On June 7, I was on the phone with a friend at noon, and I don’t know why, but we started talking about our Teacher, Venerable Master Hua, and about all the ways in which he was wonderful. In the afternoon, after I finished reciting a Sutra a little after two o’clock, I stood quietly in front of the Buddha shrine and gazed at the Master’s photograph until I had to go pick up my child after school.
The next morning, my friend called to tell me that the Venerable Master had already completed the stillness at 3:15 p.m. on June 7.
After hanging up the phone, I burst out crying in extreme sorrow and grief. Could it be that yesterday I had already felt instinctively, deep down in my heart, that the Master was going and couldn’t bear to part with him, and so I hurried to see him for one last time?
There was nothing I could do but cry. I thought, now that the Master has gone, haven’t we all become orphans? On our path of cultivation, who will be able to constantly think of us, care for us, and guide us the way the Venerable Master did? One of my Dharma-sisters knew that I was trying to restrain my grief and told me that it was only the Master’s flesh body that was gone; his golden body is still here. If we are calm and sincere, we will naturally feel the Master’s presence.
I walked woodenly into the front yard and squatted down to pull weeds. Only by doing such simple chores could I hold back the tears that fell without stop. Suddenly I became aware of an unusual warmth all around me. I had the strong feeling that it was the Master─the Master’s golden body enveloping me in its warmth, letting me know that he was still around, that he was right beside me, and I shouldn’t be sad or afraid anymore!
On the evening of the fifteenth, my friends were all gone. They had either gone south to escort the Venerable Master’s casket, or they had gone north to help out, because people would be welcoming the Venerable Master’s casket to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas the following day. I was very sad because I couldn’t go. That night, however, I dreamed that I also went to escort the casket!
My tears fell again! The Master knows me, and he always grants my wishes!
In our lives, who thinks of us in every thought and always fulfills our wishes? I think only our parents do. Thus, the first time I went to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and saw the Master, I had a very strong feeling that he was my father! When I saw him, I just wanted to run up to him and sit on his knee and have a good cry, and let him pat my shoulder with his big hand and say,
“Now, be good. Don’t cry, don’t cry.” That day, I had brought my child along, and I only wanted to let him draw near the Master. I didn’t even know that we were supposed to bow. When my child walked up to the Master, the Master raised his big hand and very sternly hit my child on the head. Because the Master used such force, his sleeve flapped as he brought his hand down on my child’s head with a loud whack. No one had ever seen the Master hit the head of a five-year-old so forcefully. At first, because the sound of the whack was so loud, people couldn’t help but smile. However, when they saw the Master bring his hand down again and again with an unusually stern demeanor, they stopped smiling and became serious. The Master hit my child five times and said to him very intently,
“You have to be good! Be good!” The Master’s voice seemed to be choked with sobs. In surprise, I looked at the Master and saw that his eyes were filled with tears. I was shocked! I was only an agitated mother who knew absolutely nothing about the Buddhadharma, and the Master’s deep tenderness and compassion was beyond my understanding.
I had planned to bow to the Venerable Master that day in the afternoon when the ceremony for taking refuge was held, but unexpectedly, the ceremony was held by another Dharma Master who stood in for the Venerable Master. I regretted very much that I didn’t get to bow to the Venerable Master. That night, I had a dream in which I saw the Master wearing his
kashaya sash and sitting very properly in an outdoor plaza surrounded by many left-home people who were sitting or standing. The atmosphere was very bright, as if the noon sun were right behind the Master giving off brilliant rays of light. The leaves of the trees along the road were also edged with gold and dazzling. There were many left-home people and laypeople in the plaza bowing to the Master. A few people who were walking by along the roads on both sides also knelt down when they saw the Master and bowed. My child and I joined them to kneel and bow. The Master had granted my wish!
That was when I began to study the Sutras and to cultivate─and I also began to learn how to really be a human being! As a beginner in Buddhism, I always failed to catch the main point and continually went seeking outside. The more sincerely I sought, the more of a mess things became. Once when I saw the Venerable Master, because I was seeking very sincerely, I actually disregarded the rules in the Buddhahall. The Venerable Master’s countenace hardened and with a slight trace of displeasure, he said,
“The ceremony has already begun. Go bow to the Buddhas.” I felt very ashamed on the one hand, because I had presumed to break the rules when I was usually very good about following the rules. On the other hand, I felt very bad about being rejected by the Master, and tears brimmed in my eyes as I lowered my head. When the Master saw this, his countenance softened and he gently told me,
“Go, go bow to the Buddhas. Bow to the Buddhas
When I put my head down and recollected that scene, all of a sudden, it dawned upon me! I realized then that in studying Buddhism, we cannot seek outwardly. We have to use the method of bowing to the Buddhas to reflect upon ourselves! I remember what the Master said to me the first time:
“Things are the way they are all because of you! Try
to reflect within yourself as much as you can!”
