Beside the elevator of the Multi-Commercial Industrial Tower located at 85 Chung-hsiao E. Road, Sec. 6, Taipei, R.O.C., you will see the following scene every day: workers expertly loading Sutra books onto a small cart, which they then push into the busy elevator. Load after load of Buddhist books are transported up to the eleventh floor, and from there they are circulated to Taiwan, the United States, and other parts of the world. In the Buddhahall on the eleventh floor, Dharma Masters are leading the assembly in bowing to the Buddhas and bowing in repentance. This is the Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Association (DRBBDA)─the Taiwan gateway of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, headquartered in the United States. This is the main center for the circulation of the Venerable Master’s Dharma in Chinese. An endless flow of various Buddhist Sutras and the Venerable Master’s instructional talks and tapes comes forth from here.
Although DRBBDA occupies a small area, the sincerity of the devoted Dharma-protecting disciples who admire the Venerable Master’s lofty virtue and conduct pervades the Dharma Realm.
About ten years ago, Ms. Chen, one of the initiators of DRBBDA, read the Venerable Master’s Open Your Eyes and Take a Look at the World (at that time the Venerable Master’s books were not widely circulated in Taiwan) and felt that the Dharma in that book had flowed forth from the Venerable Master’s self-nature. She was deeply moved and had the idea of printing and circulating the Venerable Master’s Dharma. She told her plan to over twenty friends who had been supporters of Xingtian Taoist Temple in Taipei. Most of these friends were lower-middle class, not well-educated, and had poor households. Some of them did janitorial and other menial work. These simple and honest folks had been loyal to the Xingtian Temple, and before they became the Venerable Master’s supporters, they used an oracle to ask Lord Guan if it was okay. After Lord Guan had indicated approval, they supported the orthodox Buddhadharma without worries. This shows that the Venerable Master’s virtue is certainly known beyond the human realm!
Under Ms. Chen’s leadership, everyone pooled their hard-earned savings from scrimping on clothing and food and began the first business of DRBBDA. During the day, Ms. Chen busied herself getting the Sutras printed. In order to cut costs, she proofread the manuscripts herself and travelled back and forth between the printing company and the binding company. In the evenings she worked at the night school. In her spare time she taught the assembly to read the Sutras and understand their meaning. Sometimes she would be so busy that for several days in a row she would only eat mantos (steamed buns) to stave off hunger. In order to pray for successful printing so that the proper Dharma could circulate in Taiwan, each time before a Sutra was printed, she would lead everyone on a bowing pilgrimage at one or two o’clock in the morning. During the bowing, Ms. Chen would bow down, and everyone would have to wait a long, long time before they heard the handbell, signalling people to rise. Everyone knew Ms. Chen was exhausted and no one had the heart to wake her up.
Undaunted by wind and rain, these people went out on the muddy mountain paths to bow for several years like this, relying completely on their faith, sincerity, and perseverance towards the Buddhadharma.
When the conditions ripened, Ms. Chen and others travelled to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in America. When they sought instruction from the Venerable Master, they also sincerely requested the Venerable Master to permit them to establish an association in Taiwan exclusively to circulate the Venerable Master’s Dharma. The Venerable Master kindly assented and bestowed the name
“Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Association.”
On October 26, 1983, Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Association was officially established. The first address was in Song Mountain, Taipei (on the second floor of the home of another one of the initiators). Soon it was moved to Nong-an Road (on the sixth floor of the home of one of the supporters).
“Blazing a trail and founding a business is difficult.” They would go to the market to pick up discarded rope, boxes, paper, or anything else that could be used for printing, packaging, or delivering the Sutras. They picked up whatever they could, and they would even pick up vegetables to stave off their hunger. Their only wish was to cut costs and print a few more Sutras.
Because the sixth floor address had no elevator, it became a big problem to move the Sutras. Whenever a shipment of books was printed, they would all gather together and work cooperatively and pass the books from one person to the next to transport them to the sixth floor. If the printing company didn’t deliver the books at the scheduled time and not everyone was around, it became very difficult. The few people who were on hand would laboriously carry the books from the ground floor to the sixth floor. After the books were packaged on the sixth floor, in order to save postage, many volunteers who were over fifty would carry the books and either walk or ride bikes to personally deliver them to members who lived nearby. Their sincerity moved some passersby, who volunteered to help them make deliveries every month. If they heard of a Dharma Assembly somewhere, they would deliver books to the place. Sometimes, when they were refused, the volunteers would sadly swallow their disappointment.
It was a lot of trouble to move the Sutras from the first floor to the sixth floor, package them, and then move them back down. Later they came up with a new method: As soon as the printer sent the books, they would package them by the stairwell of the first floor and immediately deliver them. However, they had to work quickly, or else they would block the people who were passing by. Several times, dark clouds filled the sky and it looked like a heavy rain was coming. But it would not be until the last minute, after the Sutras had been delivered, that it would suddenly begin to rain continuously. The volunteers thought this was not a casual matter. The gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division were so protective of the Dharma. The volunteers were often moved to tears and became even more sincere in supporting the proper Dharma.
