說到梅花，自古不僅文人墨客鍾愛，修道人亦然（然須不著相）。最琅琅上口的有王維的「君自故鄉來，應知故鄉事；來日綺窗前，寒梅著花未」。中峰禪師有吟梅詩百首，收集於＜續藏經＞中。與虛雲老和尚同時代的寄禪大師(一八五一 ~ 一九一二年)，曾著白梅詩一卷，人稱「白梅和尚」；寄禪大師生前，曾在天童寺春龍崗營造塔院，環植梅花，並且自撰了一幅塔聯曰「傳心一胡月，埋骨萬梅花」。然而，最耳熟的莫過於黃檗禪師的 「不經一番寒徹骨，焉得梅花撲鼻香」，禪七開示中，虛老年年引用，上人也年年引用。用久了，即便是聖城沒人提梅花，沒人買梅花來供養，梅花也會自己跑來聖城。
如來寺所種的梅，算是種成功了，如今既然誌花，亦當誌人；點梅二十株者，是方丈律法師；勘察地界者，是果遜師；負責挖洞者，是果法居士 (Bob Olson)；負責種樹者，劉萬壽居士；其後澆水培土者，諸熱心人，其中近梵師與近霈師曾為一株原本種於如來寺西邊正門旁，為大樹所遮，由於太陰而瀕臨絕境，幾幾乎長不出來的梅樹苗，又是剪枝，又是澆水，挺過一整個夏天，硬是把它搶救活了。
Upon stepping outside, the eye is greeted by an expanse of emerald green, and although it is winter, with its occasional overcast and rainy skies, the earth is carpeted in green, and spring is in the air. It is as picturesque as an oil painting; each year it has been so, but this year, the Sagely City is a picture of plum blossoms, because the plum blossoms have flowered for the first time, and it is a momentous occasion. Hence I have written a few words to mark the occasion.
In the midst of this picturesque scenery, what strikes the eye is the red and white of the plum blossom clusters that embellish the winter sky and adorn the Way-place. All the red plum blossoms spring up between Tathagata Monastery and Daoyuan Hall, and the white blossoms line up in a neat row, on the slope near the Boys’ School.
These plum trees (and cherry trees), numbering almost two hundred, were bought by the laypeople of Los Angeles in 2001 and donated to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Twenty were planted at Tathagata Monastery, about twenty at the Dining Hall, and about five at Junkang Vegetarian Restaurant. Owing to the more fertile earth around Tathagata Monastery, the plum blossoms planted there have grown especially well, and have flowered especially beautifully. The plum blossoms at Junkang Vegetarian Restaurant were planted on both sides of the front door, and visitors to the Sagely City approaching the entrance are greeted by a “window curtain” of red plum blossoms framing the front door. The twenty or so plum blossoms planted at the Dining Hall border the neighboring flower and vegetable garden. To suit the local terrain, they have been planted in two rows, forming a wall of plum blossoms. Together with the wall of magnolia shrubs that line the corridor of Great Compassion Monastery behind the Hall of Five Contemplations, they form an inter-reflecting formation of plum followed by magnolia.
The arrival of the plum blossoms has filled a void at the Sagely City. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has pine and bamboo trees (as well as chrysanthemum shrubs), but the “three friends that accompany winter” were sadly short of one – the plum. In the past years, one could see the grove of peach trees at No Words Hall (Nirvana Hall), but not the shadow of a plum blossom. But during the twelfth lunar month, when all flowers wither away, it is the lone plum blossom which blooms resplendently, putting forth its petals and pervading the air with its fragrance. Alone, it stands erect through winter and refuses to yield to the frost (it does not snow at the Sagely City). Hence, it has become a national flower, for its fragrance intensifies with the severity of winter. Because it is a symbol of endurance, it was destined to come to the Sagely City and now with its arrival, it has brought an atmosphere of vigor and freshness to the twelfth lunar month of winter and an air of festivity to the coming spring (Chinese New Year falls on February 1st).
From of old, not only the poets have lauded the plum blossom, cultivators have also extolled it (without being attached to marks). What rolls off the tongue most easily is the phrase by Wang Wei, “You sir, having come from my hometown, should know of the happenings there. Have the plum trees next to my window sill started to flower?” Dhyana Master Zhong Feng compiled one hundred poems lauding the plum blossom into the Extended Canon. A contemporary of Venerable Master Hsu Yun, Great Master Ji Chan (1851-1912), wrote a volume of poems about the white plum blossom and hence was known as the ‘white plum blossom monk’. During his time, Great Master Ji Chan once built a stupa at Tiantong Monastery at Chunlong Hill, and surrounded it with plum blossom trees. Having done so, he composed a couplet for the stupa, “A lone moon transmits the mind; ten thousand plum blossoms surround the burial ground.” But most well-known to us is the phrase by Dhyana Master Huang Bo, “If the winter’s cold did not pierce to the bone, how could the plum blossoms be so fragrant?” At the seven-day Chan meditation retreat each year, Master Hsu Yun would always bring it up, and Venerable Master Hua likewise. Hearing the plum blossom mentioned so repeatedly, it seemed like even if no one was to mention the plum blossom or buy it as an offering, it would somehow find its way to the Sagely City.
Now that the plum blossoms at Tathagata Monastery have been planted, in commemorating the flowers, let us not forget the people who have helped to make it happen: the Abbot, Dharma Master Lyu, personally checked out the twenty saplings; Master Guo Sun surveyed the land; Upasaka Guo Fa (Bob Olson) was in charge of digging the ground, Upasaka Liu Wanshou took charge of planting, and other enthusiastic helpers watered and tended to them. One sapling, originally planted under a big tree beside the western door of Tathagata Monastery, was about to die from inadequate sunlight. Master Jin Fan and Master Jin Pei trimmed and watered it, and it lasted through summer and was finally saved.
At present plum trees have been planted at Tathagata Monastery. Perhaps in the future they could be planted at the International Institute for Philosophy and Ethics. Who knows in the future who will plant plum blossoms around Wonderful Enlightenment Monastery? Who will recite poems extolling the plum blossoms at Wonderful Enlightenment Monastery and who will investigate into the fragrance that endures the bone-chilling cold? Wouldn’t it be even more wonderful if someone becomes enlightened upon seeing the plum blossoms, like Great Master Ji Chan who, upon seeing peach blossoms fall, became enlightened and resolved to leave the home-life? Who will that person be? And who is sitting in front of the computer rambling on about this, having completely forgotten his meditation topic?
May the great earth produce plum blossoms whose fragrance pervade everywhere; may the Sagely City produce cultivators who suffuse the world with the true fragrance of precepts and samadhi.
The boundless earth has produced plum blossoms,
and their redolence pervades everywhere;
Poets praise it in elegant verses, and I investigate the fragrance.
I twist off a branch of plum blossoms,
which perfumes the worlds of the ten directions.
Yet it is no match for the precept-fragrance of the Sagely City’s cultivators
who have realized the unconditioned and are at ease.
Complementary Verses by Upasaka Wei