Monk sows seeds of wisdom online
Updated: 2012-06-25 16:16
BEIJING - Like all Buddhist monks, Yancan spends most of his day seeking enlightenment.
A screen grab of the Weibo account page of Yancan, abbot of the Shuiyue Monastery in East China's Hefei province.
But unlike most monks, Yancan sometimes stays up until midnight using Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese micro blogging site, to spread the word of Buddhism among his million-plus followers.
Yancan is the abbot of the Shuiyue Monastery in East China's Hebei province. For over 20 years, the Zen monk has passed his knowledge on through sermons and lectures. But now, the power of the Internet has given Yancan a new avenue through which to spread his wisdom.
Yancan first rose to online prominence last week, when a video of him being harassed by monkeys near E'Mei Mountain, a sacred Buddhist site, was uploaded to the Internet.
Yancan quickly amassed a large following on Sina Weibo, with his posts forwarded thousands of times over since the video's debut, helping him to bring his thoughts on Buddhism to a much larger audience.
"I only hope to shore up positive energy on the web, where people vent too much anger and frustration," Yancan said.
Yancan has written more than 11,000 posts since opening his Sina Weibo account two years ago. Most of his posts reflect a Buddhist interpretation of common life issues, ranging from the pains of growing up to dealing with the national college entrance exams.
"Life inspires me, and then I write what comes to my mind," the monk said.
Yancan's positive approach stands out among the extreme displays of anger and verbal abuse that are common to Sina Weibo and other social messaging sites. His humorous demeanor and laid-back approach have charmed the public as well, as his attitude is not like that of most monks.
"Life itself is too serious, so I try my best not to be," Yancan said.
Yancan recently conducted an online interview on Sina Weibo, inviting netizens to ask him questions about his life and work. He received about 30,000 queries, responding to many in typically witty fashion.
Liu Xiaoying, a professor at the Communication University of China, attributed Yancan's rise in popularity to the fact that the freedom of the Internet has allowed more people to discuss life openly, including religious disciples.
According to Hengzhuang, a disciple of Yancan, the master has received numerous interview requests, as well as book offers from about 40 publishers, since the video was uploaded.
Yancan has not been spared from doubt or criticism. Some have described him as being "ignorant of his proper duties" and even accused him of lacking "Buddhist purity."
The criticism has confused the monk. "Isn't it a good thing? Everybody laughs and no one gets hurt," he said. "I am duty-bound to propagate Buddhism. The new age needs us to change."
Yancan said he hopes his popularity will give a boost to his temple's charitable work.
"But I have set no goals. I follow karma," he said.