The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, founder of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas at Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain, the ninth generation patriarch of the Wei Yang Sect, manifested stillness (Nirvana) on June 7, 1995 (the tenth of the fifth lunar month in the year yi hai) at quarter past three in the afternoon in Los Angeles. Following eight hours of recitation of Amitabha Buddha’s name by the four assemblies of disciples, at about eleven o’clock at night the Master’s body was moved from the hospital. In order to comply with American laws, he was placed in a mortuary. As all arrangements were being made, the four assemblies of disciples continued reciting the Amitabha Sutra and Amitabha Buddha’s name. With special consent, the recitation continued from half past midnight until five o’clock in the morning (July 8) in the mortuary.
The Venerable Master was well-known for his lifelong ascetic practices and strict observance of the precepts. In the Dharma-ending Age when most people are lax about holding precepts, the Venerable Master was one who set a good example for others and advocated the ascetic practices of eating only one meal a day, before noon, and not lying down to sleep at night. What’s more, he dedicated the merit and blessings accrued from such ascetic practices to all living beings of the Dharma Realm. For over thirty years, without ever taking a break, the Venerable Master delivered several tens of thousands of Dharma talks and lectures on the Buddhist Sutras, raising aloft the bright lamp of wisdom for living beings who have long dwelt in the dark night of the Dharma-ending Age.
On June 12 at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the ceremony for placement in the casket was held for the Venerable Master Hua, a renowned Buddhist master of his era, in southern California at Long Beach Monastery, which is adjacent to the Pacific shorefront. Dharma Master Xu Lang, the Abbot of Wonderful Dharma Temple, led the ceremony. Several hundred people, including the Venerable Master's left-home and lay disciples, and admirers of the Venerable Master's lifelong efforts to propagate the proper Dharma, including many members of the Los Angeles branch of the T'zu Chi charity organization, participated in the adorned and solemn ceremony.
A few minutes before four o'clock, yellow canopies were opened outside the entrance of Long Beach Monastery, which the Venerable Master established single-handedly. Disciples knelt on both sides of the monastery's entrance-way and recited the Buddha's name to welcome the Venerable Master. At quarter after four, the Venerable Master's body arrived at Long Beach Monastery on East Ocean Boulevard. The memory of the Master's repeated and earnest remonstrations to them when he was alive brought tears to the eyes of many disciples. Nine-year-old Amy Zhang innocently remarked, “How I wish I could hear the Master speak to us, but now it’s impossible.”
When the Venerable Master was alive, he often used wise words of Dharma to startle the assembly into wakefulness. His teachings pointed directly to people's minds. The Venerable Master conducted himself with patience throughout his life. He fasted many times, always dedicating the merit and blessings accrued from such fasts to living beings. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in 1962, shortly after the Venerable Master's arrival in the United States. At that time, the Master fasted for five weeks and dedicated the merit to world peace. Some reporters say the Master was suffering from malnutrition, but those who know the real situation point out that the Master forgot about himself for the sake of the Dharma, and that his sickness was the result of accumulated toil.
When the Venerable Master toured Taiwan in 1989, he fasted for three weeks and dedicated the merit to the people of Taiwan. Following that trip to Taiwan, the Master visited various European countries to propagate the Dharma. Despite his advanced age, he never took a rest.
Even while the Master was undergoing sickness and suffering on behalf of living beings, he continued to vigorously promote the great endeavor of translating the Buddhist scriptures. During the Tang dynasty of China, the project of translating the Buddhist canon was overseen and supported by the imperial court. In this modern age, the Venerable Master single-handedly took on this heavy responsibility. Under his direction, many Mahayana Sutras, such as the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, the Shurangama Sutra, the Vajra Sutra, the Amitabha Sutra, the Earth Store Sutra, and others have been translated into English and gradually into French, Spanish, Vietnamese, and other languages as well. The Master's goal was to have the entire Buddhist canon (Tripitaka) translated into all languages, so that the sound of the orthodox Dharma will be spread throughout the world, and living beings around the globe will be able to leave suffering and attain bliss.
In addition to promoting the translation of the Buddhist canon, the Venerable Master has also expended great effort in the establishment of twenty-seven Way-places (monasteries) in the United States, Canada, and Asia. He did his best to expand and develop Buddhism with the aim of rectifying people's minds, transforming violence into harmony in the world, and enabling every individual to have a pure, clean mind. At Instilling Goodness Elementary and Developing Virtue Secondary Schools, both founded by the Venerable Master, the curriculum includes the study of the Three Character Classic, the Rules for Being a Student, the Essay of a Thousand Words, and the Hundred Surnames in addition to the courses required by the California government. These traditional Chinese texts impress upon students the principles of being a good person. The Venerable Master stressed that if we can groom a generation of young people who possess high moral principles as well as superlative scholarship, there will still be hope for living beings to be pulled out of the sea of suffering.
On June 13 at four o'clock in the afternoon, a ceremony marking the completion of the first week of memorial services for the Venerable Master was held at Long Beach Monastery. On the 16th, the assembled disciples will escort the Master's casket to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage, northern California. In the last few days, the branch monasteries under the Venerable Master have begun a forty-nine-day Dharma assembly for reciting the Avatamsaka Sutra several times through, in order to comply with the Venerable Master's instructions before he completed the stillness.