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The Master

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It was the last day of my stay in China. Early morning Beijing was filled with the lush scent of spring, and the lawn in the Temple of Heaven was moist with morning dew. As I strolled through the park I came across a group of monks in yellow cassocks. I bowed with my palms joined in front of my chest, “Amitabha!”, “Infinite Light!” I greeted them respectfully and the monks returned my greeting. I asked if I could give a donation and the youngest of the monks replied, “You have a kind heart, thank you. Your donation will live in Buddha’s heart. Our temple is in need of every manner of things, even our statue of Buddha needs to be restored!” I felt touched by his words and gave the monks the last of my money, which had originally been intended for one final shopping trip. Then I bowed to them once again, “Amitabah!” before getting on my way. Not long afterwards the younger monk returned, stopping me with a bow, “The Master would like to invite you for a talk,” and before I had even had time to react he was already making his way back his Master. I followed him, and this time I knelt right down in front of the Master. He appeared to be very moved by this gesture and handed me a silk ribbon, decorated with a jade statue of Buddha which had been hanging round his neck, “I left my family when I was thirteen to follow a great Master in search of the treasure of life. Together we travelled the breadth and width of this vast land, and it was he who gave me this Buddha on the first day of our journey together to protect and guide me.” His story touched me and I was unsure whether or not to accept such a meaningful gift. It seemed the Master could read my thoughts, and hanging the red silk ribbon round my neck he said, “This jade Buddha will watch over you as you make your way through life, and you may bring it back to me any time you like. Perhaps when your path leads you to the Mountain of Nine Flowers.” I quickly got out a pen and a piece of paper and asked him to write down the address of the temple. Then we exchanged a deep bow and I watched the monks go and slowly disappear out of sight. It was only then that I galnced down at the little piece of paper in my hand and noticed that the Master was in fact the abbot of one of the most important and holy of China’s Buddhist temples. Moreover it surprised me that despite his position, he was still living the life of a wandering monk.

Years went by, yet my path did not lead me to the Mountain of Nine Flowers. The little jade Buddha lay on my writing desk, and looking at it I realised that we all seek something in life. Whilst some seek happiness, others seek success or wealth. Whatever one may seek, our aims seem to be endless. Yet one day, some of us may also discover that beyond these mountains of aims lies a retreat.
Through these thoughts, which stemmed from that chance meeting in the park in Beijing, the story for “The Master” started to grow inside me. I very much hope that the book may wander through the hearts of people and bring them enlightenment, so that I can return the jade Buddha to the Master with a knowing smile. - Chao-Hsiu Chen


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