The scope of the Venerable Master’s life work has been tremendous, and his disicples number in the hundreds of thousands, both East and West. I never had sufficient good roots to get to know the Master personally, but when our group of Shramaneras and Shramanerikas left the home life in October, 1994, at Long Beach Sagely Monastery, we were fortunate enough to have him preside over the ceremonies. His countenance was serious and solemn, as befitted the occasion. In my case, his presence elicited no special emotional response, but gave rise to a still, clear, and alert mind, as well as a solid awareness of being on the right path.
I was also aware that probably no one in the assembly could fathom his state—he seemed to be the “inscrutable Chinaman” par excellance. At the same time I felt that he knew the mind of every single person in that gathering. Thus there was no need for questions or answers, audiences or appeals. His vast mind already knew and acknowledged everything. This was just the way things were. He knew what we needed to advance on the Way, and in a brief Dharma talk told us unequivocally what to focus on: real, personal cultivation. “If you fail to cultivate, even having Shakyamuni Buddha as your teacher won’t be of any use.”
The Master’s Dharma-body pervades everywhere and takes beings across universally—and this body does not come or go. I have not felt his absence. On the contrary, after the Master’s return to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in June, I have felt a subtle presence about the City, and my deepest feeling is that of gratitude, even awe, that we have managed to meet such a Good and Wise Advisor in this day and age, and got to know the proper Dharma.
The Venerable Master has disciples who have studied under him for ten, twenty, even twenty-five years. He also has disciples who have never met him. In spite of that, many people have opened profound wisdom, even opened the five eyes, just by sincerely studying his books and talks. After I had left home, a Bhikshuni asked me how I dared to take this step without having ever met the Master before. I answered: “I’ve read the Master’s books; I’ve seen his Way-places; I’ve met his disciples,” and I felt these were quite sufficient grounds to base my decision on. To me, the life at the Way-place is where the Master’s Dharma is embodied, put to practice, lived out in the midst of ordinary, daily circumstances. This is where we are tried and tested, this is where advance or retreat on the Way takes place.
Just as the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng prophesied over sixty years ago, appearing by the Master’s graveside hut in Manchuria, China, the Master’s untiring efforts have made proper Dharma self-perpetuating in the West. The responsibility of carrying on this legacy lies now with us, all of his disciples. No matter whether we are old or fledgling disciples, whether we ever met the Master or not, we can and should resolve to meet him again. Life after life we can vow to meet him, recognize him, follow him, and dedicate our lives to upholding the proper Dharma.