On the sixteenth day of the third lunar month in the year of Wuwu (1918), the Venerable Master Hua was born to a family called Bai in a small village in Shuangcheng County of Jilin Province, Manchuria, China. As soon as he was born, he cried continuously for three days out of pity for the beings who suffer in the Saha world. When he was eleven, he had an awakening upon seeing a dead infant left in the wilderness. He wanted to leave the home-life and cultivate the Way in order to resolve the great matter of birth and death.
When he was twelve, he began repenting of his faults to his parents and attended to them with filial devotion. He bowed to his parents every day. Later he felt it was not enough to bow to them, so he began to bow to the heavens, to the earth, to the Emperor, and to his teachers. He still felt it was not enough, so he gradually increased his bows until he was bowing to all living beings. He bowed every morning and evening, each time making more than 830 bows, which took five hours a day. He bowed even in the wind, rain, and snow, hoping to influence evil people to become good, hoping to bring peace to the chaotic world.
When he was fifteen, the Master took refuge with Venerable High Master Changzhi of Sanyuan Monastery in Harbin and became a disciple of the Triple Jewel. He drew near the Abbot of Sanyuan Monastery, the Venerable High Master Changren. He attended school for only two and a half years, until he was seventeen, but because he studied with single-minded concentration, he was able to recite a text from memory after reading it once. Thus he mastered the Four Books, the Five Classics, the texts of various Chinese schools of thought, and all worldly fields of knowledge, such as medicine, divination, astrology, and physiognomy.
At sixteen, the Master began to lecture on Sutras such as the Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra, the Vajra Sutra, and the Amitabha Sutra, explaining the Buddhadharma to those who were illiterate.
When the Master was eighteen, his mother became ill, so he quit school and stayed home to take care of her. Because he knew well the hardships that came from not receiving a complete education, he founded a free school and taught over thirty poor children from morning to night without rest.
During his years in school, the Master also took part in many charity organizations─the Buddhist Association, the Moral Society, the Charity Society, a society which exhorted people to quit smoking and drinking, and others. Refraining from all evil and practicing all good, he vastly cultivated the Bodhisattva work of rescuing people and saving the world.
II. Leaving the Home-life
When he was nineteen, his mother, Ms. Hu, passed away. On the eighth day of the fourth month, the Buddha’s birthday, he left the home-life at Sanyuan Monastery under Venerable High Master Changzhi, received the Shramanera (novice) precepts, and was given the names An Tse and To Lun. He studied under Venerable High Master Changren, the Abbot of Sanyuan Monastery. When he received the Dharma-transmission from the Elder Master Hsu Yun, he was given the name Hsuan Hua. For three years after he left the home-life, he lived in a simple hut by his mother’s grave in observance of filial piety. People called him Filial Son Bai.
On the nineteenth day of the sixth month (the anniversary of Guanyin Bodhisattva) of that year, he made eighteen great vows before the Buddhas. The Venerable Master Hua’s life was a practical realization of these eighteen great vows.
I bow before the Buddhas of the ten directions, the Dharma of the Tripitaka, and the Holy Sangha of the past and present, praying that they will hear and bear witness. I, disciple To Lun, Shi An Tse, resolve never to seek for myself the blessings of gods or humans, or the attainments of Shravakas, Pratyekabuddhas, or high Bodhisattvas. Instead I rely on the Supreme Vehicle, the One Buddha Vehicle, and bring forth the Resolve for Bodhi, vowing that all living beings of the Dharma Realm will attain Utmost, Right, and Equal, Proper Enlightenment at the same time as I do.
1. I vow that as long as there is a single Bodhisattva in the three periods of time throughout the ten directions of the Dharma Realm, to the very end of empty space, who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain Proper Enlightenment.
2. I vow that as long as there is a single Pratyekabuddha in the three periods of time throughout the ten directions of the Dharma Realm, to the very end of empty space, who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain Proper Enlightenment.
3. I vow that as long as there is a single Shravaka in the three periods of time throughout the ten directions of the Dharma Realm, to the very end of empty space, who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain Proper Enlightenment.
