Tan Kuo Shih
| The following events were related to
me by cultivators who knew the Master Hsuan Hua in Manchuria. I have
noticed that many Westerners are curious, and some eager, about leaving
home to follow the life of a bhiksu or bhiksuni, and thought that the
ideas in this story, new to the West, might interest Western readers.
When the Master Hsuan Hua was in Manchuria, he followed the Great Master Ch’ang Jen. They went everywhere together, encouraging people to make offerings of charity. Once they passes through a country village and, just as they were about to enter the house of a Mr. Wong, he grabbed his child and knelt before them in the doorway, pleading to them to save his child’s life. His child had tuberculosis and coughed up blood, and his stomach and head hurt.
The old Abbot Ch'ang Jen couldn't cure sickness. "Ask Dharma Master Hsuan Hua," he said pointing, "he can help you."
The Master said, "This man asks you to help him and you ignore him and give me this trouble?" But the Abbot insisted, so the Master agreed.
He asked Mr. Wong a strange question: "Do you want your son to live or die? If you want me to save his life, I can't do that. You must save him yourself."
"Yes! I want him to live," said Mr. Wong, "But how can I save him? I don't have any method."
"You have this method," he replied, "if you want him to live, you must allow him to leave home. If your son leaves home, he will live; if he does not, he will surely die. There are no two ways about it."
The child was eleven years old at that time. Mr. Wong's wife agreed and so the Master repeated his instructions. "If you agree that your child will leave home, from this very day he will not cough blood and hi stomach and head will get well."
"How do you feel?" they asked the boy.
“Why, I feel better. I’m getting well,” he said.
As they were leaving, the Master said, “When he is completely cured, send him to my temple. If you don’t he will surely die.
The child recovered and was soon completely cured. Half a month later the Master returned to his temple and waited, but Mr. Wong did not bring his son. He waited two or three months. One day as he was walking along the outskirts of the Father's village, the child, sitting at home, knew. He said, "My teacher came to our village today, but he did not stop at our house. He is probably unhappy with us." From that day he relapsed, and his sickness was even worse than before. After a week his father went to the temple, but the Master wasn't in, and since none of the other people knew about this situation, no one could help him.
When he got home, the boy said, "Father, I went with you to the temple today! I saw every room in San Yuan Temple and I know who lives in every room. I saw one room hung with P'ai Wei slips to cross over the dead...."
“This is very strange." said his father, "Your mother says you were here all the time. How could you have gone with me to the temple?"
A few days later, the Master was again walking on the outskirts of the village, on his way back to the temple, and the child knew: "Today my teacher is going back to the temple. He's not stopping at our house. Please follow his instructions and allow me to leave home. Go to see him right away."
But the child's father replied, "Wait until tomorrow, I'll go then."
"You don't have to go," said the boy. "Even if you were to go this minute, it wouldn't make any difference."
That evening at dusk, the child sat up in bed, "Father?" he said. "Light the lamp. Tell me if I am sitting up correctly." His father lit the lamp and looked at this son who was sitting serene and upright in the lotus position. He was dead.
No matter how hard his father and mother cried, he didn't come back to life. They asked the Master if he could make their child live again. He said, "The method wasn't mine, it was yours. I gave it to you and you did didn't use it. There is nothing more I can do."
The child was born into the Wong family, and his first name was Shen.
Why did the Master instruct
this child to leave home? Because he looked like a bhiksu, and in past
lives he had made vows to leave home in every life.
MASTER HSUAN HUA FOLLOWING MASTER CH’ANG JEN ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO MAKE OFFERINGS OF CHARITY
THE EMINENT UPASAKAS KUO TSUN DINWIDDIE
"You are where you dwell"
Upasaka Kuo Tsun has lived in a variety of places. He has lived in some places out of necessity, some out of curiosity, and some as the result of a deep and earnest search for the "right place to abide".
Born in Seattle, Washington, and graduated from Mercer Island High School,
Kuo Tsun began travelling during his undergraduate years at the University
of Washington. He has become acquainted with most of Europe and North
Africa and is especially familiar with Spain and Greece where he lived and
traveled for several months. His odyssey aimed to discover the spirit of
people as that might cast light on his own spirit. He sought out and lived
with the native people of the countries, drawing near to the art of
flamenco with Spanish gypsies and wrestling and folk dancing with Greek
islanders. All the while he endeavored to taste the essential flavor of
life that permeates the blood of all people.
