The first time I saw the Venerable Master was in December 1989, when he led a delegation to give a lecture and meditation retreat at the University of Texas, where I was a student. I remember being deeply impressed by the Master's account of how he started bowing to his parents, and to heaven and earth, the king, his teachers, and all living beings. I had never heard of anyone doing this in the modern world.
After the lecture, my father and I went up to the Master. Many people were bowing to him. My father introduced himself and frankly told the Master he had not understood much of the Dharma lecture. The Master gently replied,
“Listen to the Dharma more, and you'll understand.”
Many people took refuge with the Master. Later on, a Buddhist Association was formed at the University of Texas, with about thirty members, and meetings were held every Friday.
When I found out about the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB), I was very excited, for it seemed full of hope and proper energy, in contrast to the greed, hatred, and ignorance of the ordinary world.
I ordered dozens of books from the Buddhist Text Translation Society of CTTB, mostly English translations of Sutras with the Master's commentary, and spent most of my days in the University library, reading them and meditating. These books were so different from other books I'd read; they were pure and inspiring, and contained true principles and proper Dharma in every line.
In June 1990, I went to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for a Chan Session. When I arrived, I was directed to Wonderful Words Hall, where the Venerable Master was giving a class on matching couplets. Later, the Master personally came to give instructions and start the Chan Session. During the seven days of the session, as I walked 'round and 'round the Chan Hall, I reflected deeply on my past mistakes and decided to make a new start in life, with the Dharma as my guide. I vowed to go back to the City as soon as possible.
Back in Texas, I renounced a $10,000 fellowship in graduate school and told my parents I wanted to transfer to Dharma Realm Buddhist University, to which they agreed.
In October 1990, I went with three Buddhist friends to attend a Guan Yin Session. All during the trip, I sincerely recited the Great Compassion Mantra. When the Venerable Master stood watching the assembly file into the Daoyuan Hall for the lecture, he seemed to look up as I passed, as if in recognition of my prayers. After that session, I decided to stay on at the City.
At the end of 1990, the Venerable Master led a delegation to Europe, and became gravely ill when he returned. Day and night, the assembly took turns reciting mantras for the Master's health. This emphasis on sickness and impermanence led me to make the resolve to leave the home-life at the earliest opportunity. The opportunity came unexpectedly soon, and I left home a couple months later, on January 1, 1991.
For the next two years, since the Master was very ill, we hardly ever had a chance to see him or to hear him lecture. I often felt sad and envied the earlier disciples who had been lucky enough to receive the Master's personal guidance. I never expected that one day, the Master would recover from his illness and resume his busy schedule of teaching his disciples and propagating the Dharma, but that is what happened.
In the fall of 1992, the Venerable Master went to Gold Summit Monastery in Seattle. Although he was still not fully recovered, the Master lectured at the International Translation Institute in Burlingame in the morning, then flew to Seattle, where he gave a lecture, sat through the lectures of many disciples, and transmitted the Three Refuges in the evening. I remember looking at the Master during the Refuge ceremony, as he stood holding the flower and incense. He looked about ready to fall over in fatigue, and yet he would not quit. This was the spirit of
“not sparing blood or sweat, never pausing to rest.”
In December of 1992, the Venerable Master held the first Celebration for Respecting Elders in Los Angeles, and a busload of us went down from CTTB and the International Translation Institute (ITI) to attend it. On the overnight bus trip, I fell asleep, and when I woke up, probably due to the cold draft, my left arm was numb and stayed with the wrist bent inwards. Since there was no pain, I thought the numbness would go away by itself. But the next morning, it was still numb. Some Dharma brothers massaged it for me, to no avail. That day, the Master came to Gold Wheel Monastery, where we were staying, but I was too shy to approach him, for he was surrounded by many people. That evening, a Dharma brother reported my arm's numbness to the Master on the phone, and the Master reproached us for not letting him know earlier. The next day was the big celebration at the restaurant. The Master instructed that I go early to the restaurant and said he would arrange for an acupuncture doctor to treat me.