4. I vow that as long as there is a single god in the Triple Realm who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain Proper Enlightenment.
5. I vow that as long as there is a single human being in the worlds of the ten directions who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain Proper Enlightenment.
6. I vow that as long as there is a single asura who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain Proper Enlightenment.
7. I vow that as long as there is a single animal who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain Proper Enlightenment.
8. I vow that as long as there is a single hungry ghost who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain Proper Enlightenment.
9. I vow that as long as there is a single hell-dweller who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain Proper Enlightenment.
10. I vow that as long as there is a single god, immortal, human, asura, air-bound or water-bound creature, animate or inanimate object, or a single dragon, beast, ghost, spirit, or the like of the spiritual realm that has taken refuge with me and has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain Proper Enlightenment.
11. I vow to fully dedicate all blessings and bliss which I myself ought to receive and enjoy to all living beings of the Dharma Realm.
12. I vow to fully take upon myself all the sufferings and hardships of all living beings in the Dharma Realm.
13. I vow to manifest innumerable bodies as a means to gain access into the minds of living beings throughout the universe who do not believe in the Buddhadharma, causing them to correct their faults and tend toward wholesomeness, repent of their errors and start anew, take refuge in the Triple Jewel, and ultimately accomplish Buddhahood.
14. I vow that all living beings who see my face or even hear my name will fix their thoughts on Bodhi and quickly accomplish the Buddha Way.
15. I vow to respectfully observe the Buddha’s instructions and cultivate the practice of eating only one meal per day.
16. I vow to enlighten all sentient beings, universally responding to the multitude of differing potentials.
17. I vow to obtain the five eyes, six spiritual powers, and the freedom of being able to fly in this very life.
18. I vow that all of my vows will certainly be fulfilled.
I vow to save innumerable living beings.
I vow to eradicate inexhaustible afflictions.
I vow to study limitless Dharma-doors.
I vow to accomplish the unsurpassed Buddha Way.
III. Healing Illnesses
The Venerable Master Hua had the spirit of a knight-errant even as a child. He couldn’t bear to see people suffering, so he vowed to take the suffering of all living beings upon himself. He healed countless people who were stricken with strange diseases, terminal illnesses, ghost-possession, sickness caused by karmic obstacles, and so forth. He influenced and saved foxes, dragons, snakes, ghosts, and spirits. Even a thousand-year-old camphor tree sought to take refuge and receive the precepts from the Master. The Venerable Master said,
“This is not because I have some special ability or the wonderful function of spiritual powers. This is the aid of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. When people’s minds are sincere, the Buddhas
and Bodhisattvas will respond.”
Whenever the Venerable Master bestowed aid, he wanted people to understand the meaning of bestowing aid:
“You shouldn’t only know how to seek aid from others. You should first be able to aid yourselves, and then you can bestow aid on all living beings. That’s
the true meaning of giving aid.”
Why do people fail to obtain a response when they recite Sutras or mantras? Because they tell lies. Mantras are true words. If people can refrain from false speech, then whatever they say will be efficacious. If they call on heaven, heaven will respond. If they call on earth, the earth will be efficacious. The Venerable Master Hua said,
“I am the worst speaker, because I only know how to speak the truth and say things that people don’t like to hear. I specialize in destroying superstition, and I’m not afraid of offending people. If something ought to be said, I will say it wherever I go. If something should not be said, I will not say it no matter where I go. Simply because one does not speak falsely, every word and sentence one says has limitless power and can cure the diseases of sentient as well as insentient beings. If a hurricane is due to occur, it can be averted. If a great earthquake is supposed to happen, it can be prevented. In places without water, water will appear. In places where the rain doesn’t fall, it will rain. Wars and calamities can be quelled. What exists can be made to disappear, and what doesn’t
exist can be made to appear. Because one is sincere to the
utmost point, there is naturally a response to everything
Wherever the truth is found, all the gods, dragons, and good spirits will come to protect it.
Wherever the truth is found, all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will come to protect it.
