RECORDS OF THE LIVES OF THE HIGH MONKS
the lectures of the Venerable Master Hsuan-Hua
Translated by Bhiksuni Heng
DHARMA MASTER SHIH FA-HO
"THERE'S A LOT OF TROUBLE IN THE WORLD,"
Dharma Master Fa-ho "Harmonious Dharma" lived during the Chin Dynasty. He left home at an early age and was a fellow student of Dharma Master Shih Tao-an. As his name, "Harmonious Dharma", implies, he was truly humble, respectful, and harmonious. He respected everyone. He was very polite to everyone and so most people called him. "Ever Not Slighting." He was able to explain all the principles in the Sutras very clearly.
Later he took his disciples to Szechwan, and there, all the Buddhists drew near him. Many, many people took refuge with him. Later he went from Szechwan to Ch'ang An, and then to Mt. T'ai and K'un-lun Mountain to Chin-hsing Valley where he built a sublime abode. There he lectured the Sutras and spoke Dharma. One time he went with Dharma Master Tao-an to look at a piece of land in the area of T'ai and K'un-lun Mountains. The area they looked at was extremely fine--the scenery was superb, and it was situated quite high. First he praised it, but then he began to cry. "Ah, If we build a monastery here it will attract all kinds of tourists and we won't be able to cultivate. How will we cultivate?"
Dharma Master Tao-an said to him, "Dharma Master, if you don't have any samadhi power there certainly is reason to be afraid. If you have samadhi power and keep your mind in its place, If you control your mind and keep it steady, what is there to be afraid of? If you have wisdom you can break through all darkness. If you haven't any wisdom then there is certainly cause for alarm." Then they built a Bodhimanda there and the two Masters, Fa-ho and Tao-an translated the Sutras--more than a hundred volumes. Dharma Master Fa-ho's scholastic ability was excellent, about the same as that of Dharma Master Tao-an's.
Dharma Master Fa-ho was extremely vigorous throughout his entire life. He forgot his very life for the sake of the Dharma. The day came when he said to everyone, "There's a lot of trouble in this world. It is impossible to say how much there is. There is so much suffering." So, dressed in his finest clothing, he strode majestically in before the Buddhas and made obeisance. After he finished bowing to and circumambulating the Buddhas, he returned to his room. He took his samgati robe and covered his head with it as if he were meditating. Several days passed and he did not come out of his room to take his meals. When people went to investigate, they realized he had completed the stillness, he had entered Nirvana. He had quite a sense of humor, actually.
DHARMA MASTER SENG-LANG
THE THIEVES WERE ROUTED, THE TIGERS LEFT.
High Monk Shih Seng-lang dwelt at T'ai Mountain in Chin-hsing Valley as Abbot of Chin-hsing Retreat. His home was near Ch'ang An. When he was quite young he began roaming around in search of the Buddhadharma, looking for a "bright" teacher—a Good and Wise Advisor He went far and wide and met a lot of Good and Wise Advisors. Then he left the home life and received the Complete Precepts. The Complete Precepts include the ten-sramanera precepts, the 250-bhiksu precepts, and the ten major and forty-eight minor Bodhisattva precepts.
Now, because it is the Dharma-ending Age, there are those who, not having received the sramanera precepts, say they are sramaneras. Some, who have only taken the sramanera precepts, say they are bhiksus. Some, who have not taken the 250-bhiksu precepts, go ahead and call themselves Bodhisattvas. So, in the Dharma-ending Age people keep running out ahead in name only, while their practice lags far behind. They figure it this way: "First I'll make a name for myself and then I will eventually get down to doing it." This probably has a bit of scientific logic about it. In the scientific age one first talks about something and afterwards actually does it. For instance, twenty years ago there was news of going to the moon and travelling to the planets and stars. And now, as it turns out, people have gone to the moon. But once they landed on the moon, they found there wasn't anything to eat there, so they came back. They spent a lot of money to get there and then all they did was come back so, although it has happened, it still has not actually been a success. Likewise, to say one is a bhiksu or a Bodhisattva without having actually taken the appropriate precepts is more or less the same situation.
After Dharma Master Seng-lang left the home life, he concentrated on reading and reciting the Sutras. He didn't do anything else, just read and recited the Great Vehicle Sutras. After reading and reciting more than a hundred Sutras he began to lecture the Sutras. Having studied the Sutras he then exclusively concentrated on expounding them. His explanation of the doctrine was subtle and inconceivably wonderful.
One time he went with several monks from another temple to receive offerings. Halfway to the place where the offerings were to be made he said, "You should go back. Don't go on to receive the offerings."
"Why shouldn't we go receive offerings?" they asked.
"Some thieves have come to your temple," he said. "They're going to rob your temple clean because there isn't anyone in your temple at present. Hurry up and go back."