The next day, when we arrived at the restaurant, the doctor had not arrived yet. The Master was already sitting with several guests and called for me to go up. Smiling gently, he massaged my arm and told me I should exercise more and massage it myself to get the circulation going again. The Master's hands were very warm and strong, while mine was cold and stiff. Later, the doctor examined me, gave me acupuncture, and prescribed Chinese herbs to bolster my weak constitution. The Master instructed me to stay in Long Beach until January, when the Master would be leading a delegation to Taiwan. For those few weeks, with my hand paralyzed and useless, I tended to be rather moody. One evening I was feeling especially low. All of a sudden, the phone rang. It was the Master, who asked how I was, told me not to worry, and reassured me that my arm would get better soon. The Master also asked me if I knew my father had sent me a letter to ITI. I said I didn't know, and the Master said they would bring it down to Long Beach when they came. Finally, the Master said
“Good night” in English. That brief phone call came right when I needed it; it
cheered me up completely.
Before the trip to Taiwan, the Master often called and asked about my condition. During the trip to Taiwan, the Master told me to get plenty of rest and not worry about attending all the ceremonies and also said I could eat breakfast if I wanted. Yet during that trip, the Master exhausted himself with a tight schedule of travel, meetings, and lectures, while letting his disciples take it easy.
After the Taiwan trip, I was taken to another doctor in Oakland, and my arm soon got better. Yet the Master continued to stress that not only I, but all his disciples, get enough exercise. Once he even gave a matching couplet on the benefits of tai-chi to cultivation and said we should all learn tai-chi from a certain tai-chi teacher, which I did for a while.
In mid-1993, I moved to Long Beach Monastery. When my parents, sister, and a friend, none of whom were Buddhist, came to visit me, the Master invited them to stay at the monastery and treated them like his own family. The Master asked what my sister liked to do, and when I said riding horses was her favorite activity, the Master said he used to ride the wild horses in Manchuria, too, standing on their backs! With my parents, the Master talked about China and explained Great Master Buxu's verse predicting the major events of a hundred years in China, which they found extremely interesting.
In November of 1993, the Master led a delegation to New York and Maryland. During the trip, the Master admonished me for always having my head down and asked me the reason. I said it was because I often felt guilty for all the bad things I'd done in the past. That opened the opportunity for me to repent to the Master of many impure deeds from my past, which had been weighing heavily on my mind. To each thing I repented of, the Master would listen seriously, and then exclaim,
“That's nothing. People in the world all make that mistake. As long as you can change, everything's OK. I can be responsible for your offense.” The Master immediately cleared away all the guilt, and made me see that my problem and the suffering it brought was actually the problem and suffering of all deluded living beings. Therefore, I ought to expand my mind and resolve to help all living beings put an end to suffering. I felt relieved and infinitely touched by the Master's vast compassion.
At first, I did not want to write anything, because I felt I could not accurately record the events, and perhaps others would find them fussy and trivial. Also, there are too many teachings and impressions received from the Master that there would be no way to express them fully. However, I finally decided to try to write something to express my gratitude to the Master as his disciple.
Although we are living in the so-called Dharma-ending Age and living beings' roots are dull and inferior, I feel that we are truly lucky to have met the Venerable Master. For the sake of establishing the Proper Dharma in the West, the Master
“spared no blood or sweat, and never paused to rest.” At his advanced age, he was infinitely much more vigorous and dedicated than his much younger disciples, for which we should be deeply ashamed. He didn't pass up any opportunity to teach living beings, and he spoke the Dharma in every word and deed. It is only that we are too stupid to understand and accept his teachings.
The Master fearlessly proclaimed the Proper Dharma and denounced corrupt practices wherever he saw them, out of a wish to train people to have discerning judgment so that they would not be led astray. He also bent over backwards to help those who wished to become better people. His virtue influenced people to change their faults and become good. Morever, unlike ordinary people, the Master had no self, no greed, and no desires. There was only great kindness and compassion for all living beings, for he considered living beings to be one with himself. The Master often said,
“Truly recognize your own faults. Don't discuss the faults of others. Others' faults are just my own. Being one with all is called great compassion.” Understanding this, how can we continue to discriminate between ourselves and others, bickering endlessly about who is right and who is wrong? Shouldn't we urge ourselves to recognize the darkness and filth in our own minds and then reform and renew ourselves?
Having no impediments is the true letting go;
When fear is no more, the activity-obstacles depart.
Distortion left far behind, the characteristic of production perishes;
The coarse, fine, and dust-and-sand delusions of
your dream-thoughts become Thus.
The three obstacles are dissolved, the three virtues perfected.
The six faculties are used interchangeably,
certifying the attainment of the six psychic powers.
When you are capable of this wonderful truth,
you personally experience its benefit;
Those who know easily enlighten; those who are ignorant
take a difficult path.
From the Venerable Master Hua's Verses without a Stand for the
Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra