The afternoon sun shone on the houses at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The elder Mr. Bai, who is ninety years old, sat in an old chair on the front porch of the house. Calmly and in good spirits he told many stories. The memories of past events which were sealed in his mind came alive. His wife sat quietly at his side, occasionally paying attention to their baby grandson, who was a delight to her. On such an occasion as this, and to have such an encounter with them, I cannot help but feel a sense of being overwhelmed. This elder couple is none other than the Venerable Master’s third elder brother and sister-in-law.
From the mouths of this elder couple we learned that when the Venerable Master was very young, in order to have more time to study, he would often gobble down a few mouthfuls of food and consider himself full. Besides being an astute person, he was also good at doing all sorts of work, such as household chores and field work. There was no type of work he did not take on.
Speaking of the bows he made to his parents, heaven and earth, and the good and bad people, no one knew for how many years he did this─not even his own family members. They didn’t know, because he always did this after everyone had gone to bed and before anyone got up.
When he was practicing filial piety by his mother’s grave, he built a small hut. In order to get inside of the hut, he had to bend his back. Once he started this practice, he didn’t return to his home. He took some rice with him, ate a few grains at a time without cooking them, and considered himself full.
Listening to the elder couples’ heavy northern accent, I tried to paint a mental picture of the time. It was like trying to paint a picture of emptiness. There was nothing I could grasp. The Venerable Master’s firmness, sincerity, and his perseverance were of such a caliber that it cannot be expressed in words; without pursuing these qualities, they fill up everywhere. These two words
“Being True” are the Venerable Master’s precious teaching to us. The ancients pursued the Way with single-minded sincerity and forgot about food and sleep. We never knew that in his early childhood, the Venerable Master had already embodied these.
When students from the University of Berkeley came to visit the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, they also visited with the Venerable Master. They asked the Venerable Master how to concentrate their minds on their studies. The Venerable Master replied,
“One must be single-minded.” The most simple and direct method is to remember the Three Places: on the road, on the toilet, and on the pillow. We have to be able to apply our efforts at any time, and at all places. It is said,
“An inch of time is an inch of life.” He often taught us,
With a single-minded determination, one will have success in whatever is done. Single-minded determination is just ultimate sincerity. It is said,
’When ultimate sincerity is applied, even metal and stone can break apart.’ In everything we do, our minds should be sincere and not be scattered. Our minds should be concentrated, then we’ll have success.
One disciple who had followed the Venerable Master from a very young age said,
The Venerable Master was very strict with his disciples, and his expectations of them were very high. He wanted us to be true in everything that we did. Even if there is a bit of falseness, it won’t work.
How can one be true? The Venerable Master replied,
I’m telling you that in cultivation you have to be true. You can’t be half true. You have to be completely true without the smallest falseness. Off by a hair in the beginning, you will be off by a thousand miles in the end. Being half true will not do, not to mention being completely false. There is no shortcut to becoming a Buddha. You have to truly and actually practice these doors of cultivation.
The Venerable Master also said,
The true mind, true intent, true within true,
True practice, true cultivation, true over true,
True doing, true conduct, add true to true,
Everything, everything, true, true, true.
If your truthfulness has reached the ultimate point, the pure lotus blossoms in your mind will certainly bloom and emit fragrance. Great Master Ou Yi of the Ming Dynasty said,
“People in the world don’t recognize the true. What I dislike is falseness. I admire your honesty which will qualify you to abide in the house of the Vinaya.” In comparing the present time with ancient times, why don’t we learn from the ancient times? Let us exhort ourselves to follow the Good Knowing Advisor’s words and examples, and be Buddhists who pursue ultimate truthfulness. It is said,
“In making a plan for a hundred years, one should aspire to join the ranks of sages and worthies who have endured for thousands of years.” Why should we stupidly and repeatedly make the mistake of
“doing things in a difficult way when there are easier ways of doing things, and seeking the Way in a far-off place when it is right next to us”?
We can get a glimpse of the Venerable Master’s truthfulness by the way he served others. When the Venerable Master was a Shramanera, he would get up in the middle of the cold winter nights to sweep away snow from the walkways, and by the time people got up to do morning recitation, he was already waiting for them. He routinely took it upon himself to clean out the frozen human waste from the pit toilet. With an iron mallet which was heavy and cold, during the winter months he had to pound on the stinking, hard excrement in order to break it down. However, this did not hinder his practice of sincerity in serving others. He often taught us to forget ourselves in order to benefit others. Looking at the above practices, we can know that the Venerable Master had embodied true sincerity. His "tough guy" character from his extreme sincerity can be understood through the following statement:
This time when I went to Asia, many people came to listen to the Dharma being spoken. It wasn’t that I spoke well, but rather what I spoke were true words. I speak only true words, and in whatever I do, I do what is true. With true words and true conduct, I don’t scheme or use tricks in treating people or in doing business. Wherever I am, I will say the things I want to say; I’m not afraid of offending others. Wherever I am, I will not say things I don’t want to say. Under no condition would I tell lies or cheat others.
The sun was still shining down, and Sagely City was still bathing in the golden rays, pure and adorned. Looking up at the boundless sky, the white clouds were leisurely floating by. They gather and disperse. What trace do they leave? The Good Knowing Advisor already spoke of the unspeakable teaching. Without wanting to leave any trace behind, his manifestation was in itself a trace. I don’t know when I can comprehend the Good Knowing Advisor’s wordless compassion, and from within this eternal silence extract wisdom and compassion. When this Three Thousand Great-thousand World Systems shakes again, what startles heaven and earth and causes the ghosts and spirits to wail will still be these words,
“Sparing no blood or sweat, I never stop to rest.”
I’m really lucky to study Buddhism.
Because last life, I planted good seeds,
Now in this life, I’ve met good friends,
And a Good Knowing One to teach me deep wisdom.
I think that I will go to Buddhahood real soon; I hope so.
My Dharma friends and I together will go to perfect enlightenment.
To perfect enlightenment.
──by Venerable Master Hua