The Venerable Master’s state is something that cannot be fathomed by even Arhats of the fourth stage of Enlightenment who have already transcended the cycle of birth and death. So how can we common people understand him? (The Master said this on August 6, 1974 during a Chan session a few days after I had started to live at Gold Mountain Monastery.)
In 1986 when the Master made what I believe was his first visit to Indonesia--one morning the Master came out of his room and looked at a Dharma brother and myself and said,
“You don’t have the slightest idea about what I am about.” I’m afraid that the situation today, as I write these words, is still quite the same.
In late 1976 or early 1977, after I had first become a Bhikshu, the Master once told me as I knelt before him in his guest room,
“I don’t have the slightest speck of desire.” The Master said this in his very calm ocean-like voice as he held his thumb and forefinger together signalling a speck. I know that the Master was speaking about a reality that was his normal experience.
The Master influences people more than anything else with his everyday behavior. For approximately fifteen years I was in constant close contact with the Master. Whenever I had a problem, there is always a memory of the Master doing or saying something which resolved the problem.
During that time one thing which stood out for me about the Master was his vigor. No matter what we were doing or where we were going, the Master was always reciting. Whether he was reciting mantras or Sutras or both doesn’t matter. The Master always cultivated with incredible vigor. He said never neglect your
“homework,” meaning cultivation, no matter what you are doing.
When he was lecturing the
Flower Adornment Sutra he said that even in his sleep he would be reciting that Sutra.
The Master’s teaching is so difficult to fathom. Once he continuously reprimanded a young American resident at the old Gold Mountain Monastery to stop looking around at this and that all the time. He reprimanded the thirteen or fourteen year old like this for a year or two. Then one day the Master told the boy, who by then was a little novice, that from then on it was his job to look at everyone who came through the door for the evening lecture on the
Flower Adornment Sutra. As soon as he obeyed the Master’s instructions, his spiritual eye opened and the Master would often have him describe what he saw during the lectures to the assembly.
Now would it work that way with us? Of course not. This just shows how dynamic and alive the Master’s lectures were. The interaction of the Enlightened Master’s mind with that of his faithful students is not something one can read in a book.
The only text I can think of which aptly describes this state is
“Entering the Dharma Realm Chapter” in the twenty-first roll of the Flower Adornment Sutra. It relates the pilgrimage of the pure youth Good Wealth and his visits to fifty-three Good Spiritual Counselors. The visits represent the inconceivable interaction of Enlightened Bodhisattvas with great vows and accumulated good karma with the affinities and karma of the youth.
Each taught him differently and represented a certain level on the path to Enlightenment. Yet these levels were not levels that they were limited to, rather it was merely the way their karmic affinities played out with those of Good Wealth’s. So it is with the Master’s interaction with the literally measureless people and other beings who had the good fortune/karma to meet or be taught by him.
Simply one teaching, like the Master’s
“Return the Light” verse, can take a person all the way. It can enable one to transcend the cycle of birth and death, and then be able to turn the wheel of wondrous Dharma for others by one’s very existence. That is, one’s every move and thought will then embody the Buddhadharma so that one naturally influences others. What is true is not thought about or planned. The way to truly change the world outside is only by changing one’s own mind!
Complying with their thoughts he speaks of the Dharma Realm,
Passing through limitless kalpas which cannot be exhausted.
Although his wisdom well enters,
He is without a dwelling place,
Being without weariness, satiation, or attachments.
Chapter on The Merit and Virtue from First Bringing Forth the Mind, the
Flower Adornment Sutra