Becoming part of the Shaolin family and getting the name that comes with it, was a long time wish. One I never expected to come true since I was never going to ask for it. Sure, once you decide to live your life as a Buddhist, you can express this wish to the master of a Buddhist Temple. This I did in 2004 or 2005 and it wasn’t until July 23rd in 2006 that I took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha at Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple in Amsterdam.
The Dharma name I was given was Xing Tze (性 慈 ), meaning “nature of compassion”. When given a name it usually is something the master sees in you or something the master thinks you should aspire to which is exactly how I interpreted my name back then. The following year I took it a step further and vowed to observe the lay Bodhisattva precepts.
My martial journey was long underway by then and it felt good combining the martial arts and Buddhism but somewhere deep down was that wish to do the same at Shaolin one day.
Why not ask? Maybe because I applied martial tradition not to ask but deserve? I guess the connection of Chuan Fa (“Kung Fu”) and Buddhism at Shaolin makes things a bit different. Just or not, that is what I made myself to believe.
Imagine my surprise when during training, I was summoned by the Abbot. After being served tea the Abbot started the conversation by bringing up the first time we met and at that moment I understood it was mainly that meeting, that had led to this moment. A chance meeting at the airport in Vienna….
I also came to understand he had heard about me from the Abbot in Shaolin Temple Germany and with the promise that he would pick a nice date for the ceremony, I took my leave, happy beyond words. And so it was that on the date mentioned before I renewed my vows at Shaolin and became Yán Xiāng.
Yán, denotes the generation and Xiāng the “personal” part. Xiāng literally means scent or incense and it is this Xiāng that is recited at the start of Buddhist services in the “prayer for the incense”. I understand this name to express the hope that like the scent of the incense my effort in sharing Shaolin culture may spread and in a way that, again like the scent of the incense, may be pleasing to all.
Like the first name the second one also carries a responsibility to live up to. Not a quality one already possesses but one that should be cultivated. That being said, I hope to be able fulfil this