Several years ago, I was searching for an English-speaking Buddhist temple in Chinatown. I stumbled across a website, complete with a picture, about a Caucasian man who was a resident monk at a local temple.
As fate would have it, I ran into the monk, Venerable Benkong, a couple of weeks later at the bus stop near my apartment. Tall and white, attired in a mustard-colored robe, he was unmistakable.
I introduced myself just as the bus pulled up, and we continued our conversation as we headed uptown. He told me that his temple did not conduct any services in English. He was, however, spearheading a Chinese-to-English Buddha Dharma translation team. I mentioned that I had an editorial background and offered to edit completed translations.
I had the privilege of editing a number of these translations over the years. Although I had read countless Buddhist books and attended a myriad of classes and “sits,” I quickly realized that I had only scratched the surface and had no hope of becoming an expert during this lifetime. These were scholarly works written by monks who had spent their lives learning and living Buddhist “theology.” (I use the word “theology” here as a sort of shorthand, since the Buddha himself told his followers not to waste their time worrying about whether there was a God. Here, “theology” refers to the investigation — and explanation — of Buddhist concepts as they relate to the world.)
In addition to being academic in nature, these writings were inherently Chinese from a religious and cultural perspective. So I felt like I was given a secret window into a world to which most Westerners weren’t privy.
Venerable Benkong and I remained in contact via email even after I was no longer able to edit for his team due to time constraints. I feel honored to count him as a reader of this blog. Recently, I asked whether he would like to write a guest column. He declined, but graciously offered to allow me to share those Chinese-to-English translations that the author, Venerable Zhiguo, considers to be public domain.
Rather than publishing only the English translation, I’m going to include the Chinese source as well. I’m going to start with bardo, an “in between” or “transitional” state between lives, from a work entitled Auspicious Birth. It’s a concept that I wasn’t very familiar with prior to editing these works, and I hardly consider myself an expert. I only hope to share these scholarly works with my readers.
I hope that you find them as fascinating and enlightening as I do.
|May Life Transform
into a Lotus
|Translated by the Buddha Dharma Translation Team|
|伴随着一阵阵惊天动地的哭泣，一个个新生命降临人间。||Accompanied by waves of earth-shattering cries, new lives arrive on earth one after another.||伴隨著一陣陣驚天動地的哭泣，一個個新生命降臨人間。|
|此时此刻，整个世界都在微笑，而唯有他（她）一心一意地哭个不停，此中的委屈，此中的辛酸谁人能知？||At that moment, the whole world is smiling, and only the newborn is consumed by ceaseless sobbing. Who knows what that grievance and those feelings of suffering and distress must be like?
|同是父精母血所成，何以生来就有胖瘦净垢、身形美丑、天资优劣种种差别，此中的因由，此中的变化谁人能知？||What makes babies different from one another? They are all born from the sperm of a father and the blood of a mother. Chubby or thin, perfectly formed or deformed, naturally gifted or dull witted, who knows the causes for these variations?||同是父精母血所成，何以生來就有胖瘦淨垢、身形美醜、天資優劣種種差別，此中的因由，此中的變化誰人能知？|
|谁不希望自家的小孩天资聪颖,乖巧伶俐,体格健壮,智慧超群！||Who does not hope their child will be exceptional, clever, more able-bodied and wiser than the rest?||誰不希望自家的小孩天資聰穎,乖巧伶俐,體格健壯,智慧超群！|
|可怜天下父母心，为了让孩子有个较高的起点，有个好天赋、好开端，常不等出生即千方百计地加强营养，迫不急待地施行胎育，意在强身补脑，提高先天智力。||Pitiful parents across the world, in order to give their child the best start in life and enable their child to express its giftedness, often do not wait for the birth of their child before bending over backwards to enhance their fetus’ nutrition. They then eagerly implement an education with the intent of strengthening its body and supplementing its mind to uplift its innate intelligence.||可憐天下父母心，為了讓孩子有個較高的起點，有個好天賦、好開端，常不等出生即千方百計地加強營養，迫不急待地施行胎育，意在強身補腦，提高先天智力。|
