The Elder To Lun (his title), whose Dharma name was An Tse, in the 1950’s was given the official transmission as the Ninth Generation Patriarch of the Weiyang Sect, by the late Venerable Elder Master Hsu Yun, and was given the certified name of Hsuan Hua (Proclaiming and Transforming). The Master was born in Manchuria, China, in Jilin (Auspicious Forest) Province in Shuangcheng (Twin Cities) County. His family surname was Bai (White). The Master left the home-life when he was young, and diligently cultivated ascetic practices. He was extremely filial toward his mother, and practiced filial piety by her graveside for three years after she passed away. People called him Filial Son Bai. He was born in the beginning of the century (1918), but because the country was facing a pending war, he did not receive the Complete Precepts until 1947, many years after leaving the home-life. He had to travel a long distance and underwent all kinds of hardships and difficulties before he reached Potola Mountain where he received the Complete Precepts.
After receiving the Precepts, the Master heard of the Venerable Elder Hsu Yun, a Patriarch of the Chan School who was at Cao Creek giving lectures and speaking the Dharma in order to revive the teachings of the sect. The Master, undaunted by the hardship and great distance, set out on his travels and headed towards the Province of Guangdong, and arrived at Nanhua Monastery in 1948. Coincidentally, during the spring of that year, the monastery was going to hold a Precept Transmission. The Master signed up to receive the Precepts, once again. From this, it is clear that the Master placed great emphasis on the precepts.
I met the Master in the Precept Hall at Nanhua Monastery in 1948. At that time, I was a teacher of the preceptees. My job included not only teaching the comportment and rules to the preceptees, but also all of the affairs that went on in the Precept Hall. If any of the preceptees had doubts or other problems, I did my best to try to help them resolve them. At that time, I noticed that Dharma Master To Lun was very humble and knew the rules of propriety. He had awesome comportment and his manner was calm. I knew that he was a vessel for the Dharma (literally: a dragon, an elephant, a real lion’s son), and in the future could certainly do a good job to cause the School to flourish. At that time, I had established the Vinaya Academy at Nanhua Monastery and had not found anyone who was capable of filling the position as supervisor. To fill such a position, one needed to have character and learning. After the completion of the Precept Platform, I approached Dharma Master To Lun and requested that he fill this position. He agreed right away. After he took on this position, he was always attentive to his responsibilities until he left Nanhua Monastery.
At the end of 1949, I traveled to Hong Kong where I met the Master again at the Hong Kong United Buddhist Association. It is true that when you have affinities with people, you will always come together with them at any place. At that time, Dharma Master Chengyuan led a group of Sanghans from Hong Kong to Thailand, and the Master was among them.
Once the Master returned from Thailand and settled down in Hong Kong, he actively began to propagate the Dharma. The first thing he did was to establish Xileyuan (Western Bliss Garden) near Xiwanho (West Bay River), where he used the Dharma door of reciting the Buddha’s name (which can reach all those with sharp, dull, and in between faculties) to gather in those who were new to Buddhism. After that, he acquired the twelfth floor of a building in Paomadi (Horse Race Track), and established the Buddhist Lecture Hall. From this name you can see that this is the place where he wanted to propagate the Great Vehicle Sutras and gather in those with sharp faculties and also all living beings. Another benefit from establishing this Way-place was that left-home people had a place to stay. Dharma Master To Lun not only lectured on the Sutras and spoke the Dharma, but also distributed Sutras so that they would widely circulate. I remember there was one occasion when the Elder To Lun wrote to me asking for help, because he wanted to print The
Avatamsaka Sutra. I wrote back and said that I would help with sixty sets. Whenever the Elder To Lun had time, we would accept invitations to travel to Southeast Asia and to cities such as Sidney and Melbourne in Australia to propagate the Dharma and benefit living beings.
In 1962, the Elder To Lun went to the United States. He stopped over in Hawaii for two weeks, where I prepared a welcoming committee for him and asked him to speak Dharma for the four-fold assembly many times.
After spending two weeks in Hawaii, the Elder To Lun then flew directly to San Francisco. For the next thirty years we did not have occasion to see each other again, but I was pleased that he was very successful in propagating the Dharma. Although we didn’t see each other during that time, he often phoned me and requested that I come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to give lectures on the Sutras. Regretfully, I had to decline, because I was very busy. In June 1993, I went to Denver to the Buddhist Association of Colorado, and on the way back to Hawaii, I stopped off in San Francisco and made a special trip to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to see my old friend whom I hadn’t seen for so many years. However, he wasn’t there. He had already gone to Gold Wheel Monastery in Los Angeles. I hadn’t expected this and could only blame myself for being so reckless and not giving advance notice. I had no choice but to leave in great disappointment.
After I left the City, the Elder To Lun’s disciples notified him that I had been there. Once the Elder To Lun knew that I had come to San Francisco, he made phone calls to all the temples in San Francisco looking for me, on the third day, he found me. He then invited me to go to Long Beach, but I had to catch a seven o’clock plane back to Hawaii that evening. I could only decline his goodwill invitation in regret. Then he invited me to take a look at the International Translation Institute, and I accepted the invitation. I arrived at the Institute at two o’clock that afternoon. Dharma Master Heng Sure and several other Dharma Masters were there to receive me. They gave me a tour of the Institute, as well as two other newly purchased buildings which were very spacious, impressive, and well-equipped. We finished the tour at around 5:00 p.m. Upon leaving I was presented with a gift by Dharma Master Heng Sure, on behalf of the Elder To Lun. I was also invited to give lectures on The Heart Sutra, upon my next visit to the Institute.
On August 20 of the same year (1993), around one o’clock in the afternoon, the Elder To Lun suddenly appeared at Hsu Yun Monastery. I was surprised to see him. I asked him when he had arrived and why he hadn’t let me meet him at the airport. He said that he arrived on the previous day, and that he wasn’t an outsider so there was no need to go and meet him at the airport. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, and so naturally there were many things to say. However, during the conversation he kept inviting me to go to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to lecture on the Sutras. He told me clearly,
“In order to show my sincerity, this time I have personally come to invite you to go to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to lecture on the Sutras.” I said that everything depends upon causes and conditions, and when those causes and conditions are ripe, I certainly will go. We talked the whole afternoon, before we parted. I never expected that this would be the last time that we would see each other; that the departure would be eternal.
Recently, I had heard that the Elder To Lun was not in good health, and was staying in Long Beach in convalescence. I had thought that he would certainly recover quickly, because he was such an extraordinary person. I did not expect that news would arrive from The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas on June 16, 1995, that the Elder To Lun had completed the stillness on June 7, 1995. This news struck like a thunderbolt. Everyone who heard it was shocked. There were no more words left to say. The Elder To Lun’s Nirvana is not only a loss to Buddhism, but is a great loss to all living beings. We should all mourn, but also pray that he will return riding on his vows to save all living beings.
July 8, 1995
There are abiding kshetras facing upwards, or facing downwards;
Coarse, wondrous, or wide, of limitless kinds.
The Bodhisattva who first brings forth the most supreme mind
Is able to go to all of them without obstruction.
The Bodhisattva’s superior conducts are ineffable.
He cultivates all of them without dwelling anywhere.
He sees all Buddhas and is continuously blissful,
And universally enters the most profound ocean of Dharma.
Chapter on The Merit and Virtue from First Bringing Forth the Mind, the
Flower Adornment Sutra