IV. Propagating the Proper Dharma
In 1948, the Venerable Master went to Hong Kong to propagate the Dharma. In 1962, he responded to an invitation to come to America where he devoted himself to the great tasks of propagating the Dharma, translating the Sutras, and administering education, all on a voluntary basis. He also built Way-places, accepted disciples, set forth principles, and lay the foundation for the proper Dharma in the West.
“I may go without eating for one day, but I cannot go for a day without speaking the Dharma.”
“As long as I have even one breath left, I will speak the Dharma.”
“I will speak whether there are many people or few. Even if only one person comes, I will still lecture. Even if no one comes, I will still lecture for the ghosts and spirits to hear.” The Venerable Master’s every word and every move, at all times and places, was the truest expression of Dharma.
A. Speaking the Dharma by Example
1. He stayed by his mother’s grave for three years, thus fulfilling his filial duty to his parents. Throughout his life, he respected the elderly and cherished young people, thus fufilling his filial duty to all living beings. Seeing China going through difficult times, he couldn’t bear to renounce his Chinese citizenship. During his thirty-some years in America, he devoted himself to benefitting Americans, while firmly insisting on maintaining his Chinese citizenship, thus being entirely loyal to both countries.
2. He was extremely sparing in his clothing, food, and dwelling, hoping to save the world’s resources and energy. One pair of shoes could last him more than thirty years, and he would use the same napkin for at least three days. In his whole life he never had any clothes made for himself. He would even try to save on paying the bridge toll. If a grain of rice fell to the ground, he would pick it up and eat it. When he drank a glass of water, he would drink every last drop. He ate the plainest of food, cooked without oil or salt. He undertook long fasts many times, dedicating his own blessings to all living beings. He had no personal wealth or property, for he turned all offerings over to the general fund. He had not even a hairsbreadth of selfishness in his heart.
3. Not only did he put on no airs, he always put himself last and lowest. He began cultivating the Dharma door of bowing when he was twelve, bowing to all living beings every day without fail. After coming to America, he also bowed to his disciples, bowing until they were no longer afraid to speak the Dharma, bowing until some of them vowed to make a pilgrimage of bowing once every three steps, bowing until his disciples were also willing to bow to the slanderers of the Venerable Master. No matter where he went, he always wanted his disciples to walk in front of him. He would walk behind everyone else. When he spoke the Dharma, he let his disciples speak first and was himself the last to speak. He also wanted all his disciples to attain Buddhahood before he did. He wanted to be the last one to attain Buddhahood.
4. He had perfect comportment. He was stern, yet kind. His eyes were ever lowered, his two hands remained folded at his breast, and a smile always touched on his lips. He appeared stern, yet when one came to have contact with him, he was gentle and kindly.
5. He never wished to trouble others. He washed his own clothes, carried his own luggage, and didn’t want people to support him even when he was so ill that he had to lean on his cane to walk. Even in the last several years, when he had to use a wheelchair, he still insisted on carrying his own bag over his shoulder or on his lap as he travelled by plane to the various Way-places to speak the Dharma in his sick condition. The Venerable Master said,
“I want to stand on my own feet and use my own strength. I
don’t want to be dependent on anyone else.”
6. The Venerable Master was in samadhi twenty-four hours a day. He responded to situations as they arose and was calm when they were over. He handled the myriad affairs of the day naturally and easily. The Master said,
“I don’t recite any Sutra or mantra. I simply don’t have any idle thoughts.” The Venerable Master did everything with single-minded concentration. He would immediately catch any mistake his disciples made in translating what he said into English. He never forgot where he placed things. He remembered the names, backgrounds, dispositions, and habits of all his disciples and never got them mixed up. He even knew exactly how many steps he had taken on any given day.
