The Venerable Master Hua passed into stillness on June 7, 1995.
About ten thousand sharira (relics) remained after his body was cremated.
When disciples in Taiwan and Hong Kong decided to hold memorial ceremonies
for the Venerable Master, an American delegation went to help host the ceremonies
and took the Master’s sharira with them.
The delegation arrived at the Zhongzheng International Airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan, in the evening of November 9, 1995. More than one hundred disciples were waiting at the airport, dressed in their ceremonial gowns and reciting the Buddha’s name with joined palms. They bowed when they saw Dharma Masters Heng Sure and Heng Tso appear, carrying the Venerable Master’s sharira and portrait.
The Memorial Ceremony for the Venerable Master Hua’s Nirvana, which was jointly organized by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Association (DRBBDA) in Taipei and the memorial delegation from America, was held from November 11 to 13 at the Banqiao Auditorium. The program for the first two days included recitation of the chapter “Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s Conduct and Vows,” the Ceremony for Passing Offerings, the Flower Adornment Repentance, recitation of the Buddha’s name, speeches in praise and recognition of the Venerable Master, and slide presentations. Several hundred slides were shown in six parts during the two days, covering the Venerable Master’s journey from Manchuria to Hong Kong, and then to America, where he propagated the Dharma, directed the translation of Sutras, promoted education, advocated Chinese culture and volunteer teaching, caused Buddhism to flourish, set up an orthodox Sangha, and spread the Dharma to living beings around the globe. The slides also covered the Venerable Master’s Nirvana and cremation ceremonies.
The memorial ceremony proper began on November 13 at 9:00 a.m. Dharma Master Heng Sure presided over the ceremony. There were more than thirty guests of honor, including representatives of Dharma Masters Cheng Yen and Xiao Yun; several advisors to the President of the Republic of China, including Mr. Lin Yanggang, Mr. Huang Zunqiu and his wife, and Mr. Liang Surong; Councilmember Ling of Taiwan provincial government; Professor Yang Yingfeng; Director Qiu and over thirty members of the Hualien County government, and nearly one hundred representatives from the Tzu-chi Foundation.
An article in praise and appreciation of the Venerable Master was read in Chinese and English by two Dharma Masters. Then the assembly sang two songs by the Venerable Master: “To the Ends of Space” and “Turning the Dharma Wheel.” In the Ceremony for Passing Offerings, which lasted for an hour and twenty minutes, 108 kinds of offerings were passed in four lines from the back of the assembly up to the front. Around four thousand people attended the memorial ceremony.
In the afternoon, the public was allowed to view and pay respect to the Venerable Master’s sharira. The guests and disciples first bowed to the Venerable Master’s eighteen vows and listened to a Dharma Master explain the meaning of the vows. The Venerable Master’s sharira are of many colors. Many of them are crystallized onto the bones and are a lustrous bluish green, resembling ancient jade. There are several hundred sharira clusters of various shapes and twelve sharira from the teeth.
The preparatory work for the well-organized memorial ceremony was divided into eleven areas and carried out by more than five hundred volunteers. About a hundred volunteers worked in the kitchen preparing three meals a day for the duration of the event.
Free souvenirs and gifts, such as the two volumes of In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua; photographs of the Venerable Master, his calligraphy, and his sharira; and Sutras and other printed material were distributed.
Dharma Master Heng Sure, the host of the ceremony, praised the Venerable Master for his lifelong practice of altruism and the Bodhisattva path. The Venerable Master offered to living beings the treasury of the Buddhadharma as well as twenty-seven Way-places－including the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Dharma Realm Buddhist University, and the International Translation Institute. The Master also gave his disciples their Dharma bodies and wisdom lives, the pure precept substance, the resolve for enlightenment, and the Dharma-selecting Vision. He taught them to esteem their own spiritual natures and to apply the six guiding principles in their minds. Dharma Master Sure urged everyone to live up to the Venerable Master’s expectations by bringing forth a great resolve for Bodhi.
Presidential Advisor Lin Yanggang spoke of how the Venerable Master had encouraged and instructed him on two special occasions. He praised the Venerable Master’s lifelong contributions to the development of Buddhism and to the culture of humankind, saying that the Venerable Master set a good example for generations to come.
Presidential Advisor Huang Zunqiu, who is also the Chairman of the World Religions Fellowship, called the Venerable Master’s passing into stillness a tremendous loss to Buddhism and to the human race as a whole. There were two things that Advisor Huang
particularly respected about the Venerable Master: (1) The Master’s advocacy of Chinese culture and ethics in his Dharma lectures, in the hope of saving humankind. (2) The Master’s great loyalty to his country and his refusal to change his citizenship despite the inconveniences that it brought. Advisor Huang said that in order to restore today’s contaminated society to a pure and simple state, everyone must follow the six guiding principles and the eight virtues
Presidential Advisor Liang Surong praised the Venerable Master for his pioneering efforts in propagating the Buddhadharma in China, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, and America. The Venerable Master had twice invited him to serve as the Chancellor of Dharma Realm Buddhist University, and after he declined, the Venerable Master still appointed him as the Chairman of the University Board of Directors. Advisor Liang stressed that after the Venerable Master’s passing, his disciples and devoted followers must continue the work of propagating the Dharma and improving education－in particular the expansion and development of Dharma Realm Buddhist University. The best way to remember the Venerable Master is to carry on his mission.
