FIRST ESTABLISHED MONASTERY
Saved From Suicide by a Bright Sarira1
From the lectures of
The greatly virtuous Indian Bhiksu Kang Seng Hui of the third century A.D. mastered all worldly knowledge at an early age. His father, a businessman who traveled throughout India a d Southeast Asia, settled his family in Chiao Chih the present day Vietnam. When Kang Seng Hui was eleven or twelve years old, both his parents died simultaneously. After observing the practices of filial piety, he left home, vowing to spread the Buddhadharma. His vow power and conduct were lofty, and he strictly upheld the Vinaya; he studied many Buddhist Sutras and was able to read thirty-thousand gathas every day.
At an earlier time in another place, in China, a Buddhist Upasaka named Chih Ch’an had translated many Sutras and had instructed a fellow student, Chi Ming, who in turn transmitted the teaching to Chih Ch'ien, who was K’ang Seng Hui’s contemporary. Chih Ch’ien was an exceptionally qifted Bhiksu who had penetrated the principles of the entire Tripitaka and spoke the languages of six Countries.
At that time Emperor Sun Ch’uan had just established the kingdom of Wu.(Sun Ch’uan or Wu Ta Ti ruled the Kingdom of Wu from 222-253 A.D.) As Wu was a peaceful country, Chih Ch’ien decided to travel there to avoid the political unrest brought about under the reign of Emperor Hsien of the Eastern Han dynasty. (Han Hsien Ti 189-220 A.D.) When Emperor Sun Ch’uan heard that the famous and talented Chih Ch’ien had come to his country, he asked for his advice and conferred upon him the honorary title of Doctor of Philosophy.
Chih Ch’ien was built tall and thin, like a bamboo pole. His bright eyes had shining gold pupils, and people said of him:
He was tall and thin, and full of wisdom, but because he was a foreigner he is not recorded in the historical documents of Wu.
When Chih Ch’ien died in China, K’ang Seng Hui in India knew of his death, and decided that since Chih Ch’ien had not established any temples in China, he would go there and establish some. He wore the attire of one who had left home——hat, shoes, socks, and robes. When he arrived, he built a small hut, made offerings to a Buddha image, and cultivated. However, in his cultivation he had trouble. Although there was some Buddhadharma in China, Sramanas were rarely seen. “Look at him!” people would exclaim, “wearing such strange clothes and doing strange things! See? He gets down on the ground and then gets up, gets down on the ground and then gets up. Just what does he think he is doing?”
The government sent their “F.B.I.” to investigate. When K’ang Seng Hui was called before the Emperor Sun Ch’uan, the Emperor said, “Why, the Han Emperor Ming saw just such a person in a dream! He is a member of the Sangha, a student of the Buddhadharma!2 Then he asked K’ang Seng Hui, “What are you doing?”
“I am studying the Buddhadharma,” K’ang Seng Hui replied.
“And who is the Buddha?” the Emperor asked.
“The Buddha was an Indian prince who cultivated in the Snow Mountains for six years. Then he sat beneath the Bodhi Tree, saw a star, and became enlightened. After his entry into Nirvana, King Asoka built eighty-four thousand stupas to hold his Sarira.3 The Buddha is a most awesome and powerful person!”
2Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han dynasty (-58-75 A.D.) in a dream saw a golden god flying in front of his palace. His minister Fu I told him that this was the Buddha, an Indian sage who had attained enlightenment, and whose body was gold.
3Sarira are precious relics which remain after the cremation of a Buddha or a saint. They are placed in reliquaries, called stupas, for veneration.
“You are deliberately overstating this,” said the Emperor, “making the Buddha so mysterious and wonderful. There is no such person, no such principle. But if you can show me some sarira, I will build you a stupa."
Surrounded by his many disciples, K’ang Seng Hui answered boldly, "In one week we shall give you a Sarira!"
K’ang Seng Hui and his disciples put on clean clothes, placed a small brass urn on a table before the Buddha and vowed, “In this week we shall certainly obtain a sarira!”
