The Record of Water and Mirror Turning Back Heaven
THE GREAT MASTER CH'ANG JEN (FILIAL SON WANG)
By TRIPITAKA MASTER HSUAN HUA
Translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ching
WHEN THE MASTER WAS TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS OLD, HIS FATHER AND MOTHER BOTH LEFT THE WORLD WITHIN A MONTH OF ONE ANOTHER. AFTER THEIR BURIAL. THE MASTER WORKED BY DAY UNDER THE BLAZING SUN, AND WATCHED OVER THEIR GRAVES BY NIGHT UNDER THE OPEN SKY. AFTER SEVERAL WEEKS HAD PASSED, FRIENDS AND RELATIVES IN THE AREA BEGAN TO KNOW OF THIS. THEREUPON THEY GATHERED TOGETHER THEIR CAPITAL TO BUILD HIM A HUT TO STAVE OFF THE WIND AND RAIN. THEY MADE NO WINDOWS OR DOORS. BUT USED PLANKS TO BLOCK THE HOLES.
Although it is not mentioned here in the text, it will become obvious that the Master had, by this time, already taken a wife, but had no children. It is not certain which of his parents died first. For several weeks after their death the Master observed the usual mourning rites, continuing his work as before.
One night he dreamt he saw Kuan Kun hero of the Three Kingdoms Period. Kuan Kung, a general, and one of the three brothers of the Peach Garden, fought for the preservation of good along with Chang Fei and Liu Pei, and is in reality the Bodhisattva who upholds the causes of loyalty and justice. He is a great protector of the Buddhadharma and appears often in many guises to defeat demons, upbraid offenders, and punish the disloyal. His appearances are far more frequent than we might think, and so it helps to be aware of his existence. His coming is always for good reason, so it would be foolish to pay it no heed. One night the Master dreamt that Kuan Kung, his face blazing red, mounted on a horse, and wielding an enormous halberd, rode toward him saying, "Wang Fu Jen, why have you not kept your vows?" As the Master tried to withdraw, the halberd drew ever nearer. Then he awoke.
In spite of his dream, he continued to work in the fields as before. Several days later, as he was working under the fierce sun, suddenly, from out of an otherwise calm sky, a bolt of lightning struck the ground several feet away. The Master thought, "This certainly must be a warning from Heaven." That day he left the fields and did not return home, but went instead to the graveyard. There he sat, like Yang Yi, under the open sky and watched over his parents' graves.
When sunrise came he returned to the fields to work, not telling anyone about his activities. Every day he did the same thing, working from dawn to dusk in the fields and sitting at night in the graveyard. His wife, not knowing the whereabouts of her husband, began to inquire in the village, and word soon spread that Wang Fu Jen disappeared at night. Before long the entire district knew. Someone then recalled that in the past the Master had vowed to follow the practice of watching over the graves of his parents', and went to the graveyard one night to find the Master sitting under the open sky.
The community took up a collection, and in spite of their poverty, gathered enough money and supplies to construct a small hut of simple A-frame construction to ward off the wind and rain. The doors and windows were merely holes in the walls with places to insert slats to block out the elements. In general, it kept him dry, but there was really very little to distinguish inside from out.
ONE EVENING TWO WOLVES SUDDENLY APPEARED. THEY PUSHED DOWN THE DOOR AND WALKED IN. THE MASTER WAS GREATLY FRIGHTENED AND WANTED TO ESCAPE, BUT THERE WAS NO WAY OUT. HE WAS UNABLE TO REPEL THEM AND SO HE JUST SHUT HIS EYES AND WAITED TO BE EATEN HIS HEART WAS LIKE A JUMPING RABBIT, POUNDING, AND NOT AT PEACE.
