In the Saha world, people have worked hard to gain the material comforts we now enjoy. The whole society seems to be steeped in prosperity and affluence. But with the discarding of ethical values, living beings’ blessings have been eroded. Government leaders are not concerned about the citizens. The government and the people are struggling for profit. Business people consider profit as their top priority, and they scheme and cheat to obtain it. Young people pursue pleasure. They like to have fun but don’t like to work. Teachers are greedy for profit and neglect their mission of education.
In this day and age when people’s minds are getting worse and worse, the clear stream of religion is certainly our only hope for rectifying the situation at the source. There have been many self-proclaimed crusaders since ancient times, but few of them have stood the test of time. There are many deviant teachers and externalists who flourish under the name of Buddhism. At this time when deviant doctrines abound and the world’s people are unaware, ignorant living beings who are drowning in the eight sufferings go along with the flow, remaining caught in the turning wheel of rebirth forever. In the Dharma-ending Age, how fortunate we are to encounter a few lofty Sanghans and listen personally to their teachings and to the Dharma-sound of the World Honored One. It is just as if it were the Proper Dharma Age.
I took refuge with Dharma Master Chan Yun and learned about Venerable Master Hsuan Hua’s pure conduct in the precepts through reading a memorial publication on Elder Master Guang Qin. Dharma Master Chan Yun and the Venerable Master Hua are both greatly admired in Buddhist circles. In the West where utilitarianism prevails, the Venerable Master advocated the six principles of not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying as the foundation of his teaching. These principles are like a clear stream in the turbid world. They are also a
“telling blow” on the heads of muddled living beings. He welcomed cultivators from all directions to live at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, thus cutting through sectarianism and improving understanding and harmony among religions. He was truly a cultivator whose conduct matched his words.
He also established an institute to translate Buddhist scriptures into different languages so that they could become widespread in the world. His merit and contributions in propagating the Buddhadharma and vastly rescuing those with and without affinities are no less than those of Great Master Hsuan Tsang. I am an instructor at the National Taiwan College of Industrial Technology. The faculty and students have benefited from the Dharma through reading the Sutras and the Venerable Master’s talks on cultivation donated by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Association. Our longing to see the Master and hear his teaching in person is truly beyond words.
In January of 1993, when the Venerable Master came to Taiwan, we had the good fortune to be able to invite him to give a lecture at our college and to revitalize the lives of the rigid, staid faculty and students of the College of Industrial Technology. When the Venerable Master accepted our invitation, Professor Cai Xinming (leader of the college’s Buddhist Society) and laywoman Xiang Zhongling motivated the school’s entire faculty and student body to prepare for the event. With the full support of the college, we were able to conduct two of the largest Dharma lectures ever held in a Taiwan college. The Master’s lectures were to the point and his every word was a jewel. It was a wonderful occasion for all those who were present. I was fortunate to be there and see the Master. That’s why I’ve written this account of my recollections.
The wife of the college president personally went to welcome the Venerable Master. At the time, the Master was not feeling well, but he didn’t want to disappoint the people of Taiwan. Whenever people requested Dharma, he would always fulfill their wish. That night, when the Master left the Banqiao Gymnasium (where he was hosting the Dharma Assembly for Praying for Blessings and Quelling Disasters for the people of Taiwan) and came to our college to lecture, he was sweating profusely and exhausted from overwork. Refusing to listen to others’ suggestions that he take a rest, he entered the adorned auditorium, supported by President Liu Jintian and Dean of Academic Affairs Yeh Shengyan. With a resonant voice and clear words, he lectured and answered people’s questions. First he broke through living beings’ attachments to existence, and then he cut through the Small Vehicle’s attachment to emptiness. He expounded the truth of true emptiness and wonderful existence over and over again with humor, and his answers were often unexpected. Those who listened gained new understanding. In just a few words, he penetrated straight to the core of living beings’ illnesses.
The faculty and students of our college have visited many temples and monasteries and have been experienced cultivators of the Pure Land and Chan sects for many years. All received blistering blows on the head from Venerable Master Hua and expressed endless praise for him. After returning to their dorm, they described what they learned. Everyone had his own understanding. They decided to request further instruction the next day. Outside the auditorium, some people requested Sutras to take home to study.
The next day, after taking a short break, the Venerable Master again ascended the podium to speak the Dharma. In contrast to the previous night, this time he earnestly explained the essence of cultivation. He especially emphasized that ethics in human relationships is the key to human existence. Nowadays when the morals are declining and utilitarianism is prevailing, the six principles of not fighting, not being greedy, not lying, and so on are like a clear stream that slowly flows into every believer’s heart. These principles are just like the World Honored One’s last instruction to
“take the precepts as our teacher” before he entered Nirvana. They are a warning to the numerous deviant teachers of deviant views who have either misinterpreted the precepts or thrown away the moral code.
Many scholars who had returned from abroad were roused to recover the light of their inner world and reconstruct the ethics of human relations. If teachers can understand the Buddha’s intent, start from education, apply effort at the fundamental level of the mind, and get rid of the habit of arrogance, then collective karma can be changed. In the cold winter air, this idea warmed the hearts of some people. It made other people perspire profusely. As a result, many people had a lot of
“blisters” on their head. However, everyone was filled with the joy of Dharma and deepened his or her faith in studying the Buddhadharma.
The lectures in those two days stirred an interest in meditation at the college and demonstrated the patriarchs’ style of teaching. I myself witnessed this contemporary lofty Sanghan resolving the confusion of living beings, undaunted by hardship, enduring his sick condition in order to universally rescue everyone. He was willing to take on the limitless sufferings of living beings, thereby enabling them to attain limitless bliss.
I am fortunate, for my whole family heard the Dharma lectures and derived benefit. My wife began going to Blessings and Wisdom Monastery in Meinong, Kaohsiung County, to help out with the Buddhist summer camp every year. Each time she went, she saw the picture of the Master smiling kindly as if encouraging each follower to be vigorous, kindly soothing each person in times of disappointment and depression. The Buddha was a great educator, and the Venerable Master Hua undertook the endeavor of Buddhist education. My wife and I were both encouraged by this. In my years as a teacher, there had been times when I felt depressed and lost, but I later found peace in Buddhism. After listening to the Venerable Master Hua’s lectures for two days, I was even more determined to devote myself to education and to reforming the trends of society by educating people’s minds.
Some people utilize religion as a means to cheat others out of their money. Others use religion to make a reputation for themselves. Some people are unable to uphold the precepts, and so they encourage others to break the laws and cause disorder, claiming that this is
“non-attachment.” Living beings are so confused that they follow such people into deviant paths. Genuine cultivators who do not exploit conditions, who hold the precepts, and who emphasize practice as well as understanding are truly rare. Venerable Master Hua is one of them. I am fortunate to have listened to the Dharma lecture of this lofty Sanghan, Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, whom the Elder Master Guang Qin said had vast spiritual powers. Moreover, I am shocked to hear that the Venerable Master manifested long illness and completed the stillness, using his sentient body to speak the Dharma of the impermanence, suffering, and emptiness of the world. As for ordinary living beings such as you and I, how can we not be warned and not be vigorous?
Xiao Hongqing at the National Taiwan College of Industrial Technology
Dharma Realm Verse
With the Dharma Realm as substance, what could be outside?
With empty space as function, nothing is excluded.
The myriad things are level and equal, apart from discriminations.
When not a single thought is produced, words and doctrines are ended.
──by Venerable Master Hua