It was in the summer of 1975 that I first saw quite by chance, a photo of Master ‘Empty Cloud’ on a book cover, that completely changed my life. So then I bought the book ‘The Secrets of Chinese Meditation’ by ‘Charles Luk’ & sat up all night reading it. I started practicing Empty Cloud’s ‘Hua Tao’ or mind before thought style of Chan meditation, and have spent a large part of my life befriending his students and travelling to the monasteries in his life story.
In October 1984 I was ordained as a monk with one of Master Empty Cloud’s personal students, Master Sheng Yi 释圣一1922 – 2010 , this was at Po Lin monastery on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. He gave me the Dharma name 释衍力 Yan Li. This was in the Wei Yang Linage that Empty Cloud had passed down to him when he was aged 36. The the next year he took me to mainland China to some of the monasteries Empty Cloud had restored, details of which you will find on this web site. He encouraged me to practice meditation and memorize the long Surangama mantra, also telling me not to go out much. I sat on several long meditation retreats with him, and had an amazingly privileged time so close to him. He had hundreds of personal students internationally as well as in China & Hong Kong. After the Chinese cultural revolution 1967-1976 he was able to get large amounts of sponsorship and use the money to help rebuild several large Chan monasteries in China. He contributed greatly to the revival of Chan in China, where there are at present around 2,000 monks in serious full time Chan practice. He kept his beautiful monastery in Hong Kong small & simple but ran a regular retreat program during the winter whilst lecturing on Buddhism in the summer. He had three Dharma heirs one of whom has all ready passed away. He passed away peacefully in Hong Kong where large crowds blocked the streets at his funeral. his body was cremated on Lantau island, known as the island of prayer. Watch it below.