There’s a saying, “One has eyes, but does not recognize Nishyanda Buddha; one has ears, but does not hear the perfect and sudden teaching.” I do not know whether it was due to scanty blessings and superficial affinity or heavy karmic obstacles on my part that I was not able to pay my respect to the Venerable Master when he came to Taiwan several times for Dharma propagation. I felt gravely sorry that I could not go and listen to him speak the Dharma.
I have been a Buddhist for more than ten years, and during that time I went around to all the temples wherever there was Sutra lecture or Dharma session. I had already heard of the Venerable Master before I visited the Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Society. I knew that the Master was a lofty monk living in America, who had attained the Way and had great spiritual power. Many faithful Buddhists often went and sought help from him, and their various difficult illnesses would be cured without taking medicine. That was what I knew of the Society before I visited it. When I had the chance to visit the Society, I learned that it is one of the branch temples of Dharma Realm Buddhist Association in Taiwan, and its duty is to publish and distribute the Master’s Dharma talks and Sutras. My first impression of the place was that it was simple and yet adorned. The Dharma Masters there honor the Buddha’s teachings, always wearing the sash, eating only one meal a day, and sleeping sitting up. It is a pure monastery and an ideal place for one to cultivate blessings and wisdom. After joining the Society, I have often participated in sessions and worked as a volunteer on holidays. I have also gained an initial understanding of the Buddhism.
In 1994, when I learned that the Master had been invited to come to Taiwan to host a Dharma Session for Protecting the Nation and Quelling Disasters, I was delighted and thought that I could meet the Master at last. I told myself I could not let this chance slip by and that no matter what I must see the Master this time. However, after a few more meetings, it became clear that the Master could not come to Taiwan. I was disappointed but comforted myself thinking, “I just have to wait for the next chance then, or perhaps I can go to America to see him.” I felt a little better and still harbored a slim hope of seeing the Master.
I obtained a deeper understanding of the Master’s Dharma in 1994 when I helped type the Master’s explanation of the Lotus Sutra and the Prologue to the Flower Adornment Sutra into the computer at the Society. It is said, “The profound and wonderful Dharma is hard to encounter in hundreds and thousands of eons.” I derived incredible benefit from the typing, for it gave me the chance to learn the profound and wonderful Dharma spoken by the Master. It is said, A human body is hard to come by, and the Buddhadharma is hard to hear.
I am grateful to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for their compassionate protection and aid, enabling me to obtain a human body in this life, hear the Dharma, meet a bright-eyed Good and Wise Advisor, and fulfill my wish.
The Master put great emphasis on lecturing Sutras and speaking Dharma. The Master lectured almost exclusively on Great Vehicle Sutras, which teach people how to achieve Buddhahood. After coming to the Society, I had the chance to study the Flower Adornment Sutra, the Wonderful Lotus Flower Sutra, the Shurangama Sutra, and the Shurangama Mantra. Before, I had been quite a stranger to Sutras and Mantras. The first time I recited the Shurangama Mantra and the Flower Adornment Sutra was in 1995 when the Society held a several week long session for reciting that mantra and Sutra as a way of requesting the Master to remain in the world. The recitation filled me with the joy of Dharma, and I naively thought it would help the Master get better. Now in reflection, I know the Master did not need us to recite anything for him; he was just giving living beings a chance to plant the seed of Buddhahood.
As for the news of the Master’s entering perfect stillness, some people said the Master had entered samadhi while others thought the Master was giving his disciples a test. There were various opinions. Later, we learned that the Master left the world because he had undertaken too much karma for the living beings. I remember the Master once said,
People who eat three meals a day live to be 50 years old; we who eat one meal a day can live to be 150 years old.
His words were still ringing in my ears, and yet I was forced to face the cruel fact (of his passing). The Master wanted us to recite Shurangama Mantra because as long as the Mantra is recited, the demons and strange creatures dare not to cause mischief and the world’s righteous energy will be increased and violent energy transformed into auspiciousness. The Flower Adornment Sutra is the king of Sutras. Reciting it enables us to correct our bad habits and faults while planting the cause of Buddhahood. How can living beings understand the pains the Master took in teaching us?
When explaining the Sutras, the Master always used simple words to express profound principles. His lectures were always lively, and his analysis of human nature was always right to the point. The Master spared no effort in training people to propagate Buddhism. His statement,
As long as I still have a breath, I will not stop speaking the Dharma and explaining the Sutras.
Clearly shows his spirit of sacrifice for the Dharma.
I remember once in 1994 I had to finish typing ten manuscripts of the Flower Adornment Sutra Prologue in four or five days so that a Dharma Master could bring them to the United States. (Normally, it took me two working days to type one manuscript.) To rush out ten manuscripts in such a short time would be hard, but I tried my best. For four days, I typed from morning to night. My husband prepared lunch and dinner for the children. My effort was rewarded and I finished the job on time. Happily, I brought the diskette to the Society. As usual, I bowed to the Buddha first. Just when I was about to rise from the third bow, I saw the Master smiling happily, his eyes bright and sparkling. I was astonished but my faith was deepened, and I resolved to finish typing the Prologue. Also, a small bone protrusion on my left wrist disappeared without my realizing it, and I believe it was due to the Master’s compassionate aid. I remember the Master once said,
If you are sincere, you will be able to see
what you like to see.
Buddhism emphasizes sincerity, for sincerity brings efficacious responses. It was my greatest regret that I could not take refuge with the Master and become his disciple. I was quite distressed by this, but then I read in the Master’s commentary to the Prologue,
One needs to take refuge but once. Some Dharma Masters are afraid to lose followers and thus offerings, so they do not tell people the truth. Instead, they encourage people to take refuge twice or three times. These people are the “black sheep” of Buddhism.
