The 1968 Shurangama Sutra Summer Lecture and Cultivation Session
At the conclusion of the spring session, students discussed with the Master the possibility of holding a three month lecture and cultivation session be held during the summer months. About thirty people decided to attend. During that 98-day session, the Master lectured on the Shurangama Sutra twice a day, and near the end of the session three and even four times a day, to explain the entire Sutra. The lectures were also open to the general public. The session itself started at six every morning and officially ended at nine in the evening. In addition to the Sutra lectures, the schedule consisted of alternate hours of meditation, study, and discussion, so there was very little free time.
Although those who attended were of varied age and background, the majority were young Americans of college age or in their middle or late twenties. Most had had little or no previous training in Buddhism; however, several had studied Buddhism at the undergraduate level and some at the graduate level. A few had also had a little previous experience with meditation. The handful who had some competency in Chinese provided translations, which started out on a rather rudimentary level and became quite competent during the course of the summer.
Events of special note that took place during the session included two refuge ceremonies, at which most of the regular participants became formal disciples of the Master, and a precept ceremony late in the summer in which almost all the disciples took vows to follow moral precepts of varying numbers, including some or all of the Five Moral Precepts up to the Ten Major and Forty-Eight Minor Bodhisattva Precepts. One participant took the vows of a novice monk. The Master's teachings that summer specially emphasized the moral precepts as a foundation for the spiritual life. In this way he used them as an effective antidote against the proclivities of the popular culture for drug experience and sexual promiscuity.
Excerpt from an article by Ron Epstein (Guorong), p. 61
"In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Vol. I"
Buddhist Lecture Hall, 1968
End of the Shurangama Lecturing and Cultivation Summer Session. The Venerable Master's patient teaching and compassionate expedients awakened and inspired these young Americans according to their various potentials. The majority of these students began the summer with little or no understanding of Buddhism. At the end, most participants received the Five Precepts, and many received the Bodhisattva Precepts. They are shown here in robes and precept sashes with their bowing cloths.