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A Discussion of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's Contribution to Buddhism
by You-Bin Chen
Part One: Introduction
Section One: Motivation for Research
Section Two: Selection of Materials
Section Three: Method of Research and Goal
Section Four: Summary of the Entire Thesis
Section Five: Brief Biography of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Part Two: Chapter on Proper Dharma
Section One: Proper Dharma and Dharma Ending
Section Two: Souls and Ceremonies for Saving Them
Section Three: Pure Vegetarian And Pseudo-Vegetarian
Section Four: Qi Gong And Deviant Vs. Proper
Section Five: Taking Refuge and Red Envelopes
Section Six: Wearing the Precept Sash and Eating One Meal a Day
Part Three: Chapter on Lecturing the Sutras
Part Four: Chapter on Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi
Part Five: Birth and Death
Part Six: Prajna
Part Seven: Miracles
Part Eight: Passing into Stillness
Part Nine: Conclusion
Part One: Introduction
Section One: Motivation for Research
From 1989 when I took refuge with the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua and all through these six subsequent years, it never in the least occurred to me that the Master would leave the Saha so soon. It would be hard to call it anything other than the scanty blessings of we beings. Venerable Masters Yin Guang, Hung Yi, Hsu Yun, Guang Chin and other High Sanghans mutually perpetuated the teachings and then left. Even Elder Master Hsu Yun's Dharma successor, Master Hsuan Hua couldn't stay a little longer? My grief is unrestrained and unending.
Those who knew the Venerable Master are aware that throughout his whole life he strictly upheld "taking only one meal at noon and not lying down at night," and that he put into practice the "Six Great Principles." Especially in the turmoil of the Dharma-ending Age, the Venerable Master was even more a sure sign of the Proper Dharma and a light for living beings. The Master did not fear the slander of demons; everywhere he went he advocated the Shurangama Sutra, proclaiming the Proper Dharma to destroy the deviant and manifest the proper. After the Master's Nirvana, I decided to write a general inductive presentation of what the Master did and did not say and do during his life, the goal being that by means of this presentation people will be able to develop the "Dharma-selecting Eye" and be able to discriminate the difference between what is deviant and what is proper. Only in that way can we prevent Buddhism's continual decline. Only in that way can we keep Buddhism from becoming engulfed in the deviant views of externalists. I believe that all Buddhist disciples don't want to see that happen.
As to the Master's contributions to Buddhism throughout his lifetime, they have already been collected in great detail by his disciples, especially in the recently-published Volumes I and II of his Memorial Issues. In those, the Elder Master's views on education, his translation of sutras and propagation of the Dharma, his rules for governing the Sangha, his regard for the nation and its people, his advocating of morality and ethics and of virtue in the Way, his uniting of the Great Vehicle and the Theravada, his acceptance and inclusion of all religions and so forth have all been thoroughly introduced, and so this student will not repeat those topics in this discussion. The focal points of this research are the Master's instructions on such questions as what constitutes genuine, proper faith in Buddhism? What is Proper Dharma? And evidence of the meaning behind the Master's instructions on the Sutras. That is the motivation for the research done in this thesis.
Section Two: Selection of Materials
The material used in this thesis is primarily taken from the books published by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association of the United States; as well as the Monthly Journal of Buddhist Studies (City of Ten Thousand Buddhas); Ji Hwei Ji Ywan (Source of Wisdom) published in Gaohsiung; all the instructions given by the Master found on audio cassettes and in books pertaining to his propagation of the Dharma in Southeast Asia; various news articles from magazines and newspapers; talks given by the Master's disciples; the Dharma discussions of the Buddhist Patriarchs, and responses told by the faithful.
As to the content of the Master's instructions, when it was an especially important or unusual talk, I have recorded the locations and dates. For the others, related material can be found in the books and audio cassettes published by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association
Section Three: Method of Research and Goal
The method of research used in this thesis is aimed at making an objective critique of certain Buddhist questions by using as the authority the Master's Dharma Talks, spoken throughout his life and found in books and on cassette tapes, as well as instructions found in the Buddhist Sutras and the records of discussions by the Buddhist Patriarchs and further, to explore the Master's view of Buddhism through his instructions regarding it.
