What kind of world is today’s world? The Venerable Master Hua once described it this way:
The world’s people have given their lives over to the pursuit of money. People are all cheating each other. Every country lacks people who have no desire for money and are committed to serving others.
At a time when money and materialism have warped people’s natures, the Venerable Master Hua propagated the Dharma around the globe, travelling through Asia, Europe, the United States, and Canada. Some people have compared the power of the Venerable Master’s Dharma-propagation to that of the atomic bomb. However, the Venerable Master thinks that it’s not possible to gain people’s trust and submission using an atomic bomb. One can only use the eight virtues of filiality, brotherhood, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, and a sense of shame. Only by teaching and transforming people using these traditional ethical virtues of China can one hope to reform the world’s trends and save people’s minds. In today’s morally warped society, many people
“not only have lost their Buddha-nature, they have lost even
their human nature. All that’s left in them is an animal
nature. They only do the things that animals do, and they
have thoroughly debased their original, dignified human
Unable to tolerate the sight of the world in such chaos, the nations in decline, and the human mind in such a perilous state, the Venerable Master wrote the book Reflections in Water and Mirrors: Turning Back the Tides of Destiny. His motive for writing was the same as Confucius’ motive in writing the Spring and Autumn Annals. Over three thousand years ago, Confucius journeyed throughout the warring states of China, hoping to assist the country by means of government. However, finding it impossible to carry out his loyal and pure aims, he returned to his native state of Lu and decided to apply himself to education instead, nurturing talented people who would be capable of leading the various states. Later generations dubbed him "The Highest Sage and the Foremost Teacher" and " The Teacher and Model for Ten Thousand Generations." Being humble, Confucius had always recorded only the works of others without writing any essays of his own. However, seeing the decline of the country and the turmoil of society, his heart was sorely grieved. Thereupon, he picked up the pen of history and wrote the Spring and Autumn Annals to praise the loyal and censure the traitorous, to reward the good and punish the evil, to frighten the corrupt officials and thieves and cause them to have no place to hide.
In Confucius’ Spring and Autumn Annals, the literary style is as grave and formal as that used by the official historians, and even Zi You and Zi Xia (Confucius’ disciples) could not improve it by a word. It carries the spirit of patriotism and love for the people, and it is suffused with his vast vows to save the world. This work is not one which can be fathomed by ordinary people. No wonder Confucius sighed and said,
“Those who know me, know me because of the Spring and Autumn Annals. Those who blame me also do so because of the Spring and Autumn Annals.”
This work was written during the rule of Duke Ai of Lu. At that time, some hunters had shot down a qilin [a rare, auspicious animal similar to a unicorn] and left it in the wilds to die. No one recognized the kind of creature it was. When Confucius saw it, he knew it was a qilin, an auspicious animal. Confucius then lamented that in the decline of the Zhou dynasty, there was no wise leader to respond to the appearance of that auspicious creature. In sorrow and frustration, he sang,
In the age of Tang (Emperor Yao) and Yu (Emperor Shun),
The unicorns and phoenixes roamed at ease.
It is not that age now:
What did you come for?
My heart grieves so!
The measure of Confucius’ mind was vast, great, subtle, and profound. The Venerable Master’s state was even higher: his mind encompassed all of space and his capacity pervaded worlds as many as grains of sand. His wasn’t the petty love limited to a single time and place, to a single family or country; he had a selfless mind filled with great kindness for those who lacked affinities with him and great compassion that regarded all creatures as being of the same substance as himself. In Reflections in Water and Mirrors: Turning Back the Tides of Destiny, the individuals whom the Venerable Master introduces and evaluates range from ancient to contemporary times, from China to other countries. They include greatly virtuous as well as notoriously evil people, the wisest and the dullest people, men and women, the young and the old, ordinary people and
sages...the “dragons and the snakes” (all different kinds, good and bad) are mixed together. However, the book bestows clear-cut praise and castigation and distinguishes the good from the evil, so that readers from all countries can
“see the worthy and aspire to equal them, and see the unworthy and reflect within themselves.” It could be said that Reflections in Water and Mirrors: Turning Back the Tides of Destiny inherited the single pulse of the mind-transmission from the Spring and Autumn Annals. Whether the world survives or perishes depends on this book.