7. During the many years that he propagated the Dharma in America, people called him ‘Superior One’ and ‘The World’s Foremost High Sanghan (Buddhist monk).’ Jining College in Shandong province, China, wanted to change its name to
“Hsuan Hua College.” A professor founded the Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain Research Committee to study the life of the Venerable Master Hua.... Yet the Venerable Master said,
“Don’t study me. I’m not worth studying. You should study the lives of other people, be they male or female, monastic or lay, old or young, good or bad,...You should record their lives, for in the future these accounts can instruct people. I do not have sufficient virtue in the Way to influence people. I do not want the names that other people want. I am neither a ‘High Sanghan’ nor a ‘Superior One.’ I am just an ‘inferior one’ who likes to be below everyone else. The names that other people don’t want, I take for my own. I call myself ‘Living Dead Person,’ ‘Monk in a Grave,’ Little Ant,’ and ‘Little Mosquito.’ I wish to walk beneath the feet of all living beings. All names are, in fact, false. There are no true names. Names exist in response to the time, place, and person. They are no big deal. Yet everyone is attached to names and works tirelessly for their sake. While I am alive and after I die, I don’t want people to mention my name, or build me any stupas
or memorials. I don’t want to leave any traces. I came from
empty space, and I will return to empty space.”
B. Orally Speaking the Dharma
1. At the affiliated Way-places of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association: The Dharma is spoken to enable beings to recognize the truth. Therefore, each Way-place includes in its daily schedule a time for giving or listening to lectures on the Sutras.
“The waters of the Ganges River flow day after day; the Dharma of the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is spoken day after day.” In the early period the Venerable Master used a method called
“Developing Inherent Wisdom” to train the fourfold assembly of disciples on an equal basis. They would take turns to request the Dharma, give lectures, and evaluate lectures. The Venerable Master also regularly held classes on
“Matching Couplets” to help his disciples activate the wisdom in their own natures.
2. According to conditions: The Venerable Master would always choose the appropriate Dharma to speak to the people he was facing. To ordinary people, he spoke of being content with their work and fulfilling their basic duties. To students, he spoke of filial piety, fraternal respect, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, and a sense of shame; of cherishing oneself, loving one’s family, and serving the country. To professors and university presidents, he spoke of educating for the sake of education. To political leaders, he spoke of moral probity and of loving the people as if they were one’s own children.
3. In accepting invitations to lecture: The Venerable Master didn’t want personal fame. Because he wished to train other people, he never went to give a lecture alone. Rather, he would always bring a delegation of disciples on trips to study and learn in various countries. The daily schedule on these trips would always be very full. Aside from the usual morning and evening ceremonies and noon meal offering, there might be repentance ceremonies, Sutra recitation, lectures, transmission of the three refuges and five precepts, Great Compassion or Shurangama Dharma Sessions, or meetings with faithful followers. Not a single moment would be wasted. The Venerable Master said,
“We are not a tourist delegation, nor can we be called a Dharma-propagation delegation. We are simply a visiting delegation. I don’t understand much of anything, and I’m not qualified to propagate the Buddhadharma.
I’m happy to follow behind everyone else and to learn from
the Elders and Greatly Virtuous Ones of various places.”
V. Establishing Way-places
The Venerable Master went from China to Hong Kong, and from Hong Kong to the United States. He vowed
“to build people, not temples.” He wanted to create living patriarchs, living Arhats, living Bodhisattvas, and living Buddhas. And so, under the most difficult of conditions, he renovated already-existing buildings to serve as bases for teaching living beings. He applied effort on the intangible and invisible Way-places instead of spending extravagant amounts of money on the physical and visible Way-places. Although the various Way-places of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association do not look like traditional Chinese monasteries on the outside, within them one finds a Pure Land where true cultivators reside.
The Venerable Master also wished to “tear down small temples and build great temples” and to establish
“large public Way-places.” Every time he established a Way-place, he would offer it to others. The Venerable Master offered two great Way-places─the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the Sagely City of the Dharma Realm, as well as all the monasteries affiliated with Dharma Realm Buddhist Association─to all the living beings in the world. He welcomed all people who came, not discriminating what nationality, race, sex, or age they were, whether or not they were related to him, how close or distant they were, whether they belonged to the northern or southern school, and so on. He was willing to support any sincere cultivator who wished to come and cultivate in the Way-place. The Venerable Master said,
“We are not a family temple. People come and go from the ten
directions. The temple is waiting for a virtuous person to
serve as Abbot. I am merely a temporary doorkeeper. Not a
single Way-place belongs to me.”
