A Heavenly Demon


--A story from the life of the Venerable Tripitaka Master Hua as told by Upasika Tan Kuo Shih and translated for Vajra Bodhi Sea by Bhiksuni Heng Yin.

continued from issue 33

      "If she weren't my disciple I'd pay no attention, but she took refuge with me so I can't allow this demon to take her life."

"Then you take care of it," said Han Kang Chi, "but I'm not going."

"What?" said the Master, "You said you would jump into the soup, walk on fire, and stay at your post without resigning. This isn't even soup or file. Why have you suddenly decided to resign?"

Han Kang Chi thought it over and said, "If you appoint some Dharma protectors to guard me..."

"Don't shilly-shally!" said the Master. "If you're going go, but don't mess around!"

When they arrived, they saw the girl lying on the bed with her head and knees on the bed and the rest of her body sticking straight up in the air at an absurd angle. Her eyes were as wide as those of an ox, and she glared at the Master with rage. The Master then asked the family the cause of the illness.

A few days ago, they said, an old woman was seen on the outskirts of the city, sitting beside a deserted grave crying mournfully, "Oh my man, oh my man..." She was wearing a dark blue gown and had braided her hair backwards, in two plaits which went up her head in back and hung down across her temples. She had on yellow trousers and shoes and carried a black hat. Hearing her cries, Old Mrs. Hsia went to comfort her, but she continued to cry, "Oh my man, oh my man."

The two of them walked to the village gate, but the old woman wouldn't go in. The village was surrounded by a fence and had a gate on each of the four sides. The old woman stood outside the gate, crying. Just then Hsia Tsun Hsiang's horsecart came over the hill toward the village. When it reached the gate the horse saw the old woman, reared in fright, and ran, for horses can recognize things that people can't. As the horsecart went careening through the gate, the old woman followed it in. Probably the spirit who guarded the gate had his head turned, and in the confusion, she went sneaking through.

The old woman ran into the house of Mr. Yu Chung Pao and continued to cry for 'her man.' Then she ran out of the house and up the street, followed by thirty or forty curious onlookers who jeered at her. "Stupid old woman," they called, "What's your last name?"

"I don't know," she said.

"What's your first name?"

      "I don't know. I'm a corpse and don't know anything about the world," was her answer.

      She continued to walk as if in a stupor until she reached the back wall of Hsia Wen Shan's estate. She then threw her hat over the eight-foot wall and, in one jump, she leapt right over after it.

"The old woman can do magical gymnastics I "the crowd screeched and they ran around to the front gate and peeped in.

Hsia Wen Shan, another, who had taken refuge on the 24th, ran in the door. "Mama! Mama! he cried, "the old woman is in our house, but don't be afraid."

His mother looked out the window, but saw nothing strange. When she turned around, there was the old woman crawling up on the bed. She was half way on the bed and half way on the floor.

"What do you want?" shouted the mother, but the old woman made no reply.

Now when the seventy-two people took refuge, the Master taught them all to recite the Great Compassion Mantra and advised them to use it in times of danger or distress, so that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva would protect them, and a lot of people had been reciting the Great Compassion Mantra in that village.  Seeing the old woman's strange appearance, the mother and her daughter began immediately to recite the Mantra. Just as they recited the first line, 'Na mwo he la da nwo do la ye ye,' the old woman slunk to the ground and lay there inert, exactly like a corpse.

Seeing this, the family was greatly upset, "if someone dies in our house, the police are sure to investigate," they said.

They sent for the sheriff who picked the old woman up with one hand, and set her outside, then took her to the courthouse for questioning.

"Where are you from," he asked, "and why have you come here?"

"Don't ask me. I'm a corpse," she said. "I have no name and no home. I just live wherever I am."

Frightened, the sheriff escorted her at pistol point some fifty paces outside the village, but when he returned to the village gate she was right behind him. He took her seventy paces, but she followed him back again. Finally, he and three deputies took her one hundred and fifty paces outside the city and said, "Get out or get shot!" and they fired two shots in the air. The old woman fell to the ground in terror, thinking the shots were thunder, which had destroyed her before, and she didn't follow them back to the village.

When the sheriff and his men returned, they heard that Hsia Wen Shan's daughter was sick, not speaking, eating, or sleeping, but just lying on the bed staring in rage with her head on the pillow and her bottom sticking straight up in the air."