The area surrounding Shuang Ch'eng County produced some of the wildest wolf packs in all of China. The Manchurian wolf is reputed to be one of the fiercest of all wolves. These two were particularly nasty. They circled the hut, inspected it at great length, and finally pushed down the boards which blocked the doorway. The Master sat still. They stood poised in the doorway ready to either attack or retreat as required. The Master did not move a hairsbreadth. After a time the wolves entered the hut. The Master had no weapons with which he could kill, beat, or harm them in the least, and although he did not move, he was terrified and wished to flee. The windows, however, were small and blocked by planks, and the door by wolves, who were now drawing closer and beginning to circle him. Although the Master's heart pounded and lept about in his chest, like a rabbit at the mercy of a fox, he still mustered all his concentration power and did not move his body in the least.
HE THOUGHT TO HIMSELF, "I AM WATCHING THESE GRAVES FOR THE SAKE OF MY PARENTS AND, EVEN IF I WERE TO BE EATEN BY WOLVES, I WOULD EARN A PIECE OF GREAT GLORY IN DEATH."
AT THAT TIME THE TWO WOLVES TOOK UP THE TACTICS OF CLOSING IN, FRONT AND BACK. THEY PUT THEIR FOREPAWS ON THE MASTER'S SHOULDERS, CONSTANTLY SNIFFING. THEN THE MASTER PUT DOWN HIS BODY AND MIND, COLLECTED HIS THOUGHTS AND CONTEMPLATED EMPTINESS, ALTOGETHER PENETRATING EVERYTHING AS IMPERMANENT AND WITHOUT SELF. HE SILENTLY RECITED THE HOLY NAME, NAMO AMITABHA BUDDHA, WITHOUT CEASING. HE DID NOT KNOW HOW MUCH TIME PASSED.THE WOLVES FINALLY MOVED, WITHDREW. AND WENT AWAY.
Recitation of Na Mo A Mi T'o Fo (Skt: Namo Amitabha Buddha) is the central practice of the Pure Land Dharma-door. These six syllables, a spiritual formula of inconceivable power, are Chinese transliterations of the sound values of the original Sanskrit words. Na Mo means to return in reliance, to take refuge (See V.B.S. #2, p. 20-21). Because its meanings are so numerous, the term is not translated into Chinese but merely transliterated. A Mi T'o represents the names Amitabha. "Limitless Light", and AMITAYUS. "Limitless Life". In addition to its many meanings, Amitabha is a personal name, and so is not translated. Fo is short for the Chinese Fo T'o Yeh the transliteration of the Sanskrit Buddhaya. Because it is an especially honorable term which also includes many meanings, what one author has called a numerous term, it too is not translated. Na Mo A Mi T'o Fo can be said to mean, "Homage, I take refuge in and return my life in Worship to the Buddha of Limitless Light and Life." Its constant repetition is the core of the Pure Land Dharma-door.
The Buddha's teachings are taught in Five Schools: the Teaching School; the Vinaya School; the Ch'an School; the Secret School; and the Pure Land School. There are many who like to say that these are five sects, or types of Buddhism, implying as it does all manner of doctrinal squabbling. This is not accurate; the Schools might better be called five basic approaches to cultivation. Each of these Dharma-doors has special appeal to certain types of people, but only one can be said to be equally easy for all to cultivate, and that is the Pure Land Door.
The Cultivation of the Teaching School, while serving as an excellent cure for the disease of stupidity, does demand certain qualifications. It cannot, for example, be cultivated by the illiterate, by those who do not know the languages in which the teachings are written, or by the very stupid. And so, although the teachings are universal, and there is not a single being who cannot benefit from them, there is a definite group of people to whom they are best suited.
The Vinaya, or "Rules and Regulations" School, requires not only that one be literate, but also that one be living a monastic life. There is no way for the worldly man to perfect cultivation of the Vinaya. This Dharma-door serves as a supremely efficacious cure to greed, desire, and arrogance. Much of it, however, can be practiced by men and women in the world, and can be an immensely great help in cultivation. All real practicers of Buddhadharma, Sangha or lay people, formally maintain precepts ranging from the five for lay people through the more than 300 for bhiksunis. There are few more awesome people in the world than the masters of Vinaya, perfect in the 3,000 rules of deportment.