As an anthropology major at the University of Washington, he
studied the religious expressions of primitive people. Kuo Tsun says,
“It is my opinion that that which we call religion is a formalized
expression of the essential spirit of man. A study of man’s religion is
a study of his deepest spiritual penetrations and highest understood
aspirations.” Kuo Tsun continued his search for clear expressions of
man’s spiritual insights and the techniques by which the spirit is
Unfulfilled by what he found, he inquired elsewhere. His
restlessness carried him to Mexico and Alaska. He and his wife, Upasika
Kuo Hsun, tripped to Mazatlan one summer on a Vespa 125 motor scooter,
“a foolish and exciting trip”. He fished for salmon with his father in
a small boat off the coast of Alaska in deep Pacific waters, also exciting
and filled with the flavor of life and of death. He dove deeply into the
energy realms exploited by members of America’s “alternate culture”
but as most of those who try that avenue of experience soon discover the
journey is short lived.
| At the end of 25 years Kuo Tsun had
sought to dwell in many physical and conscious abodes, none of which
brought unquestionable satisfaction. When it appeared that all pathways
leading to satisfactory solutions to the common problems of self-identity
and relatedness were exhausted anxiety quickened his heart. He felt a
great need to acquire some durable and efficient spiritual tools with
which to construct his own "right" dwelling.
In the spring of 1968 he heard that Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua was planning to open a Ch'an Session for a week. Kuo Tsun and his wife arranged to go to San Francisco to pay respect to the Master and sit with him during the week. At the week's end the two of them took refuge with the Master receiving the Triple Jewel.
Kuo Tsun returned to Seattle nurturing the seeds of concentration and patience discovered during that week; tools with which to build an adamant residence. He made plans to return for the 1968 Surangama Sutra Session that the Master was then planning, and also influenced many others to go with him. He worked extremely hard during that summer on Sutra study and his meditation, and at the close of the session received the Ten Heavy and Forty-eight Light Bodhisattva precepts. He has since remained near the Master, and contributed greatly to the spread of the Good Dharma in America.
He is currently teaching English and related subjects in a Santa Clara County High School. His wife, Upasika Kuo Hsun, is a recreation director in San Francisco. They live in Mountain View, California.
Kuo Tsun sums up his odyssey this way, "Time is valuable and I've wasted a lot of it searching for THE place. I've looked outside and in and far and wide and deep for a place to dwell. I've been fortunate to discover that place from which I never strayed but only lost sight of. Peace of mind is the foundation, walls and roof of a perfect home. Dwelling in peace, what could go wrong; nothing to gain, nothing to loose. Ask the heart where peace is or where it has gone. Subhuti, in the Diamond Sutra, quotes the Tathagatha as saying, 'Subhuti, this son of good family, who is the foremost of those who dwell in Peace, does not dwell anywhere; that is why he is called "a dweller in Peace, a dweller in Peace'."
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Letters to the Editor
Let me thank you for the continued publication of the greatest magazine in this world. The quality of material and translation is unbelievable! May your good work continue for the welfare of all sentient beings.
I do not know who I have to thank for the packet of back numbers of "Vajra Bodhi Sea", but I was happy to see them and they came at a time when I was in the hospital for a check and provided some good material for reflection. I have passed them on to other Western bhikkhus and samaneras here to look at. Now having seen the whole series of this magazine I am very impressed with your diligence, and I hope that the Vajra-tide continues to swell.
By now I hope that you have settled into your new premises and find that with much more room your Dharma activities can be greatly increased.
I am happy to know about the activities of the Sino-American Buddhist Association and send in my best wishes for success of your Dharma duty works. It is time that such an association should be established and the Dharma activities should be carried out so as to spread the Dharma to this part of the world. I congratulate you very warmly for this laudable effort and hope all your colleagues will share merits in these meritorious activities.
I greatly value your translations of basic Sutras and the good work for our teeming myriads of needy young.
Thank you dear Dharma Masters for your sparkling notices and shining Vajra Bodhi Sea, which washes through my skull —
Yours in OM
Your Wisdom and
The Sino-American Buddhist Association, The Buddhist Lecture Hall, and Vajra Bodhi Sea together will sponsor three separate four-week Lecture and Cultivation Sessions to be held during the summer of 1971. The main lecture series in each Session will cover sections of the AVATAMSAKA SUTRA. Additional lectures on THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA, THE SURANGAMA SUTRA, THE ORIGINAL VOWS OF EARTH TREASURY KING BODHISATTVA SUTRA, and other important Buddhist texts will also be given. Complimenting the sutra study, seven hours of meditation will be scheduled each day, in addition to chanting of sutras and mantras. The dates for the three Sessions are as follows:
There is no better way to introduce yourself to Buddhism than attending one or more of these Sessions. The combination of sutra study, meditation, and recitation allows for a good understanding of both the principles and practices of the Buddhadharma. You may attend one, two, or all three of these Sessions. A graduation ceremony, at which diplomas for all three Sessions will be handed out, will take place on September 19th.
These Sessions will be held at the new Bodhimandala, thus reducing the need for selective admissions and allowing space for greater participation than in the past.
For further information contact The Sino-American Buddhist Association, 1731 15th St., San Francisco, Calif. 94103. Tel: (415) 621-5202.
CALENDAR OF BUDDHIST HOLIDAYS 1971
Sakyamuni Buddha's Birthday.