My first time to see the Venerable Master Hua was in 1983 when I first visited the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Ukiah. He gave a lecture at Wonderful Words Lecture Hall. The hall was surprisingly simple, just benches with skimpy, tattered curtains and lopsided blinds somewhat covering the windows. The room was such a contrast with the altar which was elaborately adorned with flowers and a gold statue of the Buddha. The ceilings were high, giving the hall a feeling of immenseness. Only the front rows were occupied, which made the room appear to be even bigger. The Venerable Master Hua was giving a lecture, and I had expected hundreds of people to attend.
The appearance of the Master was just as ordinary as the room. There was not anything really outstanding about him or what he said. I forget what the lecture was about, but I remember that it was something quite simple. I had expected him to say something extraordinary. I also expected to have an unusual spiritual experience, but I just felt ordinary, like the room. Yet, I knew I would never be the same.
After living at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for almost ten years and seeing the Master hundreds of times and listening to his tapes for hours, it has always been the same─nothing unusual, just something simple. Simply taking and holding the precepts of no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying and no intoxicants. Simply applying every moment to cultivation to accomplishing Buddhahood.
“That is just the way it is,” he would often say. “Everyone has the Buddha nature. Everyone can become a Buddha.” These words have been ringing out to me all these years while living at the City─sweeping corridors while memorizing Sutras and mantras in Chinese and Sanskrit, scrubbing blood-stained walls in the old hospital rooms until my arms ached (yet the old Bhikshuni from Taiwan scrubbed it over, shaking her head at me and muttering), reading Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed to the first grade, smelting during the Chan Session, and reciting for Lesley Slaton, my father, at his death.