Record of Water and Mirror
THE GREAT MASTER CH'ANG JEN (FILIAL SON WANG)
BY TRIPITAKA MASTER HSUAN HUA
Commentary by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ching
DAY HIS WIFE ARRIVED DEMANDING THAT HE EITHER RETURN HOME OR OBTAIN A
DIVORCE; THE MASTER DID NOT REPLY. SHORTLY AFTERWARDS SHE RETURNED WITH
HER LOVER AND WAS THOROUGHLY PASSIONATE WITH HIM, BUT THE MASTER REMAINED
UNMOVED AND PEACEFUL. THEY LEFT TOGETHER AND DID NOT RETURN TO ANNOY HIS
THERE WAS, IN THE VILLAGE, A BEANCURD MAKER NAMED MENG WHO WAS AN INDUSTRIOUS FARMER. ON HEARING OF THE MASTER’S REPUTATION HE WAS INFLUENCED TO DECIDE TO BE A DHARMA PROTECTOR AND MAKE OFFERINGS OF FOOD AND DRINK. HE DID NOT FAIL TO DO SO EVEN IN BITTER WEATHER. THREE YEARS PASSED IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, AND THE MASTER RESOLVED TO STOP SPEAKING AND TO ABSTAIN FROM COOKED FOOD.
Meng, the beancurd maker, supported some ten people by his own labor in the fields and by selling beancurd. Beancurd, one of the staples of the Chinese diet, is so cheap that its manufacture is an affair of the very poor. In fact it is not much above being unemployed. Meng, who figures in several incidents further on, later left home with Master Ch’ang Jen who took him, not as a disciple but as a dharma brother with the name of Ch’ang Chih. He too achieved great heights cultivation.
The traditional period of mourning is three years, but since the Master was mourning both parents, he vowed remain in the graveyard for another three years.
DAILY HE TOOK RAW RICE FLOUR AND MIXED IT WITH COLD WATER TO CURE HIS HUNGER AND THIRST. HE ALWAYS SAT AND DID NOT LIE DOWN. CONSTANTLY CULTIVATING THE VAJRA SAMADHI AND INDESTRUCTIBLE DHARMA BODY, A LIGHT EASE OFTEN MANIFESTED AND WONDERFUL CONCENTRATION WAS CONSTANTLY PRODUCED. THE TURNING WHEEL OF CAUSE AND EFFECT BECAME AS CLEAR AS THE PALM OF THE HAND.
The obstacles which stand in the way of our attaining the fruits of cultivation are our greed and desire. Of all desire, the most difficult to control is the desire for sensual pleasure. So firm was the Master’s concentration power that he remained unmoved even in this extreme circumstance.
Ascetism was not, as some people think, totally condemned by the Buddha. He merely taught avoidance of non—beneficial ascetic practices. Cultivation of certain prescribed practices explained in the sutras serves to weaken the hold of the chains of our own forging, the desires which chain us to the wheel of birth and death. They are also an immense aid to the cultivation of concentration and meditation. These practices are in all cases voluntarily undertaken by cultivators and are not necessarily lifelong practices.
A light ease refers to the joy of dhyana meditation. The aim of sitting is not a negative goal. There are very positive results obtained.
ONE OF THE MASTER’S NIECES HAD RESOLVED TO LEAVE HOME AND BECOME A BHIKSUINI BUT THE FAMILY WOULD NOT ALLOW IT. SHE THEN SAID THAT SHE WOULD ASK THE MASTER, AND ABIDE BY HIS DECISION. BY THAT TIME, HOWEVER, HE HAD ALREADY STOPPED SPEAKING, AND SO FROM BEGINNING TO END DID NOT SAY A SINGLE WORD. AFTER QUITE A WHILE SHE LEFT AND STOPPED BOTHERING HIM.
Because he felt that his cultivation of filial piety had not been perfect, the Master resolved to stop speaking. When cultivators attain some progress, demons manifest unexpectedly from the ten directions, but one who can see the turning wheel of cause and effect as clearly as his palm has little cause to be moved. Thus, the Master, whose spiritual powers were already advanced, knew full well what the conditions involving his niece had been and would be. Though she spent and entire day trying to get him to speak, he remained silent. In the end she left, and his vow remained unbroken.
