There was an elderly cultivator in Taiwan named Ceng Guofo (“Fruit of the Buddha”) who was a devout Buddhist all her life. Before she retired at the age of eighty-nine, she asked me to tell the Venerable Master that she hoped to move to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to live. Because of her close relationship with my family for three generations, she hoped I would take care of her at the Sagely City. When the Venerable Master visited Taiwan in 1990, I reported this to him. As soon as the Master heard it, he asked where she lived and wanted to pay a visit to her! The Venerable Master had a very tight schedule of Dharma propagation, but he completely disregarded himself for the sake of her sincerity. This is one example of the Master’s constant attitude of
“not sparing blood or sweat and never pausing to rest.” At my urging, the Master then agreed to have her come and meet him instead.
When Laywoman Guofo met the Venerable Master, she exclaimed over and over,
“Greatly kind and compassionate Master! Greatly kind and compassionate Master!” The Venerable Master asked her to sit beside him. For about half an hour, as he gently inquired about her life, he rubbed the crown of her head with his hand. During the conversation, the Master welcomed her to the City many times and told her not to worry about anything. By the time she said goodbye, her worries had completely disappeared. Many days later, her happiness was still evident!
In her old age, Laywoman Guofo had been solitary and in hardship, without a place of refuge. Coming to America in poor health, she could only depend on the Venerable Master. When she came to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas the following year, I had already left the home-life and gone to Gold Buddha Sagely Monastery in Vancouver to help out. Laywoman Zhou, who had come with her to the Sagely City to take care of her, suddenly had to return to Taiwan for personal reasons. At that time I returned to the City to receive the Bodhisattva Precepts. When I found out about the situation, I thought it might be inappropriate for a left-home person to take care of a layperson, and I told the Venerable Master about this. Several days after taking the precepts, I planned to take the Greyhound Bus back to Gold Buddha Sagely Monastery. The bus came only once a day and would stop in front of a convenience store to pick up passengers. That day, I waited and waited at the bus stop, but the bus didn’t show up. When I asked someone else, he said he hadn’t seen it either. After waiting for two hours, I asked and found out that the bus had already gone. As it turned out, the bus had stopped behind the supermarket that day. In such a small place, it would have been difficult to miss such a huge bus passing by. How strange! I could only go back to the City.
As I was going into the Buddhahall to bow, I saw a notice on the bulletin board outside seeking a volunteer to take care of Laywoman Guofo. I instantly knew this had to be why I hadn’t been able to go to Gold Buddha Sagely Monastery! Later I found out that there was nothing inappropriate about my taking care of her. So I volunteered myself and informed the Venerable Master. The wonderful functioning of the Venerable Master’s spiritual powers had fulfilled Laywoman Guofo’s wish. Later I became her constant companion and took care of her until she passed away.
The Master not only gathered her in, but relieved her of the fears of old age and death. One month before she died, he allowed her to leave the home-life, transmitted the novice precepts to her, and gave her the Dharma-name Heng Sheng (‘Sage’). She thus planted a supreme cause for her progress on the Bodhi Way in her next life. The Master, who never rejected anyone who came to him, used great kindness and compassion to alleviate suffering and bestow happiness. In the last few months of her life, she recited the Buddha’s name with even greater vigor at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. One may search all over the world, but one will find an example like hers only at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The Venerable Master’s salvation of living beings is truly without limit or discrimination!
The Venerable Master often told his disciples that any elderly person who led a difficult life was welcome to live at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. He said that although people had called him
“Filial Son Bai” in Manchuria, he had not fulfilled his filial duties to his parents, so he wished to take care of others’ parents. This selfless attitude of treating all parents as one’s own parents is yet another example of the Venerable Master’s lifelong adherence to the Buddhist precepts:
“One should be filial to one’s parents, teachers in the Sangha, and the Triple Jewel. Filiality
is known as precepts.”
While living in the home for the elderly, I discovered that when the Venerable Master came to the City, he would often come to visit the elders himself, or share with them the food that others had offered to him. He had a heating system installed in the home and also appointed a person to prepare food for the elderly. One time, the Venerable Master even gave an instructional talk to the assembly on how to prepare food that could be easily digested by the elderly. The Venerable Master’s concern for the elderly was such that his thoughts never left them even for a moment!
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The Venerable Master remembered every single thing, whether great or small, whether it involved an individual or a Way-place, that ever happened in his life. The following incident happened during the Venerable Master’s visit to Taiwan in 1989:
A layman from Hualian related a story involving the Venerable Master: He said that he had gone to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in 1989 to attend a Dharma session, and after it was over, he went to the Administration Office. The Master was also in the office and very kindly said to the layman,
“You should be careful with your wallet. Don’t lose it again!” When the layman heard this, he was shocked and asked,
“Master, you still remember me?”
