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  • Guoying Stacy Zhang

Practicing the Bodhisattva Path with Buddhism and Psychology: An interview with Ven. Zhankong

Venerable Zhankong (湛空) is well-trained in Buddhist texts and cultivation, and, moreover, through her work and academic studies in China, she understands well the physical and mental suffering of ordinary people. She was tonsured in 2002, when she completed her BA in medicine. Having spent three years in relative isolation on the Zhongnan Mountains, she decided to put the bodhisattva ideal into practice through charity and social work. Ven. Zhankong is now a lecturer at the Buddhist Academy of Guangdong, while pursuing her PhD in Managerial Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. At the 2013 National Buddhist Sutra Interpretation Contest, Ven. Zhankong referred to examples in the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch (六祖壇經) to illuminate how the principle of non-duality in Chan Buddhism can resolve mental issues in our modern times. In this interview, she shares some of her stories and work practices.

Buddhistdoor Global: Why did you join the monastic order and why did you choose to study psychology?

Venerable Zhankong: First of all, I am from a Buddhist family. Since my great-grandfather joined the monastic order, each of the following generations has produced monastic sangha members. The youngest brother of my grandfather was tonsured at the age of three. He was very influential in his time. He brought Buddhism to my hometown and benefitted many locals. I am the fourth generation of monastics of my family. Another equally important factor is that I studied medicine for my undergraduate degree. During that time, I was searching for purpose in my life. I saw how people suffered from aging, illness, and death. I experienced with them the fragility and resilience of life. Particularly, my internship in an emergency room propelled me to contemplate the ultimate questions, such as how we spend our lives, what we live for, and what happens when we die. Eventually, I found all my answers in Buddhism. After careful consideration, I chose to join the monastic sangha. I inherited my faith from my family, but my life purpose will be realized through such a choice. It will continuously move me forward in the ocean of the Buddhadharma.

Venerable Zhankong. Image courtesy of Ven. Zhankong

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