We all know that much of the content of the instructions given by the master were expedients spoken at the time to cross over his American disciples, including such questions as holding the precept against possessing or touching money; eating one meal a day; not killing or having abortions; not burning paper money; separating schools for boys and girls and so forth. The Master traveled thousands of miles to bring the Buddhadharma to America, with the hope of establishing rules governing the Sangha that were "in accord with Dharma." For that reason sometimes the Master's instructions were "cold, tyrannical, and totally impolite." Sometimes they were even impossible for people to accept, for they thought the Elder Master was only capable of criticizing others. Why did they never stop to realize how hard the Master was working to try to teach and transform obstinate living beings with inferior faculties? Or how behind his stern words and tough talk was hidden so much "blood and tears." The Master said:
I've come here prepared to teach and transform Americans. My teaching is aimed at Americans, not the Chinese people. The Chinese are incidentally gathered in.
Were you to ask me to go up to the heavens, that wouldn't be hard,but teaching Americans is hard.
Were you to ask me to go down into the hells, that wouldn't be hard,but teaching Americans is hard.
Were you to ask a rooster to lay an egg, that wouldn't be hard,but teaching Americans is hard.
From that we can realize the Master's decisive intention to teach and transform Americans, even though it was going to be an extremely difficult task. However, Master did it. He has a record of creating an American Sangha and of establishing Way-places that accord with Dharma and rules for governing the Sangha.
This student hopes that this genuine spirit of Buddhism will continue to be preserved in the West in the future. It is a call to recognize that "the flourish or decline of Buddhism is the responsibility of each and every one of us" so that the Proper Dharma can continue forever in the human realm. This is the goal of this thesis.
Section Four: Summary of the Entire Thesis
There are nine chapters in this thesis. The first chapter "Introduction" and the second chapter "Chapter on Proper Dharma" divide into five sections. The main discussion is of the Proper Dharma and its demise, souls, vegetarianism, qi gung, red packets, wearing the precept sash, and other topics, using the Master's instructions as the authority, along with verifying quotes from the Sutras and other Buddhist texts. The goal is to break through some theories that are "things from other religions mixed in with Buddhism to create something that seems to be Buddhism but really isn't."
The third chapter "Chapter on Explaining the Sutras" introduces the Sutras the Master lectured on, as well as what I consider to be the Master's "three works of art": the line-by-line Explanation of the Shurangama Mantra, Reflections in Water and Mirrors Reversing the Tide of Destiny, and the modern-language Commentaries on the Lives of the Patriarchs.
The fourth chapter "Chapter on Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi" takes the Master's "teachings that carry an opposite meaning" and puts them together with quotes from Lao Zi to enable the reader to understand even better the Master's non-verbal and verbal teachings, to help people not misunderstand the intent of the Master's stern instructions. His is truly the spirit of "Great Kindness and Great Compassion that borders on being harsh."
The fifth chapter "Chapter on Birth and Death" analyses the root of birth and death and brings it a step closer to home by pointing at the question of men and women. This matter is one which the Venerable Master ceaselessly emphasized. That is because "lust is the foremost of all evils." Therefore this chapter will perhaps be a bit harder to take.
The sixth chapter "Chapter on Prajna" introduces the brilliant rapport that occurred when the Master answered questions posed by the faithful. These can enable people to open the "wisdom of their own nature." That's because:
When you see things and awaken to them, you can transcend the world.
When you see things and are confused by them, you fall and become embroiled in them.
Coarse words and subtle speech all return to the primary meaning.
The seventh chapter "Chapter on the Spiritually Extraordinary" brings up three of the Master's miracles and also delineates the Master's view of spiritual penetrations and clarifies some misconceptions held by non-Buddhists regarding spiritual penetrations.
