家。以後又找了許多地方，都不合適。而師父又快要來美國了，所以只好搬到 Clay St.
僑的資助，在 Sacramento St. 租了一處地方，也就是「開平同鄉會」的樓上，就這樣佛教講堂便由原來的地下室搬遷該處了。
很少人去。所以才又搬到 Waverly St. ，地點在中國城天后廟的樓上。
I was born and grew up in Hong Kong and received a
British-style education. When I was in fifth grade, because my father
took refuge with Venerable Master To Lun, I came to know Buddhism and
later took refuge with the Master as well. When I graduated from high
school, I applied to go to Australia to attend college, and my
application was approved. My father, however, wished for me to come to
America. When I sought the Venerable Master’s advice, he said, “It’s
better if you go to America. It will be very beautiful! [In Chinese,
‘America’ is literally ‘beautiful country.’] If you go to Australia,
you will regret it! [In Chinese, one of the characters for ‘Australia’
sounds like the word ‘regret.’]” Hence I applied to study in America,
and unexpectedly received approval within two months’ time.
My elder sister (Stella Tam) came to the United
States to study a few years earlier than I did. She often wrote letters
to the Master and mentioned that there were only Taoist temples, no
Buddhist temples, in America. And so before I flew to America in
January of 1958, the Master instructed me, “You and your sister should
do a good job of bringing the Buddhadharma to America.”
When I arrived in America, I found a basement on
Pacific Street [in San Francisco’s Chinatown] where a Buddhist temple
could be set up. After we asked the Venerable Master, we established
the Buddhist Lecture Hall in 1958 (the Master had a Buddhist Lecture
Hall in Hong Kong). The name we registered under was “Buddhist Lecture
Hall"; both the Chinese and English names were identical with those
used in Hong Kong. Every weekend, there would be various Buddhist
events: Sutra lectures, instructional talks, and sessions for reciting
the Buddha’s name. In the beginning, I gave most of the lectures on the
Sutras. Some professors and overseas Chinese were also invited to give
Dharma talks. Most of those who attended these events were immigrants
from four counties of Guangdong Province.
We didn’t make a special point of introducing the
Venerable Master to the assembly. Yet when these overseas Chinese
observed us leading Buddhist ceremonies and heard our explanations of
the Buddhadharma, they knew we had had training back in Hong Kong. The
older generation of overseas Chinese also knew my father, and they
thought that if my father had taken refuge with such a young Dharma
Master, that Dharma Master must be quite special. Furthermore, since it
was not easy for students, especially girls, to come to America to
study in those days, they regarded my sister and me with great respect.
Because my sister and I were attending college, we
could only come to the Buddhist Lecture Hall on the weekends, so the
key to the Lecture Hall was given to the more devoted laypeople to
keep. All the members had to pay a monthly fee to help pay the rent and
the gas, electricity, and water bills. However, no one was forced to
pay against their will.
More and more laypeople began coming to the
Buddhist Lecture Hall. They all knew that my sister and I had taken
refuge with the Venerable Master, and some of them also wished to take
refuge with the Master. We told the Master, who wrote back telling us
on which day and at what time we should hold the refuge ceremony, and
what each person’s Dharma name would be. So we held the ceremony for
taking refuge here in America, under my direction.
I was familiar with all these Buddhist ceremonies
because in Hong Kong, the Master had asked Dharma Master Xulang to
teach us to sing the Buddhist praises. The Master said, “This Dharma
Master is a very famous cantor in Manchuria. He is one of the best.”
Everyone was welcome to learn to sing the praises, but because I was
younger, I learned fast, and so I served as cantor for most of the
ceremonies in Hong Kong. When the Master first came to America, I also
served as cantor for all the refuge-taking and other Buddhist
ceremonies. After the Master had left-home disciples in America, he
asked me to teach them how to sing the praises, play the Dharma
instruments, perform the ceremonies, and recite Sutras. After that,
they were able to lead the ceremonies themselves.
