It was in the summer of 1975 that I first saw quite by chance, a photo of Master ‘Empty Cloud’ in a book that completely changed my life. I then 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 top students, Master Sheng Yi 释圣一 which means, The saintly one (1922 – 2010) this was at Po Lin monastery 寳連寺 on Lantau Island in Hong Kong He gave me the Dharma name 释衍力 Yan Li. The the next year he took me to mainland China to some of the monasteries Empty Cloud had lived in and restored, details of which you will find on this web site.
1984 with shifu
After the Chinese cultural revolution in China 1967-1976 he had been able to get large amounts of sponsorship and used the money to help rebuild several large Chan monasteries in China. He contributed greatly to the revival of Chan there, where there are at present around 3,000 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, and had hundreds of personal students internationally as well as in China & Hong Kong. In in 2010 Venerable Chan Master Sheng Yi passed away peacefully in a Hong Kong hospital. Large crowds blocked the streets at his memorial in the city & at the cremation on Lantau Island.
Photo collection v=coOWEO1s8hE&list=PL610EF62CD15F0812
Watch his memorial service & cremation below.