The Living Arhat

Sramanera Heng Hsien

In China, in the thirty-sixth year of the Republic (1947), there was a living Arhat by the name of Wu Chin, "Inexhaustible". This Arhat had one special talent; by reciting the Great compassion Mantra he was able to cure people. On one occasion on P'u T'o Mountain (an island, the site of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva's Bodhimandala he manifested great spiritual powers. There was a great gathering of Bhiksus, more than five hundred in all, who had not received any offerings of money that year, and so they had no way to leave the island. But because this living Arhat could cure illnesses, people had great faith in him and he was able to borrow, or rather beg, two boats in order to ferry the Bhiksus from P'u T'o Mountain to Shang-hai, Shun-ja, and such places. His reputation was then lofty indeed.  In Shang-hai, Huang-chou, Su-chou and surrounding areas there was not one person who did not know of the Living Arhat. Government officials believed in him, and citizens believed in him even more; those who had left home believed in him and those who were at home believed in him. All the Buddhists in that area had a great deal of faith in him.

      One time when the Master Hsuan Hua was in Su-chou on Lung Yen Mountain he met the Living Arhat. He had heard of the Living Arhat’s reputation and saw that in fact his appearance was not bad. He looked like an Arhat; he wore rag robes. But when the Master looked at him he saw that the Living Arhat would soon die, so he asked him, “Are you a living Arhat?”

"Oh," the Arhat said, "I don't like people to call me that."

"What special talent do you possess that makes you a living Arhat?" he asked.

"I cure other people's illnesses," the Arhat said.

"You cure other people's illnesses? You should cure your own illness.  Have you cured your own illness?"

To this the Arhat replied, "Oh?! What illness have I got?"

"You have caught the 'Seeking for Fame illness and in the future you will catch the 'Seeking Benefit Illness.' You cure other people's diseases, but no one is curing yours. You should cure your own illness. Frankly, if you continue to cure people's illnesses and manifest your spiritual penetrations, you will fall." This meant that he would create many offenses and might not be a Bhiksu any longer. It's like falling from a high place to one that is very low.

When the Master said this, the Arhat fell to his knees in front of him.  As he knelt, the Master said, "Arhat, what are you doing?"

He replied, "If I'm going to fall, I beg you to please save me."  Basically, he had only to stop curing people's illnesses to avoid this fall, but he did not ask how to avoid falling. He asked, "When I fall, I wish that you would come and save me." Consequently, at that time the Master readily agreed, "Okay, if you fall, I'll come and save you."

Now this was very strange. When in Hong Kong, the Master met the Living Arhat again. At that time, however, he was not a Living Arhat anymore, but had transformed. In fact he was a layman, and no longer a Bhiksu. The Master recognized him and asked, "What happened? Where did the Living Arhat go? What has happened to you?"

He said, "It's just your prediction that I would fall that has led to my falling out. If you hadn’t said I would fall it couldn’t possibly have happened. Your speech is magical. You said I’d fall and now I have.”

The Master said, "Well, I told you that when you fell I would come and save you. Now you can leave home again."

"But I don't have enough money to leave home," he said.

"You don't have any money?", asked the Master.

"I'll give you some." And so in Hong Kong the Master helped him leave home.

Later two well-known Bhiksus in Hong Kong respected and honored him as a living Buddha and bowed to him every morning and night after daily devotions. Originally these two Bhiksus had wished to use the Master Hsuan Hua for an advertising gimmick, and to serve as their sign, but the Master told them, "My sign is not for sale." And so they used the Living Arhat.

The Master told the Living Arhat, "If you persist in this, in a year or so you will fall again." Nobody knows quite what happened, but after a while the Living Arhat vanished.

Although this Living Arhat constantly sat and only ate once a day at noon, he fell just the same. It's not easy to cultivate the Way.


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