In 1993 I quit school in New Orleans, Louisiana and headed west in search of a Way-place. I first stayed in a temple in Los Angeles for over a month, and visited some ten or twenty temples of all sizes. Finally, my search brought me to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas; I came with a busload of Buddhists from Los Angeles to attend the Amitabha Session. We arrived on December 22, a dark, stormy night. I was cold, hungry, and distraught, thinking, "What kind of a place have I come to?"
I remember the first time I met the Venerable Master in January 1994 on Honoring Elders Day. The Master had returned to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) to meet with the Elder Mr. Li-fu Chen. The Master was seated in front of Cottage 3, and I was on my way to tend the fire at Cottage 7, where Mr. Chen would be staying. That's when I bowed to him. At that time I knew little about the Venerable Master and my faith in Buddhism was not fervent. When I rose from the bow, I thought, "This is a great master. I want to see what his eyes are like. Enlightened people should have very bright, clear eyes." So I looked at his eyes, and he looked back at me with a smile, his gaze penetrating right through me. Although the Master's eyes were bright, they were not clear; the eyeballs were yellowish and covered with fine veins. Was it because he was over-exhausted? The Master knew my thoughts and merely smiled at me. I had no idea then that the Master would enter Nirvana a little over a year later.
Although I am not sensitive or patient by nature, I am still capable of appreciating kindness. After coming to CTTB, I have realized that there is one person in this world–Venerable Master Hua–whose kindness I could hardly repay even a tiny fraction of, even if I spent life after life attempting to do so. I regret not having drawn near the Master more when he was alive. At CTTB I have realized that, were it not for the Venerable Master's imperceptible blessings helping me to eliminate dangers, I would not be alive today. He is still helping by taking my pain and illness; otherwise, how could so many of my illnesses have vanished on their own? There are many other responses, too many to be described.
The Master had recently passed into stillness, and on the morning of his cremation, I vowed in his presence: "Master, if these two brothers have no problem getting a visa to study at the Boys School, then I won't leave." Originally I had had a worldly thought of returning south to finish my studies. Strangely enough, at the end of August the two boys returned to CTTB. Their mother said, "It was as if we were riding on the wind; everything went extremely smoothly." I smiled to myself. That incident left a profound impression on me. There have been countless other responses brought about by the Master's vow to fulfill the wishes of living beings. He has done everything short of plucking the moon from the sky for us. At CTTB, it seems as if my every thought is known; as long as it is not a crooked thought, it can come true, as if someone had arranged it all in advance. I have realized that CTTB is truly heaven on earth; a miniature Land of Ultimate Bliss. There is no other place like this in the world.
The Chinese say, "A man would lay down his life for one who truly understands him." The Master knows me a million times better than I know myself. How could I not cherish the opportunity to follow him in cultivation? He influenced me, a nonbeliever, to become a Buddhist, to resolve to seek Bodhi, and to enter the monastic life. No one knows what great pains he went to for my sake. Raising children and educating students may be tough, but they are a far cry from the Master's work of saving people. The Master saved not only me, but others, and in the end he died of exhaustion. Poor Bodhisattva! Poor Bodhisattva! The Venerable Master's numerous disciples must feel the same way I do. No matter how lacking in conscience I am, how could I not strive to repay such tremendous kindness?
Through a disciplined life of cultivating, working, teaching, and vegetarianism at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, my various ailments—hepatitis, stomach illness, and bronchitis–that even energy healing did not help, have been cured without medicine. I hope that when I awaken from this worldly nightmare, I will truly be awake and not foolishly suffer in vain again. May I realize my vow to repay the Master's kindness; otherwise I have no way to face him. This article is written on the Venerable Master's Memorial Day.