THE MASTER, IN STILL CONTEMPLATION, SAW HIS SISTER MRS. SHANG, WHO, BECAUSE OF QUARRELS IN THE FAMILY, HAD JUST THOUGHT OF SUICIDE. AT THAT TIME HE GAVE SOME SIMPLE WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS TO OLD CULTIVATOR MENG, TELLING HIM TO TELL HER NOT TO KILL HERSELF. MENG THEREUPON WENT TO THE HOUSE OF THE SHANG FAMILY WHERE HE SAW THE SISTER BEFORE A MIRROR. SHE WAS COMBING HER HAIR, WEEPING, AND CRYING SORROWFULLY. MENG SAID, “YOUR OLDER BROTHER ALREADY KNOWS THAT YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED WRONGLY AND HE TOLD ME TO COME AND TALK TO YOU. DO NOT ACT ON YOUR TEMPER, TO DO SO WOULD BE A MISTAKE WHICH AFTERWARDS WOULD BE ENDLESSLY REGRETTED.” MRS. SHANG AT FIRST STARTLED, REJOICED AND OBTAINED A NEW HOPE IN LIFE.
The Master’s sister realized through this providential appearance of Old Meng that her brother had achieved some of the more wonderful points of cultivation. Thus, taking his advice, she obtained a new lease on life.
ONE DAY THE MASTER’S NEPHEW WANG KE CH’IN WAS CARRIED OFF BY A BAND OF BANDITS WHOSE AIM WAS NOT TO ROB HIS MONEY BUT RATHER TO MURDER HIM TO SETTLE A GRIEVANCE. THE MASTER, IN SAMADHI, USED THE POWER OF THE WONDERFUL INVESTIGATING WISDOM AND PENETRATED THIS AFFAIR.
WHEN THE BANDITS DREW THEIR GUNS, THE MASTER USED THE WONDERFUL POWER OF SPIRITUAL PENETRATION TO MAKE THE GUNS FALL TO THE GROUND. THE NEPHEW RAN AWAY AND LEFT NO TRACES.
It must be clear that the Master was several miles from the scene
of the kidnapping which was not quite as simple an affair as it might seem
on first glance. It is often the case that human beings are moved to
certain actions by powers outside them. The most common of these forces
are various ghosts seeking release from some form of
bondage. In this case, a ghost who wished to be liberated from his
unfortunate state, moved a band of thugs to do his dirty work.
Such ghosts may be settling personal debts against a particular individual, but more often they may be merely trying to find anyone to take over the position they occupy, thus freeing them to move on. When a person meets an untimely or unexpected death, his consciousness may linger on in the form of a ghost bound to the spot where the body died. Such ghosts may not travel more than several hundred feet from the spot of their death unless they can find someone to replace them. Thus it is that even today along our streets and highways there are “death rows”. Such strips are simply the manifestation of successive inheritors of ghosts in a certain place luring others into their positions.
A highly efficient, although unorthodox, solution from the point of view of traffic management is to go to the places where there is a ghost, recite mantras and sutras, and speak dharma, thus enabling it to break its karmic bonds and go on to some other incarnation. This will break the pattern of recurrent traffic accidents.
THUS, IN SECRET, THERE WAS A “LIFE-BOUND” GHOST WHO HAD NOT YET SETTLED HIS ACCOUNTS. HE WAS UNABLE TO STOP SEEKING REVENGE, ALTHOUGH HE KNEW THAT HE WAS OBSTRUCTED BY THE MASTER. THE GHOST THEN SOUGHT FOR THE MASTER’S SECOND
YOUNGER BROTHER AND POSSESSED HIS BODY. HOLDING A GREAT KNIFE IN HIS HAND THE BROTHER APPROACHED THE GRAVE SHOUTING, “FILIAL SON WANG, YOU WERE ABLE TO SAVE YOUR NEPHEW, BUT NOW I WILL KILL YOUR OWN BROTHER TO GOOD THE DEBT!” AFTER THESE WORDS HE TOOK A STANCE AS IF TO STAB HIMSELF BUT THE KNIFE ROSE INTO EMPTY SPACE AND WOULD NOT DESCEND. THE MASTER DID NOT MOVE A HAIR BUT SAT CROSS-LEGGED SILENTLY RECITING THE DIAMOND SUTRA. HE AND THE GHOST KEPT AT EACH OTHER FOR A LONG WHILE.
