Minh Chau

The Most Venerable Tâm Trí, Minh Châu, Viên Dung, 
perfectly talented and virtuous Monk – Teacher

Born, grown up, succeeding in this life, each of us has the same and various surnames and names named by parents and grandparents of both maternal and paternal sides to inherit and to connect us to our spiritual and blood lineage. In addition, a lay person, in the first minutes and hours of being registered the birth of Buddhism – the path of enlightenment, loving-kindness, compassion, peace, and awakening, and in the moments of understanding and choosing for himself or herself the path leading to peacefulness and steadiness throughout life by taking a vow and taking refuge in the Triple Gem: the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, and the Five Virtuous Trainings[1] with his or her original Master whether directly or indirectly teaching, granting, and transmitting the Dharma precepts he or she received, receives one more religious name, that is to say, Dharma name. A Monastic, apart from surname, name, and Dharma name, still receives an additional Dharma identityand Dharma title


Indeed, when being born, growing up, leaving home for a monastic life, learning the Dharma, understanding the Dharma, practicing it, preaching it, protecting it, and applying it in his or her daily life, each of us bears the same and various names, surnames, Dharma name, Dharma identity, and Dharma title.  The title of this writing is “The Most Venerable Tâm Trí, Minh Châu, Viên Dung, perfectly talented and virtuous Monk – Teacher.” To expand upon the above topic, the writer defines, discusses, and analyzes every word, every phrase, and the above whole title in turn. 

First of all, the Most Venerable One (Sanskrit: Upādhāya) means the person who has talent and virtue has the ability to contain, uphold, inherit, connect, impart, educate, train, nourish, and to bring up the Buddha Dharma to Buddhists and non-Buddhists. The Most Venerable One, a common noun of Sino-Vietnamese word, means the Elder One, Virtuous One, Moral One, Exemplary One, and Honored One at the Temple, Pagoda, in Delegation, in the Dharma path, and in the people.  

The surname of the Most Venerable One is Đinh, whose family name is Văn Nam, his Dharma name is Tâm Trí, Dharma identity is Minh Châu, and  Dharma title is Viên Dung. All the “Dharma” words here mean a life vein of the Dharma path and the people, the Dharma, and the Buddha’s teachings. Reading his biography,[2] we knew that his father graduated as a second-rank doctor at the age of 21 in the year 1913. Following his father’s studious example and emulating his father’s educational endeavors, the Most Venerable was determined to cultivate, to learn, and to afterward early become the perfectly and brightly talented and virtuous One in all ages.         

Tâm Trí is a noun of two Sino-Vietnamese words; Tâm means heart, the key, the essence, the heart, etc. According to the stream of Patriarch Liễu Quán,[3]’s verse, Tâm is the transmission and connection between previous generations and next generations such as … Trừng, Tâm, Nguyên, (… Purification, Heart, Origin…), etc. Trí means wisdom (S. Prajña/ P. Paññā).    

Thus, Tâm Trí is the Dharma name of the Most Venerable One, who has his sincere and authentic heart has the ability to be far-seeing through many generations and ages, through specific aspects such as educator, translator of Pali Canon, Buddhist diplomat of example, suitability, creation of much aspirations to all people in the present society.     

  Minh Châu is a noun of two Sino-Vietnamese words; Minh is an adjective which modifies the noun Châu means bright, clear-sighted, perspicacious, insightful; Châu means precious gem. Thus, Minh Châu means the precious and clear-sighted gem, the Dharma identity of the Most Venerable One, who has the gem of the authentic Buddha Dharma to show the peaceful and happy path to the Dharma and to the people; who has the ability to transmit, connect, and to light up the torch of the Dharma for many generations in the present as well as in the future by translating the Pali and Chinese Sutras into Vietnamese, by opening school to teach and to train talented and virtuous people to be beneficial to family, to school, and to society.    

Viên Dung is a Sino-Vietnamese word, private noun; Viên is an adjective which modifies the noun Dung means fully round, perfect; Dung means collection, harmonization, acceptability, forgiveness, generosity, capaciousness, etc. Thus, Viên Dung means collection and perfection for aspects of talent and virtue, the Dharma title of the Most Venerable One, who has the ability to permeate and to spread harmony among the Sangha, between Southern and Northern Buddhism, and among Chinese, Sanskrit, and Pali Sutras.

Thật vậy, Tâm Trí, Minh Châu, Viên Dung, vị Sư Thầy tài đức vẹn toàn, là chủ đề chính của bài viết này, mang nhiều ý nghĩa đặc thù và quan trọng, có các mối tương quan và tương duyên với nhau rất mật thiết, ba là một, một là ba, và là tất cả, cụ thể chỉ cho Trưởng lão Hòa thượng với đạo hiệu thường dùng hằng ngày là ở phía trước chữ Minh ở phía sau chữ Châu. (Trong nhà Thiền, đây là cách gọi trang trọng, dành cho một người được cung kính và quý trọng).