K’ang Seng Hui then addressed his disciples: “The success or failure of Buddhism in China will be decided right here. If we obtain a sarira, Buddhism will flourish; if we do not Buddhism is finished. It is fitting that the Dharma come to China. Therefore we must be extremely sincere in our efforts this week.”
Although they worshipped the Buddha all week, when Emperor Sun Ch’uan asked to see the sarira, K’ang Seng Hui could only reply that there were none, and request another week. Sun Ch’uan agreed.
With utmost sincerity, they prayed before the Buddha, but the second week passed and still there were no sarira. Emperor Sun Ch’uan was displeased: “You lied to me!” he said, “I have laws in my country. Do you know about them?” He wished to have K’ang Seng Hui put to death, but K’ang Seng Hui exclaimed, “Give us one more week!” Being wise and magnanimous the Emperor assented.
K’ang Seng Hui said to his disciples, “If we obtain no sarira this week, we should not wait for the Emperor to execute us; we should all commit suicide together! The Buddhadharma should be efficacious. If we elicit no response, what right have we to continue to propagate the Law?” Accordingly, they vowed, “If we obtain no sarira, we shall all die.”
They bowed to the Buddha night and day, but upon the evening of the sixth day, nothing whatever had happened. They had not even had any dreams. Remembering their vow, they were afraid. “Tomorrow we die!” they cried. At about five o’clock in the morning on the seventh day, suddenly they heard the brass urn sound,
K’ang Song Hui rushed forward to look in the urn. There was a brilliant five—colored sarira.
Emperor Sun Ch’uan and the scholars and officials of the Court were amazed. When Sun Ch’uan overturned the urn onto a brass tray, the sarira rolled out and shattered the tray. “This is a miracle,” said the Emperor, “a true jewel.” He then built the first monastery and stupa in China, called “First Established Monastery” ~ and asked K’ang Seng Hui to live there
“This is a manifestation of the Buddha’s might,” said K’ang Seng Hui. “The fire at the end of the kalpa cannot burn this sarira.”4
Sun Ch’uan said, “We shall see.” He placed the sarira on an anvil and struck it with a large hammer. The anvil and hammer were dented, but the sarira was unscratched. “This is harder than a diamond.” he said. Everyone who saw this incredible 6arira believed in the Buddha, and the Emperor Sun Ch’uan spread the Dharma far and wide.
Trans. Disciple Bhiksuni Heng Yin
4At the end of a kalpa there are three disasters: flood, fire, and wind.
PROFESSOR CONZE RETURNS
On behalf of all Buddhists in America, The Sino—American Buddhist Association, Gold Mountain Monastery, and Vajra Bodhi Sea welcome the eminent Buddhist scholar Professor Edward Conze to the United States. Professor Conze, author of many exemplary books about Buddhism and translator of Buddhist Scriptures, will be a Visiting Professor in the Religious Studies Department at the University of California at Berkeley this year. While they studied with Dr. Conze at the University of Washington in Seattle, many members of the Sino-American Buddhist Association received a true and thorough foundation in Mahayana Buddhism, and are grateful for his teaching. Now that he is close by, we are glad for the opportunity to benefit from his wisdom and knowledge of Buddhist texts and scriptures. All of us extend a warm welcome.
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LETTERS AND REVIEWS
in Tibet, by Chogyam Trungpa (the Eleventh Trungpa (the Eleventh
This is the story of the early life of a young Tulku, his escape from the Chinese Communists, his subsequent travels, and his teaching in the West An incarnate Lama of high lineage, Chogyam Trungpa was born heir to the Abbotship of the immense Surmang Monasteries. Not only an autobiography, this work chronicles the customs and habits of the general population of Tibet · and documents the religious practices of a school of Tibetan Buddhism now threatened with extinction.
The first half of the work is given over to Chogyam Trungpa’s reminiscences of his many—sided education in the monasteries and retreat centers of Tibet. It also explains how the lineage of teaching is transmitted directly from guru to disciple through successive incarnations.