The eighth chapter "Chapter on Perfecting the Stillness" describes the various "causes and conditions" that the Buddhist Patriarchs manifested near the ends of their lives and also brings up how miracles and portents are not necessarily related to the level of accomplishment. The genuine accomplishments are to be seen and determined by a person's contributions and cultivation, as well as his concern and regard for living beings.
The ninth chapter "Chapter on the Conclusion" traces the details of how the Master regarded living beings; how he handled education; how he translated Sutras; and how he united the northern and southern traditions. This is the matrix of the entire thesis, which is respectfully offered up for appraisal.
Section Five: Brief Biography of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, whose name was An Tz'u, whose Dharma name was To Lun, and whose ordained name was Hsuan Hua was also called "The Monk in the Grave", the person from Shwang Cheng County in Ji Lin Province, was born at the end of the Ching Dynasty in the year wu wu (the seventh year of the Republic) on the sixteenth day of the third lunar month (this is Jun Ti Bodhisattva's birthday). His layname was Bai, his father, Fu Hai; his mother's maiden name, Hu.
When he was young, the Master followed his mother in eating vegetarian food and reciting the Buddha's name. When he was eleven he witnessed the great matter of birth and death and the swiftness of impermanence, and vowed to cultivate the Way. He joined the "Way-virtue Society" and served humankind. The Master treated his parents with utmost filiality and was known in his village as "Filial Son Bai." When he was nineteen, his mother passed away and he formally requested Elder Master Chang Jr of San Ywan (Three Conditions) Monastery to shave his head. He put together a grass hut beside the grave and observed filial piety there. Day and night he investigated Chan meditation and developed samadhi. Once he sat for more than twenty days without eating. He made eighteen great vows to entirely save all beings in the six paths before he himself attained Proper Enlightenment. His biography abounds with miracles and he is recognized as an eminent monk.
In l946, because he revered Elder Master Hsu Yun as exalted figure in Buddhism, he went to pay his respects. The Elder Master Hsu Yun observed that the Master was an outstanding individual within the Dharma and transmitted the Dharma pulse to him, making the ninth generation to inherit the Dharma of the Wei Yang Sect, and the forty-sixth generation from the First Patriarch Mahakashyapa. Chan Master Hsu Yun also expressed his faith in a verse saying
Proclaiming (Hsuan) Wei's wonderful meaning,
will cause the sect's reputation to be echoed far and wide..
The transformations (Hua) inherited from Ling Peak
will exalt the Dharma Path.
Taking across (To) the forty-sixth
will transmit the mind seal.
The wheel (Lun) which revolves unceasingly
will rescue the suffering hordes.
The two also had their photo taken together as a remembrance.
In l948, the Master parted from Elder Master Hsu Yun and went to Hong Kong to propagate the Dharma. He gave equal emphasis to all five schools--Teaching, Chan, Vinaya, Pure Land, and Esoteric--in order to discourage sectarianism. He also rebuilt monasteries, printed Sutras, and made holy images, separately founding Western Bliss Gardens, the Buddhist Lecture Hall, and Flourishing Compassion Monastery, causing Buddhism to flourish in Hong Kong.
In l962 he responded to an invitation from Buddhists in the United States and came alone to America where he established the San Francisco Buddhist Lecture Hall.
In l968 a Buddhist Lecture and Practice Summer Session was held during which the Master explained the Shurangama Sutra. Thirty-some students from the University of Washington in Seattle came to San Francisco to study the Dharma. Following that session, five young Americans sincerely requested to shave their heads and leave the home-life. That marked the first time in history that American Buddhism had fully-ordained members of the Sangha. After that, the number of American disciples who shaved their heads and donned the robes grew, and they have had a deep and far-reaching influence on the propagation of the Dharma and the translation of Sutras in the West.
From l962 until just prior to his passing, the Master often went abroad to propagate the Dharma, travelling to the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, as well as to Canada and parts of Europe. He also accepted invitations from Buddhist groups in other countries and led delegations to lecture on the Sutras and speak Dharma.