Indeed, Tâm Trí, Minh Châu, Viên Dung, the perfectly talented and virtuous Monk – Teacher, the main title of this writing, which implies many specific and important meanings. Those names, which has interdependent relationships with one another very closely, three becomes one, one becomes three, and all, together, are concretely intended for the Most Venerably Elder One with daily frequently used the alternative monastic name being in the front of the word Minh and at the back of the word Châu. (At the Buddhist Temple, this is how to solemnly call, is intended for a respected and esteemed person).  

We know that first of all, with his aspiration to strongly leave home for a monastic life and by cultivating and learning the Buddha Dharma in Vietnam, the Most Venerable Thích Minh Châu became a monk wearing his brown, pale green, and yellow robes in accordance with the Northern Buddhist tradition from the year 1946 to the year 1952. Afterward, he had the good opportunity to go abroad to study at Colombo University in Sri Lanka in 1952 – 1955 and at Bihar University in India in 1956 – 1963. From those years until passing away in 2012, he wore saffron yellow robes in accordance with the Southern Buddhist tradition and was conversant with the Sutras and systems of Theravāda and Mahāyāna Buddhist thoughts.

According to Buddhist philosophy, we have been heard and known that “a robe cannot become a monastic, but the monastic cannot but have this robe.” In this context, “the monastic” is indicated for the practitioner, namely the Most Venerable One; whether Southern Buddhist tradition or Northern Buddhist tradition, the “robe” of those two traditions is only a means of materials used to cover his or her body. Its figurative sense means peacefulness and deliverance, a “rice paddy of the best merit” for lay people and monastics to have a chance to sow, plant, uphold, and to comply with the Buddha Dharma.    

Through cultivation, practice, and applying the Buddha Dharma into his or her daily life, the practitioner uses the robe to make means necessary to protect his or her warm body from the wind, the cold, and from the stings and bites of insects. Thanks to practicing the Buddha Dharma diligently like this, the practitioner can gain followers and fruits of peaceful joy and happiness right here and right now in the present life.   

     Thus, through the above discussed things, we know the Most Venerable One can be called the Monastic and can also be called the Teacher, generally called the prominent Monastic Teacher. In the title of this writing, we encounter the two words “Monastic and Teacher.” The “Monastic” is the monk or the nun. In Sino-Vietnamese use, the “Monastic” is a common noun referring to the Monastics who wear saffron yellow robes in accordance with the traditions of Southern Buddhist countries such as Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc., and Vietnam; the “Teacher” is also the monk or the nun. In Vietnamese use, the “Teacher” is also a common noun frequently indicated for the teachers who wear brown, pale green, pale gray, saffron yellow robes in accordance with the traditions of Northern Buddhist countries such as Japan, South Korea, China, etc., and Vietnam. The term “Teacher” also may refer to a lay person or lay teacher.   

       Thus, in Vietnam there are both “the Monastic and the Teacher,” in the Most Venerable One there are also both the “Monastic and the Teacher,” in himself there are also both the proficiency of the Sutras and harmony between Theravāda and Mahāyāna Buddhism, and within him there are also peaceful joy, happiness, enlightenment, and deliverance. In this writing, “the Monastic and the Teacher” that go together are used to indicate the Monk, namely the Most Venerable Thích Minh Châu, the estimably Monastic Teacher, embodying the above integral meanings.   

Having read and known the above discussion, we know the heart manifests the signs. His Dharma name, Dharma character, and Dharma title reflect his perfect talent and virtue. The present people seldom have anyone to keep pace with him.

Indeed, the Most Venerable Thích Minh Châu is the perfectly talented and virtuous Monastic Teacher. With the light of education and training of talented and virtuous people, he has the ability to impart and to light up the torches of the Dharma for the many succeeding generations in the present and in the future. The more the torch of the Dharma is lighted up, the more his insightful light is brightened in space and time, in oneself, in others, in the Sangha, family, school, and in society.  

To commemorate and to follow his talent and virtue, the Sutras translated, compiled, and written by him, the education curricula of Bodhi schools and Vietnam Buddhist Universities, and the education curricula of youth and teenagers, we can bring them out to teach, to apply, and to practice in the present schools, especially apply and practice them to accord with in our daily lives.  

Respectfully pay homage to the Most Venerable Thích Minh Châu, the dear and estimable Monastic Teacher!

Ven. Thích Trừng Sỹ

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[1] The Five Virtuous Trainings consist of 1. Nourishing the heart of loving-kindness and compassion toward living beings, 2. Developing the heart of alms-giving, 3. Building happiness of family, husband, wife, and children, 4. Taking hold of confidence, truth, and prestige for oneself and for delegation, 5. Nurturing wisdom by knowing how to love one and how to love others.