The Bodhi Lectern



 Upasika Hu was born during the Ch'ing dynasty, in the 20th year of the Kuang Hsu Reign Period (about 1895), in Yang Chou near Chiang Shu. She was very kind and intelligent by nature. When she was six her father died; later she saw bhiksus and bhiksuni bowing to the Buddha and it occurred to her that she wanted to leave the home-life. Her mother was afraid she was too young, however, and that no one could care for her, and so she was not allowed to go.

When she was grown she married Wu I-Chu, a teacher in that locale. He was a well-educated, honest, and respected person. She was helpful to her husband and a model of propriety for her children. She did everything at home by herself, and was exceptionally filial. For example, when her sister-in-law and brother-in-law contracted a serious illness, she used her own money to pay for a doctor's care, and personally nursed them. After their death she handled all the funeral arrangements. All her relatives regard her as a noble and capable person.

      After a while her husbandís income decreased while the number of members of her family increased until she was working day and night to care for an eleven-member household. Even then the clothing and food was insufficient. If I were to try to describe the extent of her worry and hard work during those years, I would never finish.

      In the 26th year of the Republic (1937), just after her father-in-law died, the Japanese invaded China, and the entire family moved to the country to avoid the war. 
Inflation spiraled, and it became even more difficult for her to manage her family. She bore this burden in silence and did not fear fatigue. As a result, in spite of the difficulties, her children were well educated and never missed a day of school.

      In 1938 her husband suddenly went blind. She had no money for medical expenses, and had nowhere to turn. With great sincerity she vowed to become a vegetarian and recited the Universal Door Chapter of the Lotus Sutra and the Great Compassion Mantra on her husbandís behalf. Seven days later his eyesight returned. With this experience Upasika Wu came to believe more deeply in the power of the Buddhadharma.

In all she had four sons and five daughters, but lost her eldest and second sons early in life. Her eldest daughter was exceptionally intelligent, graceful, and attentive to her studies, and Upasika Wu saw to it that she was able to complete university training. Unfortunately she also passed away. Her death grieved Mrs. Wu, and two months later she went to Kao Min Monastery south of Yang Chou and in 1942 became a disciple of the Venerable Master Lai Kuo. When she heard the monastery's bell and drum she wanted to leave the home life, but realized that she still had the responsibility of her mother and a growing family.

In 1943 her mother-in-law died. Upasika Wu and her husband spent a two-year mourning period praying for her rescue by reciting sutras without cease.  Although travel was dangerous in those days, she and her husband accompanied the coffin to the gravesite, paying no heed to the possibility of trouble on the road. As a result of their confidence, sincerity, and filial devotion, they completed the journey without incident.

During the next year her fourth son was stricken with pneumonia. The attending doctor, misdiagnosing the disease, prescribed the wrong medicine, and her son died. Pilled with immense sorrow, Upasika Wu sighed, "The world is full of impermanence. Everything changes and nothing is eternal. It's all like a dream, an illusion, causing perpetual sorrow."

In 1945 the war was over, and the Allies had defeated Japan. Upasika Wu traveled to Shanghai to care for her third son who was ailing. Because of Her devoted attention he eventually recovered. Three years later China was torn by revolution and became Communist. Upasika Wu's second and third daughters had already married and so they stayed on in Yang Chou while she, her husband, her third son, and her fourth and fifth daughters moved to Taiwan.  She continued her devotions on Taiwan, and with her husband she frequently visited Shan Tao Temple, Shih P'u Temple, and Lin Chi Temple to hear Sutras and listen to the doctrines. At home she recited the Buddha's name faithfully and without fail every day. When all her daughters and sons were finally married, she thought that she could lead the quiet life, but again her home-life was full of complications, and so she again did not leave home. In 1955 she received the Bodhisattva precepts from the Venerable Master Pai Sheng.  In 1960 her husband passed away, and she spent the next three years in a vigil, reciting Sutras on his behalf.

In 1965 she vowed to bow- to every character in the Avatamsaka Sutra, and in 1966 she went to Lin Chi Temple intent upon quiet cultivation. She planned to remain there and finish out her life. The following year, however, her son and daughter-in-law left the country and it was necessary for her to return home. She was entirely alone during this time, and continued to be mindful of the Buddha and to increase her cultivation.

In the winter of 1973 her son accompanied her to the United States and soon she had a chance to meet the Venerable Master Hua. Astonished to find a bright-eyed Sramana of great virtue in the United States, she was overjoyed to have the opportunity to draw near to the Master. Both she and her son took refuge with the Master shortly after they met him in December 1973, and Upasika Wu received the Dharma name Kuo Chi. Upon meeting the Master, Upasika Wu thought about how she did not have much time left, and again is eager to leave the home-life.