“I don’t want anything that’s got conditions tied to it!” The Venerable Master’s firm voice came over the long distance wire.
“I don’t do business. When I cure someone’s illness, if they get well, that’s their business. It has nothing to do with me!” A few years ago, a layperson, upon observing how difficult it was for the Master to propagate the Dharma in the West, wanted me to tell the Master that the wife of a businessman named Wong Yongqing had an incurable eye illness and that if the Master would cure the wife’s illness, that the layperson would encourage the businessman to support the Master. However, the Venerable Master’s answer reassured this disciple and made her feel even more fortunate to be able to always follow such a pure and undefiled Good and Wise Advisor to cultivate.
His entire life, the Venerable Master used effort in the mundane world to do things in an unconditioned way. Everything he did was without appearances and without hindrance. The Elder Master never had a motive in what he did. He didn’t make deals and he didn’t do business. He brought a cool breeze into the Dharma-ending Age. Based on the Venerable Master’s ability, if he did business he could be a magnate and amass more than the national wealth, but he didn’t want to. Although he was materially poor, spiritually he was not. As far as the Venerable Master was concerned, worldly wealth was like a floating cloud. He preferred to give all living beings the infinite merit and virtue of Dharma wealth. The Venerable Master spoke the truth, was not afraid of offending people, did not fear cutting off financial resources, and was not afraid of there being no offerings. Why? The Elder Master said:
“We should give people proper principles.” As left-home people, this is a very important principle and so we should hold to proper knowledge and views. In that way we won’t be like the blind leading the blind, misleading living beings. In the Venerable Master’s limitless, boundless compassionate mind, everything is done
“only with the hope that all living beings will leave suffering.” He never sought peace and happiness for himself.
In the Venerable Master’s mind, there’s no thought of fame, profit or offerings. He has no self. Holding to true principle, there’s nothing he won’t do to benefit living beings. The Venerable Master said,
“If I were to have even a hair’s worth of selfishness, I would willingly fall into the hells.” When beings have difficulties or illnesses, the Venerable Master will give up his life to save them; he will suffer on behalf of living beings, but will never take care of himself when he is sick.
“I won’t help myself.”
On February 8 of this year I had the good fortune of being able to see our kind teacher. At that time one of the Master’s hands and one of his feet were small and thin. But his face was full of kindness; his eyes were bright; his energy was stable and his spirit steady. His wisdom was astute and his intelligence keen─just
as usual. It’s hard to imagine how a person’s
physical and mental condition could be so
different. During the Venerable Master’s patient
instructions on that day, he said: “You don’t
know that during the war between Iran and Iraq,
although I was sick, I was there at the battle
“Did the Venerable Master’s spirit go there?”
“It was a real war! In the midst of the troops, I went about saving people. At that time so-and-so was following me. I told her not to follow. She was crying and didn’t have enough skill. She would have been killed.”
For the past several years, what this disciple saw was a Venerable Master who was manifesting illness. Sometimes it’s been hard to avoid muttering to myself. The chances of personally getting to hear the Venerable Master’s instructions grew fewer and fewer. How would I know that the Master is actually taking on living beings’ sufferings? When the news of the Venerable Master’s Nirvana came, immediately one layperson sobbed and said that she had dreamed of a Bodhisattva who is one of the Master’s fellow cultivators telling her,
“Your teacher is carrying too heavy a burden of
living beings’ karma and so he is leaving.”
The eyes of ordinary people are limited, and we cannot see the things that transcend time and space. But the Venerable Master, who spent his entire life propagating the great Dharma of the Shurangama, when explaining the Shurangama Mantra, told us very clearly that behind every sickness is a ghost. Ten years ago, my father, Heng Wei Shi, developed cancer of the spine. The Venerable Master told this disciple,
“Tell him to come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and he will gradually get better.” Eventually he did get better and lived for ten more years. At the end of his life there was an auspicious sign, and he was born in the Western Pure Land. Before, I didn’t understand why Heng Wei Shi got better when he came to be near the Master. Now I suddenly understand. Basically the Master took away his sickness ghost. In the same way, whether an illness or a disaster, there will be a negative energy behind it. We are always wanting the Master to aid us and to eradicate our karmic obstacles. How can we know how much suffering the Master is undergoing on our behalf!
Even less can we know how many beings the Master is imperceptibly helping. One family was plagued with disasters every year until the Master went to Taiwan to propagate the Dharma. The mother and daughter came to join the Dharma assembly, but never had a chance even to bow before the Master. Yet when they returned, the household was peaceful thereafter. There’s absolutely no way to repay the Master’s kindness. Other things like this, such as, on a large scale, to quell the natural disasters, man-made calamities, and wars of a country and its citizens; on a small scale, to dispel dangers, difficulties, and illnesses of families and individuals. No one can really know how much the Master has done. Nor did he claim credit, and he rarely let anyone know.
Now that the Master has gone, shouldn’t each of us reflect and consider ultimately how much trouble we brought to the Venerable Master? As long as we are not cultivating precepts, samadhi, and wisdom; do not put to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity; are lax and indulgent, how much karma are we letting the Master take on?