I planned to go to Hong Kong when I was in Yunmen in 1949. I requested a leave of absence from the Venerable Master Xu Yun telling him about my planned trip before I left Yunmen in June. Venerable Master Xu Yun didn’t want me to leave. He said, “After you reach Hong Kong, you will never return.” I said, “I will definitely be back. I will visit Hong Kong for a while and then come back.” Venerable Master Xu Yun wept and said, “If you go to Hong Kong, you will never come back.” “I will definitely come back, please don’t worry.” When I first went to Yunmen, the Venerable Master assigned me a room that was damp, especially during May and June, which I couldn’t bear. I told the Venerable Master that I was afraid of the moisture so I wanted to go to Hong Kong. The Venerable Master said, “The rooms in this monastery are fine. Take a look at the rooms for laypeople; they are like pigpens!!” But I still couldn’t stand it, so I went to Guangzhou.
I first went to the Liurong Monastery. The Abbot, Dharma Master Ming Guang, had some skill in spiritual cultivation, but lacked blessings. He lived in poverty throughout his life. Take a look at him; he still had such a long beard. Without a beard, he would have looked tiny with his little nose, little eyes, little mouth and short chin. He was a short senior Dharma Master who looked like a Taoist. Most Taoists have long beards and long hair. Dharma Master Ming Guang didn’t have long hair, though. I had known him since we were at Nanhua Monastery. Venerable Master Xu Yun told him to be the abbot of Liurong Monastery, so he did. When I stayed there, he invited me to be the head Dharma Master who is the host of the Buddha Hall. I was the first in line while walking in the procession to the Buddha Hall. This is what is called “head Dharma Master”. When I was in Nanhua Monastery, I would do whatever I was told to do without any objections, so Dharma Master Ming Guang asked me to be the head Dharma Master. A head Dharma Master had the privilege of choosing when and if he went to the Buddha Hall and dining hall. However, I was not lax and rigorously went to the Buddha Hall and dining hall every day. One day, I told Dharma Master Ming Guang, “The Communists are approaching Guangzhou.” I knew that Liurong Monastery was wealthy, owning several hundred bars of gold, each bar being worth ten taels of gold. The monastery had more than two thousand taels of gold plus silver coins called “Da Tou” (literally, Big Head) from the beginning of the Republic of China which were dubbed “Da Yuan” in Guangdong. The monastery had 1,500 to 1,600 Da Yuan, as well as paper currency worth 100,000 to 200,000 Hong Kong dollars. That was a lot back in 1949.
So I said, “The Communists are about to come; you should divide the money and give it to everyone here.” Since the money was from donations and there were over 30 monks living there, I told him, “You should divide the money up and give it to everyone here. Anyone that wants money should be given some. Those who would like to stay can do so. They can even buy food for themselves. This will be much better than keeping the money in the monastery. If you give money to 30-some monks, everyone can have 3,000 to 5,000 dollars, and the monastery will still have half of the total amount left. This other half can be for Dharma Masters from the ten directions. Whoever wants to stay here can do so. Or he can go to wherever he wants since he has money for transportation. This is my first suggestion. I hope you can divide the money up and give it to all the people here.” “Oh, no. All the money here is from the ten directions; I don’t dare to touch it or I could make a mistake in the law of cause and effect.” So he wouldn’t take my first suggestion.
“Well, if you are afraid of making a mistake in cause and effect, you can deposit all the money and other assets in Hong Kong. Now all of the money and assets are in Guangzhou. You better save all the cash, coins, and currency in a Hong Kong bank. This is the second suggestion. You better not keep money in Guangzhou.” “Is Hong Kong such a reliable place?” he argued back. I said, “Hong Kong wouldn’t be as chaotic as Guangzhou.”
I also said, “My third suggestion is that you move Liurong Monastery to Hong Kong. Move all the Buddha statues and all the people here to Hong Kong. Buy a piece of land using the money and build a monastery. You can build a really big one with 100,000-some Hong Kong dollars. Labor and material costs are low. You don’t even need 100,000-some Hong Kong dollars to build the monastery. You and all the monks move to Hong Kong, and you can still remain the abbot in peace.” “I cannot take any of your three suggestions.” “You can’t take them? Well, it’s up to you.”