He also said, “Buddhism is the teaching of people, the teaching of the mind, the teaching of living beings, and the teaching of the Dharma Realm. It has no sects or factions. I don’t belong to any particular sect either. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and all other religions are within Buddhism. We always welcome other religions to come to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
to hold their services. Every religious person should study
the compassionate vows that the founders of all religions
made to save the world. Everyone should help one another and
work together to establish a starting ground for the unity
of the world’s religions. Then all living beings will have a
place of refuge, and wars will vanish from the world.”
VI. Taking Disciples
The Venerable Master said, “The Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
is a place where dragons and snakes mingle together. People
are not all the same. There are cultivators, and there are
people who don’t cultivate. We should base ourselves on the
four limitless thoughts of kindness, compassion, joy, and
giving. We should especially take care of those who are not
good, and influence bad people to become good.”
A. In taking left-home disciples, he didn’t renounce any living being
The Dharma depends on the Sangha for its transmission. The Way must be propagated by people. For the orthodox Dharma to have a strong foundation in the West, there have to be upright people who practice the proper Dharma. For that reason, the Venerable Master set extremely strict requirements for people who wished to leave the home-life under him: a college education and memorization of the Shurangama Mantra. After they left home, they had to memorize the Shurangama Sutra, practice lecturing on the Sutras and speaking the Dharma, practice sitting in meditation, and be able to endure suffering and toil....
After the middle period, the Venerable Master began accepting all living beings on an equal basis. As long as a person had even the tiniest bit of good roots, the Venerable Master would grant his or her wish to leave the home-life. He accepted people who were in their nineties, providing them with a haven of refuge. He also accepted six-and seven-year-olds, allowing their good roots to grow. He also accepted those who were crippled or impaired, allowing them to perfect the pure conditions for transcending the world.
B. In taking lay disciples, he didn’t compete for a single disciple
In the modern Buddhist world, the trend is for people to take refuge with many teachers. The Venerable Master said,
“Taking refuge with one teacher is enough. Don’t take refuge with one teacher and turn your back on another. You take refuge with so many teachers, but you don’t listen to any of them. This is useless. Not only does this cause disharmony among Dharma Masters as they compete for disciples, it results in a situation where there are only the same old disciples stirring up confusion. There is no new blood in Buddhism. This will cause the Buddhadharma
As long as people were sincere, the Master would transmit the refuges to them even when he was ill. Undaunted by trouble or fatigue, he would hold the ceremony whether or not many people came.
C. Some of the greatly virtuous cultivators of the past vowed not to take disciples, fearing that their teaching duties would interfere with their own cultivation. The Venerable Master accepted all the headstrong, ignorant, and incorrigible beings of the Dharma-ending Age, never giving a thought to himself. He would rather give up his own brains, eyes, and marrow than renounce any living being.
VII. Establishing Principles
“Those who come to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas have to follow the rules. Dragons have to coil up; they cannot make it rain whenever they please. Tigers have to crouch down; they cannot make the wind blow according to their whim.” At the Way-places of Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, everyone strives to practice the Three Guidelines and Six Principles set forth by the Venerable Master, taking these as the standard in cultivation. The Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is the headquarters of the Association.
A. The Three Guidelines and Six Principles
At the beginning of the morning and evening ceremonies each day, the fourfold assembly of disciples must reflect upon themselves as they recite:
“Freezing to death, we do not scheme. Starving to death, we do not beg. Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing. According with conditions, we do not change. Not changing, we accord with conditions. We adhere firmly to our three great principles. We renounce our lives to do the Buddha’s work. We take the responsibility to mold our own destinies. We rectify our lives as the Sangha’s work. Encountering specific matters, we understand the principles. Understanding the principles, we apply them in specific matters. We carry on the single pulse of the patriarchs’ mind-transmission. Ask yourself: Is it the case that I don’t fight? Ask yourself: Is it the case that I am not greedy? Ask yourself: Is it the case that I do not seek? Ask yourself: Is it the case that I am not selfish? Ask yourself: Is it the case that I do not pursue personal advantage? Ask yourself: Is it the case that I do not lie? Ask yourself: Do I eat just one meal a day? Do I always wear my precept sash? These form the tradition of the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas,
and no one can change them.”
