His energy, his spirit and his teachings will never, ever disappear.
Many of the Venerable Master’s disciples have experienced various kinds of responses. Personally, I haven’t had any unusual experiences or spiritual responses ever since I took refuge with the Master in 1950, at the age of eleven. But as far as I’m concerned, no response is the best response, for
“imperceptible responses occur in imperceptible ways.” Responses don’t have to be as obvious as disasters turning into blessings or misfortunes melting into windfalls of good luck. However, there have been several incidents over the past forty years that I remember especially well.
I remember just after I’d taken refuge, the Master wrote a sentence describing my personality:
“a stubborn character with a big temper.” At that time, I knew I would have to change my big temper. If my temper is smaller now, all the credit goes to the Master for his frequent teachings on the topic. At that time, I thought that having such a stubborn character was an asset. It was only when I read the Earth Store Sutra to the place where it says,
“The beings of Southern Jambudvipa have natures which are stubborn and obstinate, difficult to tame, difficult to subdue,” that I realized having a
“stubborn character” is the main reason we cannot escape the Saha world. That realization enabled me to really understand the Master’s intent--he wanted me to be more mellow and not so egotistic and opinionated. Doesn’t the Master himself always say,
“Everything is OK”?
Because everyone knows that the Master had foreknowledge, I, too, asked him one time when I was fifteen or sixteen,
“What does the future hold for me?” He looked at me and answered with one short sentence,
“Just be kind and compassionate.” He didn’t say any more; and I didn’t ask any more. Those few words, however, have served as a lifelong reminder. In dealing with people, we need only be kindhearted. Just that is the field of blessings that will quite naturally bring us good destiny. There’s no need to consult the spirits or the hexagrams.
Not long after, like many other people, I, too, painted a portrait of Patriarch Bodhidharma, and even went so far as add some totally unnecessary words of praise:
“Who does this look like to you? / People say its Old Patriarch Dharma, / Who came on his own from west to east / And sat nine years facing a wall. / He understood his mind and also saw his nature. / Having nothing to do,
he found something to do.” The Master looked it and said,
“It sounds a little like Chan banter, but shows you are still an outsider, because understanding the mind is itself seeing the nature.They certainly aren’t two different things.” After that I never dared sound off again!
In 1962 the Master left Hong Kong and came to America, and in 1966 I moved to Africa. Time took its course and for more than a decade I didn’t draw near the Master. Then in 1986 I moved to America. In 1988, the Master directed me to lecture on the Vajra Sutra at Gold Mountain Monastery. Prior to that, I had divided my time between Africa and America. I would come to the U.S. twice a year, staying two to three weeks each time. Every time I came I would go to Gold Mountain Monastery to pay my respects to the Master. One time I arrived while the Master was in the middle of a Sutra lecture, and the Master asked me to translate into Cantonese. Afterwards, the Master said,
“Before you go back to Africa, you can come here and lecture for us.” Since the amount of time I was to be in America was limited, all I could do was give some informal talks. The next time I came back, the Master suddenly told me to lecture on the Vajra Sutra. I thought to myself,
“lecturing on a Sutra is a very serious matter. I can’t just lecture for a while and then stop.” After some careful consideration. I retired from the work I was doing in Africa and began to concentrate single-mindedly on learning how to lecture on the Sutras.
When I began lecturing on the Vajra Sutra, the Master told me,
“It’s not necessary to seek to be an excellent lecturer.” He also said,
“On the other hand, don’t make your explanations too simple.” When I was giving my lectures, the Master was often sitting outside the door of the hall listening. One time I asked him,
“Teacher, this disciple doesn’t know if he’s made any mistakes in his lectures.” The Master replied,
“When you have savored the flavor of a Sutra’s principles, then however you explain them will be right.” I said,
“Of course I think I’m right before I explain something, but I don’t know if I am truly correct or if what I think is right is really phony.” The Master answered,
“Well, haven’t you jumped over the hurdle?”
Those several instances of instruction from the Master have had a great influence on me. After many years of experience, what I have realized is that keeping our minds compassionate is the cultivation of blessings; not losing our temper, diminishing our attachment to self-image, and reading and investigation the Sutras is the cultivation of wisdom. Cultivating blessings and cultivating wisdom are the two essential topics in the study of Buddhism. Everything else is superfluous. In the Two Nights Sutra the Buddha said,
“From the night I realized the Way to the night I passed into Nirvana, I always spoke Prajna.” Prajna means wonderful wisdom. The Buddha spoke the Dharma for forty-nine years and as we review the five periods and eight teachings and the three treasuries and twelve divisions, absolutely all of them are telling us about the Dharma-door of wisdom through which liberation is attained. All the different praises to the Buddhas
and Bodhisattvas end with the same phrase: “maha prajna paramita”－using wisdom to reach the other shore. From this we can see how important wisdom is within Buddhism.
Buddhism is the teaching of enlightenment. The cultivation of blessings is done in order to nurture wisdom. That’s because if our blessings are insufficient, then not only will we run into many obstacles in our own cultivation, but we will lack affinities with beings when we try to propagate the Dharma and benefit beings. And so the goal of practicing good deeds and accumulating blessings is only for the sake of enlightening ourselves and others; it is not in order to seek spiritual powers and responses or blessed rewards in the human realm or among gods. We should clearly recognize our aim in cultivating blessings and wisdom. We should definitely not confuse the fundamentals with the superficials, or else we will end up misleading ourselves and others. When blessings and wisdom are both perfected, then we can realize Buddhahood.
“All living beings have the Buddha nature; all can become Buddhas. It is only because of false thinking and attachments that they have not yet done so.” All the Buddhas have told us that we study Buddhism in order to understand our own minds and see our own natures; the Venerable Master has taught us the method. Although each person’s conception is not exactly the same, still, using wisdom to break through ignorance and attachments and cultivating blessings in order to nurture wisdom should be a proper path that everyone can travel. It’s said:
“The teacher leads us in the door; cultivation is up to each
Although now the Master is not physically with us, his energy, his spirit and his teachings will never, ever disappear. I hope we can travel the path to Bodhi together with courageous vigor, never failing to uphold the instructions of our kind Master.