The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua was from Heilongjiang, Manchuria. He left the home-life in his youth and was given the name Du Lun. He went to Hong Kong in 1949 and stayed there for many years. Later he had a dream in which the Buddha told him that he should go to America, that his affinities for establishing Wayplaces to propagate the Dharma were there. So, carrying a simple bag and very little money, he went to the United States alone. The first six years, he stayed in a basement in Chinatown (San Francisco) and nicknamed himself the “Monk in a Grave. When the opportunities ripened in 1968, about forty college students from Seattle came down and requested the Master to teach them the Dharma. The Master started lecturing on the Shurangama Sutra, the representative of the Proper Dharma, and also gave them instruction in meditation. The young Westerners were moved by the Master’s virtue, and five of them decided to leave the home-life with the Master. This marked the beginning of the Sangha in America. The Master was the first person to establish the Triple Jewel in America.
Later the Master founded Gold Mountain Monastery in the Mission District of San Francisco. At that time, the Red Guard Movement in China was at its height and the hippie movement in San Francisco was spreading to the rest of the world. The hippie movement started because the young people were dissatisfied with what the adults said and did. Also, they heard that there were immortals in the Orient endowed with spiritual skills and virtue, living in a paradise out of this world. They travelled all over the world but didn’t find any trace of these immortals. Coming back in disappointment, they met the Venerable Master. They were moved by his virtue and realized that there was an immortal right in San Francisco. They stayed with the Master to learn the Buddha-dharma and its regulations, and some even shaved their heads to become monks and nuns. Thus his followers increased day by day.
Over twenty years ago, photographer Liu Jisheng and his wife immigrated to the United States from Costa Rica. They met the Venerable Master and became his Dharma-protectors. Through Mr. Liu’s introduction, I had the honor to visit the Venerable Master and was asked to do planning for the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and to establish an art academy. Around that time, I contracted a skin disease. During the next three years, I travelled between Taiwan and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas many times and often listened to the Venerable Master’s Dharma talks and lectures on the Sutras. I also had the chance to sit in meditation with the members of the Sangha. The serene religious atmosphere often enabled me to forget the pain of the disease and brought me peace in body and mind. I saw the Venerable Master and his disciples eating plain food, wearing simple clothes, taking only one meal a day at noon, and engaging in other ascetic practices. The American Sangha members were fluent in Chinese, and gentle and at ease in speech and manner, reminding me of Chinese gentlemen of ancient times. I also listened to the Venerable Master talk about his experiences in life. All of this won my admiration. In the process of planning the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the art academy, I came to see the true face of society. Being an artist, I’m basically not skilled at raising funds. After doing a lot of running around, I still couldn’t make this art academy a reality. But what I learned from doing this will stay with me all my life, and for that I am grateful to the Venerable Master.
Recently, friends told me the news that the Venerable Master had completed the stillness. Suddenly I felt totally lost. I was startled that such a high Sanghan of this age would enter Nirvana so soon. I could not help but sigh: The blessings of the living beings in this world are so scarce. They no longer have the affinity to listen to the Venerable Master’s teaching. I reflect upon the conditions of the Master coming to the United States alone. As a monk who didn’t know any English, not only was he able to teach well-educated intellectuals of the West, he was able to establish a monastery in the difficult area of the Mission District. His incredible virtue transformed American hippies into humble and refined Buddhist monks and nuns. He established the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the Dharma Realm Buddhist University, and trained many American Sangha members. Day by day his followers increased and are now all over the world. With his accomplishments, he can hardly be considered on the same level as Dharma Masters who remain in Chinatown to propagate the Dharma.
What’s even more rare is that while the Venerable Master stayed in the United States, he showed constant concern for the people and politics of Taiwan. Despite his declining health, he travelled the long distance between America and Taiwan many times, coming to Taiwan to hold large-scale Dharma Assemblies to Quell Disasters and Protect the Nation. His kindness towards the people of Taiwan was great indeed. Now, suddenly he has left the world. Thinking of his virtue and kindness, I was going to write in detail about my recollections, but because I was tied up by mundane affairs, I could only write this sketchy account in his memory.
June 17, 1995 in Taipei
He manifests in accordance with living beings’ faculties
to show the universal door;
Meeting face to face,
we fail to recognize the Dharma King as our relative.
Saving both those with and without affinities,
His compassionate heart lingers on,
looking for the return of the mind.
──by Venerable Master Hua