B. Always Wearing the Precept Sash
In order to uphold the Buddha’s regulation and preserve the appearance of the Sangha, the Venerable Master taught his left-home disciples to wear their precept sash (kashaya) at all times and to carry their sitting/bowing cloth. He also taught them to eliminate their craving for fine clothing.
C. Eating One Meal a Day at Noon
Food takes a lot of time to prepare and increases our greed, thus hindering our cultivation. Following the Buddha’s regulation, the Venerable Master set down the rules of taking one meal a day and eating from an almsbowl (patra). The unseasoned pot of boiled vegetables and Arhat soup are excellent medicine for hunger and thirst. One should eat until seventy or eighty percent full, no more. By not being greedy for large amounts of food or good flavors, one will be liberated from gluttony.
D. Not Lying Down at Night
The muddled state of sleep increases one’s stupidity. The Venerable Master began the practice of never lying down when he was young. He also taught his disciples to sleep sitting up, so that they can easily stay alert and apply effort with vigor. In this way, they can free themselves from the demon of sleep.
E. Observing the Precept of Not Keeping Money
Money is the root of offenses. Once a person has money, he will have all sorts of fanciful thoughts. In order to protect cultivators, the Venerable Master taught his disciples to observe the Buddha’s rule by not handling money or keeping personal wealth. The members of the Sangha receive no allowance and accept no personal offerings. Their work is purely voluntary. In case of sickness or temple business, they may apply for money from the general fund. The Venerable Master said,
“Those who can observe the precept of not keeping money are truly pure Sanghans
who can serve as fields of blessings.”
F. No Concept of Rank or Hierarchy
In all the Way-places, the fourfold assembly of disciples work in cooperation and study together. Each fulfills his or her own duties. Filled with the joy of Dharma, everyone cultivates together. There are no positions of authority and no salaries. There are no struggles over name and gain. There is no Manager or Abbot. Everyone is a doorkeeper; everyone is equal.
G. A Clear Separation between Men and Women
Whenever the two sides have to meet face-to-face, talk over the phone, or exchange written matter, there must be at least two members present on each side. This rule allows the fourfold assembly to sever defiled conditions, protect one another, and remain pure and far from desire. Daily business is not apart from cultivation, and cultivation is inseparable from daily business.
H. Cultivating with the Assembly
The daily ceremonies include: the morning ceremony, bowing to the Buddha, reciting the
Flower Adornment Sutra, the Noon Meal Offering, the Great Compassion Repentance, the evening ceremony, the Sutra lecture, and the recitation of the mantra heart. In addition to these, there are celebrations on the anniversaries of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the annual Respecting Elders Day and Cherishing Youth Day, Dharma Sessions for Protecting the Nation and Quelling Disasters, Transmissions of the Three Platforms of Precepts, Water-Land-Air Dharma Sessions, conferences on religion, and many other special events. At other times, people work according to their strength and abilities maintaining the grounds, teaching in the schools, translating the Buddhist scriptures, handling temple affairs, holding meetings, and so on, certainly not letting the time go by in vain.
VIII. Working in Education
A. Every Way-place Is a School
Education is the foundation of all worldly and transcendental dharmas. Dharma-doors are limitless; we vow to study them all. We are all mutually teachers and students as we learn from one another. The educational institutions at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas include Instilling Goodness Elementary School, Developing Virtue Secondary School, Dharma Realm Buddhist University, and the Sangha and Laity Training Programs. Many of the branch Way-places have weekend classes or Sunday schools.
B. Volunteer Teaching Is the Rule
Teachers receive no salary and do not go on strike. Their goal in studying is to understand principles, not to pursue fame and profit. With the Confucian teachings as the foundation and Buddhism as the final refuge, the schools aim to produce truly capable individuals who can benefit the entire world. The Venerable Master said,
“Those who don’t want money are the genuine ones.”
C. Boys and Girls Study Separately
When boys and girls are separated, they can concentrate on their studies without emotional distractions. Thus the social ailments of promiscuity, abortion, divorce, juvenile delinquents, and homosexuality are completely avoided.
