The Venerable Master Hua once said,
“No matter what country I am in,
I want to help that country to be peaceful and prosperous.”
In the present age, when the whole world is caught up in the pursuit of fame and profit, the Venerable Master Hua was determined to be a scholar of honest criticism wherever he went, loudly calling out and urging people not to contend, not to be greedy, not to seek, not to be selfish, not to pursue personal profit, and not to tell lies. Sometimes he would make stinging remarks about these corrupt times, cautioning people not to live as if drunk and die in a dream, not to throw away their future.
As one who had left the home-life, the Venerable Master Hua could not bear to see living beings foolishly creating evil karma and undergoing various forms of suffering as retribution. When ordinary people requested instruction from him, the Venerable Master would bestow teachings suited to their dispositions, explaining for them the law of cause and effect and the Dharma-door of cultivating the mind. If political figures asked for advice, the Venerable Master would earnestly urge them to keep in mind that they should benefit the people.
Such aggravating words can only come from a heart of compassion that is totally public-spirited. During his thirty-some years of living in a foreign country (that is, the United States), the Venerable Master Hua not only fostered an American Sangha and set up a great plan for the translation of the Buddhist canon, he also founded schools to reform the unwholesome habits and degenerate trends that he saw among American youth. Many people tried to persuade the Venerable Master to become a naturalized American, pointing out the various advantages of American citizenship. In reply to these well-intentioned people, the Venerable Master said,
I’m not willing to change my citizenship because I don’t want to be opportunistic and seek bargains. Chinese people should be proud of being Chinese. There are lots of advantages to becoming an American citizen; the United States is a world superpower at present, and being its citizen would be an honor for me. But I don’t want to forget my own country, which is beset by suffering and hardship. I want to constantly remember: I’m Chinese, and Chinese people should have guts and moral courage. We shouldn’t waver in our resolute determination.
The Venerable Master Hua first declared that he would not become the citizen of another country in 1985. That was when the Soviet Union had not yet disintegrated and the United States was a superpower. Not only did the Venerable Master declare that he would not change his citizenship, he also composed a poem,
“On Not Changing My Nationality,” to express his feelings.
China has been in turmoil for decades.
Anguished by the affairs of the times, my tears flow like a stream.
I regret that in this life, I haven’t been able to turn the tide of events.
In the past, I failed to play the lute of the setting sun.
The roads of the world twist and turn, as people and ghosts
deceive each other.
The sea of politicians surges and rolls, as they fight each other.
Though I’ve left the home-life, I haven’t forgotten
my heart’s allegiance.
Not changing my nationality, I trace my roots back to their source.
The Venerable Master Hua once said, “No matter what country I am in, I want to bring peace and prosperity to that country.” When the Master first brought the Buddha’s proper Dharma westwards to America, he settled in San Francisco. The Master vowed,
“As long as I’m in San Francisco, I won’t allow an
earthquake to occur in San Francisco.”
When the Venerable Master went to Beijing in 1984, there was a small earthquake in San Francisco. In 1989, at the invitation of followers in Taiwan, the Venerable Master went to Taiwan to propagate the Dharma from October 9 to November 3. As soon as he stepped off the plane, he said,
“I’m prepared to starve to death in Taiwan.” During his entire stay in Taiwan, the Venerable Master fasted and maintained single-minded concentration, dedicating the merit to the nation’s people.
While the Venerable Master was away in Taiwan, a major earthquake occurred in the San Francisco and Oakland area. It caused the Bay Bridge to collapse and was quite a severe disaster. Out of earnest concern for living beings, the Venerable Master rushed back to San Francisco. However, not wishing to lose credibility with his followers in Taiwan, he immediately returned to Taiwan to continue leading the unfinished Dharma session. Travelling back and forth at over seventy years of age, without regard for his own fatigue, the Venerable Master Hua was truly living up to the words he used to describe himself:
“This deep resolve I offer to the myriad Buddhas’ lands / And thus endeavor to repay the Buddha’s boundless grace.” The Venerable Master’s profound compassion could clearly be seen in his honest and genuine practice.
From August 31 to September 21, 1990 in Taiwan, the Venerable Master hosted the Great Nationwide Dharma Assembly for Recitation of the Buddha’s Name to Pray for Blessings and Quell Disasters. As the Venerable Master led approximately seventy thousand people to recite the Buddha’s name in front of the Chiang Kaishek Memorial Hall in Taipei, bright rays of light flashed across the sky in response. Upon witnessing this auspicious portent, many people grew in faith and strengthened their Bodhi resolve. When the thought of cultivation and the tendency towards wholesomeness gathers strength among the multitudes, evil karma can gradually be lessened.
With his vows of compassion and pity for living beings, the Venerable Master averted disasters, prayed for blessings, and bestowed blessings upon the Chinese people many times. In all these decades, he maintained his citizenship in China and never applied for a passport in another country. All of this demonstrates his patriotic conduct and wish to be loyal to his country.
In January of 1993, the Venerable Master Hua returned to Taiwan once more to hold Dharma assemblies. He explicitly stated that he had
“come to bestow blessings upon the people of Taiwan.” The trip happened to coincide with a time of strife in Taiwan’s political arena. Lin Yanggang, who was then the Director of the Judicial Yuan, Huang Zhunqiu, the Director of the Control Yuan, Hao Bocun, the Director of the Executive Yuan, and Liang Surong, the former Director of the Legislative Yuan, all went to seek the Venerable Master’s advice, causing great excitement among the media. [Note: The five Yuan are the five main branches of government in the Republic of China.]
One of the Venerable Master’s visitors directly mentioned his own doubt:
“Some people say the Master is a monk who interferes in
The Venerable Master replied,
I see that Taiwan is in great danger, like a heap of eggs about to topple over, but the people are still unaware of it. I’m Chinese, and so I can’t help but be concerned about this matter. Even the authorities can’t stop me from saying what I want to say. This time I’m saying that the situation in Taiwan is similar to that of the Southern Song dynasty. People just see what’s under their feet rather than looking at what’s really in front of them.
The Venerable Master pointed out,
Taiwan’s greatest failure right now is that the people cannot unite. In the future, they will cause their own ruin, and the bystanders will take advantage of them. These bystanders include foreigners as well. People who fight for political reasons are those
“who have blessings but don’t know how to enjoy them, and who stir up trouble where there wasn’t any trouble.”
The Venerable Master urged those in office:
You should behave with virtue by not fighting, not being greedy, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying. These guidelines are the basis for being a human being. They are the foundation for cultivating the Way, and a basis for government.
The people of Taiwan certainly had wonderful conditions for the Venerable Master Hua to bestow blessings upon them. That does not mean, however, that the Venerable Master forgot about the people of mainland China, who number over a billion. The Venerable Master once said,
I was born in China, and so I should be loyal to China.
The Venerable Master Hua felt that if the Chinese people work towards the good, they will lead the world in the twenty-first century. If they don’t work towards the good, if they don’t walk upon a bright path, then it’s to be feared that they will be led by others. The Venerable Master’s exhortation to the government officials on both sides of the Taiwan strait was:
“Govern with diligence and love the people. Influence them
by means of virtue. Look in the mirror of China’s history.
Wake up quickly! Be self-respecting and self-reliant. Take
care not to repeat the mistakes of the past and re-enact
past tragedies. Cherish your country and love the people.
Unite together and don’t slaughter each other. That way, you
can transcend fate. You can transform war into peace and
violence into harmony.”