I became a disciple of the Venerable Master
Hsuan Hua when I was very young. I lived in Hong Kong at the time,
and studied with the Master every day. The Master presided over
numerous Summer Sutra Study Sessions and Winter Meditation Sessions
which I attended, and I was able to meet many old and advanced
cultivators, some disciples of the Master, from Hong Kong and
Mainland China. From them I learned about the Master's previous
experiences while he was in China and elsewhere in South East Asia.
The following events were related to me by
cultivators who knew the Master in Manchuria. They seemed
appropriate at this time when so many Westerners are beginning to
When the Master was in NE China（東北）, Manchuria,
there was an outside way teacher named Kuan Chung Hsi（關忠喜）who
transmitted the "Shou Yuan Tao（收緣道）". To become his disciple was very
expensive because he had hundreds of precious things which he sold
for $1,000 each. What precious things? They were only names. He
never showed them. He said, "The time hasn't come so I can't teach
you about the precious things. But when the time arrives, the world
will change and I will give them to you to use." More than 4,000
disciples believed him.
One day, when he was more than fifty years old,
he realized that cheating people was irrelevant because he had
nothing precious to protect his own life. He knew that he was very
close to death and was afraid to die without understanding
cultivation. He went everywhere looking for the Way. No matter how
far, he sought out Good Knowing Advisors to beg that they teach him
how to cultivate. He was very sincere.
He took along his nephew, Kuan Chan Hai（關占海）who was
probably a descendent of Kuan Kung（關公）. They searched for three years
but didn't find the Way. Unhappy, and very worried, he said, "I
don't know how to cultivate the Way and I am going to die. These are
the very worst circumstances!" His nephew wasn't planning to marry;
he wanted to follow his uncle so that the two of them could
cultivate together. And so these two wandered "Way confused"
- confused about the Way.
One day the Master stopped at his home. It was
very strange. Before he arrived, Kuan Chan Hai dreamt that the
Master came to his home and sat on his brick bed, Kuan Chan Hai
knelt before him and asked him to teach the Way. In his dream the
Master peeled a layer of skin from the top of his head to his feet,
took it up in two hands, and threw it on the ground. The nephew
looked and wondered what kind of skin it was. Then he saw
- it was a pig skin. "Oh!" he said, "I have a pig skin on my
body!" In the dream he heard the Master say, "You don't eat pure
vegetable food, you eat pork, and so in the future you will have a
pig skin on your back." He was frightened and said, "Being a pig is
coarse and dirty. What use is being a pig!"
The next day, the Master came to their house.
Kuan Chan Hai hadn't met the Master, but recognized him from the
dream. He pulled his uncle aside, "Last night in a dream this person
came to our house. Today he is actually here." His uncle replied,
"Really? Really? What was your dream?" Then he told his uncle the
dream. His uncle said, "Oh, he really does have the Way, and has
brought it to our house. We should certainly learn from him." After
talking together they came to the room where the Master was sitting,
closed it all up, and wouldn't let anyone from the family come in.
They bowed down before the Master and sought the Way. He
said, "You don't want to go insane! What do you seek from me? I am
the same as you. I don't understand the Way."
The uncle said, "I know you cultivate filial
piety." The uncle knew the Master had cultivated filial piety at his
mother's grave. "You have come to our home," he continued, "Show
us the Way. Last night, my nephew had a dream in which you peeled a
pig skin off his body."
"You are really confused," the Master replied.
"He's not a pig; how could I peel a pig skin off
"Really, really, you must teach us how to
cultivate!" they said.
"I can't teach you how to cultivate," he
replied. "But if
you want to find a teacher, a Good Knowledgeable One, I'll help
"We have gone everywhere and haven't found
one," they said. "No matter where we go, they all have a lot of name
and fame, but don't have any real 'kung fu' (i.e., spiritual skill)."
"I'll take you around," he said.