The second half of the book is derived primarily from Trungpa’s diary, written as he blazed trails across 1,500 miles of snow—bound Himalayan mountains to freedom in India. It is a fast-flowing adventure which brings out the principle of Buddhist practice of compassion amidst suffering as a positive force in personal cultivation.
In the new epilogue to this edition, the author attempts to sum up in six pages the significant features of his eleven years in India, Britain, and the United States following his flight from Tibet. After the spirituality of the earlier life story, it is a great disappointment to read about the Westernization of an accomplished Eastern Monk and Guru0 Although he shows constant gratitide towards his teacher and the teaching he received in Tibet, he feels compelled to spend the final pages generalizing in Western psychological terms about the changes and adaptations he has made while transmitting the teaching of this school to the West.
Ven. Heng Ching,
Dorset Thank you for your letter of October 5th 1970. It is not yet quite clear what university I will go to —— whether Seattle, or Berkeley, or somewhere in the Middle West. My ability to work directly with you will, of course, depend on which way the dice will fall.
I greatly enjoy my copies of the “Vajra Bodhi Sea”. If I had any influence on your translation work I would aim at making it more intelligible to those who are not habituated to the folkways of Chinese immigrants to the United States. Skill in means would at times seem to require greater concessions to the thought forms and linguistic conventions of the white man than you actually show. With my best wishes I am.
May I thank you for your fine letter of July 13th and I congratulate you on your publication Vajra Bodhi Sea.
It is a pleasure to renew my subscription as the excellent quality of your journal is a joy.
you won’t be able to put it down — —
Put what down? Your copy of the Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra! The new English translation with commentary transmits for the first time in the West the mind seal of all Buddhas which has been handed down from the time of Sakyamuni Buddha, through the Patriarchs, to the present day.
The manuscript is presently being reviewed by Vajra Bodhi Sea Advisor Prof. Lewis R. Lancaster of the Dept. of Oriental Languages and Literature of the Univ. of Calif. at Berkeley. Prof. Lancaster’s careful scholarship assures that this will be a work of flawless credibility on which to rely in daily self—cultivation and practice. You won’t be able to put it down.
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Buddhism truly becomes established a country when it gains the strength to perpetuate itself, when the Sangha is sufficiently large and old enough to set up a precept platform and transmit the complete Bhiksu and Bhiksuni precepts.
The Sino-American Buddhist Association hopes that in the near future the complete precepts can be transmitted here in America. Serious attention is now being given to establishing a precept platform. Although still in the planning stage, it may be possible to convene a Dharma assembly for the purpose of teaching and transmitting the complete precepts as early as the summer of 1972. In such a case, it is hoped that the precept assembly would last for either ninety-six or one hundred and eight days, in order to insure a proper and orthodox beginning for the Dharma in the West. During the precept assembly the ten novice precepts, the ten heavy and forty-eight light Bodhisattva precepts, and the complete precepts for Bhiksus and Bhiksunis (250 and 348 respectively) would be transmitted.
The fruits of a precept assembly go not to the participants alone; the influence is felt everywhere, protecting the country and saving the world. Men’s hearts have gone bad; we hope that they will change.
Taking the Three Refugees is the first major step in the study of the Buddhadharma, and constitutes one’s formal initiation as a genuine Buddhist Disciple. When a sufficient number of people have prepared to take the Three Refuges, this traditional ceremony is held at Gold Mountain Bodhimandala. The five lay precepts, the eight lay precepts, the ten heavy and forty-eight light Bodhisattva precepts, as well as novice precepts for those leaving home are also transmitted.
Personal attendance at the ceremony, while preferred, is not absolutely necessary. If you sincerely wish to take refuge with the Triple Jewel, you may write for applications and details to: SABA, 1731 15th Street, San Francisco, 94103. Telephone: 415-621-5202.
FORTHCOMING BUDDHIST HOLIDAYS
Oct.29th Anniversary of the Nirvana of the Venerable