Twenty years earlier, he had come to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to attend a Dharma session. He had been carrying his life savings in his wallet. One day, he suddenly discovered that he had lost the wallet. He had rushed to the office to ask the Master for help. Bodhisattvas practice the giving of fearlessness, and so the Master told him not to worry, that he would find it. On his return trip, he found his wallet, and none of the money had been touched. He was surprised, for the Master had so many disciples, and he himself was not a devoted Dharma protector who often drew near the Master. He said,
“I’m such a nobody, not an important disciple, yet twenty years later, the Master remembered me and reminded me to be careful. Incredible!” The Venerable Master’s vow is that, as long as any disciple of his has not become a Buddha, he will not become a Buddha. This is not an empty vow. He is constantly paying attention to, concerned about, and taking care of all his disciples. He clearly told us that we must single-mindedly concentrate on cultivation and quickly accomplish Buddhahood, and that he will follow behind us, taking care of our unfinished affairs!
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All of us who are disciples of the Venerable Master, no matter how long or short a time we have followed the Master, have our own experiences: the Master took care of all the difficulties, illnesses, and worries that we encountered in our lives. If we were uneasy at heart because we had made mistakes, all we had to do was tell the Venerable Master, and with his great heroic power and great compassion, he took our worries and problems one by one and made them disappear. He was truly the best kind of insurance! I remember the evening before I received the Shramanera precepts, there was a repentance ceremony during which each preceptee was allowed to confess and repent of their offenses so that he or she could receive the pure precept substance and become a new person. That night I bowed respectfully before the Triple Jewel, contemplated the Venerable Master, and confessed all of the wrong things I had done. After that, I was truly liberated from them!
In front of the Venerable Master, all of his disciples were transparent. They could not conceal from him their words, deeds, and thoughts, not only of the present life, but of many lives and many eons. Because of this, he completely knew what every living being’s needs were and fulfilled those needs.
Yet when his disciples committed offenses and indulged in bad habits, failing to cultivate pure conduct on the mind ground, the Venerable Master didn’t show them any courtesy. Quite a few of his disciples left because they could not endure the Venerable Master’s style of teaching, which demanded that they face reality and bravely change their faults. The Master’s principle was not to detain those who wished to go elsewhere or return to laylife.
When people slandered or criticized the Venerable Master, he never tried to explain himself. He instructed his disciples to bow and thank those people and not defend him. The Venerable Master was not like worldly people, who only see the immediate reality and seek profit. What he valued was cultivation.
In propagating the Buddhadharma and in training and promoting capable people, the Venerable Master was fair and equal, giving every disciple a chance to learn. For example, when there was a job assignment, he didn’t call on those who were experienced and capable. Rather, he gave newcomers a chance. He gave his disciples the opportunity to experience, recognize, and learn on their own.
For several decades, whenever the Venerable Master gave a Dharma talk, he would always place seats for his disciples beside his own seat and would let his disciples speak first. In order to train people to speak the Dharma, he always gave his disciples a chance to practice. He did this even when he was invited to the White House. After each Dharma lecture, he would ask in detail about what his disciples had said in their talks, inspiring his disciples to naturally give rise to respect for the Dharma.
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At the branch Way-places of the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which propagate the Proper Dharma, there are Three Great Guidelines:
“Freezing, we do not scheme. Starving, we do not beg. Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing.” The Venerable Master taught his disciples,
“When left-home people see a layperson bringing
forth the resolve, they cannot scheme to get
something from him. They cannot be so lacking in
self-respect. When I’m going to buy something that
costs several million dollars, I don’t mention it to
anyone. Rather, they come to me when they need
something. People who go around exploiting
conditions are not fit to be my disciples...
Left-home people should always conduct themselves in
a lofty way, setting a good example for the world,
but not being out for fame and profit.”
When the Venerable Master was cultivating in Manchuria in his youth, he vowed to maintain the rule of taking only one meal a day at noon. When he stayed at other monasteries (the rule in most monasteries was not eating after noon, but monks could eat rice gruel in the morning). His expedient method was to eat the morning gruel on the first day, but not after that. People would ask him,
“Why don’t you eat gruel?” He said, “I get a stomachache as soon as I eat it. Probably my karmic obstacles are too heavy.” Others hear his excuse and say,
“Ah, your karmic obstacles must be really heavy! You can’t even eat gruel!” The Venerable Master once went for half a year without eating. In the midst of difficulty and suffering, he forged his Vajra resolve. No state could move his resolve for the Way:
“Freezing, I stand facing the wind. Starving, I
stick out my stomach and walk.”
The Venerable Master said,
“The sentiments of the Sangha family are not as heavy as worldly emotions.”
“I have mastered all worldly skills, but I don’t teach you. I’m a very strong person.” Yet the Venerable Master feared his disciples would be as poor as he, so he always reminded his disciples to respect the Triple Jewel and make offerings to the Triple Jewel─they must plant fields of blessings. The Master also taught his disciples to cherish their blessings:
“Back in the days when I was in the Moral Society, I
ate potatoes with the peels on them. That was when I
was sixteen or seventeen and I wanted to be thrifty
at the Moral Society.”