The Master said to Han Kang Chi, "You said if we tried to handle this we would die. Well, I would rather die than not save one of my disciples. First of all, I must save those who have taken refuge with me; I can't stand by and let them die. Secondly, I must save the demon. You say no one can control her, but she has committed so many offenses there's bound to be someone who can subdue her. If she were to be destroyed, it would be a pity, for she has cultivated diligently for many years. Even if she has enough talent to kill me, I'll still save her. Finally, I must save all living beings in the world and if I don't subdue her now, in the future many people will be harmed by her. For these three reasons, then I'm going to work."

Just then the sheriff happened by and overheard this discussion in which the old woman was referred to as a demon. "No wonder!" he exclaimed, "That's why I was able to pick her up with one hand, just as if there were nothing there at all. It didn't occur to me at the time, but now I realize she's a demon."

The Master then employed one of the Five Kinds of Dharmas2 in the Surangama Mantra, that of "summoning and booking" to catch the demon. When the demon woman entered the room, she had about her an intense and nauseating stench. She tried to put her dharma treasure, her black hat, on the Master's head, but couldn't get it on him. She tried to hit him with her ball, but it didn't work. She knew she was finished and tried to run, but when she first arrived the Master had laid a net which would trap her no matter where she tried to go, and now the Master called in the gods, dragons, and the others in the Eight-fold Division of ghosts and spirits as well as Dharma protectors and good spirits who watched her from the left, right, front, rear, downward, upwards, and in the intermediate directions. Seeing she couldn't get away, she knelt and wept.

The Master then spoke Dharma for her, explaining the Four Holy Truths, the Twelve Links, and the Six Perfections, and she immediately understood, brought forth the heart of Bodhi and asked to take refuge with the Triple Jewel. The Master accepted her and gave her the name, "Vajra As You Will Maiden."

She followed the Master when he went to save people, but her basic make-up was that of a demon and no matter where she went, she carried her overwhelming stench. The Master consequently sent her to Chiao Ho County in Chi Lin Province to Liu Fa Mountain to cultivate the Way in the Transparent Cave of the Ten Thousand Saints.3 " She cultivated vigorously and soon attained spiritual powers and could rescue living beings. But when she rescues them she doesn't like it to be known, since good done for others to see is not true, good, and evil done in secret, in fear that others will, know, is truly great evil. This former demon woman, having changed her deviant ways and returned to orthodox practices, is now just the same as Kuan Yin (Avalokitesvara) Bodhisattva, having joined the Buddha's family.
2They are: 1) stopping calamities, 2) auspiciousness 3) summoning and hooking (All strange creatures and demons, no matter how far away, must come when you summon them.) 4) subduing and conquering, 5) calling in aid of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
3The cave is called "Ten Thousand Saints" because the Master has sent many of his strange, unusual disciples there to cultivate. It is said to be transparent because it has three entrances and is totally visible from all directions. Where the three tunnels meet there is a temple made of bricks and lumber, which were carried up the steep mountain crags on the backs of goats. Off the western entrance there is a cave called "The Cave of Old Lao Tzu."  Off the eastern entrance is "The Dripping Water Cave" which drips enough water to satisfy the thirst of a hundred thousand horses. The cave in the back is called "Chi Tsu Cave" named after Chi Hsiao T'ang, a native of Northeast China who, in the Ming Dynasty, employed five ghosts, one of whom was the "Black Fish Essence." The "Black Fish Essence" was a Ming Dynasty official in Peking called "Blackie the Great" but Chi Hsiao T'ang knew he was really a fish and determined to capture him. He knew that "Blackie" would pass by the mountain and so he waited for him. When he passed by, Chi Hsiao T'ang released thunder from the palm of his hand and killed him.

No one actually knows how many caves there are in Lui Fa Mountain.  Each time you count the number is different, today 72, tomorrow, 73, the day following maybe 70.

A man once went there and watched two old men playing chess in a cave and when at last he coughed, the two long-bearded elders said to themselves, "How did he get here?" and waved there hands in front of the entrance which then Closed by itself. The man knelt right there seeking the Way from them until he died, and his grave may still be seen outside the Stone Door Cave. Do you see how sincerely the ancients sought the Way?

Many worthy saints are there. One is Li Ming Fu who has mastered kung fu and can run up the steep mountainside as fast as a monkey. When the Master visits the cave he arrives at four in the morning and often sees Li Ming Fu there bowing to the Buddha, his hair matted in a lump which weighs seven or eight pounds and which he never washed. His facial features are small, but he is very strong and alone can carry two railroad tracks so heavy that eight ordinary men are needed to move one. No one knows how old he is or where he is from.

These are not ancient fairy tales, they are true, actual events, and if you believe, that's all right; if you don't believe, that's all right too. It's up to you.