Chinese Buddhist Monk’s Autobiography as Model of Living: Master Yin Shun’s Active and Passive Following of the “Flow”


Autobiography, a self-written narrative normally documenting one’s own life, seems to work on a concept of self which is completely contradictory to one of the core Buddhist beliefs: the “self” is an illusion. It is therefore interesting to examine and review an example of a Buddhist monk’s autobiography, to analyse how the concept of the self is represented, and further to explore the role such a narrative is made to play in the context of contemporary Buddhist teachings. Master Yin Shun (1906-2005) was a well-known Buddhist scholar-monk in the Mahayana tradition. Besides his contributions to modern interpretations of some key Buddhist doctrines, he also advocated “Humanistic” Buddhism, which inspired a number of prominent contemporary Buddhist monastics, such as Sheng-yen of Dharma Drum Mountain and Xing-yun of Fo Guang Shan, who are active in humanitarian aid, social work, environmentalism and academic research as well. His advocation of a socially engaged Buddhism also resulted in the establishment of a Tzu-Chi Buddhist Foundation, an important charity foundation based in Taiwan. Master Yin Shun’s autobiography was written in three stages, marking three points of major illness in his life. His personal narrative is written in the form of a direct address to the readers, and sharing Buddhist teachings directly and indirectly using his own life as an example of the manifestation of the Dharma. The presentation will focus on how Master Yin Shun makes use of this “self-centred” genre to spread the teachings of “no-self”, which is a core teaching of Buddhism.

Author Information
Amy Lee, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2019
Stream: Religion - Religion and Education

This paper is part of the ACERP2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon