Everyone has a time for coming and a time for going. Don’t be sad.
Act the way that you do in ordinary times. Resolve to apply effort diligently.
─Venerable Master Hua
VENERABLE MASTER HUA COMPLETES THE STILLNESS
The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, founder of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas at Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain, the ninth generation patriarch of the Wei Yang Sect, manifested stillness (Nirvana) on June 7, 1995 (the tenth of the fifth lunar month in the year yi hai) at quarter past three in the afternoon in Los Angeles. Following eight hours of recitation of Amitabha Buddha’s name by the four assemblies of disciples, at about eleven o’clock at night the Master’s body was moved from the hospital. In order to comply with American laws, he was placed in a mortuary. As all arrangements were being made, the four assemblies of disciples continued reciting the
Amitabha Sutra and Amitabha Buddha’s name. With special consent, the recitation continued from half past midnight until five o’clock in the morning (July 8) in the mortuary.
The Venerable Master was well-known for his lifelong ascetic practices and strict observance of the precepts. In the Dharma-ending Age when most people are lax about holding precepts, the Venerable Master was one who set a good example for others and advocated the ascetic practices of eating only one meal a day, before noon, and not lying down to sleep at night. What’s more, he dedicated the merit and blessings accrued from such ascetic practices to all living beings of the Dharma Realm. For over thirty years, without ever taking a break, the Venerable Master delivered several tens of thousands of Dharma talks and lectures on the Buddhist Sutras, raising aloft the bright lamp of wisdom for living beings who have long dwelt in the dark night of the Dharma-ending Age.
CEREMONY FOR PLACEMENT IN THE CASKET
From the Chinese World Journal (June 13, 1995)
On June 12 at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the ceremony for placement in the casket was held for the Venerable Master Hua, a renowned Buddhist master of his era, in southern California at Long Beach Monastery, which is adjacent to the Pacific shorefront. Dharma Master Xu Lang, the Abbot of Wonderful Dharma Temple, led the ceremony. Several hundred people, including the Venerable Master’s left-home and lay disciples, and admirers of the Venerable Master’s lifelong efforts to propagate the proper Dharma, including many members of the Los Angeles branch of the T’zu Chi charity organization, participated in the adorned and solemn ceremony.
A few minutes before four o’clock, yellow canopies were opened outside the entrance of Long Beach Monastery, which the Venerable Master established single-handedly. Disciples knelt on both sides of the monastery’s entrance-way and recited the Buddha’s name to welcome the Venerable Master. At quarter after four, the Venerable Master’s body arrived at Long Beach Monastery on East Ocean Boulevard. The memory of the Master’s repeated and earnest remonstrations to them when he was alive brought tears to the eyes of many disciples. Nine-year-old Amy Zhang innocently remarked,
“How I wish I could hear the Master speak to us, but now it’s
When the Venerable Master was alive, he often used wise words of Dharma to startle the assembly into wakefulness. His teachings pointed directly to people’s minds. The Venerable Master conducted himself with patience throughout his life. He fasted many times, always dedicating the merit and blessings accrued from such fasts to living beings. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in 1962, shortly after the Venerable Master’s arrival in the United States. At that time, the Master fasted for five weeks and dedicated the merit to world peace. Some reporters say the Master was suffering from malnutrition, but those who know the real situation point out that the Master forgot about himself for the sake of the Dharma, and that his sickness was the result of accumulated toil.
When the Venerable Master toured Taiwan in 1989, he fasted for three weeks and dedicated the merit to the people of Taiwan. Following that trip to Taiwan, the Master visited various European countries to propagate the Dharma. Despite his advanced age, he never took a rest.
Even while the Master was undergoing sickness and suffering on behalf of living beings, he continued to vigorously promote the great endeavor of translating the Buddhist scriptures. During the Tang dynasty of China, the project of translating the Buddhist canon was overseen and supported by the imperial court. In this modern age, the Venerable Master single-handedly took on this heavy responsibility. Under his direction, many Mahayana Sutras, such as the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, the Shurangama Sutra, the Vajra Sutra, the Amitabha Sutra, the Earth Store Sutra, and others have been translated into English and gradually into French, Spanish, Vietnamese, and other languages as well. The Master’s goal was to have the entire Buddhist canon (Tripitaka) translated into all languages, so that the sound of the orthodox Dharma will be spread throughout the world, and living beings around the globe will be able to leave suffering and attain bliss.
