Editor’s Note: Dharma Master Heng Ding passed away on the morning of October 11, 2003, at the age of 80, having been a monk for 60 years. The first person to discover this was a layperson. According to him, Bhikshu Heng Ding passed away in meditation posture in the Buddha Hall of Boat Temple. This layperson and Upasaka Ho both saw peacocks when the Dharma Master passed away. Upasaka Ho was the person who took care of the Dharma Master’s daily needs. In the past magpies came everyday to Boat Temple to sing in the trees there. However, just before Bhikshu Heng Ding passed away, they stopped showing up. Once, he said that he would pass away soon. At the end of last year (2002), he used all the donations he had received from laypeople to repair Boat Temple. He truly foresaw the time of his death and made preparations for the subsistence of the temple.
I am from Fuping County of Liaoning Province in Manchuria. I brought forth the resolve to leave home when I was a teenager. However, the causes and conditions were not ripe yet. I met Shr Fu (Venerable Master Hua) while studying in Shengyang. I didn’t leave home with him until I visited Nanhua Monastery.
During my time as a student, in a dream I saw the Thousand-eye Thousand-hand Gwan-Yin Bodhisattva on a mountain. I bowed to her. In the dream, someone asked me, “Before you fall asleep, you are conscious. While you are sleeping, you lose consciousness and soon you can see various states in your dreams. However, right when you fall asleep and lose consciousness, but before you start to dream, where are you?” I couldn’t answer this question. This happened before I left home.
Later on, I made it to Nanhua Monastery but didn’t stay there long. I only participated in one Chan session held by Master Hsu Yun. Because I was afraid of the cold, my head was freezing for a couple of months. Shr Fu would recite the Great Compassion Mantra over my head to bless me. The Great Compassion Mantra that Shr Fu recited was very efficacious. I also single-mindedly studied the Forty-two Hands and Eyes with Shr Fu.
At that time, Shr Fu was the Dean of Academic Affairs in the Buddhist Academy of Nanhua Monastery. There were over twenty monastics. Shr Fu also taught classical Chinese and lectured the sutras once. Master Hsu Yun would transmit the precepts every year and Shr Fu acted as the certifying teacher twice. Shr Fu lived in Nanhua Monastery for two or three years. Prior to the communist takeover in Manchuria, Shr Fu wanted to get Guo-Zhi out of there since Northern Manchuria was not liberated yet. Because Guo-Zhi had opened his spiritual eyes, the communists would not let him leave town in order to keep their secrets safe. Guo-Zhi was very young then. When Shr Fu left Manchuria for Nanhua Monastery, he did not bring anything but his recitation beads. When he went to Hong Kong, the only thing he took with him was those recitation beads. Shr Fu had a statue of Amitabha Buddha which he had acquired in Hong Kong because he had had a dream about Amitabha Buddha and where to find that statue. Originally, the statue had been white. After Shr Fu worshipped and bowed to it, the statue turned the color of human flesh.
After I was ordained in 1949, the communists arrived. I left for Hong Kong and stayed with Shr Fu for eight years. We first went to Yunmen (Cloud Gate) and then lived in Easter Potola for nine years. After that, we moved to Guan Yin Cave, Dayu Mountain, Western Bliss Gardens, amd Cixing (Flourishing Compassion) Monastery where I lived for a year and a half. I memorized the Lotus Sutra and experienced many states because of it. In
samadhi, I saw Shakyamuni Buddha and three great monks. These three great monks were tall and didn’t look like Chinese. One of them had curly hair and a curly beard and a pair of big earrings. He looked like Patriarch Bodhidharma. I cultivated more vigorously in Chan after that. I had memorized part of the
Shurangama Sutra at Nanhua Monastery and finished memorizing it at Eastern Potola. It took me five years. Master Hsu Yun asked all of his disciples to memorize the
After reaching Hong Kong, I followed Shr Fu to Bangkok where we lived for four months. I was going to learn the Theravada Tradition there; however, I came back due to unfinished legal business. In Bangkok, we stayed at Dragon Flower (Longhua) Monastery, where all the monks were Chinese and spoke Mandarin. There, we still wore the Chinese monastic robes and did not go for almsrounds. Originally, the Thai government would not let Chinese build temples in their country. However, the abbot of the temple had great spiritual skill. He recited the Great Compassion Mantra and obtained many responses. Subsequently, the Thai government gave him permission to build Dragon Flower Monastery.
The earliest disciples the Venerable Master accepted were Guo-Neng, Guo-Shun, and Guo-Wei, all of whom had been ordained. Even though Guo-Wen, Guo-Zuo and Guo-Zhi left home before I did, they were not yet ordained at the time. In order of ordination, I was Shr Fu’s fourth disciple. This was told to me by Dharma Master Heng Yue.
When we were at the Cixing Monastery, Shr Fu was printing the Shurangama Mantra and the
Vajra Sutra. I was responsible for proofreading them since I had memorized the
Vajra Sutra as a layperson.
When Shr Fu had practiced filial piety by staying at his mother’s graveside, he had recited the Shurangama Mantra and the Great Compassion Mantra. He had great spiritual skill. After he had lived in Guanyin Cave for a couple of months, his appearance changed. Guanyin Cave was manmade so it was very damp. If it were natural, it would not had been so moist but rather comfortable. I lived with Shr Fu in the cave for two years. The quality of the air was not good and there was a lot of trash around. My lungs were not functioning well and because of it, I could not enter samadhi. So, I requested to go to Zhongnan Mountain to cultivate. I never returned to where Shr Fu was after that. I moved to Boat Temple and stayed there for forty years. However, every time someone told me about Shr Fu’s return to Hong Kong, I would go visit him.