I was relieved to read the Master’s words, which showed his compassion for living beings. The Master never coveted fame or benefit. Many people like to quote his Six Guiding Principles: no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuit of personal benefit, and no lying.
When typing the manuscripts, I often read the Master addressing his disciples: Guo Ning, Guo Hu, Guo Xiu, Guo Di... I knew that the Dharma names of the Master’s disciples all began with “Guo” and I intuitively assumed that Dharma names beginning with “Guo” belonged to lay disciples, while those beginning with “Heng” belonged to left-home disciples. Since all I read in the manuscripts was the Master calling “Guo such and such” and never “Heng such and such,” I could not help wondering, “Does the Master always have only lay disciples around him? How come he never calls anyone by the name of ‘Heng’?” I was filled with doubt but could not find an answer. Day in and day out, I never saw the Master call his disciples by any other way. Finally, I could bear it no more and asked my fellow cultivator. He said he did not know either. A few days later when I was typing the manuscript, I came to a part where the Master explained,
The Dharma name beginning with “Guo” is given when people take refuge, and another Dharma name beginning with “ Heng” is given when they leave the home-life.
So that’s how it is. All my doubts were wiped away, and I felt exuberant for a long time. All I could think was, “The Master is really out of the world; he knows exactly what’s on my mind.” It is inconceivable! I admired the Master even more. When the Buddha spoke Dharma, each living being thought the Buddha was speaking to him. I felt the same way. I know the Master did not say it for me in particular, but at that moment it seemed that he was speaking to me. The Master often said,
I am a stupid person.
From the Master’s Dharma talks, I learned that the Master was a kind elder who often taught by personal example. For instance, when the Master was in Manchuria working in the Virtue Society during hard times, he told students to eat the skins of their potatoes as well. Many stealthily spit out the skin. When the Master found out, he said nothing but picked up the skins and ate them himself. Those who did not eat the skin were embarrassed and did not dare to throw it away again.
In order to promote Proper Dharma, the Master fearlessly spoke the truth even when he knew it might offend people, cut off the source of financial support, or cause people to stop making offerings. When he said,
I despise rich people more than anything,
Those who heard it broke out in a cold sweat. Because rich people give large contributions, most people are only afraid they have not flattered them enough and would never dare to offend them. This shows the Master’s integrity.
The Master also said,
Many people at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas hold Ph.D.s, Master’s, and Bachelor’s degrees. I am the only one without a degree.
Yet in my opinion the Master was extremely erudite, knowledgeable, open-minded, and an incomparable wisdom shined forth from his intrinsic nature. For example, let us consider the question of why the lotus is used as an analogy in the Lotus Sutra. Most people say it is because a lotus grows in mud and yet remains undefiled, thus symbolizing its nobility and supremacy. The Master gave a unique explanation. He said,
The lotus seeds appear when the lotus blooms, and by the time the flower withers, the seeds are ripe. The lotus root buried in the mud represents ordinary people. The stem represents sages of the Two Vehicles. Ordinary people are attached to “existence,” which is represented by the mud. Sages of the Two Vehicles are attached to “emptiness,” which is represented by the hollow stem in the water. The lotus flower rises above both “existence” and “emptiness” and represents the Middle Way, which is attached neither to existence nor to emptiness. The simultaneous appearance of the flower and the fruit represents the nonduality of cause and effect. The cause is just the effect, and the effect is just the cause. As is the cause, so will be the effect. One who sows the seed of Buddhahood will reap Buddha fruit. The simultaneity of flower and fruit also represents “opening the provisional to reveal the real.” There are various kinds of flowers: sterile blooms bearing no fruit represent externalists; a single bloom bearing many fruits represents ordinary people; many blooms bearing a single fruit represents Hearers; a single bloom yielding a single fruit represents Those Enlightened to Conditions; the fruit being borne before the flower blooms represents the First Stage Arhats; the flower appearing before the fruit represents the Bodhisattvas. However, none of these kinds of flowers can be used as an analogy for the Wonderful Dharma. The lotus is the only kind of flower in which the flower and fruit appear at the same time. Thus it is used to represent the identity of provisional and actual teachings. “The provisional is set forth for the sake of the actual, and then the provisional is opened to reveal the actual.”
This unique understanding of the analogy is unprecedented. One cannot help but admire the bright, pure wisdom that flowed from the Master’s inherent nature.
To perpetuate the Buddha’s wisdom, we must constantly turn the Dharma wheel. Because the Dharma depends on the Sangha to propagate it, the Master set a high standard for the Sangha and emphasized the education and training of its members. Though the Master has left us physically, his Dharma body is omnipresent throughout the Dharma Realm and to the end of space. The Master’s left-home disciples are like his transformation bodies. There is a saying, “The teacher leads you in the door, but you yourself must cultivate.” While we should remember our teacher’s kindness, we must rely on the Dharma, not on people, to guide us in our cultivation. We should also reflect upon ourselves, return to the source, refrain from evil and do good, diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, and extinguish greed, hatred, and stupidity. The Master said,
One with great wisdom does not do muddled things.
It should not be that:
The confused transmits confusion.
With one transmission, both are confused.
The teacher falls into the hells,
And the disciple follows right along.
May all living beings follow a wholesome path, end birth and death, realize Bodhi, and meet again in the threefold Dragon Flower Assembly.
Perhaps someone sees him emitting the lion’s roar,
As he, in his supreme and incomparable body
Manifests his final birth,
That which he proclaims is actual.
Flower Adornment Sutra, Chapter Nine, Light Enlightenment