我今年77，屬牛，我17、8歲時，那時還是「偽滿」時期（編按：即「滿洲國」。1931年「九•一八」事變後，日本政府挾持遜清宣統帝溥儀至東北組織傀儡政權，政府設於長春，隨1945年抗日勝利後結束），就常聽到白孝子 - - 那時人都稱上人白孝子 - - 及王孝子的名字。那時我們家住東北黑龍江省（當時叫吉林省）哈爾濱市東井子屯（「豚」音），住的是漢人；三緣寺在哈爾濱市雙城縣正黃旗第四屯，就叫四屯。正黃旗一共五個屯，住的是滿人。我住那房裡北牆窗外有口井，鄉下人吃完晚飯沒事幹，就聚在井邊舂殼子聊天，可熱鬧了！我在房裡常聽見外面人講王孝子和白孝子怎麼怎麼守墳，挺有趣的，還有他們要修三緣寺的事。可我只能在屋裡聽，不能出去，因為我是女孩兒，外頭聊天的都是男人，出去我媽會罵我，那年頭就那樣。在屋裡聽多了我就常想，我要是能拜他們做師父，那該多好呢！我這麼白天黑天老想著，想了有半年吧，一天中午我媽跑進房跟我說，「外頭來了兩個和尚，已經進屋來了。」我心想該不會是白孝子、王孝子吧？我出房一看，一個很年輕，很高很瘦，穿得很破爛，鞋也破爛；另外一個年紀很大，有八十來歲吧，不高，像我的個兒，臉上還有幾點白麻子，穿的也陳舊，不過不破爛得那麼厲害。我爹那時不在家，他不用做工，我們是「小富農」，雇人做。那天他在外頭閒逛，我趕忙出去找了他回來。他進門看見兩個和尚，迎上去問：
I am 77 this year, and my Chinese zodiac sign is the ox. When I was seventeen or eighteen, it was the period of the false "Manchukuo." [Editor's note: After the Mukden Incident on September 18, 1931, the Japanese government set up a puppet state in Manchuria and installed the deposed Qing Emperor Xuantong (Pu Yi) as its puppet ruler. The government was based in the city of Changchun until its power ended with the Chinese victory in the Sino-Japanese war in 1945.] At that time I often heard about Filial Son Bai (which is how people referred to the Venerable Master) and Filial Son Wang. My family lived in a Han area called Eastern Well (Dongjing) Village, Harbin, Heilongjiang Province (then called Jilin Province). Three Conditions (Sanyuan) Monastery was in the fourth village of Zhenhuangqi (Yellow Flag), Shuangcheng County, Harbin. Zhenhuangqi had five villages in all and was inhabited by Manchurians.
There was a well outside the north window of the house where I lived. After dinner the villagers would gather by the well to chat, creating quite a hubbub. From inside the house, I was always fascinated to hear them talking about how Filial Son Wang and Filial Son Bai stayed by their parents' graves. I also heard about the Filial Sons' project of renovating Three Conditions Monastery. However, I could only listen from inside the house. I was not allowed to go outside since I was a girl. All the people at the well were men, and if I went there my mother would scold me. That's how it was in those days.
After hearing constantly about the Filial Sons, I often thought how fine it would be if I could bow to them and take them as my teachers. This thought stayed with me day and night for about half a year. Then, one afternoon, my mother came running into my room to tell me, "Two monks have arrived. They've already come inside." I wondered, "It couldn't be Filial Son Bai and Filial Son Wang, could it?" I went out of the room to take a look. One monk was very young, tall, and thin, and his clothes and shoes were very tattered. The other was quite elderly, probably in his eighties, not too tall, about my height, and he had some pockmarks on his face. His clothes were also quite worn, but not as tattered as the other one's. My father happened to be out of the house. He didn't have to work in the field, as we were "farmers of means" and had hired hands to do the work. My father was walking about in the streets that day. I rushed out to find him and call him home. When my father came in the door and saw the two monks, he quickly went up to greet them and asked, "Where are you from?"
"The fourth village."
As soon as I heard "the fourth village," I knew they were from Three Conditions Monastery. When I heard their surnames, I knew they had to be Filial Son Wang and Filial Son Bai. My father hastened to bow and make prostrations, invited them to take a seat and have tea, and made conversation with them. He also invited them to stay for lunch. My mother and my sister-in-law made wheat cakes. As I recall, they talked about the renovation of Three Conditions Monastery and also discussed the Buddhadharma. Filial Son Bai did most of the talking, while Filial Son Wang spoke very little. When it was time to go, my father had my brother ready the horse carriage to take them home. We kept two horses at home.
I had been wishing constantly to meet Filial Son Bai and Filial Son Wang, and now I had met them! I was so happy I didn't know what to do with myself. Ecstatically I ran out of the house to announce the news to our neighbors. I went from house to house calling, "Filial Son Bai and Filial Son Wang have come to our house! Come and see!" Pretty soon many people were coming in and out of our house. I was overjoyed. I didn't get to talk with the Filial Sons that time—I didn't dare to, because it wasn't my place. When the adults were talking, children could not interrupt.
Later on the Venerable Master would visit us frequently and would sometimes stay at our house, mostly for one or two nights, never more than three nights. Each time he came he would explain the Dharma to people and cure those who were sick. The villagers came to listen to Dharma at our house. If the Venerable Master did not come for a long time, people would come to our house and ask, "Has Filial Son Bai come yet?" Everyone called the Venerable Master "Filial Son Bai" back then. Later, after they took refuge, they would call him "Shifu" (Teacher). Great Master Changren (Filial Son Wang) only came back twice. He seldom left the monastery and did not take disciples.
