Chance leads to a divine new path
Updated: 2013-10-08 01:01
Author Zhao Defa's latest book, Shuangshou Heshi (Praying Hands), sheds new light on monks’ lives and the impact of modernization on Buddhism. Photos Provided to China Daily
Author Zhao Defa expands his boundaries with an exploration into the survival of Chinese Buddhism in modern-day society, Han Bingbin reports.
Suffering hardships while growing up in rural Shandong province in the 1950s and 60s, writer Zhao Defa rose to fame because of his self-inspired and thought-provoking countryside trilogy that forcefully delves into the intertwining relations of land, rural ethics and politics.
But as a professional writer, for a long time he embarrassedly found himself unable to find a new field of writing that's out of his experiences yet inspires equally profound thinking.
One day in 2003 he was approached by the abbot of a local temple to give a cultural talk. While the humble writer prepared himself by glancing over a few books on Buddhism, it soon occurred to him religion is exactly the topic that arouses both his curiosity and intellectual hunger.
He immediately pinned down his next book, a non-fictional exploration into the survival of Chinese Buddhism in modern-day society, to be wrapped up in a fictional storyline.
What followed his first attempt at non-fiction was a brand-new way of working. He had to first of all read dozens of Buddhism classics, while taking copious notes.
In the following four years, he lived in nearly all of China's major Buddhist temples.
While closely observing the lives of various monks, he bore his questions in mind: How do these monks fight against their own worldly desires? How has constant social transformation impacted Buddhism?
In his book Shuangshou Heshi (Praying Hands), readers will find their own answers to these questions by following the life of Huiyu, a fictional protagonist who went through many struggles against obstacles from both within himself and the outside world to finally be enlightened to create his own way of practicing Zen.
"How to face the suffering? How to use Buddhism doctrine to instruct life and purify the heart? That's what some responsible monks have been doing these days," the author says.
"In my book, there are also portraits of those who try to make a fortune using Buddhism, a sign of how social transformation has caused disturbance within religion. The meaning of life is being questioned in both the monks' and the laymen's world."