Part One Introduction
Section One Motivation for Research
From l978 when I took refuge with the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua and all through these six subsequent years, it never in the least occurred to me that the Master would leave the Saha so soon. It would be hard to call it anything other than the scanty blessings of we beings. Venerable Masters Yin Guang, Hung Yi, Hsu Yun, Guang Chin and other High Sanghans mutually perpetuated the teachings and then left. Even Elder Master Hsu Yun's Dharma successor, Master Hsuan Hua couldn't stay a little longer? My grief is unrestrained and unending.
Those who knew the Venerable Master are aware that throughout his whole life he strictly upheld "taking only one meal at noon and not lying down at night," and that he put into practice the "Six Great Principles." Especially in the turmoil of the Dharma-ending Age, the Venerable Master was even more a sure sign of the Proper Dharma and a light for living beings. The Master did not fear the slander of demons; everywhere he went he advocated the Shurangama Sutra, proclaiming the Proper Dharma to destroy the deviant and manifest the proper. After the Master's Nirvana, I decided to write a general inductive presentation of what the Master did and did not say and do during his life, the goal being that by means of this presentation people will be able to develop the "Dharma-selecting Eye" and be able to discriminate the difference between what is deviant and what is proper. Only in that way can we prevent Buddhism's continual decline. Only in that way can we keep Buddhism from becoming engulfed in the deviant views of externalists. I believe that all Buddhist disciples don't want to see that happen.
As to the Master's contributions to Buddhism throughout his lifetime, they have already been collected in great detail by his disciples, especially in the recently-published Volumes I and II of his Memorial Issues. In those, the Elder Master's views on education, his translation of sutras and propagation of the Dharma, his rules for governing the Sangha, his regard for the nation and its people, his advocating of morality and ethics and of virtue in the Way, his uniting of the Great Vehicle and the Theravada, his acceptance and inclusion of all religions and so forth have all been thoroughly introduced, and so this student will not repeat those topics in this discussion. The focal points of this research are the Master's instructions on such questions as what constitutes genuine, proper faith in Buddhism? What is Proper Dharma? And evidence of the meaning behind the Master's instructions on the Sutras. That is the motivation for the research done in this thesis.
Section Two Selection of Materials
The material used in this thesis is primarily taken from the books published by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association of the United States; as well as the Monthly Journal of Buddhist Studies (City of Ten Thousand Buddhas); ji hwei ji ywan (Source of Wisdom) published in Gaohsiung; all the instructions given by the Master found on audio cassettes and in books pertaining to his propagation of the Dharma in Southeast Asia; various news articles from magazines and newspapers; talks given by the Master's disciples; the Dharma discussions of the Buddhist Patriarchs, and responses told by the faithful.
As to the content of the Master's instructions, when it was an especially important or unusual talk, I have recorded the locations and dates. For the others, related material can be found in the books and audio cassettes published by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association.
Section Three Method of Research and Goal
The method of research used in this thesis is aimed at making an objective critique of certain Buddhist questions by using as the authority the Master's Dharma Talks, spoken throughout his life and found in books and on cassette tapes, as well as instructions found in the Buddhist Sutras and the records of discussions by the Buddhist Patriarchs and further, to explore the Master's view of Buddhism through his instructions regarding it.
We all know that much of the content of the instructions given by the master were expedients spoken at the time to cross over his American disciples, including such questions as holding the precept against possessing or touching money; eating one meal a day; not killing or having abortions; not burning paper money; separating schools for boys and girls and so forth. The Master traveled thousands of miles to bring the Buddhadharma to America, with the hope of establishing rules governing the Sangha that were "in accord with Dharma." For that reason sometimes the Master's instructions were "cold, tyrannical, and totally impolite." Sometimes they were even impossible for people to accept, for they thought the Elder Master was only capable of criticizing others. Why did they never stop to realize how hard the Master was working to try to teach and transform obstinate living beings with inferior faculties? Or how behind his stern words and tough talk was hidden so much "blood and tears." The Master said:
I've come here prepared to teach and transform Americans. My teaching is aimed at Americans, not the Chinese people. The Chinese are incidentally gathered in.
Were you to ask me to go up to the heavens, that wouldn't be hard,but teaching Americans is hard.
Were you to ask me to go down into the hells, that wouldn't be hard,but teaching Americans is hard.
Were you to ask a rooster to lay an egg, that wouldn't be hard,but teaching Americans is hard.
From that we can realize the Master's decisive intention to teach and transform Americans, even though it was going to be an extremely difficult task. However, Master did it. He has a record of creating an American Sangha and of establishing Way-places that accord with Dharma and rules for governing the Sangha.
This student hopes that this genuine spirit of Buddhism will continue to be preserved in the West in the future. It is a call to recognize that "the flourish or decline of Buddhism is the responsibility of each and every one of us" so that the Proper Dharma can continue forever in the human realm. This is the goal of this thesis.