Sometimes the Master would bring two young boy disciples with him. It was always the same two boys. One time the Master brought white cloth and asked me to make white shirts and pants for them. I found another girl in the village—Wang Mucun to work with me. We each made one set. She and I later both left the home life together with the Venerable Master. The Venerable Master always wore the same tattered robes and pair of shoes. Several times people presented new clothes and shoes to the Venerable Master, and the Venerable Master accepted them, but the next time he came he would still be wearing his old robe and shoes. He would give the new clothes and shoes to others as soon as he got back to the monastery.
Around the time of the Mukden Incident [Editor's note: Also known as the Shenyang Incident, it took place on September 18, 1931, when the Japanese Guandong Army blasted the Southern Manchuria Railroad near the Liutiao Trench outside the northern gate of Shenyang city, thereby initiating the war in Manchuria that would lead to the Sino-Japanese and the Pacific wars of World War II], when I was seven or eight years old, my father gave me a picture. I didn't know who the person in the picture was, but I treated him as a sage and lighted incense and bowed to him daily. We didn't have electric lamps in those days, and we used soybean-oil lamps, which would give off black smoke. After a while the picture became black from the smoke.
One day the Venerable Master came to our house again, and directed me to take the picture down. I asked him which sage it was, and the Master told me it was Shakyamuni Buddha. After I took it down, the Master burned it and took the ashes with him. He said he would bring me a Buddhist image the next time he came. On his next visit, the Master gave me a bronze image of Guanyin Bodhisattva. It was as long as my hand, and I bowed to it daily. At that time I didn't know any better, and so I would make offerings of fine fish and meat dishes. The Master told me to make vegetarian offerings, and so from then on I made only vegetarian offerings.
The second time the Venerable Master came, our whole family took refuge with him. I had never been to a Buddhist temple before; when I was little I had only been to a Taoist temple called Temple of the Goddess 18 li [about 6 miles] from home. On the 18th of the 4th lunar month every year, I would go there with another girl, walking 18 li and bringing our own lunch, since my mother would not give us any money—not even a cent. Since we were embarrassed to eat on the road, thinking people would laugh at us for not having money to buy food from the shops, we would wait till we got to the temple and then hide in a corner and eat our food. Later when I was a little older, my Dad would give me money to buy food from the shops.
What did we do at the Taoist temple? In those days when families were afraid that their children would not grow up, they would go to the temple to pray for the children's welfare. If it was a boy, they would dress him up in yellow clothes and a yellow cap, and he would ride a donkey to the temple. At the temple door, he would turn around and sit facing the donkey's tail and ride into the temple that way. Inside the door, the Taoist priest would recite blessings. Then the boy would take off the yellow clothes and cap, and leave them at the temple, riding the donkey home. The yellow clothes and cap in the temple represented the boy's substitute self, and his real self could go home and be well. If it was a girl, she would jump over a low bench in the temple courtyard. As she was jumping, the Taoist priest would tap her on the head with a stick and recite a blessing, "Run fast, run fast, till you are white-haired in your old age." From then on the girl's life would be smooth and she would grow to adulthood.
There were other blessings and rituals, but I don't remember them now. We wouldn't go home until we had seen enough. There were not many amusements in the countryside, and watching the Taoist rituals was our way of having fun.
Neighbors who had sick people at home would want me to inform them when the Venerable Master came to our house. Then they would come and ask the Master to go to their homes to cure their ill ones.
I recall once the daughter of one of my cousins was ill. Her name was Li Guiying, and her nickname was Little Silver. My cousin's name was Li Haiguan. Little Silver was seven years old. One day a horse had a fit of temper and jumped over her, its front and rear hoofs clearing her head without touching her. After that, however, she got sick. Her sickness probably had something to do with the shock that the experience gave her. Neither Chinese nor Western doctors could help her; they said she was not ill.
Her illness was such that as soon as she lay down to sleep, she would get back up and try to climb on something. It could be anything—a tree, a pole—as long as she could climb. Since she was little, her family was afraid she would fall, so they would hold her down and not let her climb. She would start to sleep, then get up; start to sleep, then get up again. She could not sleep, and neither could anyone else.
One day when the Master came to our house, I went to tell my cousin, for we lived in the same village. My cousin came over to invite the Master to his house. After the Master stayed two nights in his house, Little Silver got well and no longer relapsed. My cousin said the Master recited some mantra to cure her; I know it was the Great Compassion Mantra.
Little Silver had a relapse when she was seventeen or eighteen. There was no way to hold her down then, for she was too big and especially strong when she was sick. The doctors had no success in treating her, and the Master had already left Manchuria. Her mother asked a medium to come to her house to exorcise the spirit, but Little Silver did not get better. As the medium danced, she also danced and even wet her pants.
One night my cousin saw the Venerable Master in his dream and told him, "Little Silver has had a relapse and you aren't here. What should I do?" The Master replied, "Let her drink salt water."
The next day my cousin came and told me. He was twelve years older than me. He was an ox (his zodiac sign), and so was I. He said, "The Master said to drink salt water. How can that cure her?" I said, "Don't worry so much, just try it." What we ate was coarse salt in those days, so he ground the salt and put it on a small dish by the bed. The next time Little Silver had a relapse, he put some salt in her mouth and added water. She got well.
He would give her salt water each time she relapsed, and gradually her relapses became less severe. When she felt a relapse coming on, she would eat the salt herself. Eventually she was completely cured and had no more relapses. She got married and had many children. Her family moved to Shanxi Province, and my cousin went with them, since she was his only child.
To be continued