At that time, Ding Hui received a number of invitations and went out several times a month. She would take eight people with her each time. That was how she sustained the temple. When people asked her to recite the Earth Store Sutra in the morning, recite the Amitabha Sutra in the afternoon, and perform the Meng Mountain Ceremony at night, she would do so. Although she was illiterate, she was able to lead people in reciting Sutras and singing praises. When I went there, she brought me along to hit the cymbals. I told her that I didn't know how, and she said, "Watch the wooden fish and hit the cymbals in time with it." So I went. We would spend two or three nights at people's houses when we went out. The food was delicious and I was given two dollars afterward.
I remember there was a toothless, elderly nun who had small [bound] feet and was not very attractive. The abbess preferred that I went instead of that nun. Since only one of us could go each time, that elderly nun was not too happy with me. Nevertheless, she had a real strength—her eloquence. It was she who dealt with the Eighth Route Army when they came. She was illiterate and had never been to school, so I wondered how she got to be such a smooth talker!
At that time, there was a song making fun of those who recited Sutras for the deceased. Children would sing it whenever they saw us:
"Mi Tuo Sa, Mi Tuo Sa;
Two people died in the East, while three died in the West.
If you don't die, how will the monks and Taoist priests make a living?"
"Mi Tuo Fo, Mi Tuo Fo; Just eat the beef; forget the big radish... "
Beef stew with big red radish is a famous dish in Manchuria. The big red radish is not a carrot; the skin is red and the inside is white, and is very big and sweet.
"The head monk is ill, so the second monk treats him;
The third monk buys herbs, and the fourth monk brews them;
The fifth monk purchases boards, and the sixth monk nails them together;
The seventh monk digs a hole, and the eighth monk buries the coffin;
The ninth monk sits and cries, and the tenth monk asks why"
"The head monk will never, ever come out again," he replies.
That's how it was: the adults composed the songs and the children sang them. That was why we did not want to go out. The Venerable Master was very right in prohibiting his disciples from making a livelihood of reciting Sutras and performing repentances for the deceased.
I stayed at Dharma Flower Temple for less than a year. During that time, they were preparing to build a big Buddha hall. The cement, sand, lumber, bricks had been purchased and brought into the yard. But then the Eighth Route Army came and drove us all away.
When the Venerable Master left Three Conditions Monastery, he took a young disciple with him. His departure was after the Recovery but prior to the Liberation. He went to Wang Muchun's (Heng Yue's) house and told her before he left. [Editor's note: The "Recovery" refers to the defeat of Japan in 1945; after the false Manzhouguo collapsed, Manchuria recovered. "Liberation" refers to the Communist takeover of Manchuria in 1946.] The Venerable Master didn't go in; he just told his young disciple to enter and tell her that he was leaving. He stood a distance from the door and waited. Since the Eighth Route Army had guards on the streets, it was not convenient for the Venerable Master to go in. Wang Muchun didn't come out and talk to the Master either. I received a letter from the Venerable Master in 1993. He asked me to find Wang Muchun and come to the United States with her. Wang told me the above incident when I found her.
I complained to her at the time, saying, "You knew the Venerable Master was leaving. Why didn't you go out and meet him? Why didn't you give the Master some money for travelling? You should have asked your father or older brother if you didn't have the money yourself." Her family was wealthier than mine. My family was neither poor nor rich. I scolded her until she cried. Maybe she was sorry.
I think the Venerable Master must have left by way of Hengshengtai Village. I was in Harbin at the time, and the Eighth Route Army had already come. We needed passes to enter and leave town. The Venerable Master didn't have a pass, so he could neither come nor go. Wang Muchun's family had moved to Zhoujia Village (present-day Zhoujia Town) in the countryside. The Eighth Route Army also had guards stationed there, but they didn't require passes yet, so the Master was able to go and inform her.
To be continued