Dharma Master Heng Shou
Bhiksu Heng Shou has accumulated twenty-two
years in this present life, eighteen of which were spent following
the nomadic life of a military family. Upon graduation from high
school, he spent slightly over a year studying at the University of
Washington in Seattle after which he cast off from the beach of
formal education to paddle about on the rising tide of drugs. His
weather-beaten hull drifted into the Buddhist Lecture Hall on a cool
August evening in 1968. Two days later he requested to become the
disciple of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua, that he might have the
privilege of standing watch over the old Master's grave. On August
20th he took refuge with the Triple Jewel.
The following spring, years of erratic
deliberation on the impermanence of the Saha World hardened into the
single thought to study Buddhism in the traditional fashion. In the
late fall of 1969, after a period as a novice, he took the complete
precepts and was ordained as a Bhiksu at Hai Hui Temple, Taiwan.
Bhiksu Heng Shou studies each of the five
schools of Buddhism, paying particular attention to the Ch'an (Zen)
and the Secret Schools. He has made rapid progress in his study of
classical Chinese and assists in translation of The Sixth
Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra. Once each week he
lectures on the final chapter of The Great
Directionally Expansive Buddhas's Flower Adornment Sutra,
"Entering the Inconceivable State of Liberation Through the Conduct
and Vows of Samantabhadra".
Convinced that Westerners have a consuming
interest in the new and mysterious, Heng Shou wrote the following
abstract to explain why he chose to return the life to investigate
the principle of the Thus Come One:
"As meaningless as the past may seem,
perhaps a few reflections are still appropriate to illuminate the
causes which resulted in the decision to cultivate the way as a son of the Buddha.
Of all memories, I can point to very few
which are characteristic of a virtuous and superior man. In fact,
further consideration results in this conviction: all that I have
done before meeting the good Dharma has been utterly inconsistent, a
twisted wake streaked with cloudy and selfish thoughts of hatred and desire.
The family life was not unusual. We wandered
together through the long corridors of time. When not quarreling
bitterly or quivering with excitement, we sat peacefully before the
soft white flame of a television or warmed tired bodies by the heat
of a dying fire. I was long ago attracted to the grumbling of the
surf and the chuckling of snowfield streams, gazing with fascination
as the bright reflection of the moon broke and launched a cloud of
cool pearls and returned again to stillness, like a frozen disc suspended far below.
The catalogue of the past contains wearisome
chapters of upside-down thought, thoughts bouncing from blazing
anger to cool detachment, from intoxicated laughter to stark
sobriety, from shivering ecstasy to burning tears. Myriads of images
bubble to the surface when contemplating the beginningless past.
Growing older and experiencing more of the
vast delights and sorrows of body and mind, I became increasingly
aware that dark clouds of fate rumbled overhead, hiding the sunlight
of innocent youth and soaking this quaking body with the rain of
contradictions of life in the absence of wisdom. As the billows of
delusion and winds of ignorance boiled in frightening storm, I ran
frantically from north to south. After weeks of distressful
deliberation, I decided to cast this haunted body from the Golden
Gate Bridge into the blue depths of San Francisco Bay, hoping for
release from this fierce and wearisome creature, which I'd always
known as self. Fancying this self as a morsel of sensitive flesh
shredded in the sharp gears of time's unceasing wheel, I sought
refuge in water, because it seemed constant and refreshingly alive.
Driving north toward the bridge, I was totally reconciled that
suicide was the quickest way to liberation.
After some hours of confused wandering and
false thought, I walked into the cool vacuum of a quiet temple in
Chinatown. As strange as it may sound, I felt as if I'd just been
freed from prison. Although I couldn't remember ever seeing them
before, many of the people there were familiar indeed. The place
seemed like everybody's home, so I stayed and began to practice
daily meditation and Sutra study, eating only vegetarian food and
memorizing the Shurangama Mantra. As the
weeks floated by and I slowly absorbed the wonderful principle of
Sutra gross layers of cynicism and confusion were dissolved
by the clean current of the Dharma.
When the Buddha spoke The Shurangama Sutra,
which arise, are merely the mind manifesting all causes and
effects. Because of the mind, world systems and the finest dust
motes are established in substance.'
After a time I was clear enough to leaf
methodically through previous causes and present effects, realizing
that suffering as well as life and death are self-inflicted woes.
Hence, I produced the mind to become a Bhiksu,
to plant beneficial causes and spread the Dharma which reflects the
source of life, death, and human suffering, vanquishing all traces
of greed, hatred and delusion within and without. That is the
fundamental task of a Bhiksu and the great
use of the Dharma. I could write for days in praise of the
wonderfully alive response which comes from sincerely practicing the
Buddha path, but for you to truly believe, you must now wield the
gleaming sword of wisdom to slash away the dense jungle of deluded
thought which obscures the original brightness of the mind.
Now, in retrospect, I see that there was no
way for me not to leave home and cultivate the mind ground, for to
do otherwise might be compared to one who has tasted heavenly
ambrosia yet wishes to make a delicious meal of sand. Don't you
think that as we sit here on the shore of the vast sea of
enlightenment, such a compromise would be foolish indeed?"
On February 15, 1970, the anniversary of
Sakyamuni Buddha's Nirvana, Dharma Master
Heng Shou made the following vows before the Buddhas and fourfold
assembly at the Buddhist Lecture Hall, San Francisco:
To the exhaustion of the emptiness of the
Dharma Tealm, throughout the ten directions and three periods of time:
- Of all Bodhisattvas, Pratyeka-Buddhas,
Sravakas, gods, men, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, beings in the
hells, and so forth to all living beings, whether or not they have
sentience, including all those which inhabit trees, mountains,
ponds, and rocks, if there remains but one which hasn't accomplished
Buddhahood, I vow that at death, I shall not enter final Nirvana.
- In order to teach and transform living
beings, I vow to leave home in every life to cultivate the way,
perfecting all good skill-in-means, including the five eyes and six
- I vow to do merit on the behalf of all my
mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and relatives of this life and
all past lives, that they may be able to obtain blissful rebirth and
meet the Buddhadharma.
- Every single living being who has seen my
face or heard my voice or who has in any manner perceived my
presence, I vow to quickly lead to believe in the Buddha, to take
refuge with the Triple Jewel, and to produce the great Bodhi Mind.
- I vow to manifest in limitless
transformations before the living beings of all worlds throughout
the Dharma Realm, in every mote of dust turning the great Dharma
wheel to teach and transform all who have never before met the Buddhadharma.
- I vow to turn over all merit and virtue to
nourish the good roots of living beings.
- I vow to take upon myself the karmic
obstacles of all living beings who suffer in the triple world, that
they may obtain the bliss of unsurpassed Bodhi.
- I vow to return in each life as disciple and
Dharma protector of the Venerable Hsuan Hua to personally serve and
assist as he turns the great Dharma wheel, teaching and transforming