To commemorate the Third Anniversary of the Venerable Master's Nirvana,
Dharma Realm Buddhist Association is publishing an Anthology of
the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's Verses, for which Professor
Richard Yang has written this Preface.]
1992 was the most memorable year
of my life, for that was the year I met the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua.
Through numerous conversations, I realized that although the Master had
only studied for two and a half years in a village school, he was
admirably well-versed in the ancient Chinese classics. Whether it was
the Four Books, the Five Classics, or other ancient prose and poetry,
the Master had not only studied them, but was able to recite them from
memory just like that. An old proverb puts it well: “Having thoroughly
studied the three hundred Tang poems, even if you can't write poetry
you can at least recite it.” The Master could not only recite, but also
compose. This is something most people cannot do.
People who understand classic
prose and poetry may not necessarily know how to compose poems. Those
who both understand the classics and can write poetry are few indeed,
and the Master may very well be an outstanding poet and Chan Master.
Since he had the ability to write poetry, he composed many verses in
his commentaries on Sutras as well as in his series entitled Reflections
in Waters and Mirrors, sometimes at the beginning or at the end to
highlight the essentials of the text. These verses allowed the reader
to understand the text's meaning at a glance, bringing it to life.
The Master also composed verses
for Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Chan Patriarchs, as well as for Chan and
recitation sessions, ceremonies for inaugurating statues of Shakyamuni
Buddha and Guanyin Bodhisattva, for Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain at
the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and for the purpose of expressing his
own feelings. In explaining the Sutras and teaching Dharma, the Master
used a variety of approaches suited to the situation and people in
question, inspiring disciples to “purify their thoughts, turn toward
wholesomeness, and bring forth vigorous resolves to cultivate and
attain the Way.”
Poetry is one method Buddhism uses
to teach living beings. The most familiar Buddhist verses include the
one for opening a Sutra: “The unsurpassed, wonderful Dharma / Is hard
to encounter in a hundred thousand eons. / I now see and hear it,
receive and maintain it, / And I vow to understand the Thus Come One‘s
true and actual meaning.” Also, there is the verse for transference of
merit: “May this merit and virtue / Adorn the Buddhas' Pure Lands, /
Repaying the four kindnesses above, / And rescuing those in the three
suffering realms below. / May those who see and hear of this / Bring
forth the Bodhi mind and, / At the end of their lives, / Be born in the
Land of Ultimate Bliss.” Not to mention the disciples at the City of
Ten Thousand Buddhas and other Buddhist temples, who know these verses
by heart, even I, a Christian who honors the Buddhadharma without fully
understanding it, am able to recite these verses by heart after hearing
them regularly during my one-year stay at the City of Ten Thousand
Buddhas. Hence the importance of poetry goes without saying.
I esteem the Master for his lofty
virtue as well as his profound understanding of the classics. For the
Master's birthday, I once wrote a poem in which the starting words of
all the lines formed the Master's name:
To propagate the Dharma, you
across the ocean.
You nurture superior talents and benefit all nations.
A Bodhisattva of the higher realm, you inspire our wisdom.
A teacher in the world, you guide the foolish and blind.
After the Master read it, he
laughed, thought for a moment, and wrote two verses on the spot to give
to me. The first one said,
Widely learned and erudite, he
such a penetrating scholar.
His clear, resonant voice opens up a bright future.
Enriching the country and planting the woods, he trains the talented.
He cultivates himself, regulates his family, and has great aspirations.
The second one said:
With full energy and a
The sentimental old man from Li County has a unique sense of humor.
The dull-witted monk from the mountain composed these rustic lines
To wish you a hundred years for sure.
I reflected for a long time before
I finally had a flash of inspiration and wrote the four-line verse. The
Master, in the midst of the celebration, immediately came up with two
verses that both read well and carry deep meaning--admirable indeed!
We all know that Cardinal Paul Yu
Bin was a Catholic, not a Buddhist, yet he was a close friend and
spiritual companion of the Venerable Master. This is truly rare. In a
verse that the Master wrote for the Cardinal, his deep feeling for his
spiritual companion is evident:
White mountains and black waters
nurtured a rare hero,
Who valued wealth and glory less than a pair of tattered shoes.
Through God and Jesus Christ, he understood substance and function.
Through human mind and Buddha nature, he awakened to perfect
Teaching reverence for ancestors, he inspired the people to virtue.
Devoting himself till his death, he bolstered age-old ethics.
How great you were, Cardinal Yu Bin--
An awesome model for thousands of generations to behold with
I admire not only the Master's
noble virtue, but also his poetic talent. In his associations, he
valued only a person's moral character and did not care what his
religious faith was. Cardinal Yubin was a Catholic and I am a
Protestant, yet the Venerable Master extended his friendship to us
without discrimination. His integrity and virtue are thus a level above
most of us (including myself), and we could never hope to catch up to
In order to commemorate the
Venerable Master's teachings, his disciples have compiled an anthology
of the Master's verses. I have written these few sentences as a preface
in memory of my old friend.
Yang, a.k.a Jinqiao, a
foolish 80-year-old man from Li County
Second lunar month, 1998