I'm like a road that all living beings can walk on
to reach supreme Bodhi and the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
All of you who have come to attend the Memorial Ceremony in Praise and Recognition of the Venerable Master Hua's Kindness have probably been drawn here by the Master's eighteen great vows, just as iron filings are drawn to a magnet.
Some people said the Master was a Bodhisattva who came to the world on his vows, but the Master firmly denied this. He said,
I'm just like a tiny ant, mosquito, or a horse. I'm like a road that all Buddhists, the followers of all religions, and all living beings can walk on to reach supreme Bodhi and the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
This statement reveals the Master's spirit. Everyone think for a moment: If the Master really is a Bodhisattva, how can we tell?
Bodhisattvas practice the six perfections and the myriad conducts. The first perfection, as you all know, is giving. There are three kinds: the giving of wealth, of fearlessness, and, the highest kind, of Dharma. Let's take a look at the Master's conduct. From the very first day I met him until he finally left the world, the Master gave constantly. He paid tuition for students who couldn't afford it, donated Sutras to libraries lacking them, and started schools for people who had no opportunity to study. He practiced giving to perfection.
He gave blessings to every disciple and every faithful follower. In what way? The Master founded the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the International Translation Institute, and twenty-seven branch temples. He gave us the precious storehouse of Buddhadharma, the pure precepts that protect our Dharma body and wisdom life, and our great resolves for Bodhi.
He also gave us Dharma-selecting vision, the ability to distinguish between proper and deviant, so that we would be able to follow the ultimate truth of the Middle Way and not go astray, or encounter demonic or karmic obstacles. The Venerable Master transmitted the path of the ancients, the "ultimate truth of the Middle Way," to us, and yet he never expected anyone to thank him.
For those of us who left the home-life and practiced under his guidance, the Master purified our minds of defilement. The Master gave to the world the six guiding principles－no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuit of personal gain, and no lying. These principles are the Mind Ground Dharma-door; they can make our minds pure and bright. Such is the perfection of giving practiced by
Bodhisattvas. The Master gave to each of us the Dharma-door we like to practice, enabling us to plant blessings, merit, and virtue. All we have to do is accept this gift with open arms.
Once, taking advantage of a spare moment, I requested instruction from the Master. The Master said in surprise,
You're seeking instruction too? Don't seek outside, not even the slightest bit. When you can finally stop seeking, you'll be liberated. 'When you reach the place of no seeking, there are no worries.' That's enough!
Then he smiled and added,
I have come to this country, or you could say to this world, hoping that someone will bring forth a great Bodhi resolve. When that happens, I will have achieved my aim.
On the day that each of you brings forth a great Bodhi resolve, you will have fulfilled the Master's aim in giving from his heart.
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Using Virtue to Convert People and
Propagate the Dharma in the West
Most people are drawn by the stories of the Venerable Master's miraculous responses and extraordinary powers. But the Master told us,
In the West, we should not speak of spiritual powers, because most people are educated in the scientific tradition and if you tell them about things that they cannot see or hear, they won’t believe you. What should the emphasis be on? Virtue. We have to teach virtue in the West, and there were be a response in their hearts.
And so in America, the subject of superhuman spiritual powers is seldom discussed. Tonight I'd like to share an experience which shows how virtue can influence people.
I was on the road for nearly three years, making a pilgrimage to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. When I reached the City, I continued to hold a vow of silence. Since I did not speak, or read or write letters, I completely cut off all contact with my parents and relatives. I feared that my mother was at home worrying that her son had beenbrainwashed by some cult, for there were rumors going around that the Master had kidnapped his American disciples and was giving them drugs. Little did she know that I had shaved my head and stopped speaking because I had been touched by the Venerable Master's cultivation and wanted to diligently work on my practice. My mother probably thought she'd lost her son; she had no idea of what leaving the home-life to join the Sangha was all about.
So, when I reached the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, my mother was determined to visit me and see what kind of freak her son had become.
I remember very clearly that my mother came quite late in the evening, when it was already dark. When I went to the office (of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas), someone said, "Hey, guess what? Your mother's here!" Still holding a vow of silence, I went in to take a look. My mother had been crying, judging from her tear-streaked face. The Master was speaking to her and holding her hand, consoling her and telling her in English, "Don't cry." Although he didn't know English, he was speaking to her in English, without relying on a translator. When he saw me, he said, "There's no need for you to be here. I can take care of this." Strange! Although my mother looked slightly scared, there was something else on her face－an expression of reverence. I left the office. Since I was involved in a Dharma session a few days later, I didn't get to see my mother again, and she went home.
After a couple of years, when my vow of silence was over, I began to speak again. At that time, the Master invited my mother to come celebrate her fiftieth birthday at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. He said it was the first time a Bhikshu's mother had been invited to celebrate her birthday in a monastery. The Master asked all the girls in Instilling Goodness Elementary School to make cards for Guanyin Bodhisattva's Birthday for my mother. That day, my mother received over thirty birthday cards with pictures, couplets, and short verses of Guanyin Bodhisattva drawn and written by the little girls. She was very touched and said, "Why, I know who Guanyin Bodhisattva is!" When the Master invited her to speak to the assembly, she said, "All of you monks and nuns should know that your elderly Master is a very wise person. He gave me a string of recitation beads and told me to recite, 'Namo Guanshiyin Bodhisattva,' and that's what I've done."
Afterwards, my mother related what had happened the first day. "You know, I was very scared the first time I came to the City. I thought they might have drugged my tea, and that if I drank it I might also become bald like you. When I got here, I just started crying. Then your Master came out and shook hands with me. Although I was very nervous, deep down in my heart I seemed to understand what the Master was saying to me. Then the Master invited me to sit in his golfcart (which he drove around the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas because the place was so big). That evening, he looked straight at me and said,
You should be happy you have a Bhikshu for a son. Your son has followed me for life after life. You haven't lost a son; you've gained a monk. You should be grateful. Your son will have many things to do.
What do you think he meant by this?"
I didn't understand either. But if the Master wasn't using virtue to influence my mother, then what was he using? Not spiritual powers, that's for sure. He was using plain sincerity. My mother, a Christian, had already stepped onto the Buddha path that day. She even recited "Namo Guanshiyin Bodhisattva" and had recitation beads.
There's a couplet about the Venerable Master which describes his spirit in propagating the Dharma to benefit living beings, be it in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or America. It goes:
His kindness and compassion cross over all;
Believers are liberated and perfect
the Right Enlightenment.
Transforming beings wherever he goes,
his spirit remains intact;
Those who venerate him obtain blessings and awaken
to the Unproduced.