the quiet pre-dawn darkness, I can now hear soft chanting.
As we approach the hall of eternal happiness, bright candlelight can be seen
through a haze of incense smoke.
Inside, some 60 lamas are chanting mantras in a dharma rite. I follow behind the master as offerings are given to all the lamas. Passing each one, I bow and tap my forehead, and get lightly brushed with a sutra. Every lama has a shaved head and wears a dark red cloak over his robes. I pull my hat down tighter and wonder how they keep their heads warm in the sub-zero cold. Their voices rise and fall in concert with the occasional beat of the drums, clash of the cymbals, and the deep resounding peal of the horns. We settle in to enjoy the dharma rite, and I reflect on the good fortune that brought me to this place.
Here I am, in a Tibetan Lamasery of the Gelugpa School, under the watchful guidance of a Chinese Living Buddha. My master is the Dharma King of the Hanmi lineage of Chinese Esoteric Buddhism. He is the heir to the complete teachings of the Mahavairocana Buddha handed down by Nagarjuna Bodhisattva. Around 720 A.D., three Buddhist masters, Subhakarasimha, Vajrabodhi, and Amoghavajra brought Buddhism from India to China. They combined the Buddhist teachings with the local Chinese language, culture, and religion, including Confucianism and Taoism. Buddhism was considered by the imperial court to be the national religion for nearly three generations and was widely practiced throughout China. Finally, a young emperor named Tang Wu Zong came to power who disliked Buddhism very much, and so extinguished the teaching by burning temples, sutras, and killing monks. As Buddhism was being destroyed in China, Master Padmasambhava was transmitting Buddhism in Tibet.
History had recorded that Huigo, Amoghavajra's disciple, went with Kukai (or Kobo Daishi) to Japan establishing the Japanese Esoteric School, and that the Chinese lineage was extinct. Unknown to history, Amoghavajra had another disciple, named Huisu, who received the complete transmission as well as all dharma instruments and became the next lineage bearer. Since then, it was passed on in secret from one master to one student, who then became the next master. Master Yu Tian Jian is the 49th successor. His master told him it is his job to open the teaching to the public again.
On September 14, 2003, he was enthroned at Agui temple in Inner Mongolia and was formally acknowledged with the spiritual title of "The Great Enlightener Golden Crown Dharma King" by the 17th Karmapa Rinpoche, the 19th Tilopa Rinpoche, and the 14th Naropa Rinpoche.
The lamas rise and file out of the building as the dharma rite ends. After a short pause to bow to the Buddha, we follow. I shade my eyes from the bright sunrise and enjoy a brief stroll through the temple grounds before it is time to exit the rear gate of the lamasery and head back to the master's house for a new years meal of hot dumplings and a glass of fiery rice wine.
I have been very fortunate to be able to live and travel with Master Yu Tian Jian for 2 years. My experience in China was not at all what I had been expecting from what I had seen in the western media. My travels have taken me throughout the length and breadth of China and Mongolia, and I visited many thriving Buddhist temples. We were met by high government officials and treated to banquets in several cities. The Chinese people are warm, friendly, and very hospitable.
I have had many teachers over the years, some with very high levels of attainment, but they all had some form of human limitation. Not so with Master Yu Tian Jian. He embodies all the qualities of a true enlightened being; completely selfless, continuously sacrificing himself for the benefit of others, and expecting nothing in return. No matter how many times a student makes a mistake, he is always ready to forgive. He displays his level of attainment by healing people of terminal illness. He is innocent as a child, ever ready to joke and laugh, but serious when it is time to teach dharma. When he teaches, he relays information that is impossible for anyone to know except for those who were actually at Shakyamuni Buddha's side. I spent two years as Master Yu TianJian's personal attendant, and I never saw him spend any time preparing a speech. All of his knowledge comes from his photographic memory of past lives. By practicing his teachings, I have experienced a fundamental change deep within myself and have witnessed similar changes in others.
The goal of a practitioner of Hanmi Buddhism is to attain to Buddhahood with this body in this lifetime. Master advises his students to do this by becoming 'a great one of merit.' How does one achieve this? "By treating all beings as if they were your own father or mother, and by truly learning to be receptive and to forgive others often, one will slowly develop a heart of tolerance. This is only the foundation to become a great one of merit."
His basic teaching is to help and do service for others, but before one can help others one must be able to help oneself. "Only he who is able to free himself from his own suffering has the ability to help others. For those who cannot even free themselves from suffering, wanting to help others is only a beautiful dream, it cannot be a reality."
"In order to learn the ways to help yourself, first you must know yourself well, and develop the habit of changing yourself." According to the master, the fastest way to do this is by practicing and attaining to the dharma.
Practitioners who attain to the dharma no longer fall ill or experience any physical problems. It takes a healthy body to realize wisdom. They also experience a dramatic improvement in good luck and in wealth. A practitioner needs money in order to have the time to practice, especially in this society. For a western person, poverty is one of the obstacles on the path to enlightenment. Those who attain dharma no longer experience disasters, and every thing in their life goes according to their will. This means they are able to quickly bring their ideas to fruition and the world manifests their intent.
All of this comes at a price: hard work, discipline, and effort. The master says, "Wisdom will only come through one's own effort, and it will only happen naturally. Wisdom cannot be given to you by anyone else. Only through your own effort and practice will you realize wisdom."
Some of the side effects of realizing wisdom are knowledge of your five previous past lives, and understanding the past life connections to all the family, friends, and people you are currently involved with. It also means attaining siddhi powers which enable you to do service for others in ways you never dreamed possible. For advanced practitioners, realizing wisdom brings knowledge of your own death and where you are going after you die, even to the point where you choose what you will do and where you will go in your next incarnation, or whether you even want to come back to this earth at all. Accomplished practitioners make that choice for themselves.
Master Yu Tian Jian has over 1000 disciples in North America and has empowered many of them to be healers.
Visit the Dari Rulai Temple to learn more.