Now, those monks probably had some money, gold and silver in their temple--the kinds of things that are very heavy and hard to renounce. There were a lot of big heavy rocks there, but they didn't return for them. They went back to save their gold. And when they got there, sure enough, there were thieves in the temple. When the thieves saw the monks returning, they ran away and the temple's treasures were not lost. Because of this, a lot of people said that Master Seng-lang had the power of prophecy.
He was a vegetarian. He never ate meat and never wore silk or fur, but only cotton. He was very pure and stern in his holding of precepts, and his resolve surpassed most people's. In the Ch'in dynasty, in the first year of the Huang-shih reign period, during the Fu Ch'in, he went to Mount T'ai. There was a hermit there named Chang-chung who became his friend under the trees. Fu Chien, ruler of Fu Chien, ruler of Fu Ch'in, asked Chang-chung to come and Chang-chung, responding to the invitation, got as far as Hua-yin Mountain before he fell ill and died. Dharma Master Seng-lang built a sublime abode in Chin-hsing Valley in the K'un-lun Mountains. The monastery was built on the very highest peak of the mountain. The location was so high that it was extremely dangerous. The slightest slip would have sent one plummeting. The rocks he used in building his monastery were extraordinarily strong, and there was an immense waterfall in the area which people found terrifyingly powerful. And yet that is the place where he chose to live. He built a lot of dwellings and planted a flower garden on the mountain. A lot of people came to that place, lived in those dwellings, and cultivated. Eventually, more than a hundred people had gathered in that place to live there with him and listen to him lecture Sutras and speak Dharma. He lectured the Sutras everyday and spoke the Dharma everyday. More often than not, Dharma Masters only lecture once a week on the Sutras, or at the most, two or three times. They are not like those of us here who have lectures every night on the Sutras. They say that if you speak everyday no one will come to listen. But we lecture everyday and so far there have always been people to listen. I believe if other places lectured everyday, they too would have people come to listen everyday, but the Dharma Masters are afraid of the extra work. It takes a lot of effort to lecture the Sutras. You have to save up your strength to be able to project your voice when you speak.
Dharma Master Seng-lang lectured Sutras and spoke Dharma everyday without rest and he never complained of being tired. The Emperor Fu-chien acknowledged the mentioning of this Dharma Master's name with great respect and admiration. He revered the Dharma Master's virtuous conduct so much that he sent messengers to request him to come to the palace. But the Dharma Master did not go. On one occasion Fu-chien weeded out the Sangha, which means he sent people to investigate the members of the Sangha to see if they were holding the precepts and following the rules in their cultivation. If there were those who were not following the rules, he would command them to return to lay life. The only exception to the investigation was Dharma Master Shih Seng-lang's sublime abode on K'un-lun Mountain. "Don't investigate that monastery," said the Emperor, "because the Venerable Lang's virtue is lofty and pure, and those who dwell with him are certainly also good cultivators. So there is no need to inspect his place. There is no need to go there and bother him."
During the Yao-ch'in, Emperor Yao-hsing was also especially respectful of Master Seng-lang. At that time there was an emperor in the northern locale. This emperor also paid reverence to Master Lang and gave him two countries as an offering. Before Master Lang arrived, Chin-hsing Valley abounded with tigers. After he came, all the tigers left. Before his coming, if people wanted to travel in Chin-hsing Valley they had to go together in-groups of ten or twenty. No one dared to travel alone. After the Dharma Master arrived, the people could come and go as they pleased, and there was nothing to bother them. From this the people of the area came to realize that this Dharma Master's virtue was very lofty. From then on no one called the Valley Chin-hsing, they called it Venerable Lang's Valley. While he lived there, on any given day if people were coming--at that time there weren't any telegrams and letters, and other forms of communication were not convenient, so people who were coming couldn't let you know ahead of time with a telegram or a telephone call—he would tell the cook. He would say, for instance, "Tomorrow you should prepare food for this many more people." And the next day when the food was all ready, that many people would show up. It was not like this just one day. He did it all the time. Before the people had arrived he would say, "Tell them to prepare food for x-number more people." And because it was always like that, people knew the Venerable Master Lang had the power of prophecy. And this caused people to believe even more in him.
He died on the mountain at the age of eighty-five years old. They buried him there on Mount T'ai next to the building he had lived in.
SUMMER SESSION: A TIME OF WELCOME AND RENEWAL
The 1976 Summer Session at Gold Mountain will include
study of the Vinaya, the rules of conduct for laymen and people who have
left the home life; the Teachings, including nightly lectures on the
Avatamsaka Sutra, the King of Sutras; the Secret School, with daily
recitations of the most powerful mantras transmitted by Sakyamuni Buddha;
Ch'an (Zen, Dhyana), the development of samadhi concentration through
meditation; and the Pure Land, recitation of the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.