The wonder lies in ordinary, trifling affairs.
The deeds and footsteps of a Sage are known by all.
I wandered arduously for seven or eight years
In the vast expanse between the eastern and western shores.
People may exhaust the limit of their vision, yet can find no trace.
Although visitors come in yearning, they find an empty house.
Gods and humans have lost their refuge and are thirsty for his milk.
When can our jade chopsticks reach the royal feast?
When I returned from Mount Wutai, I received a letter inviting me to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. After several complications, I finally got my passport. Then I was suddenly notified by the Religious Affairs Office that I was not allowed to leave the country and had to surrender my passport. With the aid of the Bodhisattvas, I finally made it to the City. This turn of events caused me to decide to stay in the Sagely City permanently. A verse says:
Returning from Wutai, I am filled with joy.
The Venerable Master has invited me to join the heroes.
Flying through the wind, the iron bird brings me across.
The source is sparkling and the water bubbles forth.
The First Meeting
One day, a Bhikshu came in carrying a monk’s bag over his shoulder. He sat down on the bed, and I made obeisance to him.
Then I offered up the presents I had brought. The first was a pack of tea leaves. He said,
“You didn’t come in time. I decided to quit tea yesterday.” From his way of speaking, I knew it was the Venerable Master himself. This made me aware of the Master’s humor.
The second present was a signed photograph of Elder Master Hsu Yun and Master Yingche. I said,
“The Elder Hsu once wrote a letter back to me.” The Venerable Master said,
“It wasn’t written by the Elder Hsu!” I was very shocked. In all these years, I’ve encountered all sorts of difficulties and temptations to sin, but because I took the Elder Master’s letter as my standard, I wasn’t moved and remained as pure and true as before. So I argued,
“It’s the Elder Hsu’s way of speaking. No one else could simulate it.” The Master shot back,
“It was dictated by the Elder Hsu and written by someone else.” His quick response left me without a clue. This allowed me to perceive the Master’s forthrightness.
The third present was a Chinese calligraphy brush. The Master asked,
“Is it the large api type?” I had never heard of that name and didn’t answer. I took out the brush and presented it. The Master said,
“It’s a large api.”
Fourth, I presented two things: a couplet and a vertical scroll.
The vertical scroll was a painting of Amitabha Buddha done by my master in mainland China. The Master said,
“It’s not signed, so I won’t take it.” He accepted the couplet. It is now in the Master’s exhibition room. I had written the couplet two years ago. The Master saw the date and was quite surprised. I said,
“The couplet was written two years ago. I signed it after coming to America. This couplet has an unusual history. When the floor above me caught fire in the place where I was living in the mainland, the fire burned all the paper on the bamboo screen on which the couplet had been pasted, but the couplet was luckily left untouched.” The couplet said,
“Saving living beings with the nine grades, his awesome virtue is inexhaustible.” Someone said that now the couplet is hanging on the second floor of the Translation Institute.
I had finished offering up all the presents. During our conversation, the Master said,
“It was the Association that invited you. I didn’t know about it.” (He was referring to my being invited by Dharma Realm Buddhist Association.) I took out the letter of invitation and pointed out the Master’s signature to him. He didn’t say anything. Finally the Master said,
“The Master visits the disciple for three years, and the disciple visits the Master for three years.” This made me realize that the Master went by the facts and was completely serious. A verse says:
After the first meeting, I studied with him for about six years.
When it was over, he returned to perfection and was nowhere.
Like the winter geese bringing their message, the shadow never
leaves its form.
Like the autumn water without any ripples, he comes and goes
The Master Visits the Disciple
One time, the Venerable Master was lecturing to the Dharma Masters on the men’s side in a small classroom in the Main Administration Building. The Master said,
“Dharma Master Hualai, why are you so hunchbacked? Were you bullied by people?” The Master immediately bestowed aid, but I didn’t take it seriously. Upasaka Guohao said,
“The Master’s aid is not that easy to come by. You should value it.” Master Heng Lyu said,
“Use the wall as your standard. You should practice trying to make your head and back line up straight against the wall.” After several years of hard work, now I can lift my head.
During the class, a layperson gave a bottle of American ginseng to the Venerable Master. The Master immediately passed it to me, saying,
“Dharma Master Hualai, here’s an offering for you.” This made me see that the Master’s kindness is without favoritism.
In my letter to a layperson in mainland China, I mentioned that the Master had criticized me without bringing up my name during his lectures. There were three points of criticism: First, having a messy room. Second, not doing the end-of-meal chant after the noon meal. Third, sneaking a look at nude pictures in a newspaper. This made me realize the Master’s attention to details and patience in teaching.
The Venerable Master also used the class on matching couplets to teach the fourfold assembly:
In cultivation, one must first learn taijiquan and discipline the body and mind. (The Master)
In studying the Way, one must early on recognize the ordinary mind and interfuse movement and stillness. (Hualai)
Guanyin attained perfect penetration through the ear; there is no sound he doesn’t hear. (The Master)
Earth-Upholding’s mind and eyes are bright and penetrating; every piece of ground is pure.
This made me realize the Master’s perfect understanding of the myriad dharmas and the inexhaustibility of his wonderful functioning.