From the Lectures of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
—Translated by Disciple Bhiksuni Heng Yin
Patriarch K'uei Chi (632-682) in a previous life sat in meditation for several thousand years. During the T'ang Dynasty, when Great Master Hsuan Chuang journeyed to India to seek Sutras, he met the man who would be reborn as K'uei Chi on the road and found him covered with half an inch of dust, sitting in the pile of rags that once had been his robe. Birds had nested in his hair and raised a family and the offspring in turn had grown up to settle down in the old cultivator's hair. Hsuan Chuan rang a hand bell and he emerged from samadhi. “Where did you come from?" the old cultivator asked.
"I am from China," said Hsuan Chuang, "I'm on my way to India to gather the Buddha's Sutras. And who are you? What are you doing, sitting here like a corpse?"
"I’m waiting for Sakyamuni Buddha to appear in the world. I'm going to help him spread the Dharma," said the old cultivator.
"But Sakyamuni Buddha entered Nirvana a thousand years ago! Have you been sleeping all this time? You have slept yourself into a stupor."
"If Sakyamuni Buddha has gone to Nirvana, I’ll wait for Maitreya Buddha to appear in the world," he said and shut his eyes, preparing to re-enter Samadhi.
"You can't do that!" replied Hsuan Chuang, "We have an important matter to discuss."
"I don't want any part of your trivial business deals," said the old cultivator. He was very independent, and liked it that way.
"It's not my business," said Hsuan Chuang "it's the Buddha's. Since Sakyamuni Buddha has gone to Nirvana, people are needed to spread his teaching. Maitreya Buddha won't appear for several thousand years. What is the use of sitting here all that time? You should go to the Great Land of T'ang (China) and wait for me to return with the Buddha's Sutras, and then we can spread the Dharma together."
Basically, the old cultivator didn't want to go, but since the wait for Maitreya was going to be long, he decided to go ahead and take a part in Hsuan Chuang's play.
"Go east from here," Hsuan Chuang said, "to the Great Land of T'ang where you will find a house with a yellow—tiled roof. Be reborn there and wait for me to return from India. We will spread the Buddha's law." The old cultivator agreed and, with his eyes still shut, went off to China. He spied a house with a green-tiled roof. Perceiving it to be yellow he said, "This must be the place," and he was born there.
Meanwhile Hsuan Chuang was in India studying diligently and practicing Dhyana meditation. Before he left China, the Emperor had asked him when he would return. Hsuan Chuang had pointed to a pine tree and said, "The branches of this pine point toward the west; then they point eastward I will return."
Fourteen years later the Emperor noticed that the branches of the pine pointed east. He and his officials met Master Hsuan Chuang at the west gate. Master Hsuan Chuang's first words were "Congratulations on the birth of your son."
"What are you talking about?" said the Emperor, "I still have the one crown prince I had when you left."
"But I sent you a son," said Hsuan Chuang.
"Rational Master," said the Emperor, "you must be dreaming."
When Hsuan Chuang looked into the matter he found that the old cultivator had taken a wrong turn and had been born a nephew of Yu Chih Kung. He told the Emperor, "Yu Chih Kung's nephew must leave home to help me spread the Dharma."
But when he was approached on this matter, Yu Chih Kung's nephew replied that he definitely did not want to leave home. "How can I give up all these wonderful things?" he said. "Leaving home is too much suffering. No, I don't think I will."
Hsuan Chuang told the Emperor, "He was a cultivator in his last life. I told him to be reborn here in order to help me spread the Dharma, but now, he is confused and won't leave home. You must order him to leave home. Tell him if he doesn't he will be put to death."
In those days the Emperor's word was law. When he heard the order, the boy said, "If the Emperor agrees to my conditions, I'll leave home but if he does not agree, I won't." He went off to negotiate with the Emperor. Before Yu Chih Kung's nephew arrived, Hsuan Chuang took the Emperor aside. "Promise him anything," he said, "but he's got to leave home."
"I don't want to leave home," said the boy. "But if you agree to my three conditions I will obey your command. Number one: Those who leave home are not allowed to drink wine, but when I leave home, I want a four-horse cart filled with fine wine to follow me wherever I go. Can you agree to this?"
The Emperor knew that the Buddha's precepts prohibit wine, but he believed in Master Hsuan Chuang. "All right," he said, "and what is your second condition?"
Surprised by the Emperor's acceptance, he presented his second condition: "People who have left the home life are vegetarians, but I'm from the family of a five star general, and military men must eat meat. I want a cart full of fresh meat, fresh meat every day." At that time there were no refrigerators. People put a piece of ice in a box and called it an icebox.
To the boy's further surprise and great consternation, the Emperor again agreed. And so he tried one last time, "You'll never agree to this one!" the boy said. "I've always liked women. I want a cart full of beautiful women."
"How can this be?" the Emperor thought. "How can this be?" Then he said, "Very well. I agree to your three conditions. Now you must leave home."
The boy hadn't expected this reaction, but he prepared to leave home. The Emperor marshaled three carts full of wine, women, and meat and he, along with five hundred officials accompanied Yu Chih Kung's nephew to Ta Hsing Shan Temple. This temple was so big that one had to ride a horse almost four miles to shut the front gate. The temple bell was big enough for ten people to stand up in and could be heard from a distance of ten miles.
When the party arrived at the gate, they were welcomed by the sound of the drum and bell. The instant the boy heard the bell he was enlightened, "OH!" he said, "I am that old cultivator who raised birds in his hair and who promised to help Master Hsuan Chuang spread the Dharma."
He turned and waved the carts away, "Take them back, "he said, "I don't want the meat, I don't want the wine, and I don't need the women."
Patriarch K'uei Chi is called the Three Cart Patriarch. He was extremely intelligent and could read ten lines at a glance and understood a hundred conversations at once. He helped Master Hsuan Chuang found the Dharma Mark School and together they translated many Sutras.