The Dharma that the Master spoke came from his own experience and true practice. He taught us how to exchange our perishable flesh bodies for the Dharma body of indestructible Vajra and how to exchange our impermanent, worldly minds for the eternal Buddha nature of true suchness.
The Master vowed to dedicate all his blessings to all living beings. From Asia, he came empty-handed to America and established twenty-seven Way-places of various sizes in thirty years in order to create great blessings for people. Considering the needs of the future propagation of the Dharma, he frequently went out to choose appropriate sites for the establishment of Way-places. Once, after going out to look out a new Way-place, he said,
“I’m doing all of this to win the empire for you.”
In 1962, the Master came across the ocean to America on his own. In the West, where people had not heard of the Buddhadharma, the Master genuinely
“endured what was difficult to endure and practiced what was difficult to practice,” in order to teach his American disciples, even though they were only a few.
During the 96-day Shurangama Dharma Session in 1968, the Master not only lectured on the Sutras every day, he also did the grocery shopping, cooked, and supplied tea and drinks. In order to complete the session on schedule, the Master increased the number of lectures from one per day to four per day. The Master said,
“Every day I cooked, made tea, and boiled water. No one helped me. Every day I served over thirty people. I used a family-style stove with four burners. I did the cooking alone, and everyone had a good appetite. The food was always completely finished every day. I also kept the kitchen clean and tidy. It was not until the last day that someone helped me carry the dishes out of the kitchen, and he broke them in the process.” Due to the differences in culture, language, character, and customs between Easterners and Westerners, propagating the Buddhadharma in America was an inordinately difficult task, especially when it came to teaching American left-home disciples. Only the Master himself knew the hardship, loneliness, and injustice that he suffered when he first came to America to spread the Dharma and save beings. The Master once described it thus:
“Ascending to the heavens is hard, but not that hard. Getting a rooster to lay eggs is hard, but not that hard. Teaching Americans to study the Buddhadharma
is truly hard.”
Note: According to those who followed the Venerable Master for many years, the reason the Venerable Master lectured on the Sutra and did all the chores during the Shurangama Lecture and Practice Session was that he saw some of his disciples had a very good foundation and he wished to nurture them. He wanted everyone to apply effort without distraction so that they could become vessels of the Dharma. There were even some Americans who memorized the difficult Shurangama Mantra in one month.
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The Venerable Master taught his disciples both verbally and by example. Many of his teachings were wordless. When he saw something that should be done, the Master never told his disciples to do it. He would immediately do it himself. When his disciples saw this, they would of course know what they should do. The Master would then say to them,
“You should not apply effort only on the surface.
You shouldn’t do it just because you see me doing
The Venerable Master could cure living beings’ physical illnesses, illnesses caused by karmic obstacles, and illnesses of afflictions. Whenever he heard that someone was sick, his first reaction was usually to ask,
“Where is he now?” The Master healed and saved people whenever and wherever he saw the need, and he never accepted a penny in return. When he had cured someone, he didn’t want the person to know. Once, a disciple went to thank the Master, saying,
“Master, I dreamed again that you came, wearing a red sash and a jewelled crown, to aid me, and then I recovered from my illness.” The Master immediately said,
“Eh! I don’t believe a word you say. If you keep saying such things about me, your sickness will recur.” And so his disciple was left not knowing how to repay him.
The Master had only living beings on his mind. He never thought of himself. He took bland food that had no oil or salt. He could use the same napkin for many days. His robes were old and worn. He used the money offerings saved up over the years as scholarships for his lay and left-home disciples to study in college. All of the Way-places and properties of Dharma Realm Buddhist Association belong permanently to Buddhism.
The Master explained the profound principles of the Buddhist scriptures in such a way that people could easily understand them. His mind was straightforward, and so his words were sincere and to the point; he didn’t beat around the bush. He taught and guided living beings with the true and actual Dharma. If one reflects carefully, one discovers that his simple words contain limitless and profound meanings. Likewise, while the Master’s appearance was honest and simple, his mind was extremely profound, keen, and wise!
I hope the people who have misunderstood and slandered the Venerable Master Hua will listen to the facts and not confuse others and destroy their own wisdom!
The Master’s style: honest, straightforward, and sincere.
The Master’s disposition: unfettered, spontaneous, and effortless.
The Master’s heart: pure, peaceful, unselfish, and without fear!
All the myriad creatures come forth from the Tao.
One who gains the Way personally touches the magic;
Awaken completely to your deepest, fundamental identity,
And when one penetrates, all alike connect.
──Composed by Venerable Master Hua after reading the verses
of the Great Master the Sixth Patriarch and Great Master Shenxiu