The Ch'an, or Dhyana School, stresses the practice of meditation, and its cultivation requires a special set of circumstances. First, it is essential to have a good knowing advisor, one of great wisdom and skill, who can teach the student by all manner of expedient means. Without such a teacher, there is no way for ordinary people to have any success in Ch'an meditation. They may achieve some measure of attainment, but due to lack of knowing advice, they will be turned by their experience; thinking that they are like the great Ch'an masters of old, they will go around committing all sorts of stupid and even dangerous or immoral acts. Such enlightened "masters" and "patriarchs" are too often well meaning practicers of Ch'an who have either not met or not submitted to the teaching of a good advisor. Too many of them have entered into the various demon states that the Buddha discussed in the SURANGAMA SUTRA. Anyone who professes to be a follower of the Buddha should act in accord with his teachings and find a capable advisor, one whose experience and lineage are unquestioned.
In addition to the above qualifications, Ch'an cultivation requires a certain temperament which is rarely found. While some immediately find response in Ch'an cultivation, there are many for whom it represents unbearable difficulty. If this is the only means of cultivation presented to them, many people will flee from the Buddhadharma as a small child screams on seeing a tamed and domesticated but still incredibly fierce-looking tiger on a leash.
The Secret School requires among other things both a good memory to hold its many mantras and dharanis, plus a good deal of money to carry out its elaborate and splendid rituals. A fully adorned temple and bodhimandala are required as well as a profusion of images and various dharma instruments. Also essential are numbers of Dharma masters well trained and conversant with the esoteric lore of this School. These are hard to find. Without them, and without special instruction, it is not possible to perfect the teachings of the Secret School.
Pure Land Dharma-door requires no great learning. Many illiterates have
attained inconceivable spiritual benefit through it. Many too are
the high and learned masters who have praised this door. The Pure Land
Dharma-door shows us how to purify our minds and as such it is identical
with the Teaching School, whose complex and learned systems serve to keep
the mind from wandering off on useless excursions. To be able to hold the
elaborate systems of the Teaching School requires prolonged concentration
on the Buddhadharma. Concentrating on what is pure is fundamentally
identical with recollection of the Buddha. The Pure Land Dharma does not
require that one lead a monastic life and perfect the three thousand
awesome conducts; this Dharmadoor can be cultivated right in the midst of
the most ordinary life. Laymen and Vinaya specialists alike can cultivate
this Dharma, for it does not require elaborate ritual and expensive
ceremony, nor is there any secret esoteric lore to learn from specialized
teachers. The secret of the Pure Land School, and there is indeed a great
secret to it, lies in the response. It is a secret clothed not in
elaborate ritual and ceremony but in the simple ness of faith and
sincerity. Its secret, which is right out in the open, is in fact
the highest secret.
The cultivation of the Pure Land Dharma-door not only is not different from Ch'an meditation, it is Ch'an meditation. One of the most common topics of Ch'an meditation is "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" Investigation of this topic presupposes some degree of mindfulness of the Buddha. Those who call themselves followers of the Ch'an School and say that the Pure Land School is a pastime for old women and stupid people, slander the Dharma and are nothing more than those demons who Sakyamuni Buddha said would appear in the Dharma ending age wearing the Buddha's clothing and eating his food. Such so-called disciples of the Ch'an School ignore the fact that not a single Ch'an Master in a thousand years of history has condemned the Pure Land Dharma as a futile exercise.
"Well," some will object, "our aim in cultivation is to see the nature and become Buddha instantly. This is a secret transmission outside the scriptures and does not rely on language. For you to sit there muttering 'A Mi T'o Fo' all day long in hope of going to the West later on is just plain silly. No, that's just too much to take on just faith alone. I want results and I want them now!"
The aim of all cultivation is to see the nature and become Buddha, anything else is a waste of time and effort. Therefore the Buddha said, "If a Bodhisattva wishes to obtain the Pure Land he should purify his mind. As the mind is pure, the Buddhaland is pure." To see the Buddha of the self-nature is to see Amitabha Buddha; to see Amitabha Buddha anywhere but in our own self-nature is a falsehood. This is not to say that the Pure Land in the West is merely an analogy and that there does not exist such a place. Purify the mind in the East and we will see the Buddhaland of the West. In fact, purify our minds here in the East and the Pure Land of the West will move here.