In addition to promoting the translation of the Buddhist canon, the Venerable Master has also expended great effort in the establishment of twenty-seven Way-places (monasteries) in the United States, Canada, and Asia. He did his best to expand and develop Buddhism with the aim of rectifying people’s minds, transforming violence into harmony in the world, and enabling every individual to have a pure, clean mind. At Instilling Goodness Elementary and Developing Virtue Secondary Schools, both founded by the Venerable Master, the curriculum includes the study of the Three Character Classic, the Rules for Being a Student, the Essay of a Thousand Words, and the Hundred Surnames in addition to the courses required by the California goverment. These traditional Chinese texts impress upon students the principles of being a good person. The Venerable Master stressed that if we can groom a generation of young people who possess high moral principles as well as superlative scholarship, there will still be hope for living beings to be pulled out of the sea of suffering.
On June 13 at four o’clock in the afternoon, a ceremony marking the completion of the first week of memorial services for the Venerable Master was held at Long Beach Monastery. On the 16th, the assembled disciples will escort the Master’s casket to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage, northern California. In the last few days, the branch monasteries under the Venerable Master have begun a forty-nine-day Dharma assembly for reciting the Avatamsaka Sutra several times through, in order to comply with the Venerable Master’s instructions before he completed the stillness.
TRANSPORTING THE CASKET TO THE CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
From the Chinese World Journal (June 18, 1995)
The car convoy slowly moved forward. Both sides of the road were packed with earnest people who had their palms placed together. The body of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, who had completed the stillness ten days earlier, was transported from Los Angeles and reached the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in northern California on Saturday, June 17, at seven o’clock in the morning.
In the afternoon of the June 16, Long Beach Monastery in Long Beach, southern California, held a ceremony for liberating life and a ceremony for moving the Venerable Master’s coffin. The weather had been clear and sunny for many days in Long Beach, but on the 16th, it suddenly became cloudy and rainy, and the temperature fell abruptly. It was as if Nature was grieving as well over the Venerable Master’s completion of stillness and the moving of his coffin.
On the evening of the sixteenth (Friday), disciples of the Venerable Master from the Los Angeles area accompanied the truck bearing the Master’s coffin on its journey northward. The car convoy reached the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas on Saturday morning at around seven o’clock.
A yellow banner with the words “Welcoming the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, the Founder of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas at Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain, on his return to the City” was suspended high up on the gate at the main entrance to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. When the Venerable Master’s coffin was respectfully taken out (and moved to a smaller vehicle), the multitude recited the Buddha’s name with even more fervor and strength.
After the vehicle bearing the Master’s coffin had passed under the arch of the main entrance, the faithful followers standing on both sides of the road joined together in the middle of the road and followed the vehicle as it made its way towards the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Left-home disciples of the Venerable Master then respectfully moved the Master’s coffin into the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The ten thousand statues of sitting Buddhas which cover the four walls inside the hall were cast and made by the Venerable Master himself in earlier years.
After paying homage to the Buddhas in the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the disciples respectfully moved the Venerable Master’s coffin into the Hall of No Words, which had been the Master’s dwelling at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas when he was alive. When the Venerable Master spoke the Dharma or lectured on the Sutras at the City, he had done so either in the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas or in Wonderful Words Hall. Yet the Master named his quarters the Hall of No Words, so it carries the metaphorical meaning for wordless teachings.
Many members of the San Francisco and San Jose branches of the Tz’u Chi Foundation hastened to the City on Friday and volunteered their help in directing traffic, organizing people into lines, and so forth, thus demonstrating the spirit of cooperation among Buddhists.
At half past noon, the assembly lined up and, while reciting the Buddha’s name, entered the Hall of No Words in succession to gaze in respect at the Venerable Master’s countenance. Many faithful devotees felt that the Master’s visage after his completion of stillness bore a great resemblance to that of the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch of the Chan School.
At present, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is following the Venerable Master’s last instructions and holding a Dharma assembly to recite the Avatamsaka Sutra and a Dharma assembly to recite the Buddha’s name. The Avatamsaka Dharma Assembly takes place in three locations daily, for the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment (Avatamsaka) Sutra is being recited in Chinese, English, and Vietnamese. The state of the Avatamsaka exhausts empty space and pervades the Dharma Realm. Its vastness encompasses the limitless and boundless, precisely in accord with the Venerable Master’s final words:
“I came from empty space, and to empty space I will return.”
UNIVERSALLY TURNING THE GREAT FLOWER ADORNMENT DHARMA WHEEL
IN MEMORY OF THE VIRTUE AND KINDNESS OF OUR TEACHER
The Flower Adornment (Avatamsaka) Sutra is the Sutra of the Dharma Realm. It is also the Sutra of empty space. To the ends of empty space and pervading the Dharma Realm, there is not a single place where the
Flower Adornment Sutra is not present.
Any place where the
Flower Adornment Sutra is found is also a place where the Buddha is, a place where the Dharma is, and a place where the Sangha of sages is.
