What a great shock it was that morning when I had finished bowing the Great Compassion Mantra at Gold Summit Monastery and a Dharma brother told me the Venerable Master had completed the stillness. I forced myself to remain calm and held back the feelings of grief, because I knew that when a lofty monk completes the stillness, one cannot be sad. Yet this news kept spinning around in my head. When I thought of how I had taken refuge with the Master only seven months before and didn’t have the affinity to see the Master even once, I was extremely bereaved and depressed.
I already knew the Venerable Master was gravely ill when I attended the Venerable Master’s Birthday Celebration at Long Beach Sagely Monastery last year. I wondered how I could share the Master’s burden. Ever since I began studying Buddhism, I have bowed to the Buddha and recited the Buddha’s name every morning and evening at home. So when I bowed to the Buddha, I prayed to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva to keep the Master in good health so that he could dwell long in the world. I did that for over a month. A few days before I found out about the Master’s completion of stillness, I suddenly felt that the Master didn’t need me to pray anymore, so I stopped. As it turned out, the Master was about to leave! That’s why I felt there was no need to pray anymore. The Master was bearing suffering for living beings, and I, his stupid disciple, was foolish enough to beg the Bodhisattva to lighten his burden. Well, no matter what, I did it. As the Master often says in English,
“Try your best!”
I lived for sixty-some years without understanding anything about the Buddhadharma or Sutras. I knew only about Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha. It was only when my good friend mentioned that one could learn meditation at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas last year, after my retirement, that I created affinities with Buddhism. When I went to visit the Sagely City, there happened to be a Three-day Chan Meditation Session going on. The conditions were probably ripe! My first experience with meditation was unspeakably painful. It was like sitting on a pincushion. I struggled for two or three sitting periods before admitting defeat. The second day, a Dharma Master taught us some warm-up exercises. Again, I endured the pain and managed to sit in full lotus for one hour. When I returned to Seattle, I battled with my legs every day, determined to bear the pain and pay for my offenses. One day when I was meditating at Gold Summit Sagely Monastery, a Dharma Master noticed that my left leg was on top when I sat in full lotus, and he told me that the Master sat with his right leg on top. I started over, and after several weeks of bitter struggle, I could finally sit for one hour.
From the Venerable Master’s instructional talks, I learned that if one can constantly maintain the resolve to uphold the precepts, practice giving, be patient under insult, and be vigorous, and if one can constantly contemplate one’s own mind, then one will gradually extinguish such bad habits as greed, anger, and stupidity. Moreover, there will be a lot less pain when one meditates. The Master also said that ordinary living beings are attached to their bodies, and he used the analogy of a house:
’I’ live in the house, but the house cannot be said to be
’me’! The understanding, enlightened self-nature is what is real. Once we destroy the mark of self, the form skandha will be empty. Hence, even though the Master has completed the stillness, the Dharma he has given us is eternal! The Venerable Master’s Dharma will remain forever in our minds. The Master’s words are a bright lamp lighting up the path of cultivation for his disciples. We will remember and be grateful forever and ever...
“Form does not differ from emptiness”: “is” is like “is not.”
“Emptiness does not differ from form”:
the distinction is of substance and function.
“Form itself is emptiness”: its true source is fathomed.
“Emptiness itself is form”: the false flow has dried up.
Mountains, rivers, and the great earth are only
manifestations of consciousness.
“Dream, illusion, bubble, shadow”─so it is!
Be careful not to seek outside; maintain the Middle way.
To cast down stained threads of cause is to come toward the Thus.
From the Venerable Master Hua’s Verses without a Stand for the Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra