Twenty years ago, while acting as Dean of the Vinaya School at Nan Hua Monastery in Canton Master Hsuan Hua one evening heard a gang o ban its beating on the temple door. "Open up! This is the government!" they cried, but he refused to let them in.
Only two of the Master’s students were present, and they had hidden under the bed in the next room. The Master faced the thieves alone. When he finally opened the door, they ran in, swinging billies and carrying guns. “Why didn’t you open the door?” they demanded.
“You are thieves and bandits,” the Master replied. “Think about it. If you had been in my place, would have opened the door for me?”
They threatened the Master with their guns but he was unafraid. “Give us your money,” they said. The Master was wearing the same rag robe he had worn in Northeast China when he sat for three years observing filial piety beside his mother's grave.
“Look at my robe,” he said. “Do I look like a rich man?”
“No...” they said, “but your students must have money.”
“Sirs,” the Master replied, “If the teacher is penniless, surely the students will be poorer yet.” As the bandits ran through the temple, the Master followed them closely, harassing them and ordering them not to steal things.
The following day, at a General assembly, the Venerable Abbot Hsu Yun announced, “In this temple, only one man was not afraid of the thieves ——Master Hsuan Hua.”
“No, that’s not correct,” the Master quickly replied. The Sixth Patriarch sat unmoved in bright samadhi. Master Han Shan also was unruffled Master Tan T’ien was quite calm, although h had less samadhi power and stuck out his head to take a look. These three great teachers1 all did far better than I. I had no samadhi at all. I just hounded them al around the temple grounds.”
The gilded, undecaying bodies of these three masters are preserved at Nan Hua Temple for veneration. The body of Master Tan T’ien leans forward a tiny bit.