“Education is the most fundamental national defense.” If children are taught to save people, not kill people, this can resolve the world’s problems at a fundamental level.
D. Sangha Education Is Foremost
It is the duty of left-home people to act as models for all living beings. They must do a good job of teaching themselves before they can take on the work of teaching others. The Venerable Master thus trained his disciples rigorously and demanded highly of them.
1. According to their own rate of progress, disciples were assigned duties and expected to learn to do the community chores. Equal opportunities were given to all. The Master constantly gave them both direct and indirect teachings and offered his support.
2. The Master gave them unexpected tests: He invited people from all walks of life and various countries to lecture on the Sutras and hold classes at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas or the branch Way-places, to see if the assembly would recognize them for who they were. The Venerable Master said,
“You must have the Dharma-Selecting Eye. If it’s the Way,
then advance. If it’s not the Way, then retreat. Choose what
is good and follow it. Take what is bad and change it in
yourself. ’Everything is a test to see what you will do. If
you don’t recognize what’s before your face, you’ll have to
3. The Dharma is not fixed: “The Dharma is dead. People are alive. You shouldn’t stick inflexibly to one road until you run into darkness.” The Venerable Master also said,
“You have to have your own wisdom and believe in yourself. Don’t believe in me.” The Venerable Master’s style was democratic. He respected each disciple and didn’t deliberately set down precepts ahead of time. When a disciple did something wrong, then he would make a rule according to the time and situation in order to protect the disciple’s cultivation.
4. In order to pave the road for his disciples, the Venerable Master gradually made the cloistered monasteries more open to the public. By means of celebrations for respecting the elderly, cherishing youth, and birthday gatherings, he brought the laypeople and monastics together and encouraged them to be mutually supportive. In this way he strengthened the monastery’s foundation. Disciples gained experiences, learned to be patient and work hard, to stay calm in the midst of activity, and to reside securely in the practice of the Way.
5. The Venerable Master had infinite patience and tolerance. No matter how great a mistake a disciple might make, as long as he gave rise to one thought of repentance, the Venerable Master would forgive him.
“Truly recognize your own faults. Don’t discuss the faults of others. Others’ faults are just my own. To be of the same substance with all is called great compassion.” The Venerable Master always blamed himself instead of reproaching others. He took upon himself all the mistakes, ignorance, karmic hindrances, and bad tempers of his disciples. He shouldered everyone’s karmic offenses.
E. The Education of Shramaneras (Novices) Is the Foundation of Sangha Education
During the last couple of years, the Venerable Master paid great attention to a group of young Shramaneras (novice monks) and young Shramanerikas (novice nuns) who had newly left the home-life. He personally arranged teachers and classes for them and even transmitted to them the Dharma-door of the Forty-two Hands and Eyes during his sickness. He exhausted his efforts on their behalf. It is hoped that, under the cooperation of the fourfold assembly, this group of young Sanghans, aged six to seventeen, will soon become the bright sun of the Buddha’s proper Dharma, propagating the Venerable Master’s great vows of kindness, compassion, joy, and giving; guiding living beings to cultivate the Bodhisattva path and end the great suffering of birth and death.
IX. Overseeing the Translation of the Buddhist Canon
Wishing to cause the Buddhadharma to spread throughout the world, the Venerable Master made a vow in his youth to see to the translation of the Tripitaka
(Buddhist Canon) into all languages. This is an historic
mission. The Venerable Master said, “Translating the Canon
is even more important than being reborn in the Pure Land.”
A. The Venerable Master’s Explanations of the Sutras in Chinese
The Venerable Master would first recite a passage of Sutra from memory, then explain it sentence by sentence without looking at the text. He didn’t have any notes, either. He just spoke directly from his own nature. His explanations were aimed at the general public. Using ordinary colloquial Chinese, he would explain profound principles in a way that everyone could understand. The Venerable Master said, “I only know how to give very simple explanations of the Sutras. That’s why my published explanations are called‘imple Explanations’(in Chinese). Like cabbage boiled in plain water, they are bland and tasteless, but good for one’s health.”
