Ever since the news of the Venerable Master’s completion of stillness came out, I haven’t been willing to believe that it is true. No, it can’t be real! The Venerable Master must be playing another game with his disciples, testing us to see if we are being lax or lazy.
In a few days, the Master will surely come out of samadhi. I must quickly recite the Buddha’s name, bow to the Buddha, and beg the Master not to go away. For quite a few days, I was lost in a daze, without a goal. When I walked, it didn’t seem like walking. Eating didn’t seem like eating. Reciting the Buddha’s name didn’t seem like reciting the Buddha’s name. I yearned to hear even a little bit of news of the Venerable Master. When the announcement came from Long Beach Sagely Monastery saying that the Venerable Master’s casket would be sent back to the Sagely City, I finally believed the news was real! I was so overcome with grief that I broke down crying in the Buddha Hall.
There had been many opportunities when I could have seen the Venerable Master, but I missed them all, because I didn’t want to disturb him. When the Master was sick, I especially didn’t want him to spend a lot of energy worrying about the affairs of his disciples. It was also because of the karmic hindrances in my own mind that I didn’t go to see the Master. I didn’t realize then that I would never have another chance to bow to and see the Master and listen to his instructions in person.
For many years, from the time I left the home-life until now, I’ve always had an inconquerable fear of seeing the Venerable Master. I don’t know why I felt this way. Other people wanted to meet the Master but seldom had the chance, while I was afraid of meeting him. This was because when the Venerable Master showed up, I was often caught psychologically unprepared. My tears would fall uncontrollably, making me feel very embarrassed. Perhaps this is because I created very deep karmic offenses in the past, and so when I saw the Venerable Master, those deep feelings of regret and guilt would well up all at once! I would remain depressed for a long time afterwards.
Sometimes I really didn’t know how to face the Venerable Master, because he seemed to know the happiness, sadness, and worry in my mind very clearly. In fact, the Venerable Master knew immediately what I was thinking as soon as I thought it:
“Master, wait for me for another twenty years. Wait till I certify to the fruition before you leave, okay?” A few days later the Venerable Master sure enough came back and said he would live to the age of one hundred. I hadn’t realized that the Master was so compassionate, fulfilling my wish even though it was just an idle thought.
You could tell from the Venerable Master’s speech and conduct that he was a very resolute and honest person. The words he spoke were so true that he didn’t care if other people looked down upon him or slandered him. He had the same attitude even towards his disciples. Sometimes he would pick on the minor faults of his disciples in front of the assembly, only wishing for us to become more true in our cultivation. Even if his disciples were very good in their cultivation, he wouldn’t casually praise them, because being satisfied with one’s disciples is the same as being satisfied with oneself.
In order to propagate the Dharma and benefit beings, the Venerable Master would travel around the world, so I was used to not seeing the Master on a regular basis. But this time, the Venerable Master is gone for good. He has left forever.
Master, when you come back riding on your vows, will you still be willing to teach your disciples? Master, I’m such an unfilial and disrespectful disciple. I haven’t been able to truly practice the great Dharma that you propagated.
Master: “There’s no greater
happiness than having known you. / There’s no
greater sadness than being apart from you. / My
affinities with my Master in this life have not
ended yet. / I only hope to create new affinities in
the life to come.”
During the few days of the memorial and cremation ceremonies, it was as hot as a furnace. Despite the oppressive summer heat, the fourfold assembly of disciples still sincerely came from all parts of the world to join the ceremonies and behold the Venerable Master for the last time.
As I gazed at the Venerable Master’s kind visage, I thought,
“That elder one lying in the casket still remembers
to teach us, even at the very end: ‘In cultivation
one must take suffering and be patient. One should
not lose one’s temper. Enduring suffering, one puts
an end to suffering. Enjoying blessings, one uses up
blessings. After the suffering ends, the sweetness
As the Venerable Master’s casket was slowly carried out of the Patriarchs’ Hall, numerous yellow ribbons attached to the back end of the casket were unrolled and given to disciples to hold. Holding the ribbon symbolized carrying the casket. As I grasped the ribbon and walked along behing the Venerable Master, I suddenly realized the profound significance of holding the ribbons. It was telling each of us that there is strength in unity! Seeing my Dharma-brothers with their hands together holding the ribbon, I was deeply touched and couldn’t tell if I was sweating or crying. This spirit of unity will always follow the Venerable Master and always serve to realize the Master’s wishes.
With wide-open eyes I watched as the Venerable Master’s body was placed in the crematory, and as it vanished forever into thin air. Although it was but a stinking skin bag, I found it very difficult to face this cruel fact.
There is no end to the wishes and attachments of living beings. Although we are saddened by the sight of the Venerable Master’s body, regardless of whether or not the Master is physically beside us, we should never forget the Master’s Dharma and his teachings for even a thought.