“Contemplation about death is very beneficial. If you contemplate more about death, you’ll cherish more life. A monk is supposed to remember every morning that he’s going to die… so that he would have more energy to practice, and if he practices well, he’ll overcome the fear of death.” These are words of wisdom Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh offered in 2010, and they make us pause because the issue of death is an uncomfortable subject for so many. But in Buddhism, death is considered an issue that warrants our direct attention and regular contemplating. As a master of humanist Buddhism, local Hong Kong monk Venerable Hin Hung (衍空法師) is also intimately familiar with issues of death and impermanence.
Ven. Hin Hung with Prof. Lewis Lancaster. Photo by Dr. Irene Lok
Venerable Hin Hung is the lineage holder of the Ch’an schools of Lingji (臨濟) and Guiyang (潙仰). He is currently the Director of the Centre of Buddhist Studies of the University of Hong Kong, which was set up in September 2000 with Venerable Hin Hung as one of its founders. It is a self-funded academic centre supported by donations from benefactors in the community, including Tung Lin Kok Yuen. He will be giving a Cantonese talk on how to face death (如何面對死亡) at the Jockey Club Auditorium (賽馬會綜藝館) of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (香港理工大學) in Hung Hom. The talk will begin at 7:45 p.m. on Monday 14 April. Tickets for admission to Venerable Hin Hung’s talk on facing death are sold at HK$30 per ticket from HK Ticketing.
Before becoming a monk in 1990, Venerable Hin Hung led what many would call an aspirational life. He was born into a wealthy family, which could afford to send him to study abroad in Japan and the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. He married a TV actress and worked as a stockbroker, while attending Buddhist talks held at City Hall given by the late senior Buddhist layperson Ye Wenyi (葉文意). By 1989, he had decided to renounce his worldly life to become a monk.
Since becoming a monk and beginning his life of practicing and preaching Buddhism, the Venerable has become a prominent and versatile speaker on Buddhist teaching in the Hong Kong community. He also attempts to involve young people in Buddhism by revealing messages of impermanence, letting go, and living in the present moment in pop song lyrics, as can be seen in a Buddhist talk called “音樂佛學講座：細味人生妙韻” (Musical Buddhist Talk: Appreciating Beautiful Tones in Life) held in September 2010.
Venerable Hin Hung is also the founder of the Awareness Spiritual Growth Centre (覺醒心靈成長中心). He conducts free fortnightly Buddhist sutra-chanting, talk and meditation gatherings every alternate Wednesday evening and participation is open to everyone in the community.
Death is life’s most absolute fact and finality. Venerable Hin Hung is a monk who is uniquely positioned to teach its wisdom to Buddhists and spiritual seekers.