A few days later, I told him again to leave. There were refugees coming down to Guangzhou from all over because Shaoguan was already occupied by Communists. I meant to return to Yunmen after August 15, but Shaoguan was in the hands of the Communists. To get back to Yunmen you must pass though Shaoguan. Since the Communists were in Shaoguan, the route was closed. There was no transportation from Guangzhou to Yunmen. On August 18th, I didn’t go to morning recitation. Perhaps all the monks were worried: What do we do once the Communists are here? So none of the monks went to morning recitation. Dharma Master Ming Guang came out and said while walking, “Borrow fragrant flowers from others and cultivate your own blessings and wisdom.” He didn’t scold me; he just recited that to me. No one dared to scold me. Even though he was the abbot, he didn’t dare to scold me because I was the head Dharma Master. He grumbled, “Young people shouldn’t be afraid of hard work.” I was unhappy with him, “You old Dharma Master, really! I skipped morning recitation because I was sick and you grumble like this.” All right, I got up. I didn’t even have one cent on me. Heng Ding and I didn’t have any money. I went out looking for layperson Chen Kuan Man. Upon seeing him, I said to him, “I’m going to Hong Kong today. Are you going?” “Yes, I’m going.” “Then buy an air ticket for me.” So he purchased two tickets for me. Then I went back and requested a leave of absence from Dharma Master Ming Guang. I said, “I’m leaving.” He said, “Don’t go away. We live and die together and go through hardships together.” “You are undergoing hardship? I won’t die with you. You may want to die early but I won’t die with you.” And then, “Oh, you are going to Hong Kong!” He asked attendant Lu – I don’t know if you know him, he was Dharma Master Ming Guan’s attendant back then – to withdraw 10 Hong Kong dollars to give to me. Attendant Lu put the 10 dollars in my hand and I took it and dropped it on the floor: “I don’t want your money!” I dropped it on the floor and attendant Lu picked up the bill and returned it to Dharma Master Ming Guang.
Later, Dharma Master Ming Guang went to Hong Kong as well. When he saw me, he regretfully said, “If I would have taken your three suggestions, I wouldn’t have suffered so much.” He was almost in tears. “Suffering? Your beard is still so long. It’s no big deal. You still have your beard now.” I kidded him, “Your beard is still long,” and pulled at his beard. Dharma Master Ming Guang actually had a good resolve for spiritual cultivation. He was afraid of making a mistake in cause and effect so he didn’t dare to listen to me. In reality, if he took the first of the three suggestions I made to him, he could have led a good life in Hong Kong. For instance, if he had moved Liurong Monastery to Hong Kong, he would have still been a high Dharma Master, a revered abbot. He wouldn’t have gone though those first few years of suffering, including his toothache. When we held the Chan session on Lantao Island, I meant to give the monastery in Lantao to him but he didn’t dare to take it because of his worries. So he did have a good resolve for the Way; he was only lacking in blessings. He was not creative enough, either. If he were creative, he could still have done something. After I came to the U.S., I told Guo Rong to go see him. But Guo Rong had no affinity with him, telling me that he couldn’t make out what Dharma Master Ming Guang was saying.
I left Guangzhou on August 18th and arrived at Hong Kong the next morning on the 19th. The first time I went to Hong Kong, I went back to Guangzhou. I planned to return to Yunmen after August 15th but couldn’t make it so I went to Hong Kong again. These are my causes and conditions relating to Hong Kong. I went to Thailand afterwards. After coming back from Thailand, I stayed in the Guanyin Cave. Before she saw me, Yu Guo Man, the wife of Huang Guo Yuan, used to be afraid of monastics. Upon seeing monastics, she became badly scared. I said, “You were bullied too much by monastics in your past life. That’s why you are scared.” After seeing me the first time, she came to Guanyin Cave, where I ate my own food. I cooked noodles and she ate two bowls of it. She also drank the water I gave her, which was sweeter even than sugar. After finishing the water, she – you may laugh – hung around. She hung around the mountain, around the woods and around the Guanyin Cave. And then?