There were over twenty of these pioneers of DRBBDA. Most of them were housewives. Some had never been to school and were illiterate. However,
“the lowliest of people have the highest of wisdom.” They knew they had to follow closely in the footsteps of a great wise advisor of the age─the Venerable Master Hua. At that time, people who wanted to take refuge with the Venerable Master had to memorize the Shurangama Mantra. For this reason, they went to night school to learn to read, and while walking or taking the bus, they would recite the Shurangama Mantra. Even when they felt drowsy, they would remind themselves to quickly recite the Shurangama Mantra. In that way, they forced themselves to memorize the mantra.
Every month, to encourage progress in cultivation, each person would be given a sheet for recording his or her daily amount of recitations of Sutras, mantras, and holy names, and bows to the Buddha (this sheet is still being used today). At the end of every month they would gather in the Way-place to cultivate together and then dedicate the merit. They would also hold sessions for silent recitation of the Great Compassion Mantra or Shurangama Mantra in shifts for seven days and nights without break. Whether they were making a bowing pilgrimage, reciting a mantra, or cultivating alone, they would all use Ms. Chen’s dedication:
1. I dedicate the merit to all living beings of the Dharma Realm, hoping they will leave suffering, attain bliss, and end birth and death.
2. I dedicate the merit to the most honored Venerable Master, hoping he will be healthy, live long, and always remain in the world to turn the great Dharma wheel, teaching more living beings to return to the path of enlightenment.
3. I sincerely pray that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will eradicate my greed, anger, and stupidity so that my wisdom will come forth.
4. May there be many talents in DRBBDA and may the Venerable Master’s proper Dharma circulate in Taiwan without difficulty.
With their spirit of protecting and studying the Dharma with simple honesty and willingness to suffer inordinate hardship, they became the disseminators of the Buddhadharma. They also lit their own lamps of wisdom. Not only can they recite the Shurangama Mantra from memory, they can also recite Sutras and are ever mindful of the Buddha’s name. Some of the volunteers later left the home-life under the Venerable Master, and some of the volunteers have children who left home with the Master.
One of the volunteers, a sixty-six-year old who graduated from high school, thoroughly memorized the first five rolls of the Shurangama Sutra. She can recite it from memory faster than most people can recite it looking at the text. Some people also discovered the secret two-minute formula for getting rid of afflictions and happily dwell within the Buddhadharma. One of the volunteers said,
“Don’t say that you don’t have any response from bowing to the Buddhas or reciting the Buddhas’ name. In fact, your coming to the Way-place to bow to the Buddhas, bow in repentance, and recite Sutras is already the greatest response. You should cherish these good roots.
One time they went to Muzha, Taipei, to make a bowing pilgrimage. On the way home, the bus they were riding in overturned and rolled down the mountain. When one of the volunteers had been bowing, the words
“overturned car” appeared in her mind. She didn’t pay heed to it and continued reciting the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and bowing. Although she was unconscious after the accident, she suffered no external injury because she had been holding her sleeping bag in the bus. Another volunteer had been about to take the bus, but at the last minute her colleague had pulled her off, saying,
“Your health is poor. You can walk with us and get some exercise.” Thus she escaped the danger. The other volunteers who were on the bus also came away without any serious injuries. It could be said that quiet, hard work results in quiet responses.
Alas! In the evil time
Of the Dharma-ending Age,
Living beings’ blessings are slight; it is difficult to train them.
Far indeed from the Sages of the past!
Their deviant views are deep.
Demons are strong, the Dharma is weak;
Many are the wrongs and injuries.
Hearing of the door of the Thus Come One’s Sudden Teaching,
They hate not destroying it as they would smash a tile.
─The Song of Enlightenment by Great Master Yongjia
When DRBBDA was newly established, there were many detracting rumors about the Venerable Master Hua in the Taiwan Buddhist world, and many people misunderstood the Venerable Master. Many of the volunteers were very cautious and nervous as they cleared up people’s misunderstandings, distributed the Buddhist texts, and propagated the proper Dharma. Although the Venerable Master was faraway in America, many of the volunteers could sense the Master’s mindful concern and compassion and had boundless faith in the Master.
The first time they saw the Venerable Master was in 1981. The Venerable Master came to Taiwan to attend the Third International Buddhist Sangha Conference, which was held at the People’s Service Activities Center on Ji-nan Road. Several thousand people filled the auditorium, making it impossible for the volunteers to draw near the Venerable Master. They gazed at the Master from afar and wished in their hearts to take refuge with him. (Lord Guan had indicated through an oracle that they could take refuge with the Master.)