Section Four Summary of the Entire Thesis
There are nine chapters in this thesis. The first chapter "Introduction" and the second chapter "Chapter on Proper Dharma" divide into five sections. The main discussion is of the Proper Dharma and its demise, souls, vegetarianism, qi gung, red packets, wearing the precept sash, and other topics, using the Master's instructions as the authority, along with verifying quotes from the Sutras and other Buddhist texts. The goal is to break through some theories that are "things from other religions mixed in with Buddhism to create something that seems to be Buddhism but really isn't."
The third chapter "Chapter on Explaining the Sutras" introduces the Sutras the Master lectured on, as well as what I consider to be the Master's "three works of art": the line-by-line Explanation of the Shurangama Mantra, Reflections in Water and Mirrors Reversing the Tide of Destiny, and the modern-language Commentaries on the Lives of the Patriarchs.
The fourth chapter "Chapter on Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi" takes the Master's "teachings that carry an opposite meaning" and puts them together with quotes from Lao Zi to enable the reader to understand even better the Master's non-verbal and verbal teachings, to help people not misunderstand the intent of the Master's stern instructions. His is truly the spirit of "Great Kindness and Great Compassion that borders on being harsh."
The fifth chapter "Chapter on Birth and Death" analyses the root of birth and death and brings it a step closer to home by pointing at the question of men and women. This matter is one which the Venerable Master ceaselessly emphasized. That is because "lust is the foremost of all evils." Therefore this chapter will perhaps be a bit harder to take.
The sixth chapter "Chapter on Prajna" introduces the brilliant rapport that occurred when the Master answered questions posed by the faithful. These can enable people to open the "wisdom of their own nature." That's because
When you see things and awaken to them, you can transcend the world.
When you see things and are confused by them, you fall and become embroiled in them.
Coarse words and subtle speech all return to the primary meaning.
The seventh chapter "Chapter on the Spiritually Extraordinary" brings up three of the Master's miracles and also delineates the Master's view of spiritual penetrations and clarifies some misconceptions held by non-Buddhists regarding spiritual penetrations.
The eighth chapter "Chapter on Perfecting the Stillness" describes the various "causes and conditions" that the Buddhist Patriarchs manifested near the ends of their lives and also brings up how miracles and portents are not necessarily related to the level of accomplishment. The genuine accomplishments are to be seen and determined by a person's contributions and cultivation, as well as his concern and regard for living beings.
The ninth chapter "Chapter on the Conclusion" traces the details of how the Master regarded living beings; how he handled education; how he translated Sutras; and how he united the northern and southern traditions. This is the matrix of the entire thesis, which is respectfully offered up for appraisal.
Section Five Brief Biography of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, whose name was An Tz'u, whose Dharma name was To Lun, and whose ordained name was Hsuan Hua was also called "The Monk in the Grave", the person from Shwang Cheng County in Ji Lin Province, was born at the end of the Ching Dynasty in the year wu wu (the seventh year of the Republic) on the sixteenth day of the third lunar month (this is Jun Ti Bodhisattva's birthday). His layname was Bai, his father, Fu Hai; his mother's maiden name, Hu.
When he was young, the Master followed his mother in eating vegetarian food and reciting the Buddha's name. When he was eleven he witnessed the great matter of birth and death and the swiftness of impermanence, and vowed to cultivate the Way. He joined the "Way-virtue Society" and served humankind. The Master treated his parents with utmost filiality and was known in his village as "Filial Son Bai." When he was nineteen, his mother passed away and he formally requested Elder Master Chang Jr of San Ywan (Three Conditions) Monastery to shave his head. He put together a grass hut beside the grave and observed filial piety there. Day and night he investigated Chan meditation and developed samadhi. Once he sat for more than twenty days without eating. He made eighteen great vows to entirely save all beings in the six paths before he himself attained Proper Enlightenment. His biography abounds with miracles and he is recognized as an eminent monk.
In l946, because he revered Elder Master Hsu Yun as exalted figure in Buddhism, he went to pay his respects. The Elder Master Hsu Yun observed that the Master was an outstanding individual within the Dharma and transmitted the Dharma pulse to him, making the ninth generation to inherit the Dharma of the Wei Yang Sect, and the forty-sixth generation from the First Patriarch Mahakashyapa. Chan Master Hsu Yun also expressed his faith in a verse saying
Proclaiming (Hsuan) Wei's wonderful meaning,
will cause the sect's reputation to be echoed far and wide..
The transformations (Hua) inherited from Ling Peak
will exalt the Dharma Path.
Taking across (To) the forty-sixth
will transmit the mind seal.
The wheel (Lun) which revolves unceasingly
will rescue the suffering hordes.
The two also had their photo taken together as a remembrance.
To be continued