In l974, on the fourteenth of the first lunar month, he went to pay his respects on Elder Master Guang Qin at Chengtian Chan Monastery in Taiwan. In the conversation that transpired between them, the Elder Guang passed the judgment that "what he says has principle." A photo was taken as a remembrance while the two were holding hands.
The Venerable Master's lectures on the Sutras penetrated deeply, yet were easy to understand. He lectured daily for several decades, ascending the high seat more than ten thousand times. To date over a hundred volumes of English translations of Buddhist Sutras have been published, setting a record for translations by a single organization. The Master established the International Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts with the plan to translate the Tripitaka into all languages so as to transmit Buddhism to the entire world.
In l974 the Master purchased the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) and established the Dharma Realm Buddhist University to train specialists in Buddhist studies at an international level. CTTB's stern and lofty standards involve firmly upholding the Six Guiding Principles that the Master himself followed ever since he left home. They are: no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuit of self-benefit, and no lying. Based on the influence of the Venerable Master's own character and cultivation, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has become the most important Way-place in American Buddhism.
In l989, the Master visited Taiwan and hosted a "Guanyin Great Compassion Dharma Assembly for Protecting the Country and Dispelling Disasters." During that time he fasted for three weeks and transferred the merit to the people of Taiwan. At that time there was a massive earthquake in San Francisco, verifying the Master's earlier statement that "As long as I am in San Francisco, I will not allow earthquakes to occur there."
In l995, on the seventh day of June, the Master's conditions in this world came to an end. Gods and humans alike grieved. He lived to be 78 years old and his age in the Sangha was 60. The instructions in his will were: “When I came, I didn't have anything at all. When I go, I also do not want anything at all. I don't want to leave any traces in the world. I came from empty space, and I will return to empty space.” After the cremation ten thousand sharira were found, and there were sharira even on the Master's teeth (sixteen of them).
Throughout his life the Venerable Master set an example for others by holding the precepts strictly and undertaking ascetic practices such as taking one meal a day at noon and never lying down to sleep. For more than thirty years he transferred all the merit and blessings from his practice of asceticism to all sentient and insentient beings throughout the Dharma Realm. He founded twenty-seven domestic and overseas Way-places under the auspices of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association.
At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas the Master once composed a verse that illustrates his resolve:
Freezing, we do not scheme.
Starving, we do not beg.
Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing.
We accord with conditions but do not change.
We do not change and yet accord with conditions.
These are our three great principles.
We renounce our lives to do the Buddha's work.
We shape our lives to create the ability to make revolution in the Sangha Order.
In our activities we understand the principles
So that our principles are revealed in our actions.
We carry out the pulse of the Patriarch's mind transmission.
Part Two: Chapter on Proper Dharma
What is Proper Dharma? The Buddhadharma divides into three periods which are the Proper Dharma Age, the Dharma Image Age, and the Dharma Ending Age. The period of time that the Venerable Shakyamuni's Dharma abides varies according to the different Sutras, but most of the virtuous ones of old set the Proper Dharma period at 500 years, the Dharma Image period at 1000 years, and the Dharma Ending period at 10,000 years. During the Proper Dharma period ("proper" meaning "certifying"), although the Buddha entered Nirvana, the Dharma and deportment had not yet changed. There was teaching, practice, and certification to sagehood. That's the meaning of the Proper Dharma Age, which is also called the period "strong in Chan Samadhi." During the Dharma Image Age ("image" meaning "the appearance of things"), there was also teaching and practice, but by that time there was very little certification to the levels of sagehood. It is also called the period "strong in building temples and monasteries." During the Dharma Ending Age ("ending" meaning "insignificant"), the Dharma is regarded as unimportant and there is only teaching. There's no practice, how much the less any certification to the levels of sagehood. It is also called the period "strong in fighting." This is the usual explanation of "proper, image, and ending." But the Venerable Master's definition of the Proper Dharma is this:
You should cultivate honestly. Don't be fond of phony name and false profit. Don't be greedy for offerings. Just that is the Proper Dharma abiding in the world. If every left-home person can hold the precept against possessing or touching money; if they can sit in Chan meditation, take only one meal a day at noon; wear their precept sashes all the time, and strictly uphold the precepts, then that is the Proper Dharma abiding in the world.