In the beginning of 1960, almost all the disciples
who had taken refuge with the Venerable Master had never seen the
Master in person (they could only look at the Venerable Master’s image
on the altar). They proposed that we request the Master to come to
America to propagate the Buddhadharma. After we gained the approval and
support of many people, my sister and I initiated the process of
applying for the Master to come to America. We also began raising
funds. In order to gain approval from the U.S. Immigration Service, we
had to prove that we could provide a roundtrip air ticket for the
Master (in those days airfare was quite expensive) and all the Master’s
living expenses during his stay in America.
Due to the complicated procedures of the
immigration service, the Master’s trip to America was delayed.
Disciples with insufficient faith began to suspect that we were
cheating them and demanded their donations back. When my sister
informed me of this, I said, “If this continues, we will never
accomplish our goal.” I went to each of them and explained the
situation. In the end we reached an agreement and guaranteed them, “If
the Master cannot come, we will return all the money untouched.” We
also had them sign their receipts and write down that the money was to
pay for the Venerable Master’s trip to America. Soon afterwards, the
Master’s visit to America was approved. However, before coming to
America, the Master went to Australia for one year (1961).
Before the Master came to America, we moved twice.
The Buddhist Lecture Hall had originally rented a storefront on Pacific
Street where the Master could stay. It had been a coffin store before,
and no one dared to rent it. Since we were going to use it as a
Buddhist temple, we had no qualms about renting it. But when our lease
was up, the landlord demanded that we move out. We looked at many
places, none of which were suitable. Since the Master was coming to
America soon, we decided to move to Clay Street, reclaiming the
basement that we had rented out to a tenant (the basement of a house
that my father had bought when he was in America), so our fellow
cultivators could have a place to meet.
At that time, there was some disharmony in the
Lecture Hall. A few of the members wanted to seize power, and one
layman even instigated a move to form a Board of Trustees of laypeople
to handle the administration of the temple. His plan was to have the
Board of Trustees engage Dharma Masters for the Lecture Hall, and for
the Dharma Masters to only carry out the scheduled Dharma events and
not serve on the Board of Trustees. This inverted plan would place the
Sangha Jewel far from the center of control. Consequently, the Buddhist
Lecture Hall divided into factions. Those who had only a partial
understanding of Buddhism went off to start their own group, while
disciples with firm faith patiently bore out the matter and hoped the
Venerable Master would soon come to America to direct the temple’s
In March 1962, the Master flew from Hong Kong via
Japan, stopped briefly in Honolulu, and landed in San Francisco. When
the Master arrived in America, my sister had returned to Hong Kong to
visit our family, and the American consulate had refused to issue her a
visa to return to the United States. I was also temporarily called away
to the East Coast on urgent business, and so I asked Layperson Yu
Guoxing to form a group of people to welcome the Master at the airport.
In April, the Master began lecturing on the Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra
and held a Chan meditation class to guide young people in meditation.
Because the basement was too damp and unfit for
residence, another place was rented nearby for the Master to live in.
After the Master arrived in America, his followers increased day by
day. With the support of some overseas Chinese, the upper floor of the
Kaiping Villagers Association was rented and the Buddhist Lecture Hall
moved from the basement to the new location.
Many people came to listen to the Master’s
lectures on Sutras at the new temple, including many local overseas
Chinese. Many people also took refuge with the Master. In the seventh
lunar month, the Master held a Dharma Session Commemorating the
Anniversary of Elder Master Hsu Yun’s Completion of Stillness. Many
people who had taken refuge with Elder Master Yun came to attend. By
that time, there were several Americans who frequently came to draw
near the Master.
Later, the Master moved to Sutter Street. The
place was bought in 1963 with funds raised by disciples (the Lecture
Hall is still there today). Because it was near a black neighborhood,
it was cheaper. However, he did not stay there long, because it was not
a very safe place, it was not easy to get there, and few people went.
Later the Master moved to Waverly Street, to the upper floor of Tianhou
Temple in Chinatown.
In 1970, the Master bought an old mattress factory
on Fifteenth Street and renovated it. It became Gold Mountain Dhyana