For the cultivator of Ch'an who has opened great enlightenment, which is the goal of all cultivation, what obstacle is there to mindfulness of the Buddha? "In one truth," said the Great Master the Sixth Patriarch, "is all truth; in one reality, all is real." In keeping with the Master's teaching there can be no obstacle to mindfulness of the Buddha, for that is just Ch'an samadhi. Those Ch'an cultivators who are not yet enlightened and for whom the goal seems so far off can, by mindfulness of the Buddha, purify the Buddhaland. This is not only not foreign to the teachings of Ch'an, it is its core. Those who would refute it are ignorant of the true virtues of dhyana meditation.
The Sixth Patriarch left us these instructions:
from wood fire can be drilled,
Words cannot begin to describe, let alone exhaust, the wonder of this Dharma-door, which requires only faith. Many are those in this age who have no faith in anything, who have found nothing worth having faith in. The unease and cynicism of many such persons is simply the result of a lack of faith. Not far beneath the surface of existential anguish, not well hidden behind the facade of modern revolutionary violence is simply the search for something in which to have faith. This lack of faith, whose other face is a desire for something to believe in, is perfect ground on which to cultivate this Dharma-door. Faith is not as much subscription to some set of doctrine as a simple willingness to believe. Where there is this will, there is the seed of faith.
Be mindful of the Buddha, like Master Ch'ang Jen, with a sincere mind and no hope for gain, putting down your body and mind and collecting your thoughts, and the results will astound you. The power of Amitabha Buddha is invoked through mindfulness of him and such power can work even greater wonders than taming outside wolves, for in our hearts there may still prowl wolves and ogres which are fiercer yet, and which must be subdued. If you do not have the power to tame them yourself, rely on the power which can. All that is required is the ability to be mindful of the Buddha and to say, Na Mo A Mi T'o Fo.
THE EMINENT UPASAKA KUO WEI
Upasaka Li Kuo Wei was born in Canton, China, in 1933; His extremely weak condition at birth caused his mother to take him to a temple where, before a large image of the Bodhisattva, she requested Avalokitesvara to be her son's spiritual mother. Afterwards he became strong.
When he was ten years old his grandmother became severely ill. When his mother and other relatives recited sutras on her behalf, she soon became well again.
At this time, when Kuo Wei recognized that sutras held many powers, he became curious, and began to read and recite theme. During his last two years in China, a high school teacher who deeply believed in Buddhism further encouraged his interests in the Buddhadharma. His determined study of the Dharma was interrupted, however, When he came to the United States, which was greatly lacking genuine Buddhism.
He arrived in Oakland in 1951, and the following year entered Oakland Technical High School, where he graduated in 1955. When he finished school at three o'clock every day, he rushed home to work in his grandfather's grocery market until eleven at night. Then he was free to do his school work. In spite of his heavy load, he was very popular with his teachers. Although he was poor he was determined to continue his education, and entered Oakland Junior College. After his first year in college he was drafted. He did not waste his time in the army, however, but spent his two years attending the Army Engineering School, and took every course that was available to him.
After his discharge in 1958 he attended Oakland City College for two years,
and then opened a grocery market in San Francisco.
After two years in the grocery business he decided to return to
college, and graduated from Oakland City College with an Associate Arts
Degree in Science. In 1964 he entered
San Francisco State College where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in
Biology two years later.
Upon graduation he worked in the Research Labs at Shell Chemical in Pittsburg, California, but recently, wishing for expanded knowledge, he resumed study at Diablo Valley City College.
Kuo Wei met the Master Hsuan Hua very unexpectedly one day. He was encouraged by a friend to climb the stairs to the Master's temple on Sacramento Street. As soon as he saw the Master he decided to become a disciple. Since then he has diligently studied the Buddhadharma, loyally followed the Master, and constantly looked for ways to serve the growth of Buddhism in the West.