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The Vice-Chancellor / President’s Blog
A few weeks ago, I attended a sharing talk and art exhibition presented by Changlin Fashi (常霖法師) on how he integrates Zen practice into daily life and experiences life through various art forms. The talk was held at The Mills, a chic hot spot in the city and a very successful landmark revitalization project that has transformed the old textile factories into a habitat of innovation, culture and learning. In his art exhibition, Fashi incorporated the elements of weaving in his photographic works and Chinese calligraphy pieces, and presented the Zen of life in these three different art forms. This was a truly unique and profound experience.
Changlin Fashi inspired the audience by sharing his inner experience and the philosophy of mindfulness in simple language. What impressed me the most was the concept: ‘Zen practice requires letting go, and letting go requires Zen practice.’ Fashi remarked that many people regard “happiness” as their priority in daily lives, but the continuous act of pursuing happiness itself can be very tiring and burdensome. The most comforting state of human being is to be able to feel at ease whether it be good days or bad days, happy or sad. However, with the hectic pace of work-life and the complexity of daily challenges, leading a carefree life is easier said than done for urban dwellers. I think the best chicken soup for the soul is actually all around us – mother nature. I have been a lover of gardening for many years. Recently I planted tomatoes, among other vegetables, in the small garden at home. They were growing well under our tender care, and we had been looking forward to the harvests to prepare homemade pasta! One day, however, my domestic helper found that the tomatoes had all been decimated. We followed the clues to find out the cause. Who would have thought that the culprits were the slugs and the snails! However sluggish and aimless they might seem, they were purposeful enough to devour all our tomato plants! The process of gardening reminds me of the vicissitudes of life, the interconnectedness of everything, and the insignificance of human beings. In the face of nature, we are more often than not susceptible to unexpected or unpredictable factors despite our meticulous planning and devoted efforts, just as we face our daily challenges. Only by acknowledging and embracing the vicissitudes of life can we live at ease; only by letting go of obsessions can we see a broader horizon.
The hustle and bustle of everyday life sometimes impedes us from discerning the origin of things and the root of issues, and disconnects us from our inner selves. How do we reconnect with our inner self? Fashi shared a very simple exercise that we can practice every day: to focus on each step as we walk – pay no attention to the smartphone, feel the connection between our feet and the ground - and we will find the balance of our whole body. With a sense of balance, one will be able to face and navigate changing situations and challenges.
Thanks to The D.H. Chen Foundation’s invitation, I came to enjoy this very innovative and rewarding experience of Zen enlightenment and art appreciation. Perhaps ‘letting go and letting it be’ is the spiritual antidote that most urbanites need.