our spiritual teacher
Born and raised in China’s Hei-Long Jiang province, Master Zhen-Ru was remarkable for her love for all beings, determination and ability to bring joy to all.
At a very young age, Master Zhen-Ru was in touch with her spiritual side. She would often sit and meditate. Master Zhen-Ru’s father would quietly watch over her and make sure that she was ok.
Once, Master Zhen-Ru saw a group of boys surrounding a poor puppy in a ditch and throwing stones at it. Without hesitation, Master Zhen-Ru ran and jumped into the ditch to shield the puppy from the stones. She then brought the puppy home, and put together a makeshift support for its broken leg. After being nursed back to health, the puppy followed Master Zhen-Ru around.
On another occasion, Master Zhen-Ru saw that an elderly neighbour was extremely unhappy. She ran up to him and tried to cheer him up. But he remained immersed in his own world and ignored her. Undeterred, she tried again. This time, by singing and dancing. Once. Twice. Thrice. His brows remained furrowed, expression stone cold. Then, she suddenly said to him, “Grandpapa, you are very handsome!” He looked at her, and laughed. The cloud of misery had lifted from him. He lifted her up in his arms, and brought her home. He told her father, “Sir, your daughter is very special.”
Master Zhen-Ru’s father recounted to us that when she was growing up and he couldn’t find her, he would always go to the house with the brightest laughter and happiest voices. There he would be sure to find her, surrounded by love, happiness and laughter.
Growing up, Master Zhen-Ru experienced the loss of many loved ones. She was deeply saddened and wondered why this had to be. After these life experiences, Master Zhen-Ru started seeking answers to the meaning of life.
Master Zhen-Ru started to look for answers everywhere: philosophy, psychology, history, literature etc. When she came across her first Buddhist sutra, Surangama Sutra, she realized that the Buddhist teachings contained the solution she was looking for.
To gain a deeper understanding of the Buddhist teachings, Master Zhen-Ru left her hometown and set about on pilgrimages to the sacred Chinese Buddhist sites of Mount Wutai and Mount Putuo. Despite the many difficulties encountered along the way, she persevered. She studied under many great teachers, who widely received and acknowledged her as an outstanding student.
Throughout her pilgrimages, Master Zhen-Ru faced many challenges. One time, she arrived early at a prayer session to secure a spot close to the front. However, she was asked to give up her seat in front to others who were older and had more years of learning Buddhism under their belts. She happily agreed as she wanted to show respect. Row by row, she moved to the back of the hall until she finally found herself seated outside of the hall!
The pilgrimages weren’t exactly romantic or luxurious. There was usually no vegetarian options. As such, many times, she had to sustain herself on a bowl of rice and soy sauce. Sometimes, she had to sit on the cold hard cement or her shoes.
One day during her pilgrimage, it started raining heavily. Master Zhen-Ru took out her umbrella and continued walking. However, she noticed that a passerby did not have an umbrella and insisted on giving the person her umbrella. The person was extremely happy and thanked her profusely. Master Zhen-Ru then noticed that there were lots of people around her who still did not have umbrellas and were getting drenched in the rain. She went to a stall and used up all her money to buy umbrellas. Then she started giving them away. Everybody was so joyful and grateful. Finally, everyone around her had an umbrella and she was left with one to shelter herself.
Walking on, she saw an elderly monk who was soaked to the skin and shivering. Master Zhen-Ru ran toward him and offered her umbrella. The elderly monk could not bear to take it as Master Zhen-Ru would be wet and cold. However Master Zhen-Ru would not take no for an answer. He finally accepted her offering and blessed her before walking away. Master Zhen-Ru smiled as she watched the elderly monk walking away, holding a brightly coloured umbrella with flower patterns on it. Despite having no money or umbrella, the joy on everyone’s faces from receiving an umbrella was enough to warm her heart.
Upon returning home from a pilgrimage, Master Zhen-Ru’s mother had made a hot dinner for her: stir fried snap peas with steaming fluffy rice. With every bite, Master Zhen-Ru tasted the love and care from her mother. With much appreciation, she dug into the meal. Suddenly, she realized that her mother was looking at her very closely. Master Zhen-Ru realized she might have been eating too quickly, looking as if she had been starving during her pilgrimages. She started to slow down consciously, not wanting her mother to worry about her. When she looked at her mother, her eyes started to brim with tears. She was extremely touched by her mother’s love for her. She held back her tears and continued to eat.
The next day, she received a call from her mother, telling her to come home to eat stir-fried snap peas and rice again. This time, there was a huge mound of snap peas waiting for her on the dinner table.