One laywoman whose vegetarian restaurant in Taiwan was not doing well had thought of going to America to open a nonvegetarian restaurant. One night she had a dream in which the Venerable Master told her, “Don’t go to America. On the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth of November, I’ll be having a Dharma assembly at the Banquiao Auditorium. You should go and help out!” She later found out from her friends that there was indeed going to be a Memorial Ceremony there, and so she went to Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Association to volunteer her help in the food service group.
When the delegation was going through customs in Hong Kong, a customs officer asked a delegation member what Buddha was depicted on the portrait he was carrying. As the officer lifted the cloth that covered the portrait, the delegation member told him it was the Venerable Master’s image. The officer gazed at it and remarked, “Your teacher has such a dignified air; he must be a great and virtuous master. And now I have some affinities with Buddhism!”
Several days after the Venerable Master passed into stillness, he comforted a disciple in a dream, saying, “If you believe that I’m gone, then I’m gone. If you believe that I’m still around, then I’m still around!” As the Venerable Master said, “Life is like a play in which living beings are crossed over.”
The memorial delegation left for Hong Kong in the early morning of November 14. The Memorial Ceremony in Hong Kong was organized by the Buddhist Lecture Hall. It was held at the Beijiao Auditorium from the fourteenth through the sixteenth of November.
During the first two evenings, the program began with the Incense Praise and recitation of the Amitabha Sutra and the Buddha’s name. Then disciples spoke of the teachings and inspiration that the Venerable Master had given them. Finally there was a slide presentation. Many old disciples and volunteers organized the program. People from all walks of life came eagerly to view the Venerable Master’s sharira.
The Memorial Ceremony proper began at 9:30 a.m. on November 16. Elder Master Yongxing from Western Monastery presided, and local Dharma Masters played the Dharma instruments and led the ceremony. Twelve Elder Masters from various monasteries attended, including Chuhui, Yongling, Zhikai, Daohai, Xulin, Yizhao, Xuan-yang, Changhuai, Fayun, and Jingzhen. Following the Incense Praise and recitation of the Buddha’s name, Elder Master Yongxing eulogized the Venerable Master’s accomplishments in cultivation.
The Ceremony of Passing Offerings was performed by the Elder Masters and other Sangha members. One hundred and eight dishes of delicacies, incense, fruits, and jewels were passed one by one to the altar in the front. Dharma Master Sure then read the eulogy. The meal offering ceremony began with the Lotus Pool Praise, the recitation of Amitabha Sutra, and the Sangha Jewel Praise. After the transference of merit, Dharma Master Sure thanked the Elder Masters on behalf of the fourfold assembly. After the guests had lunch at a restaurant, the Dharma Masters in the delegation returned to the Buddhist Lecture Hall to speak Dharma for the laity and to do their evening recitation.
The Ceremony in Praise and Recognition of the Venerable Master’s Kindness was held at the Beijiao Auditorium in the evening. The program included a slide presentation and an exhibition of the Venerable Master’s sharira. The disciples in Hong Kong, who had been away from the Venerable Master for over thirty years, could not help but shed tears as they viewed the slides and sharira.
On the first day of the memorial ceremony, Elder Master Yong-xing from the Bodhi Association gave a speech. He recalled meeting the Venerable Master at Nanhua Monastery in Canton in 1948 and spending about a month together. Although they were both from Manchuria, they had not met each other before. In Hong Kong they began to see each other more often. He said that the numerous sharira remaining after cremation are a result of the Venerable Master’s cultivation of precepts, concentration, and wisdom. He also expressed concern that there might be no one to carry on the lineage in the Dharma-ending Age after the Venerable Master’s passing into stillness. He hoped that more laypeople would bring forth the Bodhi resolve, leave the home-life, and protect the Buddhadharma. Left-home people protect Buddhism internally. Without left-home people, Buddhism would become extinct. After studying the Dharma, one should put it into practice; practice and theory should go hand in hand. The Elder Master spoke very sincerely and became choked by sobs several times during his speech.
