However, as to
the question of the transmission of the robe and bowl, the Venerable
Master surprised everyone, because he willed the twenty-second lineage
of the Linji Sect to a lay disciple named Miaoshou Zhang who lived
faraway in Chengdu. The people had only seen this disciple three times.
When Miaoshou arrived during the mourning period, he followed that last
request and had his head shaved in front of the body of the Master.
From then on he was known as Shi Changzhen.
The first time I heard about
Dharma Master Changzhen was in l990, when he was still a layman. After
he retired from the College of Forestry, he went to live at Manjushri
Temple in Chengdu and was writing for the Buddhist Journal of Sichuan
Province. He was known as Teacher Miaoshou Zhang and was secretary to
Abbot Kuanlin of Manjushri Temple.
My friend told me about Layman
Zhang and said that he had experienced many disasters and difficulties.
He had lost his wife, his daughter had passed away, and his son was
retarded. Instead of being distressed under such circumstances, he was
content and peaceful. At over sixty with no grandchildren to enjoy and
nothing to look forward to in life, he should have been feeling empty
and depressed, but in fact he was at ease and fulfilled.
One night recently, he suddenly
began to vomit blood. He spit up half a cup, and more blood was gushing
out of his throat. He could have asked someone to take him to the
hospital, but he didn’t call out. He thought about how in l965 his
wife, Yuan Juan, when near death had also vomited blood, stopped
breathing, and then died. Wasn’t that just like his present situation?
He thought, “Probably it’s time for me to go. So just go!” Then he got
up, wrote instructions about dispensing his responsibilities, money
(that others had given him to use for printing Sutras, liberating life,
and so forth), and wrote his will: “After I die please ask Dharma
Master Qingding, distinguished Teacher, to perform ceremonies to cross
me over. Please scatter my ashes in Manjushri Temple’s forests.” Then
he bathed, changed his clothes, bowed to the Buddhas, sat in full lotus
facing the West, and there on his bed was single-mindedly reciting the
name of Amitabha Buddha. Who would have thought that after a while the
bleeding stopped. The next day he was completely well. After that
incident his niece complained and asked why he didn’t go to the
hospital. He smiled a little and said, “Can a person hold on to his own
life? If one could hold on to his own life, then what about the Emperor
of Qin and Emperor Wu of Han, both of whom sought immortality? Were
they able to hold on to life?”
During the ten years of turmoil,
he was a doctor at the College of Forestry and was condemned as a
“counter-revolutionary", a “bad element,” and was kept in a cow shed.
At that time, at the college, two gangs had a shoot-out and as a result
some members of each gang died. The job of the burying the
open-mouthed, broken-toothed, filthy, blood-smeared corpses fell on the
shoulders of the “bad elements.” The day was hot and the corpses stank.
Those assigned to bury the corpses could neither eat nor sleep; they
were in great misery. But Layman Zhang willingly did this tough task.
As he buried the corpses he recited the “Rebirth Mantra” to cross over
lost souls who died untimely deaths. He was not afraid at all, and he
even helped his companions finish their job. Thus he tied up good
affinities with the living and the dead. He was calm and filled with
joy for the Dharma. The other people in the cow shed could neither eat
nor sleep, and their complexions were pale and haggard. Only he could
eat and sleep as usual; he was calm and at ease.
Because of this, one day the
keeper of the political activists (the person who was in charge of the
“bad elements”) suddenly called Layman Zhang to come forth and said,
“Mr. Zhang, why is your brow so different from those of the others? How
come it’s shining?” Layman Zhang thought up some nonsense to answer.
Later he said to a friend of mine:
To tell the truth, at that time
I didn’t feel resentful or angry. After
the Gang of Four fell from power, they considered that I had been
unjustly accused and overturned my case. Actually, theirs was a worldly
view. You should know that from the perspective of the law of cause and
effect, which prevails in the three periods of time, there is never a
time when someone is “framed by mistake.” The misfortune I met with in
this life comes from the karma I created in the past. I ought to repay
enmity with virtue and thereby eradicate my karma. Those who act in
unprincipled ways are lost and pitiful; we should be compassionate and
pity them. During that time my mind was calm and unburdened. Whenever I
had free time I silently recited the Buddha’s name, and so I ate and
slept well. I really didn’t have any idea if my brow was “shining” or
He was smiling as he said that.
To be continued