Buddhist Abbot is Face Behind Ask a Monk Online Service

January 9, 2008

Author: Janet Fillmore

Source: Chicago Tribune


When the Ven. Shih Ying-Fa parks his 5-foot-10-inch frame before the computer in his home office, he never knows who will be seeking his help.

It could be a high school student in Baton Rouge, La., who asks the difference between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism for a class.

Or a poet in Tallahassee, Fla., who wonders if attending a Zen Buddhist group is for him.

Or a hospital worker in London who has practiced martial arts for 20 years but isn't sure if they are compatible with Buddhist teachings.

Ying-Fa is the human behind Ask a Monk, an online information and advice service for Buddhists and those who want to know more about Buddhism. The 55-year-old abbot of CloudWater Zendo, the Zen Center of Cleveland, receives at least 20 e-mails a week from as far away as China, Japan and New Zealand.

Ying-Fa has been answering Buddhist queries for 10 years, ever since his teacher recommended that he include the feature on the Zen Center's site, http://www.cloudwater.org/askamonk.html.