Yes! If one wants to know about the causes one planted in past lives, just take a look at the effects one is receiving in this life. When we look at ourselves, isn’t it very clear to us? The only way to wipe out our karma is to repent within our own mind. Each person has to pay for his own causes and effects. No one can stand in for us to take the retribution for all the evil karma we created in the past. I remember joining the multitudes of ignorant people who knew only to seek for help from the Master. We didn’t have any idea of how much karma the Master had already shouldered on behalf of living beings. No wonder I dreamed that my Master, already advanced in years and experience, was still carrying me on his back as he walked!
The Venerable Master went everywhere propagating the Buddhadharma and took care of a myriad affairs on a daily basis. Moreover, it was a three hour trip to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Thus, it was not easy to get to see the Master face-to-face. Yet whenever something was troubling me, I would dream of the Master. In my dream, the Master would always tell me some Buddhist principles. After I woke up, I would gradually delve into them. And when I understood them, they afforded me endless benefit. Even though I didn’t get to see the Master often, I felt very close to him. He was as close as a father, and I was like a little child.
Even though I can say I grasped the Venerable Master’s intent and the truth of his words, on the path of cultivation, there can be sudden enlightenment to the principles, but we must cultivate gradually in actual practice. Due to my habitual laxness, I often feel remorse towards the Venerable Master and feel that I cannot be forgiven. And yet he always tolerantly accepts and guides us, never giving up on us. Many people who knew the Venerable Master have said that when they met the Master, they felt as if he were their very own father. This must be due to the Master’s kindness and compassion! His great kindness and compassion cleansed our minds and bodies of filth and defilement, allowing us to feel that we have something to rely upon in our distress. No matter when and where, as soon as we think of the Master’s presence, we can stop worrying.
The Venerable Master used all kinds of methods to teach and guide living beings. Over the years, his strength declined and he overexhausted himself. Sometimes we would hear that he was ill from overwork, and then we would see him travelling to various Way-places both domestic and abroad, propagating the Dharma to benefit beings, disregarding his own well-being for the sake of the Dharma. He regularly embarked on fasts lasting for many days, dedicating the merit to all living beings. He never did anything for himself. Even when he was no longer able to hold up, he said,
“I wouldn’t even use the strength of one finger
to help this body of mine which is lying on the
On June 7 at 3:15 in the afternoon, our selfless and unselfish, greatly kind and compassionate teacher, the Venerable Master Hua, dedicating his inexhaustible blessings to the entire Dharma Realm, entered great Nirvana.
When I think of how he did everything for living beings without any regard for himself, my heart is sorely grieved. I can’t stop crying, and my mind cannot find peace. I have no appetite, and I toss and turn all night long, unable to sleep...
Opening my certificate of taking refuge, I carefully study the Venerable Master’s eighteen great vows. I see the eleventh vow:
“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” and the twelfth vow:
“I vow to fully take upon myself all sufferings and hardships of all living beings in the Dharma Realm.” His compassion, his vows, his conduct─are just like those of a Bodhisattva. Now that he is gone, upon whom can living beings rely?
In my mind, I can only think of the Master, the Master...
On the morning of the seventeenth, I went to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to gaze upon the Venerable Master’s visage.
As the sound of the Buddha’s name filled the air, I stood calmly before the casket gazing at the Venerable Master.
The Master’s appearance was totally changed─I was so shocked that even my tears stopped─the Master looked just like the Sixth Patriarch!
All of my grief, sorrow, distress, and fear vanished in an instant!
I suddenly thought of the dialogue that took place when the Second Patriarch Hui Ke met Patriarch Bodhidharma for the first time:
Great Master Hui Ke:
“My mind has not been calmed. I beg the Master
calm it for me.”
Patriarch Bodhidharma: “Bring me your mind and I’ll calm it for you.”
Great Master Hui Ke: “I’ve searched for my mind and it cannot be
Patriarch Bodhidharma: “I’ve already calmed your mind for you.”
At that time I felt an unprecedented calmness of mind, and I couldn’t help but sigh to myself:
“A Great Master is just that! The Master has already
put my body and mind at ease!”
Walking out of the Abbot’s quarters [where the Venerable Master’s Nirvana Hall was set up], I thought of the dream I had of the Master, in which the Master struggled to sit up and asked,
“After I leave, what should everyone do?”
I answered, “We should take the precepts as our teacher. Right before Shakyamuni Buddha entered Nirvana, Ananda asked the Buddha about four questions. One of them was,
‘Whom shall we take as our teacher in the future?’ Shakyamuni Buddha replied,
‘You should take the precepts as your teacher.’ That
means everyone should follow the precepts.”
The Venerable Master selflessly offered up his entire life. Now his disciples are left with grief, remembrance, gratitude, and a perfect model of deportment and cultivation.
The Venerable Master came from empty space and returned to empty space. Therefore, I know that now the Venerable Master is truly everywhere.
A Casually Composed Verse
This year’s flowers are as pretty as last year’s,
But this year I am older than last year.
Do you know that when people get old, they are not as good as flowers?
Have pity on the petals that fall to the ground; please don’t sweep them away.
──Composed by the Venerable Master Hua on January 1, 1970