|其心之迫，其意之诚，着实令人感动！||Such extraordinary effort, such sincerity, is touching indeed.||其心之迫，其意之誠，著實令人感動！|
|然而胎儿的思想，胎儿的感受有谁能知？||However, who can know what the fetus is thinking, what the fetus is feeling?||然而胎兒的思想，胎兒的感受有誰能知？|
|父母的良苦用心，胎儿是否领情，是否真实受用，初为父母又能知道多少内情？||Is the fetus appreciative of its parents’ well-meaning attentiveness? Is it truly benefited? How much of its inner feelings can parents know?||父母的良苦用心，胎兒是否領情，是否真實受用，初為父母又能知道多少內情？|
|其实，早在两千五百多年前，佛教对这些问题就有非常系统的认识，并且指导历代的人们不断地运用于生活实践，如今结合一些现代的科学手段和方法，已经逐步得到证实。||As a matter of fact, as early as 2,500 years ago, Buddhism provided systematic answers to these questions. Moreover, Buddhism guided our predecessors as they put those answers into daily practice. Today, these practices, combined with modern scientific approaches and methods, are being proven correct.||其實，早在兩千五百多年前，佛教對這些問題就有非常系統的認識，並且指導歷代的人們不斷地運用於生活實踐，如今結合一些現代的科學手段和方法，已經逐步得到證實。|
|这些思想的真实不虚，内容叙述的完备精细，无不令人叹为观止！||Therefore, a Buddhist would naturally see these ways of thinking as being true and concrete. See their meticulously crafted tenets as impeccable and irrefutable, regarded by practitioners as being the epitome of rational perfection.||這些思想的真實不虛，內容敘述的完備精細，無不令人嘆為觀止！|
|比如佛经中描述胎儿在母腹中度过三十八周的阶段性变化，与现代胚胎学的描述基本一致，尤其描述胎儿精神意识层面上的内容，现代科学还无法触及，也无法否认。||For example, the Buddhist sutras explain the periodic changes in the fetus over the course of the thirty-eight weeks that it is in the womb of its mother. This depiction is consistent with modern embryology. However, modern science is as yet unable to verify, but cannot deny, the sutras’ description of the stratification of the fetus’ consciousness.||比如佛經中描述胎兒在母腹中度過三十八週的階段性變化，與現代胚胎學的描述基本一致，尤其描述胎兒精神意識層面上的內容，現代科學還無法觸及，也無法否認。|
|爱因斯坦：“如果有一个能够应付现代科学需求，又能与科学相依共存的宗教，那必定是佛教。”||Albert Einstein once said,
“If there is any religion that could respond to the needs of modern science, it would be Buddhism.”
|爱因斯坦说：科学没有宗教就象瘸子，宗教没有科学就像瞎子。||He also said,
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
Einstein, Albert (1930). “Religion and Science” New York Times Magazine (Nov. 9): 1-4
|孙中山先生说：“佛学乃哲学之母，研究佛学可补科学之偏。”||Mr. Sun Yat-sen, the founder of a new democracy in China, once said, “Buddhism is the mother of philosophy. The study of Buddhism can mend science’s prejudices.”||孫中山先生說：“佛學乃哲學之母，研究佛學可補科學之偏。”|
|希望在当今强国富民、优生优育的社会形势下，挖掘佛教文化中有关优生优育方面的先进理念及中华民族传统文化的成功经验，这也是人类智慧的结晶，我们应古为今用，补现代文明之不足，美化心灵，作为科学研究的借鉴，及生活的参考。||I hope that today’s powerful nations with their wealthy people and their societies that reward conscientious child-rearing will discover advanced concepts related to sound child-rearing from Buddhist and traditional Chinese culture.
The discovery and use of these concepts would be the crystallization of human wisdom. We should make the past serve the present, mend what is not satisfactory in modern civilization, beautify our minds and spirit, become a reference for scientific research, and most of all, we should take all of this as a reference for how to lead our lives.
|客观认识生命的规律，参照佛教的文化思想，结合现代科学成果，以调整大家的育儿观念，深刻而亲切地理解生命的意义，关爱孩子身心健康、体会他们思想和心灵上的感受，从先天呵护到后天全程关怀，一路陪同，从而孕育出健康又端正、智慧又乖巧的麟儿贵子，实乃父母之愿、国家之幸、万民之福。||We should better understand life’s patterns in order to modify our perceptions of early education. We can do this by consulting Buddhism from a cultural perspective and by combining Buddhist understanding with the achievements of modern science. We can gain a profound and intimate comprehension of the meaning of life as well as enhance our care and concern for the physical and mental well-being of our children, as we experience their physical, mental, and spiritual feelings. Buddhism and modern science combined can escort us along the entire course of the prenatal and postnatal care of our children. Considered together, Buddhism and modern science will help fulfill the dream of parents to give birth to healthy and wholesome, wise and astute children who will bring blessings to society as a whole.||客觀認識生命的規律，參照佛教的文化思想，結合現代科學成果，以調整大家的育兒觀念，深刻而親切地理解生命的意義，關愛孩子身心健康、體會他們思想和心靈上的感受，從先天呵護到後天全程關懷，一路陪同，從而孕育出健康又端正、智慧又乖巧的麟兒貴子，實乃父母之願、國家之幸、萬民之福。