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David! I've also awakened

Lo Wei Te

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 The Shurangama Sutra gross layers of cynicism and confusion were dissolved by the clean current of the Dharma.

When the Buddha spoke The Shurangama Sutra, he said:

'All Dharmas, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 spiritual penetrations.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. I vow to turn over all merit and virtue to nourish the good roots of living beings.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 living beings.


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