When the Japanese returned Manchuria to China in 1945, the Master wished to make a journey
to pay respects to the Great Master Hsu Yun, whom he admired greatly, and to propagate
the Buddhadharma. He came to my home to consult with my father.
My grandfather supported the Master's decision. Father accompanied the Master
all the way to Xiaosui to see him off, and from there the Master headed for the Pingfang Region. The Master was setting off on the Bodhi path to fulfill his eighteen great vows to save all beings.
The Venerable Master was a native of Shuangcheng County, near the city of Harbin in the Heilongjiang Province. His hometown is on the Songhuajiang Plain, below the Zhangkuangcai Ridge of the Manchurian Changbaishan Range. The Master was born on the sixteenth day of the third month in 1918, in a rural village of the western section of the Huangqi district in Manchuria.
At the age of eight or nine, the Venerable Master's mother became ill and needed to see a doctor. Upon hearing of my grandfather's reputation, the Master came all the way to Liuzhengwei Village, over twenty Chinese miles away from his home. My grandfather was a herb doctor who was well-known within the hundred miles radius of Shuangcheng County. He helped poor people, devoted himself to public service, and gave generous support to charity. Friends and relatives called my grandfather "Good Man Pan." He was the head of the entire Pan family of thirty-two households at that time. He was a good friend of the chairman of the Virtue Society, Wang Fengyi (commonly known as Good Man Wang.)
After the Master came to my home, he became good friends with my father, Pan Yizhen who was a year younger than he. I have six uncles, three of them older than my father and three younger. My grandfather had two sons--my father and my first uncle; my second grand uncle had one son--my fifth uncle; and my first grand uncle had four sons--my second, third, sixth, and seventh uncles. The Master was the leader of the children at that time. As long as the Master was there, my uncles would not dare to bully my father. So, whenever the Master came to my home, my father would not let him leave. After some time, the Master and my grandfather became confidants. My grandfather wanted the children to learn to read and write, so he hired a private tutor. No one wanted to study except my father, and he invited the Master to join him. Before long, the Master had memorized Chinese classics, the Thousand Character Essay and the Hundred Surnames. The Master was endowed with exceptional intelligence and wisdom. He was talland polite. My grandfather treated him as anhonored guest and allowed the Master to watch as he treated patients with acupuncture or wrote prescriptions. The Master also admired my grandfather's character－his humaneness, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, trustworthiness－and his skill in managing the family, as well as our house rules. The Master often said that men should till the fields while women take care of the household chores and take turns cooking, making tea, carrying water, and feeding the chickens and ducks. Every one has his or her share of duties, and each is responsible for himself or herself.
The Master often got together with my father to match couplets or to write calligraphy. They studied the Four Books, the Five Classics, and the Historical Records. My grandfather came to respect the Master more and more. At the age of fourteen or fifteen, the Master demonstrated a remarkable ability to memorize such texts as the works of Confucius and Mencius. He also learned to use the most difficult dictionary, the Great Kangxi. People who wanted to find names for their children would come to the Master.
My family is Manchurian. According to the Manchurian custom, a child would be given a name and a piece of land before birth. My first uncle was already married at that time, and my grandfather asked the Master to give names for my generation. The Master wrote:
Boys: Lin, Sen, Yan, Tao, Guo, Yao, Liang
Girls: Zhen, Fen, Hua, Ling, Min, Kun, Li
When the Master learned that I was named Xiumin, he was quite pleased.
The Master had considerable influence on my father. They both knew how to play the flute. Their favorite piece was a Chinese folk song called "The Shepherd Su Wu," a song that urged people to be faithful to their country. The Master could also play the two-stringed Chinese violin, and he was so proficient at Chinese chess that he never lost a game.
My grandfather always listened to and followed the Master's advice. Our family worshipped the Buddhas as well as our ancestors. We were taught to respect our teachers and the elderly, and to be proper and polite. As punishment for making mistakes, we were made to kneel.
The Master was especially busy during the Chinese New Year. People would ask him to write spring couplets, and he never disappointed them. Grandfather, an old cultivator and a good man, was very hospitable. When friends and relatives came by, he would ask the Master to be there to receive them. Grandfather admired the Master not only for his intelligence and wisdom, but also for his filial piety toward his parents. Sometimes, the Master would travel over twenty Chinese miles in one day just to go home to greet his mother and bow to her. His relatives and neighbors called him "Filial Son Bai."
The Master guided my father to teach the younger nieces and nephews Chinese. Later they started a free school. The family objected to this, saying, "When we have sufficient grain to support the family for three years, there's no need for you to make a living by teaching." Nevertheless, my grandfather supported the Master and my father. When he went to Harbin to treat patients, he would buy a lot of books and notebooks for the school.
One day, the Master accompanied my grandfather as he drove an oxcart loaded with millet and newly harvested rice to make offerings to the Abbot of Sanyuan (Three Conditions) Monastery, Dharma Master Changren. When the Master went into the monastery, he chatted with the Abbot as if they were old friends. It seemed that they knew each other from past lives. They engaged in some Chan banter that Grandfather could not understand.
