The body of the Venerable Master Hua was cremated on July 28, 1995, at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in northern California. More than two thousand devotees from around the world watched mournfully as the blue flames rose higher inside the crematory. Although the Venerable Master’s flesh body was cremated, his spirit of not seeking any benefit for himself and wishing only to bring peace and happiness to living beings will remain forever in the hearts of all Buddhist disciples.
At seven o’clock in the morning on July 28, Elder Masters from both Theravada and Mahayana traditions hosted a ceremony for inviting the Venerable Master from the Nirvana Hall to the Patriarchs’ Hall in front of the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The Venerable Master Hua was the Ninth Patriarch of the Weiyang Sect of Chan Buddhism. The two thousand and some followers from the United States, Canada, and various Asian and European countries, including many of the Venerable Master’s American disciples, put down their work and business in order to come to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to take part in the Memorial and Cremation Ceremonies for the Venerable Master.
The Memorial Ceremony itself began at eight-thirty in the morning. Dharma Master Mingyang, the Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Buddhist Association in mainland China, started off by reading a telegram of condolence from the Chairman of the Association, Zhao Puchu.
Dharma Master Xulang, Abbot of Miaofa Temple in the United States, followed with a speech in which he pointed out that the Venerable Master Hua had not spared any effort in propagating the proper Dharma in America. He also said that it was not easy for a Chinese to come to the United States and found a monastery, much less over twenty monasteries.
The Cambodian Dharma Master Dharmawara, who is 107 years old, compared the Venerable Master’s completion of stillness to the falling of a great star, but pointed out that the falling of this great star will make room for a new one.
Venerable Ajahn Sumedho, who is the most senior Western monk (ordained for twenty-nine years), currently oversees four monasteries in England. He practiced ascetism for many years in Thailand as a young man. When the Venerable Master Hua was alive, he often encouraged his disciples to learn Ajahn Sumedho’s spirit in ascetic cultivation. Ajahn Sumedho pointed out that the Venerable Master Hua had brought the proper Dharma to the West from far away, and that this pure Dharma was eternally real, unborn and undying. Ajahn Sumedho offered his deepest respects to the Venerable Master on behalf of Westerners, including people of America and Europe.
Professor John Tsu of John F. Kennedy University read letters of condolence from George Bush, former President of the United States, and Pete Wilson, Governor of California. Following that, Fu Di, the Deputy Director of the San Francisco branch of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office read telegrams of condolence sent by Lin Yanggang, Advisor to the President of the Republic of China, and by Wu Boxiong, Executive Secretary to the President. Deputy Director Fu Di was accompanied by the Supervisor of the Office, Liao Gangming.
Frank McMichael, the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Mendocino County, where the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is located, has attended many of the Dharma assemblies held at the Sagely City. This time he especially visited the Sagely City to offer his respects to the Venerable Master by attending the cremation ceremony. Congressman Frank Riggs, who represents California in the U.S. Congress, sent Darrell Shull to speak on his behalf, saying that Mendocino County and neighboring areas owe their progress in part to the Venerable Master Hua’s presence here. Congressman Riggs is also on the Memorial Committee in Honor of the Venerable Master Hua.
At 9:40 in the morning, the Ceremony for Passing Offerings was held. One hundred and eight offerings were passed from hand to hand among the two thousand and some devotees. This was the final offering to the Venerable Master by his disciples before the cremation.
The Cremation Ceremony began at one o’clock in the afternoon. The Venerable Master’s disciples and people from all walks of life, over two thousand in all, lined up and walked into the Patriarchs’ Hall one by one to gaze upon the Venerable Master’s visage for the final time. At three o’clock, the Venerable Master’s casket was carried to the cremation site by a procession of over two thousand people. At 4:20, as the assembly sincerely recited the name of the Buddha, Dharma Master Mingyang
lifted the torch, recited a verse, and then shouted,
“Light the fire!” The Venerable Master’s disciples knelt and bowed, bidding farewell to their spiritual teacher.
The Venerable Master Hua’s ashes were scattered in the air over the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas from a hot air balloon on the morning of July 29. This was in accord with the Venerable Master’s final instructions:
“When I came, I did not have anything at all. When I
leave, I still will not have anything. I do not want
to leave any traces in the world.”
Although the Venerable Master did not want to leave any traces in the world, by propagating the Buddhadharma in the West, translating the Buddhist canon, and founding schools, he has influenced countless Westerners and sowed the seeds of Bodhi (enlightenment). These are already traces that will never perish. Dr. Ron Epstein, a professor in the Philosophy Department of San Francisco State University and one of the Venerable Master’s senior American disciples, aptly said,
“Even though the majority of the Venerable Master’s
disciples are Chinese, the people of the future will
probably remember him for his work to bring Buddhism
to the West.”