Amitabha! To talk about the Master in ten minutes is actually impossible. But I was given a topic--"How is it that the Venerable Master can cross over Westerners and how is it that he can educate people?" The Master, wherever he went, any place in the world or beyond the world, whenever he encountered a living being, he could fully understand that living being. He could recognize each and every one of us. He could know our past causes and conditions and our future Buddhahood. He could know the best and the worst of each one of us. The wonderful thing about drawing near to the Master was that he helped us to recognize our worst, but at the same time he was able to bring out the very best in each of us. He did this in many ways. He did this by his adorned, pure appearance; by the words he said, which were always true; and through his deeds of virtue, which were uncountable.
He taught and transformed living beings with his every breath, with every pulse of his blood and every beat of his heart. Yet he never sought a reward of any kind--not only fame or money－he never even sought for anyone to recognize how much he was doing for living beings. He called himself an ant and a mosquito and the stupidest of people. Now, our first impression might be, "Well, an ant or a mosquito is just a very tiny, insignificant living being. That must be what the Master means." Actually, ants are very hard workers, and the Master was a very hard worker. Ants keep the earth clean of impure things; they clean away all the messes that other living beings leave. The Master cleaned up the karma of many, many living beings. An ant takes that mess on his own back and carries it away; and the Master took on the karma of many living beings. He actually took upon himself the sicknesses of many living beings. When you think of a mosquito, you think of the mosquito's never-ending sound. And that's how the Master was－he constantly spoke the Dharma; he never stopped speaking the Dharma. And he called himself the stupidest of people, because in a world where we all know how to cheat and to lie, the Master only knew how to tell the truth and how to take a loss. And just by being this way, he was able to cross over countless living beings.
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People often ask how it was that the Master was able to cross over Westerners. Today I was thinking of the causes and conditions of why I left the home-life. I remember the time when I was still working in Berkeley. I had a very good job and was in a good situation. Once I went into a store to buy a pair of socks. I started writing out a check, and the salesperson told me that in order to cash my check, she needed my fingerprints. At that point I decided the world was becoming too complicated. That was around the time when I started thinking that I wanted to do something else. That was also around the time when I met the Master. The Master, compared to this modern world of asphalt and steel and computers and atomic bombs, is an oasis of compassion. He is a forest of humaneness, and he emphasizes simply being human. He emphasizes the human qualities, and he teaches us that to become a Buddha and to become fully enlightened, we need to perfect ourselves as people.
Now, the Master didn't go to the U.S. to become famous as a Dharma Master who crosses over Americans. He simply took up his responsibility. Because the Master was a very responsible person and a very responsible cultivator, when people take refuge with the Master, he takes complete responsibility for them and for their future as potential Buddhas. And he takes on a lot of karma. I remember, as an example of this, once in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a Bhikshuni had made a mistake, and she broke the precepts. She was taught by the Master, as we all were, to confess her mistake and to repent and reform. She knelt in the Buddha hall in the midst of the great assembly and before the Master, and she repented, and then the Master, sitting on the high seat, looked down at her and said sternly, "What you have done will cause you to fall in the hells." Because this Bhikshuni truly believed in the Master, she was very afraid. She asked, "What can I do to save myself?" The Master said, with a very broad smile on his face, "I have a way to save you. I can go to the hells myself in your place and undergo the retribution for you." She couldn't accept that, of course, but the Master had already said that he would do it.
Another time, another Bhikshuni told me that one night she was very, very sick and couldn't stop vomiting. She very much believed in the Master, and so she bowed before his picture and prayed to the Master and asked him to bless her and take away her suffering. Then suddenly she felt well, and that night she had a good rest. The next morning she went to a refuge ceremony where the Master was transmitting the three refuges and the five precepts. After he had transmitted the refuges, he turned to the Bhikshuni and said, "This morning has been very difficult for me, because last night I suddenly became very ill and I vomited all night long, and so today I have no strength." That Bhikshuni knew very clearly that the Master had simply taken her suffering onto himself.
Many people wonder how was it that the Master could become so ill and how could he have left us the way he did. But many of us who have been with him through the years know, and we know what a great debt of kindness we have to pay the Master. And the only way to do that is to try our very best to cultivate.