A Heavenly Demon

Takes Refuge With



                 -- Told by T'an Kuo Shih

                              -- Translated by Bhiksuni Heng Yin

On the 12th day of the second month in the year 1945, the Master passed through the Chou Family Station in Northeast China. In this town there was a Way Virtue Association which met daily for lectures on the Way and its Virtue and, because many of the members were the Master's disciples, whenever he traveled near that town, he stayed for a few days.

This particular time, the Master met a Chinese astrologer named Chou who cast his horoscope. The astrologer said, "You should be an official. Why have you left home? Had you wanted to, you could have been a great official."

"I haven't any idea how to be an official," the Master said, "but I do know how to be a Buddhist Sanghan and so I've left home."

"What a pity," said the astrologer, and he looked at the Master's hand. "A the very least," he said, "you could be the top-ranking Imperial scholar."

"No," said the Master, "I couldn't even come in last."

"Oh," he added, "this year something very lucky will happen to change your life. After the 10th or 12th of next month things will be different. Right now, ail the people within 350 miles believe in you, but after the 10th of next month, everyone within 3500 miles will believe in you."

"How is that?" asked the Master.

"When the time comes, you will know," he said.

Two days later the Master went to the village of Hsiang Pai Ch'i, 4th District and stayed with his disciple Hsia Tsun Hsiang, who was over sixty years old. Mr. Hsia was the richest landowner in the area, and had never believed in Buddhism until he saw the Master and immediately decided to take refuge with him. He and his family of over thirty people all became the Masterís disciples, and every time the Master visited them, they were extremely happy. On this occasion the Master stayed for ten days and in that time seventy-two people took refuge.

On the 25th, the Master set out in Mr. Hsia's cart for the City of Shuang Ch'eng. Although it was Spring, the weather was bitterly cold. The driver and the attendant were dressed in fur coats, trousers, and hats, but the Master wore only his usual rag robe made of three layers of thin cotton cloth, trousers made of two layers of cloth, open Arhat sandals with no socks, and a pointed hat which didn't cover his ears.

They rode from three in the morning until dawn, arriving in Shuang Ch'eng at seven a.m. The attendant and the driver had stopped repeatedly to exercise and keep warm, but the Master had remained in the cart. When they arrived and the Master descended, the driver exclaimed, "We thought surely you had frozen to death."

The Master stayed with friends, Dharma protecting laymen, for a few days, and on the 9th day of the third month, he returned to Hsia Tsun Hsiang's home in Hsiang Pai Ch'i. Upon arriving, he was told that one of his recent disciples, the daughter of Hsia Wen Shan had fallen dangerously ill. She hadn't eaten, slept, or drunk water for over a week. She did not speak, and she looked fiercely angry as if she wanted to beat people.

Then her mother came, "Master," she said, "my daughter became very ill not less than a week after taking refuge," and she described her illness.

The Master said, "I can't cure illness but my disciple Han Kang Chi has opened his five eyes and knows people's past, present, and future affairs. You should ask him."

Han Kang Chi had also taken refuge in Shuang Ch'eng on the 24th. Originally the Master had refused to take him as a disciple because before the Master had left home, the two of them had been good friends and had worked together in the Way Virtue Association. After the Master left home and Han Keng Chi opened his five eyes, he looked at the Master and said that life after life, the Master had always been his teacher.

"How can I take my old friend as a disciple?" said the Master.

"But if I don't take refuge with you, I know that in this life I shall certainly fall," he said and knelt on the ground, determined to take refuge.

The Master was determined not to accept him, but he knelt for perhaps a half an hour when the Master finally said, "Those who take refuge with me must offer up their conduct in accord with the teaching. You have great talent; you know the past, present, and future. Is it possible that this has caused you to be arrogant? Will your pride prevent you from obeying instructions?"

"Master," he said, "I will certainly obey. If you tell me to throw myself in-to a cauldron of boiling soup, I'll do it; if you tell me to walk on fire, I'll walk. I'll stand at my post and not resign. If I get boiled or burned to death, that's all right."

"You'd better be telling the truth," said the Master. "If I give you instructions, you can't ignore them."

"No matter what it is," he said, "if you tell me to do it, I will do it and fear no danger whatever."

And so Han Kang Chi was one of the seventy-two who took refuge on the 24th.

When the Master heard that one of his disciples was sick, he told Han Kang Chi, "You can diagnose illnesses. Go take a look."

Han Kang Chi set in meditation, contemplated and thought; suddenly his face was stricken with terror. "Master," he said, "we can't handle this affair. It's beyond our control. The demon who is causing this illness is extremely violent and can assume human form to bring chaos to the world and injury to mankind."

"What makes this demon so fierce?" asked the Master.

"This demon was a ghost long ago during the Chou dynasty (1122-255 B.C.)," he said. "Because it didn't behave properly, a man with spiritual powers shattered it with thunder. But the ghost's spirit did not completely disperse and it later fused into a powerful demon which could fly...and vanish and appear at will.
      "This demon has refined some dharma treasures. The first is an exclusive anti-thunder device: a black hat made out of human afterbirth. Thunder has a great aversion to filth.1 She also has two round balls. If she hits someone with one of them, they will die. If she puts her hat on someone, his mind will be under her command and that person will become one of her retinue. Master, we can't manage such a fierce demon."

"Then what will happen to the sick girl?" the Master asked.

"She will certainly die," he said.

1Westerners think that thunder has no one controlling it and while this may be the case for ordinary thunder, there is a special kind of thunder which is used by gods who want to subdue and conquer the strange demons and ghosts who wander through the world.

to be continued

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