禪師的修習方法有別於傳統中國佛教慣見的方法，譬如禪師開創的「正念鐘」——這是一種能帶領我們活在當下的善巧運用。梅村的另一善巧是「正念歌曲」，例如 “Breathing In, Breathing Out”、「幸福就在當下」、「在感恩中」。這些都是接引普羅大眾的善巧方便。與禪師的教導方式一樣，禪師的著作亦深受大眾歡迎。所以對我而言，禪師的著作對佛法的初學者來說，是個很好的切入點。
（註：原文由衍空法師以英文撰寫。文章的中文版則由佛門網中文部翻譯。衍空法師為香港大學佛學研究中心的聯合創辨人及高級院士。 一行禪師於 2001年首次蒞臨香港弘法時，法師擔任廣東話翻譯；並與梅村結下不解之緣。）
My first impression of Thay was of him walking very slowly from the immigration area of Hong Kong’s airport. This is the style of Plum Village – everything goes mindfully, slowly, relaxed. As I got to know more about Thay, I was impressed by his ability to articulate or express or teach the Dharma in a very simple yet effective and correct way. Correct is very important. You can teach something very simply but it’s wrong or not to the point. Thay’s explanations were very simple, to the point and easy to digest.
With his many years in the West, Thay was able to communicate difficult teachings in a way that made them available to Westerners. He certainly had a hand in how Buddhism is, now, in the West, and is second in importance only to the Dalai Lama in presenting Buddhism there.
When he came to Hong Kong, Thay was doing the same thing. He came several times and every time the crowd got bigger and bigger. The Centre of Buddhist Studieswas the local host and co-organiser. At the last event we organized for Thay, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, there were 5,000 people.
Thay repackaged Buddhism in a way that is easily available to many people. Buddhism has always been very popular in Hong Kong. But Thay presented it from another angle. In that sense, he attracted a different population – younger, more educated, Western influenced. It was a population that traditional Chinese Buddhism had not been serving.
Thay introduced practices that were totally new to traditional Chinese Buddhism. The mindfulness bell is one thing Thay created. It is a very skillful way of bringing people to the here and now. Another significant contribution of Plum Village is their songs, like Breathing In, Breathing Out; Happiness is Here and Now, and In Gratitude. These are very skillful, pleasant things you can teach to everybody. Thay’s books are also very popular,as was his way of teaching. For people who want to study Buddhism, Thay for me remains a very good entry point.
Thay’s Sangha is very important to the whole of Plum Village. He was always saying that “the Sangha decides this, the Sangha decides that”. Whenever Thay went on stage he always had a large Sangha with him. That was very important because his talks were more than lectures. They were more or less a performance with Dharma teachings. It was an impressive show and made the teachings easier for people to digest and to relate to. Thay would go on, the Sangha would sing, then Thay would invite the bell. So Thay’s Sangha was very important to his promotion of Buddhist teachings. He empowered the Sangha and delegated authority. Having a very active and able sangha is, I think, very important to how Plum Village will continue.
Venerable Sik Hin Hung, co-founder and a senior fellow of The Centre of Buddhist Studies of The University of Hong Kong, was the Cantonese translator for Thay during his first Hong Kong teaching tour, in 2001, and remained closely associated with Plum Village during its early days in the city.
Click here for more articles on Thay