Dharma Master Heng Ch’ien
Dharma Master Heng Ch’ien was born in Idaho but spent most of his life in
Washington. When 14 years old, he had an accident; while jumping
about on a floating log he slipped and fell into the lake. It was
January, and the water was bitter cold. The icy chill shocked him
and he thought of nothing but getting out the water and going home.
He pulled himself out and walked up to his house, about 300 yards
from the lake. When he arrived and began to remove his wet clothes
he was surprised to see that one of his socks, originally white, had
become bright crimson. He removed it and found his leg spurting
blood from a deep gash in the knee. Before discovering the gash he
was solely concerned with getting warm and had felt no pain. When he
discovered the wound, however, it began to hurt. It seemed strange
and he still remembers clearly that before he had given rise to the
thought "my leg’s been injured", there was no pain.
After graduating from high school he moved to Ellensburg to attend Central Washington
State College. He planned to major in English and to teach school
after graduation. Not long after the school year began he began
experimenting with drugs. As his infatuation with drugs soared, his
interest in school plummeted. What was at first a simple curiosity
soon became a way of life, overpowering all other interests.
Drugs slowly turned him inside out and upside down. Sleeping all day and staying
up all night, he often just lay on his bed, staring like a burnt-out
TV tube at the wall in front of him. When the alarm went off in the
morning, he undressed and went to bed, while his roommate got up and
went to school. He slept all day, arising only to eat dinner in the
evening, or to take occasional lunch. This routine drove him ever
deeper into a state of gloomy depression. As the yin in his body
overpowered the yang, his very breath turned black.
One night around 9 p.m., while daydreaming on his bed, he thought about getting up
but found that he could not move, as if he were covered by a heavy
sheet of glass. After running his hands over the surface of the
glass, he opened his mouth and tried to call his roommate, whom he
saw sitting not more than ten feet away, but although he heard
himself scream as loud as possible, not the faintest sound was heard
in the room. He was becoming more frightened by the minute, but was totally powerless, trapped beneath an
invisible force field. Finally, after 20 or 30 minutes, he was able to move again.
"At the time," comments Heng Ch’ien, "neither I nor
anyone else could explain what had happened. I was not under the
influence of drugs. Two years later, however, after studying
Buddhism, I found that I had encountered a Kumbhanda ghost who,
attracted to my deep state of depression, took advantage of the
opportunity to try and kill me. Had I known the Leng Yen Mantra, I
would have been able to dispense quickly with the ghost."
After this first encounter with ghosts, Dharma Master Heng Ch’ien had many such
encounters with both ghosts and demons, which occurred quite
regularly while he was living in Seattle. "As I lay in bed I heard
some of my friends coming down the stairs to my room, but when they
filed in I saw that they were not real people. Other times I saw
their shapes and could hear them talking, urging me to ‘come along’.
They had a strange power. When they concentrated it on me, I felt as
though sinking into a vibrating pit of quicksand. It was not so much
a physical feeling as something which happened in my mind. A few
times I thought about letting them take me along, but always before
it was too late, the threat of unconsciousness caused me to use all
the energy I had to pull myself back into the room from the
pulsating blackness into which my mind had been drawn. Now that I
have studied the Buddhadharma I realize that they were not really
friends, but demons manifesting in familiar forms who had come to
subdue me, hoping to increase their rank to increase the forces of
evil in the world."
There are those
who, when reading this, will not believe. But there are others who
will recognize what is being discussed. Ultimately, whether you
believe it or not, ghosts and demons exist.
In the summer of 1968, weary of "false and impermanent highs"
obtained through drugs, and wishing to understand the principles
behind his existence in this world, he accompanied several friends
to the Buddhist Lecture Hall in San Francisco, intending to spend
the summer meditating and studying The Shurangama Sutra. It
was quite different front his previous way of life and he had to
undergo some major changes in order to remain. Strangely enough,
most of the people who came to study that summer are still at the
Buddhist Lecture Hall. Why? The work is hard and the days are long.
Why would anyone wish to spend his time in this way?
When Dharma Master Heng Ch’ien first met Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua, it was as
if they had met a long time ago and a certain feeling arose, a
feeling of trust which increased every day. Heng Ch’ien found that
he could not put down the principles of the Buddhadharma which the
Master taught and at the end of that summer he requested the Master
to accept him as a Sramanera (novice monk). The Master consented and Disciple Ch’ien began devoting all
of his time and effort to the study and practice of those
principles. He not only began studying that which required solid
concentrate effort, but also had to part with many of his old
friends such as sleep, food, and laziness.
In the fall of 1969, Dharma Master Heng Ch’ien, together with four other young
Americans, traveled to Taiwan and was formally ordained as a
Bhiksu. When asked about his reasons for doing so, Dharma Master Heng Ch’ien replied: "If I could cause
others to understand my reasons for becoming a Bhiksu,
they too would do the same. Understanding comes from one’s own mind,
it cannot be found elsewhere. Were I to talk of ‘my understanding’
until the exhaustion of empty space, it never would become ‘your
understanding.’ Although understanding belongs to he who
understands, the principles which are understood do not belong to
anyone; all may possess them. It is possible then to speak of
principles which one understands, and which cause others to produce
their own understanding. This is the Bodhisattva path–helping
yourself and then helping others. This is my work.
"To understand what is outside, you first must understand what is inside. Thus
The Avatamsaka Sutra says, ‘Everything is made from
the mind alone’. This is where the work must be done, in the mind of
man. If effort is not applied inwardly man will never transcend his
outer environment, but rather the outer environment will overpower
and enslave man."
Dharma Master Heng Ch’ien eats only one meal a day, sleeps five hours a night, and
fills his day with meditation, recitation of mantras and sutras,
study, translation, and other work. He is also lecturing
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
in an effort to awaken other sentient beings and to cause them to
On Feb. 15, 1970, Dharma Master Heng Ch’ien made the following vows before the
Buddhas and fourfold assembly:
- Until the exhaustion of empty space, if there is one sentient being in the
nine Dharma realms who has not yet accomplished Buddhahood, I vow to
not obtain the utmost, right, and perfect enlightenment.
- Until the exhaustion of empty space, I vow to constantly be reborn in the Saha
World, to leave home, and propagate the Buddhadharma, teaching and
transforming sentient beings.
- Until the exhaustion of empty space, all the blessings and happiness which I
ought to receive, I vow to transfer to all sentient beings so that
they might early accomplish Buddhahood.
- Until the exhaustion of empty space, I vow to manifest in all the realms of
sentient beings and cause them to study and cultivate the Buddhadharma.
- Until the exhaustion of empty space, I will protect and support all those who
study and cultivate the Buddhadharma.
- Until the exhaustion of empty space, I vow to translate the Buddhas’ sutras
into the languages of all countries, so that the inhabitants of
those countries may study the Buddhadharma.
- Until the exhaustion of empty space, I vow to teach and transform all my
fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and relatives of the past,
present, and future, causing them to produce the Bodhi mind.
- Until the exhaustion of empty space, I vow to obtain unobstructed eloquence in
speaking the principles of the Buddhadharma, causing all those who
hear me to produce the Bodhi mind.
- Until the exhaustion of empty space, if sentient beings are due to receive
suffering because of my errors, I vow to receive that suffering for them.
- Until the exhaustion of empty space, I vow to always make these ten vows.
A YAKSA GHOST
--- Vajra Bodhi Sea, all the Bodhisattvas read it. ---