Throughout her pilgrimages, Master Zhen-Ru never lost her compassion for all beings. Once, she met a donkey straining to pull a heavy cart while being whipped by its master. The straps were cutting further into its open wounds. Master Zhen-Ru could not bear the sight. Even though she was very young, she ran towards the donkey and asked the donkey’s owner to stop. She explained her concern to the donkey’s owner. She then pulled out her handkerchief and asked for some medicine to apply to the donkey’s wounds. This was extremely brave. Picture it, a mere girl holding out a handkerchief, standing in front of a cross middle-aged man who towered over her with a whip. However, Master Zhen-Ru’s courage, kindness and gentleness touched the donkey’s owner. He actually got off the donkey and helped her apply the medicine to the donkey’s wounds.
Late Master Jih-Chang
Master Zhen-Ru was introduced to Late Master Jih-Chang’s teachings on The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. To gain a complete and thorough understanding of Late Master Jih-Chang’s teachings, Master Zhen-Ru would hand copy the transcripts of his teachings and listen to the audio recordings repeatedly, numbering at least seven times.
One day, Master Zhen-Ru was able to attend Late Master Jih-Chang’s teaching in person and raised her hand to ask a question. This was the first time that Late Master Jih-Chang met Master Zhen-Ru. Her understanding of his teachings was peerless in depth and breadth. She was also able to successfully apply his teachings in all aspects of her everyday life.
chosen as successor
Late Master Jih-Chang chose Master Zhen-Ru as his successor shortly after meeting her. Since 2004, Master Zhen-Ru carried on Master Jih-Chang’s legacy, and has led her students to attain new heights in the learning of Buddhist teachings. Master Zhen-Ru currently gives teachings to over 1,000 Buddhist monks and nuns, as well as more than 80,000 lay practitioners worldwide.
Late Master Jih-Chang’s last instructions were:
1. Dialectics must be integrated with the heart and mind.
2. This group of people can not separate.
Master Zhen-Ru was the key proponent in establishing The Five Great Treatises curriculum. In 2012, the first group of GWBI nuns started learning The Five Great Treatises, creating groundbreaking history in the Chinese culture. Completing this sixteen-year curriculum is comparable to receiving a Ph.D. in Buddhist philosophy.
As our spiritual teacher, Master Zhen-Ru has a vision of a group of nuns who are well versed in Buddhist scriptures and understand the essence of Buddhist teachings. In trying to help all beings attain peace and harmony, these nuns would use the Buddhist teachings that they have learned. Master Zhen-Ru hopes that through spiritual learning, females all over the world would gain wisdom, compassion and overall happiness.
The friendliness of Islanders has warmed our hearts, and we are learning how to reach out to our local community, building friendships with Islanders. Master Zhen-Ru often speaks of the kindness and beauty of the Island, inspiring us to give back to the community. Thank you PEI, for giving us a place to stay and study. We hope you will be able to get to know our spiritual teacher, Master Zhen-Ru, and experience the beauty and warmth in her heart.
Master Zhen-Ru has a special gift: the ability to clearly explain the Buddhist teachings in a way that inspires and allows her students to easily apply the teachings to their everyday lives. Master Zhen-Ru’s students have seen improvements to their relationships with others and overall quality of life after applying these Buddhist teachings. As such, Master Zhen-Ru’s students from all over the world wanted her to settle in their home towns so they could readily learn from her.
Searching for the ideal place to study and practice Buddhism, Master Zhen-Ru spent many years travelling to various countries. As a child, Master Zhen-Ru was deeply touched by the selfless acts of Dr. Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who helped shape medicinal practices in China. As such, she was naturally drawn to Canada during her search in hope of repaying Dr. Bethune’s kindness.
Medicine, as we are practising it, is a luxury trade. We are selling bread at the price of jewels... Let us take the profit, the private economic profit, out of medicine, and purify our profession of rapacious individualism... Let us say to the people not “How much have you got?” but “How best can we serve you?”
— Norman Bethune
Finally she found Prince Edward Island, in Canada. Thereafter, many of her students came to PEI to study with Master Zhen-Ru. We were taken away by the Island’s natural beauty, tranquility as well as the friendly and down-to-earth people. Time and again we have been deeply touched by the acceptance, hospitality, and kindness shown to us by Islanders. As Buddhist nuns, our main focus is the study and practice of Buddha’s teachings. As such, we need a good learning environment. PEI is a great place to practice Buddhism.