As more and more people from around the world and from various branch Way-places came to attend the Memorial and Cremation Ceremonies for the Venerable Master, the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas could not accommodate everyone. Then a large tent-cover was set up over the plaza outside the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, making a spacious makeshift Buddhahall that could hold two to three thousand people. The entire area was arranged in a very orderly and adorned way. During the Dharma session, there were not enough bowing cushions and chairs, the ground was pitted and uneven, and the California weather was especially hot, with temperatures from 90 to 100 degrees. Even though everyone was sweating profusely under the tent-cover, it did not stop their remembrances of and grief for the Venerable Master.
Every morning the assembly bowed the Flower Adornment Repentance, which was led by various Dharma Masters. Each had his or her own tune and style. I regretted that I didn’t bring a tape recorder, for I would have liked to record it.
“It is difficult to obtain a human body. It is difficult to get to hear the Buddhadharma.” How fortunate I am! I have obtained a human body, heard the Buddhadharma, bowed in various repentance ceremonies, recited Sutras, and repented in the hope of dispelling karmic hindrances.
The offering ceremony before the noon meal was a new experience for the vast majority of the assembly. It was truly rare to have the opportunity to participate in the ceremony, in which assorted offerings were passed from person to person, all the way up to the front, before the Buddhas.
During the Great Meng Mountain Ceremony, which began at 7:00 p.m., a multitude of Sangha members was assembled, and a great variety of offerings were arranged at the other end of the Buddhahall. The ceremony was hosted by Dharma Master Mingyang. The scene was adorned and orderly, as the assembly sincerely recited mantras. Aided by the power of the mantras being recited by the Sangha, food was offered to beings in the six paths, in the hope that after they obtained the food, they would soon leave the sea of suffering, bring forth the Bodhi resolve, and attain the Buddha Way.
In the Nirvana Hall, recitation of the Buddha’s name continued day and night, twenty-four hours without break. The Dharma Masters recited in shifts, and the fourfold assembly of disciples went to the Nirvana Hall when they had time to behold the Venerable Master’s visage and join in the recitation. When I saw the 107-year-old Venerable Bhante Dharmawara come in to behold the Venerable Master’s visage, tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought that while the 107-year-old Venerable Bhante was still healthy, our Master had already entered Nirvana, and we would never be able to hear his Dharma or his teachings again. Ah! Life is impermanent! I think the Venerable Bhante must feel the same way. While he has lost a friend in the Way, we have bitterly lost our greatly compassionate father.
During the Cremation Ceremony, the Venerable Master’s casket was slowly carried to the cremation site and slowly placed into the crematory. When Dharma Master Mingyang gave the order:
“Light the fire!” my heart was shattered: The Master’s body would be burned to ashes. Then I really believed the Master had entered Nirvana. The hot sun was blazing, but the fourfold assembly’s grief cannot be described in words: their sweat and tears were indistinguishable. Even the cantor himself burst into tears. Ah! I yearn for my Master!
Before the scattering of ashes, the assembly moved from the Buddhahall to the main dining hall, reciting the Great Compassion Mantra under the leadership of the Dharma Masters. In the meadow in front of the dining hall, a Dharma Master who respectfully carried the Venerable Master’s ashes, and five other Dharma Masters climbed into the basket of the hot-air balloon. As the balloon gradually rose up into the sky, the Dharma Masters scattered the Venerable Master’s ashes into the air, giving us the feeling that the Venerable Master is always with us, pervading all of empty space. The ritual of scattering the ashes was the first of its kind, although it may not be the last.
On a Sunday afternoon, I drove from the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas back to Seattle, and then sent a Dharma Master to the Bodhidharma Center. Looking up, I saw the clear blue skies. It was a perfect day, sunny and breezy. In the air directly above the Bodhidharma Center, I saw a white cloud shaped like a phoenix, and another cloud shaped like a heavenly dragon with two horns. Too bad I didn’t have my camera, but the dragon and phoenix will remain in my memory. One of the Dharma Masters commented,
“Today is a very auspicious day.” I said, “Maybe the
Venerable Master knows we’ve returned to Seattle,
and so this dragon and phoenix have appeared in the
Across the sea of suffering, one leaves the revolving wheel,
The rains disperse, the heavens clear; just then the moon is fully bright.
The Chien source is the Way-substance, among people the sage.
His undecaying golden body is rare in the world.
Cast off birth; what need of thousand-year elixirs?
Attain extinction; why wait ten thousand kalpas?
Five dwellings ended, the two deaths disappear forever.
Roam at will from East to West, throughout the Dharma Realm.
From the Venerable Master Hua’s Verses without a Stand for the Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra