My late guru Yogi Chien-Ming Chen made a vow in 1980 to give 48 lectures on "The Integrated Teachings of the Five Pureland Sutras." The purpose was to establish good Karmic connections with all aspirants who wished to study Buddhism. By doing so, Yogi Chen felt that he may be able to repay in a small way Buddha Amitabha's Kindness of making 4 8 vows to save sentient beings when Amitabha was a Bodhisattva. Yogi Chen prepared the summary and charts for this teaching and began giving the lectures that year. The first lecture series was given at the Buddhist Association of America in San Francisco, California one hour weekly over a five week period. I was most fortunate to have been introduced to Yogi Chen a few days before the day of the first lecture by my friend Mr. Tian-Yee Yu. Yogi Chen showed me his teaching material and I accompanied him on the lectures, thereby was able to hear all of the lectures during the five weeks.
Before entering Nirvana on November 13, 1987 in the city of Berkeley, California, U. S. A., Yogi Chen had given the teaching forty-two times and I was sent by him to give an additional three times. The locations and main sponsors of these lectures are listed below.
1981, 8 times:
1982, 12 times:
1983, 6 times:
1984, 5 times:
1985, 5 times:
1986, 2 times:
1987, 2 times:
Continuing the will of my teacher, in 1989 I have been invited three times to give lectures on this topic:
After ten years, and through the efforts of two generations, Yogi Chen's vow was finally completed when I gave the forty-eighth lecture in Miami, Florida.
As part of the process of arranging and providing Buddhist lectures, Yogi Chen had nine "No" principles:
1. No "red envelop." (i.e. he does not accept monetary rewards) 2.No solicitating. 3. No fund raising. 4. No acceptance of banquets. 5. No acceptance of prostrations. 6. No touring. 7. No sight-seeing. 8. No visiting of celebrities. 9. No acceptance of disciples.
The above principles reveal that Yogi Chen's efforts were solely for spreading the Buddha Dharma. His dedication and sincerity were fully expressed by traveling simply and with great energy over long distances even in his last years. Although he took many long trips covering several continents, Yogi Chen never arranged time for himself to rest, always delivering his Dharma lectures upon his arrival or on the following day, and always returning home the day following the lectures so as not to take too much time and energy away from the hosts. By doing so, it also eliminated unnecessary visits or sightseeing. Yogi Chen even brought his own audio and visual equipment in the event that these items might not be available. Instead of carrying the compact size equipment which would have been easier for him to transport, he preferred the better quality of the heavier and bulkier equipment. During lectures Yogi Chen always put on his formal wear which consisted of a long classical Chinese style robe. He dressed this way even during the hot summer weather. When traveling in winter, he would bring his own blankets so as not to inconvenience the hosts. Having served Yogi Chen many times during lecture periods I observed that he always arose in the early morning in order to write the lecture outlines on the blackboard and only after his work was finished would he take breakfast. These few examples of his considerations and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others are very touching.
The five sutras comprising the teaching are:
Yogi Chen immersed himself in the Pureland practice, Zen Buddhism and esoteric Vajrayana Buddhism, after which he used his profound experiences to expound on the integration of these five sutras. He emphasized the importance of practice and the concept of rebirth in the Pureland after eradicating negative Karmas. Due to his fluent understanding of philosophy, great compassion, deep realization and dedication, audiences everywhere were touched, persuaded and decided to start practicing.
During lecture visits Yogi Chen would go into a short-term retreat whenever there was spare time rather than socialize or travel to see the local sights of interest. He would come out of the retreat only to perform dharmic ceremonies such as the smoke puja, life releasing, and praying for wandering spirits and lonely ghosts. Once during a lecture visit Yogi Chen and his sponsors arranged and coordinated three boats leaving Hong Kong harbour at the same time, so as to release sixty thousand fish back into the ocean. Further life-releasing activities were performed in Taiwan, Malaysia and U.S.A. Since his arrival in the United States in 1972, Yogi Chen released 237,440 lives in many different locations. While in India he had released over 100,000 lives and his wife was responsible for releasing 10,000 lives. Whenever he lectured he would go to local cemeteries to practice the Three-Kaya Powa in order to save the wandering spirits and lonely ghosts by establishing their Karmic connections with the Buddha- Dharma. In order to further the good work of my beloved guru I always try to follow Yogi Chen's noble Dharma behaviour in these matters. Since 1972 we have visited a total of eighty-five cemeteries locally and all over the world, performing the ThreeKaya Powa on spot, one hundred and forty-seven times.
During a lecture visit to Taipei, Taiwan in 1982 my teacher was successful in sowing the seed for the establishment of the " Five Wheel Pagoda. " Through the support of the general Buddhist public this pagoda was built in Northern Taiwan. Since the pagoda was established, many people have witnessed it emitting colorful lights, and at least ten hurricanes have changed their course away from Northern Taiwan or reduced their intensity.
Later Yogi Chen proposed the erection of a bell tower beside the Five Wheel Pagoda for the purpose of reducing the suffering of hell beings. This bell tower has since been built. The ringing of this great bell has auspicious effects such as expelling evil spirits from people's bodies and helping meditators enter samadhi.
According to the will of Yogi Chen, the stupa for his cremated relics was erected in the middle of these two auspicious buildings.
Yogi Chen was seventy-six years old in 1980, yet his health was as good as the health of a fifty or sixty year old person. Because of this, and despite arduous travel, he was able to provide the teachings without rest and still sustain his nightly meditation practice, arising between one and three each morning. Even in the heat of summer, Yogi Chen traveled to hot and humid countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines for the benefit of vacationing students. In 1983, after three arduous years, there appeared ominous black spots on his forehead. I quickly arranged for a competent doctor, who after examining him, declared that the black spots were caused by the enervating humid heat combined with a tired physical condition. The toxins in his system needed to be eliminated and followed by nourishing medicine and rest so as to regain the strength that had been lost. Yogi Chen followed the doctor's advice for one month but lost a lot of energy. His health was no longer as good as before. Thus, Yogi Chen gave the ultimate sacrifice of his life for the sake of the Dharma and sentient beings.
Fortunately I have been able to persist in completing my guru's vow and I wrote this article to commemorate this fact and at the same time to give a few personal observations about Yogi Chen's life and Dharma activities. I will continue to follow his example of practicing and promoting the BuddhaDharma diligently and carefully so as to live up to my guru's example. The last lecture that I gave was in English. This was in harmony with the prophecy of the Buddha Sakyamuni as well as the humble request from the Dragon King for Yogi Chen to spread the Dharma to the West. May the great wish of Yogi Chen, that the Adi-Buddha Mandala be established for sincere practitioners to go into retreats so that permanent world peace may be achieved, be realized soon. May Yogi Chen's teachings spread throughout the World and last forever! May Yogi Chen's wife enjoy good health and peace. May Yogi Chen's family be in harmony and joy. May all sentient beings in the Dharmadhatu practice the Dharma diligently and obtain the Bodhi soon.
September 8, 1989