“It is with tremendous sadness that I host this grand Ceremony of Passing Offerings for the Venerable Master Hua. I knew him for many years. He was truly outstanding in propagating the Dharma and in his own cultivation. In this day and age, the Venerable Master was able to truly practice the precepts; he always wore his precept sash, took one meal a day, and set a good example for the rest of us. He went through many hardships in order to establish a large number of temples and centers. He lectured on the Sutras without rest, determined to turn the Dharma-Ending Age into the Proper Dharma Age. His passing is indeed a great loss to Buddhism. On this occasion, all of you Elders are invited to join in the passing of offerings; we are gathered here to commemorate the Venerable Master. I hope you will not forget the Venerable Master’s wishes, and will take up the responsibility to propagate the Buddhadharma and strictly uphold the precepts in your cultivation.”
During the memorial ceremony proper on November 16, Dharma Master Yongxing said,
At the Beijiao Auditorium, Dharma Master Heng Tso recited the lyrics of “To the Ends of Space”－“Be open and fair, unselfish, and straightforward”－to describe the Venerable Master’s selfless efforts to save living beings. A letter written by the Venerable Master and stating the reasons for establishing the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in America was read during the memorial ceremony. Excerpts are given below:
...I believe that with China’s foundation in moral principles and ethical values, it can produce a sage to lead the world... I wish to spread Chinese culture and the principles of Buddhism throughout the world in order to save mankind... China has survived for thousands of years, because it has a unique cultural foundation based on the virtues of filial piety, fraternal respect, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, and a sense of shame. And Chinese culture takes Buddhist culture as its foundation... Buddhism is part of the Chinese cultural tradition. Instead of building tens of thousands of temples in China, it would be better to build one temple to serve as a base overseas. Buddhism is virtually unknown in America... If a Chinese temple could be built here and Chinese ethics could play a leading role in the world…
On the second day, Dharma Master Heng Yi, the head nun of Hong Kong Buddhist Lecture Hall, led forty-five people, including the members of the delegation, to take the 7:00 a.m. ferry and visit Cixing (Flourishing Kindness) Monastery on Lantao Island. Cixing Monastery is one of the three Way-places set up by the Venerable Master in Hong Kong more than forty years ago. At 1:00 p.m., disciples from Cixing Monastery and the Buddhist Lecture Hall held a ceremony for liberating lives. The ceremony was led by Dharma Master Heng Tso. Nearly a thousand birds, ferried across the straits from Hong Kong in the morning, were set free in the protective light of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as people recited the Great Compassion Mantra.
At seven o’clock in the morning on November 17, some of the members of the delegation visited two elderly nuns, Guo Li (92 years old) and Guo Liang (91 years old) at the Zhilian Hermitage. Both of them had left home with the Venerable Master many years ago in Hong Kong. The old folks’ home at the hermitage accommodates more than two hundred women averaging eighty-seven years of age. The living environment is comfortable, and the elderly are well taken care of.
The delegation’s last stop was Macao, where a memorial ceremony was organized by laypeople from the Earth Store Temple.
The memorial ceremony was held at the Youth Center Performing Arts Theater on November 17. The program began with the Incense Praise and recitation of the Amitabha Sutra and the Buddha’s name. The Master of Ceremonies recounted the history of the establishment of Earth Store Temple. Dharma Master Sure mentioned in his speech that the Venerable Master had advocated using ethics and virtue, rather than spiritual powers, to propagate Buddhism to Westerners, because Westerners are scientifically oriented. Dharma Master Sure encouraged the young Buddhists at the temple to emphasize virtue, to adopt a vegetarian diet, and to practice filial piety.
Another Dharma Master gave a brief account of the Venerable Master’s life in Cantonese, after which the assembly lined up to view the Venerable Master’s sharira. After the transference of merit, there was a slide show that presented many old, documentary materials to the public for the first time. More than five hundred people gathered at the theater to watch the show and to reflect on the Venerable Master’s teachings.
Three Elegies from Hong Kong and Macao
On the manifestation of stillness by the Venerable Master Hua
Over the decades, he propagated the Dharma in China and abroad.
Experiencing all kinds of suffering and hardship,
He established temples and schools, supported the Sangha, and received living beings.
Now his conditions with the world are over, and he has gone back to the West.
In an instant, he left in dignity.
Respected by humans and gods alike,
He observed the precepts and transmitted the scriptures, enlightening the confused ones.
Inexhaustible are his vows; we hope he will come back again.
Yongxing, the Abbot of Western Monastery and the President of the Bodhi Association, leads the assembly in bowing respectfully
Proclaiming and propagating the Buddhadharma, he universally rescued living beings.
Teaching and guiding sentient beings, he was a worthy vessel in the sea of suffering.
In respectful mourning,
Zhikai and others from the Hong Kong Sutra Distribution Center
With the Five Eyes and Six Spiritual Powers, he casts out the mundane sufferings of sentient beings.
In life after life, he cultivates and fundamentally does not depart.
With the Three Bodies and Four Wisdoms, he bestows pure joy upon living beings.
In life after life, he comes back riding on his vows.
(An elegy from the Earth Store Temple in Macao)