The preface to Reflections in Water and Mirrors: Turning Back the Tides of Destiny begins by explaining the main theme:
Quietly contemplating the three thousand great thousand worlds, I see that evil karma fills them up. Countries ravage countries, creating world wars. Families slay families, creating village wars. People murder people, creating wars against each other. We kill within ourselves, creating wars of mind and nature. It even goes so far that space kills space, water kills water, and so forth, creating visible and invisible wars. How sorrowful! How painful!
In this evil world of the five turbidities, which is filled with evil karma, the Venerable Master Hua based the value of his own life on
“reverence for all living things. We must transform selfishness into public-mindedness, uphold the pure precepts, and offer ourselves up for the benefit of living beings.” Although living beings’ karmic obstructions are extremely heavy, the Venerable Master regards them all with the same benevolence. He said,
I regard good people and bad people in the same way. I would never be prejudiced. I hope that when bad people see me, they will turn over a new leaf and become good.
The Venerable Master’s awe-inspiring virtue once influenced the members of a San Francisco gang to reform themselves, end their involvements with the underworld, and resolve to protect and support the Buddhadharma from then on. There was also a young teenager who had plans to kill her parents, but under the Venerable Master’s transformative influence, she not only learned to be filial to her parents, but also achieved high academic achievement and was accepted at many top universities. In general, wherever the Venerable Master went, he always hoped that the place would become more secure and peaceful, and that people’s customs and other aspects of their lives would be improved.
In modern society, which is dominated by industry and commerce, people in their youth, in the prime of life, and in middle age are busily and tirelessly pursuing profit and wealth. Very often, they overlook their duties to respectfully serve and take care of their elders and to inculcate their children with ethical and moral virtues. Many social problems have resulted from the widespread neglect of these duties. Thus, the Venerable Master energetically promoted the observance of Respecting Elders Day and Cherishing Youth Day, instructing over ten branch monasteries of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association located throughout the United States, Canada, and Asia to celebrate Cherishing Youth Day each year during the period of transition from spring to summer, when the plants and creatures are all thriving and growing. Each year between fall and winter, when the weather is neither too warm nor too cool, Respecting Elders Day is celebrated to honor the elderly and give recognition to their years of experience and their wisdom about life.
Every branch monastery holds its own celebrations of these two holidays each year, inviting the elderly folks and young people who live locally to participate.
“Elderly folks, even if they have no children of their own, will be honored by young people. Young people who have no parents will shown care and concern by adults. There will be mutual respect and mutual caring among people. These are natural human feelings. Our aim is to improve the customs and to cherish and protect the people. We want to increase the virtue of the people and create a great commonwealth.” This is the Venerable Master Hua’s vision of a utopian society in which everyone respects his parents, takes care of the elderly, and looks after the young.
Such an ideal is not at all easy to realize. Like the moon’s reflection in water or the reflection of flowers in a mirror, it is within sight, but beyond reach. Nevertheless, for many years the Venerable Master Hua buried himself in hard work, laboring in quiet oblivion. Making a strenuous effort to
“rescue all with great compassion, shedding blood and sweat, and never pausing to rest,” he hoped for what was beyond hope and accomplished what could not be accomplished. This kind of spirit is evident in Confucius’ Spring and Autumn Annals as well as in the Venerable Master Hua’s Reflections in Water and Mirrors: Turning Back the Tides of Destiny. Both works are based on loyal, pure patriotism that seeks to save society and rescue the people, and on the vast, proper energy that fills the universe. Both authors had made vows of doing what they knew to be impossible, in the hope that future generations of students would pass on this legacy and carry out these vows, dedicating their lives to the realization of the great commonwealth and the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. Although this is said to be hopeless, there is still hope. Although it cannot be accomplished, it must be accomplished.