They wished to bow to the Master as their
teacher. I don't know if they were true or false, if they really
believed in him or if they were just testing him out, but he never
did things casually, and so he said, "I'll take you to find a
teacher." He took them to see the Great Master Ch'ang Jen（常仁）, and a lot
of accomplished cultivators, but the two were always dissatisfied.
They followed him, meeting Way-cultivators for two years, but they
didn't take a teacher. The uncle and nephew wanted only to bow to
the Master, but he was still a Sramanera,
a novice, and didn't want to take disciples.
Finally the two knelt before the Master and
didn't get up. So he taught the Uncle, Kuan Chung Hsi, how to sit in
full lotus. "It's useless to talk about whether or not I have the
way," he told them. "First practice sitting in full lotus. When you
can do this, then I'll teach you."
The uncle practiced everyday. The nephew was
already able to sit, but his uncle's bones were old. In Tung Shan（東山）,
in NE China.the mountain people have big kneecaps, and when they
sit, their leg sticks straight up. They can't sit in full lotus
because one knee sticks up about fifteen inches. But the Uncle
pushed his knee down, pushed it down for more than seventy days,
trying to get his legs into full lotus.
When the Master returned both his legs were
swollen. He had big kneecaps before he started,
and now they were
twice as big as before. He couldn't even step over a cart rut, they
were so swollen. The Master said, "You shouldn't practice full lotus
sitting! Are you still sitting?"
"I'm still sitting. I still practice. My legs
are swollen too," he said, and pointed at his legs. Not only were
his kneecaps swollen, but both his legs were too.
The Master said, "You shouldn't practice it
with your legs like this. You can't take it."
"Don't practice?" he said. "I am about to die.
If I don't practice, what will I do when I die? No matter how much
my legs swell, no matter what happens, I will practice until I die.
If I die then I won't bother. But if I don't die, I am certainly
going to practice."
"Okay," the Master
said, "do what you want." Then he left. He came back a hundred days
later, and immediately saw that Kuan Chung Hsi's legs weren't
swollen, He asked, "You're not practicing anymore, are you?"
Kuan Chung Hsi said, "No matter how long I sit
it doesn't hurt, and my legs don't swell." He had accomplished lotus
"That’s the way it is," the Master said. "Now
I'll teach you how to sit." He taught him how to investigate Ch'an（禪）,
how to work, and how to meditate, all these kinds of kung fu（工夫）and the
uncle was incredibly happy. Afterwards, at home, he cultivated and
meditated every day.
He knew when his death was approaching, and
said to the people in his family, "On such a day, such a month, at
such a time, I am going to leave you; I will die. The only thing my
heart can't let go of is the desire to see... . " Then he
mentioned the Master, saying that he hadn't seen him again.
When the time he had designated for his death
arrived, he said, "If I could just see him, that would be the very
best. But, I don't know where he is now, and so I can't see him."
Then he sat in full lotus, and without an
illness...left. On that very evening, many people in his village had
a dream. They say that they saw him accompanied by two youths
wearing black-clothes, going off to the West.
Afterwards, his nephew, who hadn't died, even
more wanted to have the Master as his teacher. He followed the
Master along the road until they entered a forested area, and there,
where he couldn't be seen by anyone, Kuan Chan Hai grabbed the
Master's arm, and kneeling before him, begged to become his
disciple. The Master brushed him off, and without a reply left.
When he had walked about a half mile down the
road, however, he looked back and saw the nephew, still kneeling.
The Master thereupon returned, and Kuan Chan Hai became the Master's
first disciple. He was truly filial. No matter what, he listened to
and deeply respected his teacher.
||Everything's a test
To see how you will do;
Mistaking what's before your face,
You have to start anew.
—written by Master Hsuan Hua
translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ching
- States (Skt. Gocara): A Buddhist technical term.
"General mental attitude one assumes towards the external world, or better a spiritual atmosphere in which one's being is enveloped."---Suzuki.
States means "where your head's at".