AT THAT TIME, OLD CULTIVATOR MENG’S HEART SPEEDED AND HIS SKIN BEGAN TO CRAWL. HE WAS NOT AT EASE STANDING OR SITTING. SUDDENLY HE REMEMBERED THE FILIAL SON’S GRAVEYARD AND THOUGHT THAT PERHAPS SOMETHING WAS HAPPENING THERE. QUICKLY HE WENT TO VISIT HIM. ON SEEING THIS STRANGE SIGHT, HE SNATCHED THE KNIFE, AND THUS UNLOOSED THE BONDAGE, RELEASED THE HATRED, AND SAVED THE REVENGEFUL GHOST.
In order to put an end to the sufferings of this vengeful ghost, the cultivator recited sutras for his benefit. By this simple expedient his suffering was ended.
THE MASTER MAINTAINED FILIAL PIETY BY THE GRAVES AND DID NOT SPEAK; HE ATE ONLY RAW FLOUR DURING A PERIOD OF THREE YEARS. WHEN THIS TIME WAS OVER HE SAT UPRIGHT THINKING OF GOING TO EITHER “THOUSAND PEAKS” OR “WIDE MOUNTAIN” WHERE THERE WERE MANY CULTIVATING OLD BHIKSUS INVESTIGATING CH’AN AND PRACTICING CONCENTRATION. THESE WERE THE VERY BEST STILL AND QUIET PLACES. HE DECIDED THAT AFTER HIS FILIAL OBSERVANCES WERE OVER HE WOULD GO THERE TO PRACTICE HOLY CONDUCT, LEAVE THE WORLD AND GET OUT OF THE DUST. HIS WILL WAS SET ON SOLITARY GOOD. HE HOPED TO ATTAIN THE GREAT LIBERATION AND ACCOMPLISH THE FRUIT OF BODHI. (IT IS COMMONLY SAID, WHEN ONE SON ATTAINS THE WAY NINE ANCESTORS TRANSCEND BIRTH.)
This common saying can be taken to mean that the successful cultivation of one person saves nine generations of parents, grandparents, etc. It may also be taken to mean that parents and relatives of nine past lives are released from suffering. In either case the principle is quite similar.
SUDDENLY, IN CONCENTRATION, HE BECAME AWARE THAT THE NEXT DAY A CERTAIN HONORABLE PERSON WOULD COME. THEREUPON HE MAINTAINED A SINCERE MIND AND WAITED. THE NEXT DAY, AT ABOUT 10:00 A.M. A POOR OLD MONK WITH A POLE AND BUNDLE CAME. THE MASTER ASKED IN HIS MIND, “WHERE DO YOU COME FROM?” THE MONK REPLIED WITH WORDS, “I COME FROM THOUSAND PEAKS MOUNTAIN SPECIFICALLY TO EXPLAIN A BIT TO YOU, AND POINT OUT THE ROAD YOU MUST TRAVEL. I AM A SURVIVING OFFICIAL OF THE MING DYNASTY. SEEING THROUGH WEALTH AND HONOR AS IF THEY WERE A SPRING DREAM, AND SEEING POWER AND FAME AS LIKE FLOATING CLOUDS, I RETIRED TO A CAVE TO UNIFY THE MIND AND REGULATE THE WILL, HOPING TO AWAKEN TO THE UNPORDUCED. I RECEIVED THE BUDDHAS’ COMPASSION AND, ALTHOUGH I AM OVER 300 YEARS OLD, I AM NATURALLY AS STRONG AS BEFORE. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT KIND OF A THING OLD AGE IS. YOUR SINCERITY OF HEART IN MAINTAINING THE GRAVES AND YOUR FILIAL CONDUCT HAS MOVED HEAVEN. THOSE WITH WHOM YOUR VIRTUOUS TEACHING HAS CONDITIONS ARE IN SHUANG CH’ENG, NOT ON THOUSAND PEAKS OR WIDE MOUNTAIN.”
MASTER HAD DWELT AT THE GRAVE FOR SIX YEARS; HIS
ASCETIC PRACTICES WERE ESTABLISHED AND HIS DHYANA CONCENTRATION AND
SAMADHI WERE PERFECTED. AN INCONCEIVABLE STATE WAS MANIFESTED AND THE
WONDERFUL FUNCTIONS OF HIS
SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATIONS SECRETLY TAUGHT AND SAVED
Not only was the Master’s teaching done in personal contact and by example, not only did he manifest spiritual power to dispose bandits and repel ghosts, but he also often appeared to people in dreams and visions. Often he influenced people to undertake or to avoid a particular course of action, but they were never aware of what made them do so. This his teachings were not only done in public and visible ways, but also in secret subtle fashions.
