純聞方丈帶領著我們進入大雄寶殿上香禮佛，一片既莊嚴又祥和的氣氛隨著香煙繚繞， 洗滌了內心的塵垢。這一刻真有「不可說， 不可說」的妙樂！
The Abbot Jie Yuan explained the history of the King Asoka Monastery
The Abbot here is a young Bhikshu named Dharma Master Cun Wen. He is the youngest abbot in China. Accompanied by some other Dharma Masters, he welcomed the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association (DRBA) delegation upon its arrival at the airport. He then welcomed the delegation into the monastery with a grand Buddhist ritual.
Abbot Chun Wen led us into the grand hall to offer incense and bow to the Buddhas. The atmosphere was solemn and auspicious as the incense smoke spiraled in the air and seemed to cleanse our inner impurities. It was an ineffable and wonderful moment of bliss!
Zhenru Monastery is renowned in China for specializing in Chan meditation. Elder Master Xu Yun was one of the greatest contemporary Chan Masters. He entered Nirvana here in 1959 at the venerable age of 120 years. His distinct and rigorous way of meditative practice was quite inspiring. The Sangha here maintained Elder Master Yun’s style of placing equal emphasis on farming and meditation. The farming enables the monastery to be self-sufficient. The tea they produce is known far and wide.
King Asoka Monastery at Ningbo is a national temple where people worship the enshrined relic of the Buddha. It’s also a temple without any Dharma ceremonies, repentance ceremonies for the deceased, or peddlers. Despite its location in a big city, a rare and unique peace and quiet pervaded the monastery. When he heard of our arrival, the Abbot of King Asoka Monastery, Elder Master Jie Yuan, personally received the delegation and then explained the origin of the temple’s Buddha relic. It was a great blessing for the delegation to pay reverence to the relic of the Buddha.
Tiantai Mountain was the last stop on the delegation’s itinerary. Guoqing (National Purity) Monastery is one of the major temples of the Tiantai School. It’s also visited by Buddhist disciples from Korea and Japan every year.
Group picture of Abbot Ke Ming and the delegation
Great Master Zhi Zhe founded the school at this place, and his body was placed here as well. It’s also the place where the three great Patriarchs, Masters Han Shan, Shi De and Feng Gan, reside. Some people with affinities indicated that they constantly see these three patriarchs manifesting here to teach and transform beings.
The Abbot of Guo Qing Monastery, Elder Master Ke Ming, is over ninety years old, yet he is still full of energy. The Elder Master compassionately gave us a Dharma talk and related the history and culture of the monastery. A pagoda built in the Sui Dynasty still stood upright, and a shoot that had sprouted from the Bodhi seed was also a rare plant.
The following is a splendid legend about the history of Guoqing Monastery: A long time ago when the Venerable Master Zhi Zhe arrived at Tiantai Mountain, he was looking for a place to start a monastery. While he was reading a sutra on a big rock on the mountain, the wind blew away some pages of the Sutra. These pages kept hovering and fluttering in the air until they landed on the plateau in the valley. Great Master Zhi Zhe kept running after the pages as they were blown away. When he finally retrieved the Sutra pages, he discovered the beautiful plateau where the pages had landed. Then he built a temple on this precious land. From the time of the Sui Dynasty until now, Guoqing Monastery has kept numerous rare historical relics including a 1,400-year old red bayberry tree (we happened to arrive at harvest time and got to taste its delicious fruit), the Sui Dynasty Pagoda, a Bodhi tree, and a 1,000-year-old Tang dynasty camphor tree.
Tiantai Buddhist Academy was established in Wannian (Ten Thousand Years) Monastery, located high in a mountainous area. The trail twists and turns through scenic green pines and cypresses. With its beauty and invigorating atmosphere, it’s a great place for practicing meditation. No wonder the Abbot, Dharma Master Yunguan, had the wisdom to build the Buddhist Academy here!
This serene place was also the setting for the famous story of the contest between the five hundred Arhats and Guanyin Bodhisattva. Long ago, five hundred Arhats visited Tiantai Mountain and were not convinced of the great spiritual power of Guanyin Bodhisattva. In order to see who had the greater spiritual powers, they challenged the Bodhisattva. They thought that they could defeat Guanyin Bodhisattva. They told Guanyin Bodhisattva, “We will build a pagoda, and you can build a bridge. Whoever finishes before the rooster crows at dawn wins. This will show who has greater spiritual power. Will you do it?” Guanyin Bodhisattva agreed. The Five Hundred Arhats assumed that they would win.
The Arhats worked together and utilized their spiritual power to transport bricks for the pagoda. They worked busily without taking a break. When it was almost daybreak, they had not yet finished the pagoda. However, Guanyin Bodhisattva hadn’t even started building the bridge yet. While the five hundred Arhats were laughing, they heard a rooster crow. They had to stop working on the pagoda, even though they hadn’t yet finished the top of the pagoda. Guanyin Bodhisattva, however, had already built a bridge across the waterfall. The Arhats had no choice but to admit defeat and acknowledge the Bodhisattva’s superior powers. How did Guanyin Bodhisattva build a bridge so quickly? It was because Guanyin Bodhisattva observed two dragons playing nearby and asked them to help build the stone bridge. And then Guanyin mimicked the crowing of the rooster. Thus, the five hundred Arhats lost the competition. People said that this was the reason that the pagodas in the Tiantai Mountain area have no tops.
There is an important lesson to be learned from this story. That is, that one should not oppress or take advantage of others. We shouldn’t be arrogant and pompous about having some spiritual power or some accomplishment in our cultivation. There is always another heaven above the one that we know. We should all take note of this!
Shanghai was the port where the delegation left China to return to America. There were lots of vegetarian restaurants in this metropolis. These restaurants were gracefully decorated, and their cuisine was tasty and nutritious. This obviously appealed to the many young people who filled the restaurant. After the delegation had the opportunity to partake of the savory food, everybody was happily ready to return home.
The delegation had been cordially welcomed everywhere they went in China. This was due to the fact that our hosts had all been insipred by the Venerable Master Hua’s virtuous deeds. Whether we traveled to a big city, a little town, a bustling city, or a remote country village, all the people lauded the Venerable Master Hua. The Venerable Master Hua was as well-known and as well-regarded as the Great Master Xu Yun.
Most surprisingly, we encountered the Sutra commentaries of the Venerable Master Hua everywhere, from the hut of the Elder Monk Mi Guang who had dwelt in seclusion for several decades to the small bazaar in the famous Dalingguang (Great Efficacious Light) Monastery. Everyone wanted to collect, preserve or read them. Some even risked violating the law to reprint and circulate them with their own expense. As the disciples of the Venerable Master, we should reflect on and cherish what we have. We should follow his teaching and propagate the Dharma to benefit living beings, in order to repay his kindness. May all beings in the world benefit from his Dharma rain and realize great enlightenment!