Some books in life are special. They may be recommended by a friend or assigned in a class;

we might even stumble upon them at a bookstore. Fo Guang Shan International Translation Center’s new title I Am Not a Monk “Sponging Off” Buddhism by Venerable Master Hsing Yun is one of these works. It’s inviting pictures and engaging prose welcome readers into the Venerable Master’s life and to a Buddhism that serves humanity. By reading it, we learn how life can be different.

      This book, a work both autobiographical and spiritual, offers a guiding light to those who care about humanity. True to its title, Venerable Master bravely confronts monastics who would take advantage of Buddhism without giving back and spells out how Buddhism serves others on a daily basis. Rather than representing himself as a larger than life figure, removed from human concerns, Venerable Master offers an honest portrait of what it is to be human and Buddhist and how to overcome our limitations by thinking and acting on behalf of others. As readers, we come to see sacrifice with new eyes, which allows us to rediscover what it means to live out our own spiritual purpose. For Buddhists, this purpose is one that favors care for humanity in the face of the grave reality of suffering. Despite tragedy and hardship, Venerable Master has always served others before himself, yet his story of transcendence doesn’t present a narrow vision of what it means to give back. Instead, his experiences and insightful commentary convey a new understanding of what service is. This understanding embodies Humanistic Buddhist teachings by allowing for diverse expressions of aid.

      With its inspiring lessons and honest style, this book is an invitation. It invites us to serve a higher purpose with care and grace. At the same time, it invites us to connect with our true nature and see our natural talents as a means to serve the greater good.

Reflection on: I Am Not a Monk “Sponging Off” Buddhism

      In the modern world, very few have had so much of a spiritual impact as Venerable Master Hsing Yun. When I first began reading I Am Not a Monk “Sponging Off” Buddhism I was struck by the text’s powerful title. It cut through all that is left unsaid by offering an important truth: that monastics are not and should not act as free loaders; rather, it is a Buddhist’s life work to give back. To voice and address the unvoiced criticism bravely and directly speaks volumes about Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s sincerity.

      My favorable first impression only grew as I began reading the book, a collection of some of Venerable Master’s most relevant essays. What delighted me is that the Venerable Master freely illustrates his humanity. He doesn’t speak from a place of privilege but rather from a place of transcended hardship. The trauma of war and the reality of starvation are but two elements of the genuine, personable read that the book offers. Rather than becoming weak and needy in the face of challenge, Venerable Master worked hard and coming to know his strengths, he then devoted those attributes to Buddhism and thus humanity. In turn, his experience helps readers see how life can be different even in difficult times.

      As a highly successful propagator of Buddhism, Venerable Master doesn’t sugar coat the faith. He is the first to step forward against monastics who would take advantage of people’s goodwill. At the same time, his spirit of reform and balanced perspective open the door for readers’ own development and service toward others. The nice thing about the book is that you don’t need to be an expert to appreciate its import. The text is relevant in a real-world way, and while he is honest about the hard work of Buddhism, he also aims to deliver a Buddhism that works for the people and their welfare.

      Whether you are a Buddhist who is figuring out your place or a well-established practitioner, this book has something for everyone. Venerable Master’s story is inspiring and motivating. We come to understand Buddhism differently from reading this text, and with our new understanding, we can begin anew. With a refreshed perspective, we enter the realm of potential and discover how the welfare of others intertwines with our own welfare. A powerful and enjoyable read, pick up a copy today, and connect with what really matters.

What’s New?

  1. Audio Book: Don’t have time to read? Try our new Audio Book.
  2. Video Book: Did you know FGSITC is making a new series of video books?
    If you would like to sponsor this new series of video books,
    please contact us by email: or phone: (626) 330 8361
  3. Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s One-Stroke Calligraphy is LIVE now.
  4. Support us: Your donations help us to expand the Buddha’s teaching.