There was another incident concerning a girl in our village named Li Fenglan. Every morning when she got up, she would have a splitting headache. It was so bad that she would roll on the floor. She would tell her parents, "Bow to me, bow to me," and when they bowed to her, her headache would go away. If people came to her house, she would yell, "Bow to me, bow to me," and if they didn't bow, she would get a headache and start rolling on the ground. People had no choice but to bow. Soon hardly anyone visited them, for who would want to go if they had to bow to her?
If people saw her and said, "You've gained weight," she would say, "So I've gained weight?" Then she would lightly bite the back of her wrist and say, "Slim, slim, slim," and she would slim down. If someone told her she had lost weight, she would say, "So I've lost weight?" and then bite her wrist and say, "Fat, fat, fat," and get fatter. It sounds like a joke, but it was real. Since it happened in broad daylight, no one was scared.
When she wanted to eat meat, you had to buy meat for her. If she wanted fish, you had to give her fish to eat. If she wanted wine, you had to buy her wine. She would wait for you to buy it; if you didn't then she would get a headache and start rolling on the ground. She had this illness, and that's how it was every day.
One day the Venerable Master came to our house again, and I went to that girl's house to inform them. The father came to our house to invite the Master to treat his daughter. The Master spent two nights at their house, and the girl was cured. According to her father, the Master had recited some mantra. Their family was from another county, so we didn't know them very well. Later they moved again.
I remember another girl by the surname of Wang, who was a few years younger than I, probably 16 or 17 at the time. She was tall and slender. I don't know her name, but people called her "Blind Sorghum Stalk" because she had poor vision and blinked a lot because her eyelids were red with pus. She had never been treated, since her family was poor. Blind Sorghum Stalk had a problem in her legs: if she straightened them, she couldn't bend them, and if she bent them, she couldn't straighten them again. So she sat on the kang (brick bed) all day long, and even needed her mother's help in relieving herself.
When the Master came to our house again, I went to inform their family, and they requested the Master's help. I went along that time and saw the Master use his index and middle finger to heal her. He would treat her wherever she felt pain, reciting a mantra in the meantime. After two or three treatments, she recovered without having taken any medicine. Her entire family also took refuge with the Master.
One afternoon the Master came to our house again. I recall that he had brought his two young disciples with him. But the Master said he brought four young disciples. It probably was the year of victory in the Sino- Japanese War, before the Eighth Route Army had begun to stand guard on the streets. It was the fifth or sixth lunar month. The produce was already on the market. The Master had just come in and was sitting on the kang. The neighbors had not arrived yet. Suddenly black clouds gathered and became so thick that people could not even see each other. The thunder and lightning was quite scary. There was a huge gale, and the rain poured down in solid torrents. There were no raindrops to speak of. It poured for two or three hours. There was construction going on in Willow Grove Village to our left, and much of the lumber to be used as main beams were washed downhill to us. Many other objects were also washed down, such as firewood in big bundles, but no one dared to pick them up. The water rose so high that people couldn't stay on level ground. They had to climb to high ground.
The rain stopped suddenly, and after the water receded, the neighbors all came to our house to take a look. They said, "How lucky the Guo family is! Filial Son Bai is there, and their house didn't flood." Our yard was surrounded by a lattice fence and had only one or two feet of water, much less than other places.
The Master later gave this account: ".. .The water came and went in a matter of four hours. Outside the fence the water was ten feet deep. Thirty people drowned in their homes and over eight hundred houses were washed away. People were drowned in their kang [brick beds]. More than eight hundred homes were washed away on the road between Eastern Well Village and Taiping Bridge. Most people had no idea of the cause of the flood. I have been nearly drowned twice in my life. The first time was at Guo Yuxia's [Heng Pin Shi's lay name] house. The monsters in the water were all waiting to get me. The geography of that village resembled a well. It was high on all four sides and depressed in the middle, so all the water flowed there until it was over ten feet deep." [Excerpted from the Venerable Master's conversations with Professor Richard Fu-sen Yang at Long Beach Monastery from July to September, 1993]
I saw it all happen, but did not know what was going on. It was only later when the Master explained it that I knew.
I have a cousin who was said to study and practice Buddhism. She was vegetarian before she got married. Originally she did not want to marry, but when her family fortune declined her father wanted her to. Every autumn she would come to our village to collect money, so people disliked her. She didn't keep the money for herself, but gave it to the temple where she cultivated, a place called the Charity Society. She told me to register and save a place for my parents and brothers and sisters by doing meritorious acts. She told everyone she met, "If you don't do good deeds now, you won't have any opportunity when you want to do them in the future." It cost a dollar to register a person. I secretly registered everyone in my family. I was older by then, and sometimes I earned a little money doing odd jobs for others. In retrospect, I see that what she said really came true. When the country's government changed hands, Buddhism declined and it was no longer possible to go to a temple to make donations.
