Life and Buddhism: Secrets of the Heart

Venerable Sik Hin Hung, Acting Director at the Centre of Buddhist Studies, the University of Hong Kong, on April 13, 2012. (Asia Society Hong Kong)

HONG KONG, April 13, 2012 — Asia Society Hong Kong Center was joined by Venerable Sik Hin Hung, Acting Director at the Centre of Buddhist Studies, the University of Hong Kong, in an enlightening discussion of his personal views on Buddhism, the heart, and happiness, called "Life and Buddhism: Secrets of the Heart."

Venerable Sik Hin Hung is a Buddhist monk ordained under the Mahayana tradition. He is the lineage holder of the Ch'an schools of LingJi (臨濟宗) and Guiyang (溈仰宗). His main interest is in "repackaging" the teaching of Buddhism so that it becomes "user-friendly" for people today. His education at top universities in the East and the West, as well as his spiritual education, makes him uniquely positioned to discuss finding happiness in the modern world.

Hin Hung began the talk with an introduction of some of the key phrases he would be using, including the term "heart." "What is heart?" Hin Hung asked the audience, before providing the Buddhist definition: "A collection of the psychological functions of a person, including sensation, recognition, volition and consciousness. These are the components of personhood."

Hin Hung's essential thesis was that, because our heart is the fount of all our understandings of the world, we must in turn understand the workings of our own hearts. The secrets of our hearts can be unlocked to reveal a fuller awareness of our own actions. Only then can we actively change our lives.

One of the secrets of the heart that Hin Hung emphasized was the human capacity for creation and memory — that is to say, the limitless potential to grow and learn. Hin Hung called this our "Buddha nature," meaning that we too have the ability to learn all that the Buddha discovered.

Because our self-identity is learned, argued Hin Hung, and shaped by our environments, it can also be changed. "When you learn something," said Hin Hung, "you can always unlearn it." In order to change, however, you need to be aware, and in order to be aware, you must cultivate a state of mindfulness. "I'm trying to convince you that you can change your mind!" urged Hin Hung.

It is only through developing mindfulness towards our thoughts, through increased awareness and meditation, that we can change our thought patterns to specifically increase peace of mind and decrease painful and self-defeating thoughts.

And what would happen if we were able to truly calm our minds? Hin Hung urged the audience to embrace the "emptiness nature of the heart" and accept the "beauty and peace of emptiness." This emptiness is not something to be feared but something to strive toward.

Venerable Hin Hung concluded the talk with a favorite phrase: "Be mindful of the mind, it is the best insurance you have."

Reported by Maddie Gressel