WOMEN AND CHILDREN RECEIVED HIS TEACHING; GREAT OFFICERS AND HONORABLE PEOPLE TOOK REFUGE WITH HIM. HIS FILIAL VIRTUE WAS EXPANSIVE AND COVERED OVER ALL CLASSES OF BEINGS. WHEN HIS MOURNING PERIOD WAS OVER, THE FATHERS, ELDERS, AND BROTHERS FROM FORTY-EIGHT SURROUNDING VILLAGES UNITED TOGETHER IN A COMMON MOVEMENT TO A GREAT CONGRATULATION CEREMONY. THEY ALSO MADE OF ALLIANCE TO PROTECT THE TRIPLE JEWEL AND ESTABLISHED “THREE CONDITIONS TEMPLE” TO BE AN ETERNAL BODHIMANDALA.
Since so many villages were represented, each village sent one of its elders to act on its behalf. were forty—eight men who took this oath, representing a population that ran into many thousands.
Bhiksu Heng Chien.
Though the complimentary issue of “Vajra Bodhi Sea” was so kindly sent by you to the Institute for Dhammaduta Bhikkhus going abroad, most of the letters in English to this Wat come to my dwelling, so I am replying rather on behalf of the Institute, to whom I shall pass on your journal, and certainly because I am interested myself in your unique venture. It is indeed rare to find a Buddhist magazine containing so much Dhamma, and it is even rarer when it is printed in the western world. I appreciate very much the hard work which has gone into the production of this magazine and if every issue is up to this standard then certainly you are rendering a valuable service to the Dhamma.
do not know whether Thai bhikkhus will be much interested in your
presentation of the Dhamma, because Chinese Mahayana in this country is
only just recovering from the disastrous effects of many years laxity in
Vinaya, end is therefore little esteemed by most Thais. However, with the
organization of the Chinese Buddhist temples under one head some years ago
and effort made in training young bhiksus some good progress seems to have
been made. I do not think that there is any Ch’an practiced among the
Chinese Sangha or lay-people in this country.
By this time you will understand that I am not Thai. I came from England eleven years ago as a samanera and have been ordained as a bhikkhu for altogether ten years, though only five are counted as I received a second upasampada five years ago into the Dhammayuttika—nikaya, a small section of the Sangha here which insists on careful adherence to the Dhamma and Vinaya. (I am glad to see that you evidently appreciate the Vinaya from the notice given to Vinaya master Hung I). Like yourselves, though in a much lesser way, I have cried to start translation work here, as well as encouraging Thai translators at work already, with the intention of making our Dhamma of supreme clarity better known generally, and particularly trying to fill some of the very wide gaps in Buddhist literature. This work rather alternates with periods of practice in forest wats. I have been much concerned to turn into English some of the practical works on Theravida Vinaya and now some of these are printed and some are still to come — very necessary in view of the greatly increased interest in ordination among Westerners here.
any back numbers of your journal are available I should be interested to
offer in exchange for them some publications in English of Mahamakuta-
Rajavidyilaya for your library, all of them translations from
the Thai and some of which might be of value for extracting in your
keep this to its present high standard by translating from original
sources which feel is most important. May you succeed in all your efforts
with the Dhamma!
all good wishes and respects,
Enclosed with this letter is my subscription for your magazine in the
coming year. A year of peace
and happiness in the Dhamma for you all.
while this is the end established for all creatures still the world is heedless abandoning fear
i tremble that the hearts of men are rigid
for in confidence like this they wander down their road
Buddhacarita III. 61
Translated from Sanskrit
by Upasika Kuo P’u
|The Sino—American Buddhist Association, The Buddhist Lecture Hall, and Vajra Bodhi Sea together will sponsor a three day Buddha’s Birthday Celebration and Organizational Meeting to begin on Friday, April 30th, and culminate on the Buddha’s Birthday, Sunday, May 2nd. The Organizational Meeting will center on investigation of the problems involved in the future expansion of the Buddhadharma in America. We cordially invite all Buddhists to attend this important meeting, and the celebrations in honor of our Original Teacher, Sakyamuni Buddha. SET THESE DAYS ASIDE NOW!|