In this body and life, I’ve been greatly blessed by my encounters with my dear teachers. I have eight root teachers all of whom have transmitted precious teachings to me and inspired me with their example. Of them, I feel most endeared and indebted to three teachers—Acariya Godwin Samararatne (1932-2000); Thich Nhat Hanh (1926-2022); and Sheng Yen Shifu (1931-2009). Their teachings and guidance in meditation have resulted in deep transformative impact on my everyday life and liberating realisations of the Dharma.
Godwin was someone I had met personally, learnt from personally, and corresponded regularly over the years while he was in his physical form. He was a boundaryless field of emptiness and warmth, so self-effacing and light, so simple and free. In his presence and by his pointing-out instructions, I had some of the most profound and liberating experiences of Dharma awakening.
Thay was someone I had not met personally. In a way, I never felt the need to meet him. I’ve been studying and meditating on his teachings since the mid-1980s and had been enriched immensely by his wisdom and presence. With Thay, my practice broadened and deepened in elegantly natural ways beyond stereotyped forms and contexts. Receiving transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings in the Plum Village tradition last year was a most significant milestone. Thay was present in his teachings.
Shifu was also someone I had not met personally. I’d been studying his teachings and meditating accordingly since the late 1990s and early 2000s during my doctoral research years. The sharpness, directness, and clarity of Shifu’s teachings cut through deeply and often unexpectedly. When I touched the grounds of Dharma Drum Mountain for the first time in 2011, I felt I was home—it was a Guanyin Dharma field (观音道场). Everything clicked.
Meditating in that Guanyin Hall for what seemed like a timeless eternity yet as in a quickening flash, I was enveloped by the pristine empty luminosity of that space beyond space, inseparable from the energy and presence of Shifu. I knew this from the very core of my being, which was absently present and presently absent. Words fail me.
When it comes to being Christ-like, living a pure simple life of holiness and love, I have not met anyone else—especially in the evangelical Christian circles I’ve experienced—like my dear spiritual fathers. There is just no comparison. Soli Deo Gloria.