I consider myself to be in pretty good health. However, at the beginning of the year, sometimes when I recited the Buddha’s holy name, I would suddenly feel a wrenching pain in my heart. At the time I suspected that something was the matter with my heart, and I worried that I might die of a heart spasm. In early July, when the assembly was reciting the Buddha’s name next to the Venerable Master’s body, tears of grief covered my face, and I experienced that same kind of heart pain. Only then did I realize that it was warning me that I was about to lose an unsurpassed guide and teacher and be left without a refuge. Facing that overwhelming sorrow, I couldn’t control my tears. I was afraid I would burst out sobbing like a child, so I quickly left the hall. From then on I didn’t dare to go to No Words Hall to behold the Venerable Master.
I obeyed the Venerable Master’s instructions and recited the Flower Adornment Sutra in the main Buddhahall. At that time I had studied Buddhism for only a short time and had only recited a small portion of the Flower Adornment Sutra before. Although I had a complete set of the Flower Adornment Sutra at home, due to my scant blessings and wisdom, I had never thought to try to read the entire Sutra. This time I had an opportunity that would be hard to encounter in a thousand years. I treated the Sutra recitation as a class, but it was more interesting than ordinary, unimaginative classes. The recitation of Sutras includes singing, reciting, and bowing. There is both a still aspect and a moving aspect. I was especially impressed by the singing of the forty-two syllables of the Flower Adornment Syllabary. At the start, I didn’t understand why the verse said that singing the forty-two syllables could benefit humans and gods. And when it was sung, the sounds were dragged out, and I couldn’t figure out the order. I wasn’t sure of the pronunciation either. After practicing several times, I was singing very joyfully. I never knew I had such a fine voice. I was truly filled with the joy of Dharma. My heart is also filled with gratitude for the painstaking guidance of the cantor and the tips and encouragement from my fellow cultivators over successive days.
From my experience in several retreats last year, I gained a great insight. My perspective on life underwent a major change. I realized that the end of one life is merely the beginning of another life. As the saying goes,
“Everything must be left behind. Only your karma will follow you.” The relationship between cause and effect is not off by a hair. Bowing to the Buddhas is definitely not superstition. Another thing I realized was that given my dull and inferior disposition, I should stay in the Buddhahall and follow the assembly in cultivation.
During the Dharma session this time, as far as my strength would allow, I tried to sleep less, eat less, and talk less; I did my best to wash dishes, pull weeds, tidy up the Buddhahall, and wash the toilets in order to eradicate my karmic obstacles. At first, I kept wanting to rest. In the end, I became more and more energetic. After washing the toilets, I felt like I had shed a layer of skin. It was as if I had rinsed the filth off my body. I felt the Venerable Master was saying,
“The toilet is my face!” Thus, washing the toilet is equivalent to helping the Master wipe his face. How could I be that fortunate! The Venerable Master’s choice of words made me feel so ashamed and afraid. The filthy one and stupid one ought to be me!
During the Ceremony in Praise and Recognition, every word of the cherished instructions of the lofty monks and virtuous laypeople stirred my heart. I had never in my life heard such fine instructions. I was especially impressed when a Dharma Master led the assembly in singing the school song. Why is it that the song which had sounded bad to me before was suddenly so moving? I quickly picked up a Recitation Handbook and began to sing along. Ignorant me, my tears again sprinkled the ground. Truly, everything is made from the mind!
I clearly knew that it was only the Venerable Master’s flesh body burning in the crematory. I kept thinking that the rabbit which came into the Buddhahall to hear us reciting the Sutra and the peacock that was captivated by the slide show were auspicious omens. Then I reminded myself that it was probably just my fantasy. When I beheld the Venerable Master’s visage, however, I was positive about one thing: The Venerable Master is here! During my contemplations, I had always seen an empty shell of a figure. The instant I saw the Venerable Master, I had a very strong feeling─what I had seen in my contemplation was the Master! When we recited the Flower Adornment Sutra, the Venerable Master heard it. When we sang the Flower Adornment Syllabary, the Master also heard it. Even when we were sweeping the grounds under the blazing sun, the Master saw it. This simpleton was no longer sad or lonely! Yet when the casket passed before me, when the fire was about to be lit in the crematory, and when they were about to finish scattering the ashes, I couldn’t repress an overwhelming sense of grief! With tears flowing, I prostrated myself sincerely.
When the Master’s ashes were being carried up into the air by the hot air balloon, I heard the Master say to me,
“It’s fun up here!” At that time, I saw Buddhas and Bodhisattvas hidden in shining bubbles arranged in chessboard formation below the hot air balloon. In the sky there was a large sedan-chair. Giant dragons, phoenixes, and Manchurian cranes appeared to welcome the Venerable Master.
“Master, what are you going to ride in to go back?” I asked. The Master said,
“Ah! A plane would do!” Then I seemed to see the two wings of a plane which was heading southwest. The Master was like a happy child going on a trip.
After the ceremony was over, I felt very peaceful. I looked up and saw a good knowing advisor saying thanks to a volunteer worker. Indeed, aren’t the people who were able to participate in this great Dharma session all living Bodhisattvas? In addition to praising and thanking these living Bodhisattvas who had volunteered to work, I ought to try to emulate them. I immediately expressed my gratitude and admiration to two volunteer workers. But then I thought, was this exploiting conditions? I felt the Master was saying,
“You’ve got to control your mind!”
The Venerable Master hasn’t left us at all! He is everywhere! He is guiding me and the assembly at all times. As we tread the crooked and uneven paths in studying Buddhism, the Master is constantly leading us back onto the proper path when we go astray. There are so many lofty monks, great Dharma Masters, and great Dharma protectors supporting and protecting this Way-place. I am firmly convinced that this Way-place will become better and better. Given the Venerable Master’s great power to gather in and unify people, I am sure there will be faithful and resolute people to carry out the Venerable Master’s vows and carry on the Thus Come One’s mission!
Namo Amitabha Buddha
Five-precepts disciple bows tearfully and joins her palms
On the completion of stillness of my kind teacher the Venerable Master Hua,
I respectfully offer this elegy:
A sagely monk returns to ultimate bliss;
The tolling of the great bell shook up the world.
Without selfishness or ego, he transcended the mundane world.
He bore hunger and toil in order to aid living beings.
At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, he proclaimed the wonderful Dharma.
In the great thousand worlds, he journeyed through the clouds.
His cremation yielded thousands of sharira.
His water of virtue and light of compassion are as bright as the moon.
Disciple of the Triple Jewel, Upasaka Miao Guo (Ying Guojun) bows in respect
October 7, 1995