The Master was well-versed in the scriptures of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. He was talented at painting, and he also understood the theory of music. He even took my father with him to investigate geomancy. Later the Master and my father joined the Virtue Society of Manchuria. My father's sister also joined with them. The Master often asked about this aunt of mine.
The Master helped Father in overcoming many difficulties. What touched my grandfather most was an incident that happened when the Master was twelve years old. The Master was at our home when a family brought over a patient who had suffered a heart attack. The chances of the patient recovering were nil, but the family knelt down and pleaded with my grandfather to do something. Finally, my grandfather gave in tenderheartedly and treated the patient as best he could. The patient died just as my grandfather finished placing the acupuncture needles. Forgetting about how my grandfather had helped them before, the patient's relatives wailed bitterly and raised a ruckus. They demanded that my grandfather make restitution for the life lost. My grandfather had to buy a coffin for them, and our entire family plus friends－over forty people in all--had to put on mourning clothes and attend the funeral. Complaints could be heard throughout the family. My grandfather was so frustrated that his hair turned gray overnight and he became seriously ill. The Master consoled him by talking to him and bringing him medicine. After he got well, he allowed the Master and my father to worship the Buddha. The two had since become companions in life and death, and they were just like blood brothers. The Master had been very naive before he turned twelve, but when he was twelve, he learned about the grave matter of birth and death.
The Master was well-versed in the Book of Changes, but he would not use it casually. Once, a relative of ours lost a pig. The owner threatened to commit suicide as he pleaded repeatedly for the Master's help. Finally, the Master used divination to determine that the pig was hidden in a pile of firewood at another relative's house on the west side of the village. However, that household refused to let people do anything at their house. The household finally granted their permission after noontime, since neighbors urged them to see if the Master's words were accurate. Since there were great piles of things all over the place, the people did not finish sorting through them until three o'clock in the afternoon. The missing pig was stuck in a crack between boards, facing inward. It had several bloody cuts on its body and could not even squeal. There were many stories like this about the Master's magical divinings.
In the autumn of 1936, the Master's mother passed away. The Master borrowed three hundred dollars to buy a coffin, and he gave his mother a very decent funeral. Many surprising things happened at that time, which caused people to admire the Master greatly. During the time the Master was practicing filial piety by his mother's grave, my father would walk some ten Chinese miles to bring food to the Master. Sometimes, my father would stay and keep the Master company.
The Master went to Three Conditions Monastery in the Pingfang region in Harbin to shave his head and bow to the Venerable Changzhi as his teacher. After the Master left the home-life, he continued his filial practice by his mother's grave. Once when my father went to see him, the Master said, "Please go home. I have people bringing me food every day." Who would have guessed that the Master lived only on icy water and the Avatamsaka Sutra by his mother's grave? He cultivated samadhi, worshipped the Buddha, and bowed in repentance. Not moved by wind or rain, the Master made his eighteen great vows in front of his mother's grave.
Sever the conditions of the three obstacles;
Dispel the fear of the five terrors.
Practice the Bodhisattva's path
And extensively transform all.
After the Master took refuge, left the home-life, and received the novice precepts, he was moved by neither slander nor praise. His personal motto was:
Admit your faults more, and argue less.
Peaceful, pure, and at ease, you give rise to wisdom.
When my grandfather brought grain over to Three Conditions Monastery, he invited the Master home. The first Sutra the Master explained to my grandfather was the Vajra Sutra. It was followed by the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, the Sutra of Cause and Effect, and others. As a result, my grandfather had an awakening and wanted to leave the home-life. After considering it for over a year, he called a family meeting in 1942. Several decisions were made:
1. a hermitage was to be constructed;
2. the family business would be passed on to my second uncle;
3. a vegetarian kitchen would be set up, and my mother would be
responsible for delivering food; and
4. my grandmother would live with my fourth grand aunt and
In the fall of 1943, the hermitage was constructed. The Master helped to invite the Buddhas. He also shaved my grandfather's head. The entire family became Buddhist and began worshipping the Buddhas and making extensive offerings. During this period, the Master lived with my grandfather in my home. Together, they would speak the Dharma and lecture on Sutras for at least half a month straight, and sometimes for half a year. My grandfather could discuss everything with the Master. During the time when the Master lived in my home, he never spoke a word to my mother. However, he often praised my mother's good character. My grandfather was fifty-eight years old when he left the home life. His legs were rather stiff, and he could not sit in meditation. My mother could not give a clear account of how the Master helped him to sit in meditation. Last year (1994) when I asked the Master about it, the Master simply replied that it was due to my grandfather's own cultivation of wisdom.
When the Japanese returned Manchuria to China in 1945, the Master wished to make a journey to pay respects to the Great Master Hsu Yun, whom he admired greatly, and to propagate the Buddhadharma. He came to my home to consult with my father. My parents both approved. My grandfather also supported the Master's decision. My father accompanied the Master all the way to Xiaosui to see him off, and from there the Master headed for the Pingfang Region. The Master was setting off on the Bodhi path to fulfill his eighteen great vows to save all beings.