The Venerable Master would occasionally tell us that none of us really understood what he was doing. An early teaching we received was when the Venerable Master lectured the Preface to the Flower Adornment Sutra by National Master Qing Liang. He showed us how National Master Qing Liang had taken a classical quotation from the Confucian
Analects as the basis for a portrayal of the inconceivability of the Flower Adornment Sutra. In the
Analects, someone asks Confucius’ disciple Yan Hui what his Master’s state is. Yan Hui replies,
“The more you gaze up at him, the higher he becomes.” To describe the Flower Adornment Sutra, National Master Qing Liang changed the quote to read:
“Too high is it for gazing,” meaning there is no way you can possibly see how high it is.
Another repeated teaching was that
“everything’s a test to see what you will do.” During the forty-nine days after the Venerable Master entered Nirvana, each day I listened to tapes of instructional talks that the Master had given. Since I didn’t have many tapes, I ended up listening to the published tapes of talks by the Venerable Master during Dharma propagation tours, and listening to the same tapes over and over. On those tapes, the Venerable Master tells the story of the philosopher Zhuang Zi returning home and encountering a woman along the road fanning a grave. When Zhuang Zi asked her why she was doing that, the woman replied that the grave was her husband’s. They had been so devoted to each other that she would be embarrassed to remarry before her former husband’s grave was dry, so she was fanning it so it would dry more quickly and she could remarry sooner.
When Zhuang Zi arrived home, he reported the incident to his own wife, who assured him she would never do such a thing. Shortly after, Zhuang Zi fell ill and died, and during the mourning period a handsome young man came to the house wishing to study with Zhuang Zi. Upon learning that the philosopher had died, the young man requested to stay for a while to study Zhuang Zi’s books. Zhuang Zi’s wife became enamored of the young man, but the young man said he could not become involved with her when Zhuang Zi’s coffin was right there in the house. The wife assured him it was no problem, and broke open the coffin to prove it─only to find Zhuang Zi fully alive inside, confronting her with behaving even worse than the lady who had fanned the grave. It had all been a test.
The point of the story is that emotional love is transitory, and the Venerable Master told the story many times on the tours. But I was listening to the same tapes over and over, and when I had heard the story twenty or thirty times in the space of a few weeks, I had to face the fact that there must be a pointed message for me, at least, connected with the Venerable Master’s passing. We have been trained in the Venerable Master’s Dharma like children just learning to read and write, and now the Venerable Master has gone away for a while─to see what we will do. Will we pass the tests, or will we give way to seeking for personal advantages and easy solutions? There are many things to carry on, the significance of which we only dimly perceive. We have had only a glimpse into the Venerable Master’s vision for the propagation of the Buddhadharma. To pass the tests we should be true to the Venerable Master’s vision, grow up in his Dharma, and do our best to assure that the Venerable Master’s teachings remain in the world.
He understands that everything is empty and without a self,
He has kind thoughts for living beings
without ever forsaking them.
He enters the world everywhere and proclaims
A single, subtly wondrous sound of great compassion.
He emits great light of various colors,
Which universally shines upon living beings and eradicates their
Within the light are Bodhisattvas seated upon lotus flowers,
Who for the sake of the multitudes,
Proclaim Dharmas of purity.
Chapter on The Merit and Virtue from First Bringing Forth the Mind, the
Flower Adornment Sutra