A simple life

by Karen SONG Keyi

HONG KONG_ She made the vital decision at the age of 25, Zhi Rong, a Buddhist nun had her hair cut in the tonsure ceremony, where she got her current name, meaning “wisdom” and “harmony”. Now, she is 46.

In the living room of a small Buddhist temple near Kowloon Tong, Zhi Rong, wearing a light gray robe and a pair of rimless glasses, sits down at a table. “Have some tea,” she says while smiling. A deeply tranquil presence seems to surround her.

It was not until she witnessed her fathers suffering from a serious disease did she realize the uncertain nature of life and the existence of karma.

“People’s motivation may differ, but it more or less deepens after they suffered something. In Buddhism, the ultimate goal is to end the circle of repeated death and rebirth by seeking enlightenment,” she explains.

Born in Taiwan, Zhi Rong became a Buddhist nun in Hong Kong eight years ago. She got a Bachelor degree and had some different jobs before she became a nun, but not married.

For Zhi Rong, Buddhism is not passive. “We have to fulfill our commitment to our families,” she says, “I once said to my father, ’when women got married, sometimes they may not necessarily be the daughters of their fathers anymore, but I will be your daughter forever after I become a nun. ’”

She took an oath on the first day she became a nun of not breaking the 348 commandments, whose specific terms are kept confidential to outsiders. “This is because the commandments are for the purpose of self-discipline, but not for you to judge others by this system of measurements,” she says.

Among all the commandments, avoid eating meat is an obvious one. “We believe that all beings, including animals, have once been our parents in the many lives we lived, so we need to protect them,” she says, “Vegetarian diet makes you comfortable and feel at ease. It also gives you pleasant body odor.”

In this 21st century, Master Zhi rong also has a cell phone—not an iPhone 4S or a blackberry, but an old, black-and-white screen NOKIA, which costs HK$198. She didn’t learn to use the computer. “People are easily indulged in it,” says Zhi Rong.

Life is simple, but sometimes they are happier because they already learned to satisfy.