In 1988, the Venerable Master came to Taiwan again to propagate the Dharma. Despite his tight and hectic schedule, the Venerable Master paid a special visit to DRBBDA to see everyone. The disciple who was leading the way wasn’t familiar with the road, and they circled about Nong-an Road without finding DRBBDA. The Venerable Master instructed them to continue searching. When they finally found the place, the Master personally walked up the steps to the sixth floor, where the volunteers were busily moving Sutra books. The Venerable Master’s surprise visit made them speechless with delight: They didn’t realize the Master was so close to them! Although the Venerable Master didn’t say very much, they could feel the Master’s boundless concern and encouragement.
The goal of DRBBDA is to circulate the Proper Dharma, and its members honor the Venerable Master’s six great guidelines: no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuing of personal advantage, and no lying, which were established in order to purify and transform social trends. The development of DRBBDA took place amidst multiple hardships. In the past, the design, printing, and binding of free Buddhist books were not of very high quality. DRBBDA, on the other hand, sought to produce books of high quality design and printing, thus raising the standard of printing quality in the Buddhist world in general.
In 1988, the Venerable Master finally established a Way-place in Hualian, Taiwan, giving the original group of volunteers and incoming workers a dose of happiness. Despite the long distance, they would often go to Hualian to draw near the Sangha. They also hoped the Sangha members would take over the administration of DRBBDA one day. Because conditions were not yet ripe, they themselves were doing it for the time being.
In July of 1990, DRBBDA moved to a slightly larger place on Linshen N. Road in Taipei. Due to the needs of the Dharma-protecting laity, the Association’s function evolved from simple printing of Buddhist texts to providing various services for the propagation of Dharma. For example, it began to publish audio and video tapes for Dharma Realm Buddhist Association in America, and to offer drawing and English classes for children. It also invited the Venerable Master’s left-home disciples to regularly lead repentance ceremonies, give Dharma talks, and support various Dharma-propagation activities of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association. As it began to sponsor more and more Dharma-propagation activities, its importance became increasingly obvious. DRBBDA, which had been managed by laypeople up to now, desperately needed the leadership of the Sangha. Hence DRBBDA officially became a branch of Dharma Realm Buddhist Association of the United States. It had finally joined ranks!
The landlord at Linshen N. Road urgently needed his building back, and so the volunteers again put forth their efforts, forgetting about sleeping and eating as they searched for a permanent location for the Association so that the trouble of having to move all the time could be avoided. Heaven will not disappoint those who are resolved. In March of 1992, they finally had their own home on the eleventh floor at 85 Chung-hsiao E. Road, Sec. 6, Taipei, R.O.C. In the crowded and noisy city of Taipei, it is in a very good setting─with ample light, a panoramic view, and mountains in the distance. Although the space was still too small, it resolved the problem of constant moving. Finally there was a fixed location where everyone could settle down and do their work─printing Sutras, worshipping the Buddhas, bowing in repentance, lecturing on the Sutras and speaking the Dharma, and so on, constantly turning the Dharma wheel.
In January of 1993 when the Venerable Master returned to Taiwan to propagate the Dharma, thirty-eight people at DRBBDA shaved their heads on the same day. DRBBDA became a focus of the Venerable Master’s propagation of Dharma in Taiwan.
Every day at DRBBDA, Sangha members lead the morning and evening ceremonies, the Great Compassion Repentance, the recitation of the Flower Adornment Sutra, and the Sutra lectures. There are classes for children during the weekend. Every month there are regular events such as the Water Repentance on the first and third Sunday, the recitation of the Shurangama Mantra during the second week, and one day of Buddha’s name recitation on the fourth Sunday. There are also special events such as week-long sessions for reciting the names of Amitabha Buddha, Guanyin Bodhisattva, or Earth Store Bodhisattva, and the Jewelled Repentance of the Emperor of Liang. With more and more people hearing about and coming to DRBBDA, it has gradually became a spiritual haven for the Venerable Master’s disciples in Taipei. It has also become more and more flourishing!
Due to the persevering efforts of a group of humble folk who had received little schooling and were commonly regarded as ignorant, a center for the circulation of the proper Dharma was established. This center would disseminate the seeds of Bodhi in Taiwan and the rest of the world, enabling the Venerable Master’s proper Dharma sound to be heard among scholars, farmers, workers, and businessmen. In this society of rampant materialistic desires, the Venerable Master’s proper Dharma is a clear stream that washes the turbid filth from people’s minds and brings a bright purity to society. This clear stream also flows into the prisons, inspiring many prisoners to reform and renew themselves. It was in this way that the pioneers of DRBBDA quietly worked for society, assuming the responsibility for teaching and transforming people’s minds.
“The ancestors planted trees so their descendants could enjoy the shade.” Today, when we read the beautifully printed books of the Venerable Master’s instructional talks and explanations or hear the Venerable Master’s lectures, how can we not appreciate the pains taken by those who came before us? Should we not cherish what they have done and strive to emulate them?