All the books she had studied were produced by mediums. Their family would invite a medium to come to their house twice a year, so they could ask questions. Major national events, war, and turmoil could all be foretold. In 1931, the year of the Mukden Incident, Manchuria was in a state of near anarchy and the Red Beards (bandits) were on the loose. My parents worried that my elder brother might be kidnapped, so the family moved to the city of Harbin and hid there for three years. Sometimes we stayed at my cousin's house and saw the medium once. My mother asked about something. I was still little and only remembered the medium saying how much suffering my mother had gone through when she was young— things that no one else knew—and that she would enjoy blessings in her old age. The medium's prophecy was not off in the least. When my mother was advanced in years, my elder brother took very good care of her. Every time after the medium had spoken, my cousin would record the medium's words in what she called a "book of goodness."
It was through a medium that she found out that being rich or owning land would be considered a sin and would bring calamity in the future. Because of this she exhorted people to give away their money. She sold all of her own land and donated her wealth to the Charity Society. Her husband had died early on, so she was in charge of the household. People in the village slandered her, accusing her of ruining her family, but she paid no attention. She said, "You have land? You won't be able to sell it in the future even if you want to. Just wait and see. Land won't be worth as much as meat. You can get a dollar for a piece of meat, but an acre of land won't even bring in a dollar. The more land you have, the more offenses you'll have. Rich people will also be considered criminals."
She went about saying this and urging people to give up their land and money, but no one listened. My father bought some land at that time, and she said, "Uncle, you're still buying land? Owning land will bring you misfortune." Sure enough, after Manchuria recovered from the Japanese occupation after World War II and the Communists came, wealthy people and landowners were in trouble.
My cousin was illiterate, and so was I, but she gave me many of her "books of goodness." When I went to Dharma Flower Temple in the city of Ah, I left the books at my sister's house. After the Japanese had left Manchuria, she burned them all, fearing that they might be discovered. The predictions in the books were indeed true: those with money and land did get in big trouble. One of the books was called the Forty-two Hands and Eyes; it was not one of the "books of goodness" produced by a medium. I carried that book with me everywhere I went, because it had a lot of illustrations in it. The bottom half of every page was an illustration and the top half was text. Since she couldn't read, she couldn't practice this Dharma and couldn't teach me either.
I showed this book to the Master once when he came to our house. The Master said he also had a copy. He brought his copy on his next visit. I compared the two copies and found them exactly the same. That time, the Master taught Wang Mucun and myself one hand and eye, which was the five-colored thread hand (Lariat Hand). The Master taught us how to wrap the thread around the hand. Since Wang Mucun didn't have a book, she used tracing paper to trace a copy from my book.
I had a miniature wooden fish that was as small as the cup for offering water on the altar. It was red and made of Chinese datewood. When struck, it made a very loud and resonant sound that was very pleasant. I also showed it to the Master (I showed him all my treasures). On his next visit the Master brought a slightly larger wooden fish and wanted to trade with me. I said there's no need to trade; if the Master liked mine, he could take it. I didn't know how to use it anyway. The Master told me to keep the other one and said I could learn to play it gradually. I kept it, and later it was burned along with the books left at my sister's house. I would not have given away my miniature wooden fish to anyone but the Master.
Our neighbor had a girl who was about twelve and sick enough to die. Her parents took her to the temple so she could leave the home life. I was her close friend, and when I saw her go I also wished to leave home with her. My family would not permit it, however. They said, "She was only allowed to leave home because she is sick enough to die. If you were that sick, we'd let you leave home." I was fourteen then.
I remembered this incident and always thought, "Why can't I be chronically ill? If I were always sick and in danger of dying, then I could leave the home life." When I was sixteen or seventeen, I really became sick. I had a fever and became delirious. I just couldn't seem to recover, and it looked as if I was going to die. My family carried me to the storeroom outside, because a death in the house would not be auspicious. When my condition improved two days later, they brought me back into the house. When it worsened, they moved me outside again. It became too troublesome to keep carrying me back and forth, so finally they decided to keep me in the storeroom for good. My mother came daily to check if I had died. All the neighbors came and asked, "Is she dead yet? Is she dead yet?" "She isn't dead!" "She isn't dead yet? What suffering!" They never asked, "Is she getting better?" Not a single one of them asked that.
To be continued