Everyone knows that one of Venerable Master’s vows is that wherever he goes, that place will be peaceful and without trouble. Once he leaves the place, it is another matter. When the Venerable Master arrived in America, his first task was to pray for blessings on behalf of the country and people who had given him an opportunity to propagate the Dharma for the benefit of living beings.
The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in 1962. The American government discovered that the Soviets were secretly building missile bases in Cuba. Since the island of Cuba was located in the Caribbean Sea, right at the
“back door” of the United States, the Soviet move was a serious threat to U.S. security. President Kennedy took immediate action by deploying the U.S. Navy and Air Force to stop delivery of all offensive military weapons to Cuba. He was also considering an attack on Cuba. People all over America were very worried and feared that a major war would break out. A nuclear war would result in countless casualties. In September of that year, less than six months after the Venerable Master had arrived in America, he suddenly announced to the assembly that he would embark on a five-week fast in order to pray for world peace and to eradicate the disasters and hardships of the people.
Unexpectedly, just as the U.S. was preparing to deploy the troops, the Soviet Union suddenly agreed to negotiate. On October 28, President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev successfully reached an agreement in their negotiations. On November 2, President Kennedy announced that the Soviet missile bases in Cuba were being dismantled.
During the Venerable Master’s fast, he was often accompanied by two boys aged thirteen to fourteen. Their names were Jimmy Wong and Kim Lee. Jimmy recalls,
“At first the Venerable Master drank a glass of water every
day. In the last two weeks, the Master didn’t drink a single
drop, yet he continued speaking the Dharma without taking a
rest. How could an ordinary person have taken that?”
At the end of that year, the Venerable Master fasted for another five weeks. Later on he fasted three more times. Two of the fasts were two-weeks long each, and the other fast was for one week. In 1963 the Master went to Honolulu and fasted for two weeks at Tanhua Monastery. Altogether he undertook seventeen weeks of fasting to pray for world peace and to help Americans avert war.
On July 25, 1963, Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union signed a limited nuclear test-ban treaty. Everyone praised President Kennedy for his heroic and decisive action, which had intimidated the Soviets and resolved the crisis. Only those with wise discernment could see the hidden response of cause and effect. As always, the Venerable Master had quietly endured hunger and suffering in order to resolve the crises of living beings!
In limitless and boundless worlds throughout the ten directions,
I shall rescue and protect all living beings, without renouncing them.
This is the path practiced by the fearless one.
─Ten Conducts Chapter, the Flower Adornment Sutra
Leland Eagleson, an American disciple of the Venerable Master, wrote an essay in which he said,
“There is one thing that is difficult to understand: the
conjunction of the Venerable Master’s fast for world peace
and the defusing of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In my mind the
connection is clear: Heaven responded to sincerity.”
Layman Leland Eagleson also wrote a poem to convey his understanding of the mystery:
The world hung by a slender thread,
Evoking a Sage’s deep concern.
Heaven and Earth moved in response
To great and compassionate vows,
Quelling war’s forces, stilling man’s fears;
Saving the world for all living beings:
Living and not yet born,
Left free to choose their lives.
We disciples must understand
The depth of the debt we owe to
The greatly compassionate one.
How can we not offer up our lives
That once were nearly forfeited?
How can we not offer up good conduct
In homage to the chance freely given?