When the news of the Venerable Master’s completion of stillness arrived in mid-June, it was like a peal of thunder in the blue skies to the fourfold assembly of disciples. Living beings did not have sufficient blessings to see the Venerable Master live to be a hundred and then burn his entire body as an offering to the Buddhas. This great Good Knowing Advisor of modern times has left us.
Although the Venerable Master has gone, we should transform our grief into strength. We should carefully think: Which things did the Master keep reminding us to practice without changing? Which resolves did the Master already start to carry out but did not completely realize? These are all goals towards which we should continue to strive. I offer the following points that I have thought of for everyone to consider:
1. We should carry out well the task of translating the Buddhist scriptures. The Venerable Master came to the West to propagate the Buddhadharma because he hoped to translate the Buddhist canon into English and all other languages of world, so that people around the globe would have the opportunity to study the Buddhadharma. The work of translating the Buddhist canon is not restricted to left-home people. While left-home people should be the main strength, laypeople can also contribute according to their ability, making a monthly or quarterly donation to the International Translation Institute in Burlingame. Those with manpower can contribute their strength, and those with money can make a financial contribution to enable this holy work to continue.
2. During the last few years when the Venerable Master was bedridden with illness, there have been many incidents at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. I believe these incidents were all tests that the Venerable Master gave his disciples. Even though his disciples didn’t pass the test then, in the future everyone must take the teachings from these tests and practice without deviating from them. These teachings include: wearing the precept sash, eating one meal a day at noon, the six great principles and other special traditions of the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and the principle of
“relying on the Dharma, not on an individual.”
3. Recite the Shurangama Mantra without fail every day. The Venerable Master emphasized the importance of the Shurangama Sutra and the Shurangama Mantra over and over. The Venerable Master said,
“When the Dharma perishes, the Shurangama Mantra will be the first to disappear; that is, the Shurangama Sutra will be the first Sutra to go. At that point the demons, ghosts, goblins, and weird creatures will thrive in the world and be able to do as they please... Therefore, I propose that every Buddhist should recite the Shurangama Mantra every day and become so familiar with it that they can recite it from memory. This is to protect the Proper Dharma from extinction, to keep the Proper Dharma in the world.” Venerable Master Chan of Lianyin Monastery also said,
“Laypeople who recite the Shurangama Mantra are simply left-home people with hair.” When one is not familiar with the Shurangama Mantra, it may take twenty minutes to recite. If one is very familiar with it and doesn’t use any Dharma instruments, it only takes four or five minutes. If laypeople do not use Dharma instruments during the morning ceremony, then they probably need only ten minutes to recite the Shurangama Mantra, the Great Compasion Mantra, and the Ten Small Mantras. If they also recite the Heart Sutra, the Ten Great Kings of Vows, and the Buddha’s name, they will not be too far from the standard morning ceremony of large monasteries.
The Venerable Master Hsu Yun said,
“If one recites the Shurangama Mantra every day, one will have great wealth and honor in the next seven lives.” We are reciting the Shurangama Mantra not for the sake of blessings in our next life, but for the sake of allowing the Proper Dharma to stay in the world. I hope everyone can make a vow like this:
“I vow that in life after life, no matter what world I am born in, if the Shurangama Sutra and the Shurangama Mantra exist in that world, I will study the Shurangama Sutra and recite the Shurangama Mantra every day.” The Venerable Master also pointed out that it is worth our while to carefully study certain sections of the Shurangama Sutra, such as the Twenty-five Sages Describing Their Perfect Penetrations, the Four Clear Instructions on Purity, and the Fifty Skandha Demon States.
4. Before the Venerable Master completed the stillness, he indicated that we could recite the Flower Adornment Sutra for seven days or for forty-nine days. This shows how highly the Venerable Master regards the Flower Adornment Sutra. Not only should we recite it for forty-nine days. After those forty-nine days, we should study the Flower Adornment Sutra well when we have the time. I am sure we will find it worthwhile to listen to, reflect on, and cultivate the Flower Adornment Sutra, which is known as the King of Sutras and the Gold Wheel King.
5. We should continue to support the educational and ethical activities that the Venerable Master promoted. This includes observing the Celebration for Respecting Elders and Cherishing the Young, and supporting Instilling Goodness Elementary School and Developing Virtue Secondary School. Laypeople should emphasize the ethical education of children and make sure their own children are not avidly pursuing fame and profit. If they have time, they can teach their children the
“Rules for Being a Student” used at the Sagely City, or enroll their children in Instilling Goodness Elementary School and Developing Virtue Secondary School.
I also had a personal feeling when the Venerable Master went to Taiwan to propagate the Dharma. After the Venerable Master had finished his talk, a number of people spoke of their illnesses and troubles and requested the Master to bestow aid upon them and dispel the calamities. The Venerable Master almost always said,
“Pray to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva (the Bodhisattva who contemplates of the world’s sounds),” or
“Pray for aid from Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.” Later the Venerable Master added,
“As long as you pray sincerely, you’ll definitely receive a response.” If people who study Buddhism encounter difficulties in their lives, all they have to do is sincerely pray by reciting the names of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. They may recite Amitabha Buddha’s name, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s name, or Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name. As long as they pray and recite sincerely, the calamities and difficulties will disappear.
In the Flower Adornment Sutra’s Chapter on the Conduct and Vows of Universal Worthy, there is a passage describing the tenth great vow:
Moreover, Good Man, to universally transfer all merit and virtue is explained like this: All of the merit and virtue, from the first vow, to worship and respect, up to and including the vow to constantly accord, I universally transfer to all living beings throughout the Dharma Realm and to the limits of empty space. I vow that all living beings will be constantly peaceful and happy, without sickness or suffering. I vow that no one will succeed in doing any evil, but that all will quickly perfect their cultivation of good karma. I vow to close the doors to the evil destinies and open the right paths of humans, gods, and Nirvana. I will stand in for beings and receive all the extremely severe fruits of suffering which they bring on with their evil karma. I will liberate all these beings and ultimately bring them to accomplish unsurpassed Bodhi...
The twelfth of the Venerable Master’s eighteen great vows says,
“I vow to fully take upon myself all the sufferings and hardships of all the living beings in the Dharma Realm.” The Venerable Master can be said to have fully put into practice the vow
“to universally transfer all merit and virtue” among the Ten Great Kings of Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva.
The Venerable Master has already left. Above our feelings of grief, we should follow the Master’s earnest teachings, carry out the missions that the Master did not finish, and cause the Buddhadharma and the Venerable Master’s ideals to flourish. Then we will not have been ungrateful for the Venerable Master’s painstaking teaching. It is as the verse says,
“The Bodhisattva is like a clear and cool moon constantly travelling in ultimate space. In order to fulfill vows made over many eons, he energetically advances on his way.” This is the portrayal of the Venerable Master. Chan Master Laiguo of Gaomin Monastery in Yangzhou, Nongsuo, in the early years of the Republic of China, made forty-eight vows every morning and evening. The first three vows were:
“I hope the Proper Dharma will remain for a long time and not be attacked by demons. I also hope more Buddhas
and Bodhisattvas will not renounce their vast
kindness and will follow their vows to come back and
teach living beings.”
The Gatha of Speaking Dharma
The wondrous principles of the Buddhadharma are basically unspeakable.
After awakening a single word is too much.
It’s only because living beings have deep confusion,
That they are spoken as skillful expedients.
──by Venerable Master Hua