The Perception of Hardship
What is hardship? Is there really a definitive way of classifying a certain situation as hardship? What may be difficult for you and I may not be a problem for another person. I have been a Dharma teacher for more than 25 years and during this time, I’ve encountered many people who face obstacles when they try to engage in spiritual practice. Many times, these obstacles are self created… and the answer is instant if they choose to view things differently.
I recently read an article about a group of ascetic nuns in China and it reminded me of how many people often give excuses when it comes to practicing the Dharma although there is every reason to practice. The article described the lifestyle of these ascetic nuns during their annual two-week pilgrimage. They travel on foot, live outdoors, and beg only for food. They give no excuses, no complaints… they are just focused on their spiritual practice and it shows their sincerity and devotion.
I want to share this article in hopes that it will inspire all Dharma students to realize and understand that Dharma is worth ‘sacrificing’ for. There is nothing to fear in dharma. The fear is if you don’t have dharma. So the next time you feel like skipping Dharma class because you don’t want to get stuck in traffic, or because you want to do something else, think about these sincere ascetic nuns, and reflect… sincere practitioners go all the way for Dharma.
Ascetic Nuns’ Life Of Pilgrimage (女性苦行僧的行脚生活)
Daoyuan Temple of Haicheng, Liaoning is a nunnery in China that upholds strict discipline. This temple is comprised entirely of women. The nuns practice Buddhism at the Dabei Temple in Haicheng, Liaoning and belong to the same Guiyang School of Zen Buddhism as the Dabei Temple.
According to reports, in the Haicheng Daoyuan Temple, much like the Haicheng Dabei Temple, money is forbidden for all the nuns. They must abide by the Buddha’s precepts and never touch nor collect money. This photo shows [the nuns] holding a monk staff, carrying an incense burner, walking outside in the early dawn.
Their temple does not have a donation box and they do not deal in business. All the nuns eat only once a day at noon and sleep four hours a day. They meditate for the length of time it takes to burn five incense sticks. This photo shows them walking in the rain.
Every year after the mid-autumn festival, they must go on a two week pilgrimage (Angya). During this journey, they practice begging, only for food and not money.
During the journey, they do not live in hotels, people’s homes, or temples. They live outdoors. This photo shows the nuns at rest, with bystanders watching.
Daoyuan Temple nuns began their pilgrimage tradition in 2000, begging for food on their journey each year for the past 15 years.
Today, Daoyuan Temple nuns have already walked across Liaoning, Hebei, Jilin, Heilongjiang and other provinces. This photo shows the nuns on the road, braving the winds.
On the road they meet faithful worshipers.
This photo shows the nuns on the pilgrimage as curious pedestrians stop to watch.
While on the road, when the nuns find animals killed by traffic, they will pick it up and bury it, so that they can put an end to its resentment, and cultivate compassion.
The nuns stand dignified, holding refuge taking and animal liberation ceremonies.
The believers they meet on their journey will bring them animals saved from being butchered, and the nuns will hold ceremonies to liberate these animals. The Daoyuan Temple abbot conducts the ceremony.
Meditation during rest.
According to Buddhist precepts, they only beg for food, not money.
After completing their alms rounds, the nuns will put all the food together and give it to the “jingren”.
After completing their alms rounds, the nuns will sit down, fast and chant in accord with the number and duration outlined in the precepts.
Nun reading the Sutras
Repairing torn robes. After a long period of time, their robes are full of patches.
Drawing pictures and writing Sutras on leaves
The Buddhist implement that must be brought along during pilgrimage: the monk staff.
Setting up the sleeping bags and preparing to rest.
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