B. Translations into a Second Language
Over a hundred volumes of translations have been published, primarily in English, and also some in French, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The current goal is to publish bilingual books with Chinese and English side by side, and later to publish bilingual books with Chinese and another language, such as French or Vietnamese, side by side.
C. The Development of Audio Publications
In addition to books, audio and video tapes are also being published bilingually. Currently, bilingual audio tapes are available in Chinese-English format.
D. The Founding of the International Translation Institute
At the International Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts, founded in 1973, and the Administrative Headquarters of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, established in 1992, monastic and lay disciples have gathered from all directions to work as volunteers in the translation and publication of Buddhist texts, without any form of compensation.
X. Manifesting the Symptoms of Illness
The illnesses of ordinary people are caused by karma. They receive the retribution for whatever karma they create. All their illnesses are due to greed, anger, and stupidity. The illnesses of a Sage arise from his vows. He undergoes retribution for karma created by other people. Because living beings are ill, the Bodhisattva is also ill. A Sage has already eradicated the three poisons. He himself has no illness, yet he wishes to stand in for living beings and take their suffering. He transfers their illnesses to his own body and manifests various symptoms of sickness, hoping that living beings will see sickness, realize the cause of sickness, and quickly cultivate.
In order to protect and support the cultivation of his left-home and lay disciples, the Venerable Master personally travelled from one Way-place to another, making long trips by car, enduring the cold and heat, taking care of a myriad miscellaneous affairs, and constantly bestowing aid upon people, thus exhausting his mind and spirit by day and by night. Over ten years ago, the Venerable Master had already become sick from overwork. Six years ago, he was so sick he couldn’t even climb a single step. Even when the doctors diagnosed that he had only seven days left to live, the Venerable Master still refused to rest or seek treatment. Leaning on his cane and riding in a wheelchair, he continued speaking the Dharma in various places. Two years ago he was so ill that he couldn’t get up from the bed, yet he still instructed his disciples over the phone or appeared in their dreams to teach them.
The Venerable Master had healed countless others. Why couldn’t he heal himself? It wasn’t that he couldn’t, but that he wouldn’t. The Venerable Master had never in his entire life done anything for himself. He had never had a single thought of concern for himself. Even when his body was sick to the extreme, he didn’t help himself the slightest bit. Right up to the time he completed the stillness on June 7 this year, his illness and pain didn’t subside; he didn’t manifest any auspicious signs or miracles. Instead, without leaving any traces, he spoke for living beings the great Dharma of formation, dwelling, decay, and emptiness; of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
This was truly the greatest test that the Venerable Master gave his disciples on the Bodhisattva path. For limitless eons, Bodhisattvas have given up their bodies and lives for the sake of living beings. They think only of others and have no sense of self. Faced with this manifestation of bearing all kinds of unbearable suffering, one who is able to continue advancing bravely with increased faith, undaunted by the rigors of the Bodhisattva path, is a unique gold nugget smelted in the Venerable Master’s blazing furnace.
The Venerable Master’s entire life was an enactment of the great king of Sutras, the
Flower Adornment Sutra of the Dharma Realm. The “Chapter of the Inconceivable Dharma of the Buddhas” in the
Flower Adornment Sutra says that the Buddhas, World Honored Ones, have ten vast and great deeds:
Disciple of the Buddha, when a Buddha enters Nirvana, limitless living beings wail and weep in grief and give rise to great distress and vexation. They look at each other and say,
“The Thus Come One, the World Honored One, is greatly kind and compassionate. He pities and benefits all those in the world and is a source of refuge for all living beings. It is difficult to encounter the appearance of the Thus Come One. This supreme field of blessings is now gone forever. Since this is the case, all living beings mournfully cry out in yearning and do the work of the Buddha... Even when a Buddha, a World Honored One, enters Nirvana, he continues to be living beings’ inconceivable and pure field of blessings, a supreme field of blessings of infinite merit and virtue, enabling all living beings to be replete in roots of goodness and perfect in blessings and virtue. This is the tenth vast and great deed of the Buddha.