A New Perspective on Life

The teachings of the lama have kept me thinking of what I was supposed to do in order to live a true and pure life as a bhikkhu. The lama encouraged us that before we went to bed, all of us should record the good deeds and the bad deeds that had occurred in the past day of our lives. The good deeds were to be recorded with their respective merit points and the bad deeds were to be recorded with their respective demerit points. The lama also explained what actions would help us increase our merit points and what actions were to decrease our merit points. Fifty points were to be earned for saving an infant from being drowned and raising it as one’s own child. Giving a burial plot to a family that had none was worth thirty points. However, talking back to one’s parents resulted in ten negative points, making poison resulted in five negative points, and sentencing a person to death counted for one hundred negative points. I decided to live my life as a vegetarian after his visit. This was because, refraining from killing and maintaining a vegetarian diet were sources of merit. Also, among the benefits said to result from the practice of releasing animals were honour, longevity, prosperity, progeny, a successful career, recovery from mental illness, protection from natural disasters, and rebirth in one of the heavenly realms. Thanks to the lama! He was able to successfully persuade me to live my life as a vegetarian!

The lama explained the importance of living a Buddhist life and also mentioned the Buddhist canons, which were the Kangyur and Tengyur, in his teachings. He explained that the Heart Sutra was chanted daily in Buddhist temples and monasteries, throughout East Asia and Tibet, and how this sutra explained how Buddhahood could be achieved. The lama also explained the importance of the Lotus Sutra. After his teachings, he decided that a library at the nunnery were to be constructed as soon as possible, so that people would have a place to go to and read the various sutras. He also noted that the printing press was to be constructed at the nunnery. He told everyone that the printing press was going to give people access to the Dharma, and would therefore, help this and the next generations learn about the concepts and ideologies of Buddhism.

Everyone in the village has organized themselves into three groups. The categories were either to acquire texts for the nunnery and build a printing press, build a factory, or to go on an expedition to the caves. I have chose to build the printing press at the nunnery. Those who have decided to dedicate their time to build the printing press have different skills. We have a head bhikkuni, two ritualists, a scholar, a builder and an artist.

The builder in our group explained that we would need long blocks of wood to carve out letters, symbols and images in order to create books. Our builder also mentioned that she was going to head down to the next village and trade for carved-out alphabet letters and image blocks, so that we could carve out letters and images. There are certain ritual performances that have to be carried out in order for the villagers to cut down the trees in a peaceful and safe way. The artist explained that we could make the ink out of water, walnuts, vinegar, and gum of Arabic. We also agreed that we needed paper, chisels and fabric to bind the books together.

We have all done some research by reading the Schaeffer book. While reading this book, we encountered one of the descriptions of papermaking, which was provided by Samuel Turner. Bark had to be collected and boiled, and then was to be laid in a heap to drain. It had to be beaten upon a stone, with a wooden mallet until it was reduced to an impalpable pulp. Then it had to be thrown into a reservoir of water. Afterwards, the parts were to be finely broken. Next, it had to be formed into sheets, which was done upon small reeds set in frames. The labourer had to dip the frame into water, and then bring up a quantity of pulp. By moving the frame in the water, he was to spread it entirely and equally over the surface of the reeds. Next, he had to raise the frame up perpendicularly, so the water could be drained out, and hang it up until the sheet was nearly dry. It was then taken off and suspended upon lines. The Schaeffer book also explained the process of wood-block printing in which we decided to follow and noted that carving was going to be the most expensive part of the whole process.

We knew that the construction of the printing press was going to require a lot of work, strength and patience. However, we also understood that the result of this printing press was going to bring happiness and knowledge to our village.

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