─Venerable Master Hua
Because the Venerable Master Hua deeply understood the inconceivable state of the great Flower Adornment Dharma and wanted his disciples to begin at the most basic level, he frequently exhorted his disciples to recite the
Flower Adornment Sutra and even to memorize it. In his final instructions, the Master also said,
“After I leave, you can recite the Flower Adornment Sutra.” Therefore on June 8, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas began a forty-nine day Flower Adornment Dharma Assembly, hoping to offer everyone the opportunity to steep themselves in the Great Flower Adornment Dharma, understand a little bit of its flavor, and plant limitless good roots.
When every thought is sincere, every thought penetrates;
In silence, responses are quietly received.
When you reach the end of the mountains and rivers,
You are free to roam throughout the Dharma Realm.
The Venerable Master wrote this verse explaining the secret of reciting the Buddha’s name and the responses obtained. The Master said,
“It’s as if there is a telephone wire connecting Amitabha
Buddha in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss and all living
beings who recite the Buddha’s name. If you don’t make the
call, who’s going to pick up the phone and receive your
As long as we recite the Buddha’s name with utmost sincerity, the Buddha will use his boundless Dharma-power to liberate us, enabling us to leave suffering and attain bliss. This kind of bliss is an ultimate bliss, the ultimate bliss of the Western Land. In other words, if one recites the Buddha’s name, not only can one escape all worldly sufferings, one can be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, see the Buddha when one’s lotus flower opens, and attain the pure and ultimate bliss of
“permanence, bliss, true self, and purity.”
Honoring the Venerable Master’s final instructions, the four assemblies of disciples have been sincerely reciting the Flower Adornment Sutra and the Buddha’s name since the Venerable Master completed the stillness.
The Venerable Master often says, “The Flower Adornment Sutra is just like an auspicious cloud in empty space, pervading the three thousand great thousand worlds and giving moisture to all living beings.” Once a week, the disciples solemnly and with proper deportment performed the Flower Adornment Repentance, in which they universally bowed in homage to the infinitely infinite Triple Jewel of the Flower Adornment Sealike Assembly. Cleansing body and mind with the Flower Adornment Dharma rain, they sincerely repented and reformed themselves, began anew, and purified their actions, speech, and thought. This is what the Venerable Master had hoped his disciples would do.
Currently at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, four Dharma assemblies are held simultaneously every day: the Chinese Flower Adornment Assembly is held in the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the English Flower Adornment Assembly is held in the Hall of Rebirth, and the Vietnamese Flower Adornment Assembly is held in the Dao Yuan Hall.
An intensive Buddha’s Name Recitation Assembly is held twenty-four hours a day in the Hall of No Words, where the Venerable Master’s coffin is located. Recently, the Master’s disciples from around the world have been arriving at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to gaze upon the Master and take part in the memorial Dharma events.
At Gold Mountain Monastery, located in San Francisco’s Chinatown, five rolls of the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra are recited every day and the Buddha’s name is recited nightly after evening recitation. A Flower Adornment Repentance Ceremony is also held weekly.
At the City of the Dharma Realm located in West Sacramento near the California State Capitol, people recite the Flower Adornment Sutra five hours a day. After evening recitation, they recite the Buddha’s name for two hours and do the Great Transference Ceremony.
At the World Religions Institute in Berkeley, the Flower Adornment Assembly is held in English and Vietnamese. Gold Wheel Monastery in Los Angeles, Long Beach Monastery and Blessings, Wealth, and Longevity Monastery in Long Beach, Gold Summit Monastery in Seattle, Avatamsaka Monastery in Calgary, and Gold Buddha Monastery in Vancouver are also following the Venerable Master’s instructions and holding Flower Adornment Dharma Assemblies and taking time to recite the Buddha’s name intensively.
At the Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Association in Taiwan, people are reciting four rolls of the Flower Adornment Sutra during the day and holding a Buddha’s Name Recitation Assembly in the afternoon. Another roll of the Flower Adornment Sutra is recited in the evening, so that those who work or study during the daytime can participate. Amitabha Monastery in Hualien, Blessings and Wisdom Monastery in Meinong, and Perfect Penetration Hermitage in Taijung are also holding Flower Adornment Dharma Assemblies and Buddha’s Name Recitation Assemblies.
At Purple Cloud Monastery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Flower Adornment Sutra is recited from eight in the morning till four in the afternoon, and the Buddha’s name is recited from six-thirty to nine in the evening.
The Flower Adornment Dharma Assemblies and the Buddha’s Name Recitation Assemblies held at all of the above monasteries will last for forty-nine days and be completed on July 25. When the assemblies are completed, the Venerable Master’s disciples at the various monasteries will all gather at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas from July 26–28 to attend the memorial services in honor of the Venerable Master and the cremation ceremony.