In fact the Master puts it even more simply:
If you don't fight, aren't greedy, don't seek, aren't selfish; don't pursue self-benefit; and don't lie, then that is the Proper Dharma abiding in the world.
Well, what is the Dharma Ending Age? According to scroll 5 of the Commentary on the Dharma Flower : "[The Dharma] becoming insignificant and unimportant is what is meant by the Dharma Ending Age." In scroll 6 of the "Profuse Meanings Section" of the Collection of Great Vehicle Dharmas it is stated: "Having only the teaching and nothing else is called Dharma Ending." However a much more detailed description of the demise of the Dharma appears in The Large Compilation from Great Vaipulya Sutra in the Ywe Zang Section and in The Ultimate Extinction of the Dharma Sutra. A later reference to the Dharma Ending Age appeared in the Northern Chi dynasty (550-577 A.D.) in the vows of Chan Master Sse of Nan Ywe. Chan Master Hui Sse (Wise Consideration) himself recorded that he was born in the 82nd year of the Dharma Ending Age and, having written out the entire Prajna Sutra and other texts, vowed to transmit the Dharma until Maitreya Bodhisattva came into the world. During the Sui dynasty (589-618 A.D.) Chan Master Xin Xing advocated "three-step teaching" with the One Vehicle being the first step, the Three Vehicles being the second step, and the Universal Dharma (the entirety of the Buddha's teachings) as the third step. During the Tang dynasty (618-905 A.D.) Great Master's Dao Cho (Generous in the Way) and Shan Dao (Wholesome Guide) said that the time they lived in was already the Dharma Ending Age and advocated "meshing the teaching with the times," exhorting people to cultivate the Dharma door of being mindful of the Buddha. In general, the Dharma Ending Age is bound to come, but in scroll 49 of the Ten Recitations Vinaya the Buddha brings up five things that can prevent the Proper Dharma from becoming extinct. Those five are:
"l. Respect the Proper Teachings : This means that Bhikshus rely on only the proper teachings in their cultivation and stay far away from the one-sided explanations of the Small Vehicle and the deviant explanations of externalists. In that way they can prevent the Proper Dharma from becoming extinct.
"2. Put a Stop to Anger and Evil: This means that Bhikshus always practice patience; do not get angry; and become well-know for their virtue which causes people to return to and look up to them. In that way they can prevent the Proper Dharma from becoming extinct.
"3. Respectfully Serve Elders: This means that Bhikshus venerate and compliantly serve great virtuous ones who are elder and diligently seek the essentials of Dharma from them. In that way they can prevent the Proper Dharma from becoming extinct.
"4. Cherish the Proper Dharma: This means that Bhikshus cherish a deep regard for the wonderful Dharma they hear from their elders and they delight in offering up their conduct according to it. In that way they can prevent the Proper Dharma from becoming extinct.
"5. Explain Well to Those Who are Just Beginning to Study: This means that Bhikshus expediently speak the Great Vehicle Dharma in order to enable those who have just begun to study to have standards on which to base themselves as they progress in their practice of the Way. In that way they can prevent the Proper Dharma from becoming extinct."
In the Dharma Ending Age living beings are continually unable to distinguish the proper from the deviant, to the extent that a lot of people get involved in the wrong kind of practices under the name of Buddhism. That is all because they lack the "Dharma Selecting Eye." Although during the Dharma Ending Age there are a lot of cases of "mistaking fish eyes for pearls" even within Buddhism, still, the Master's vow-power is decisive:
I am definitely going to revive the Proper Dharma. I will only allow Buddhism to have Proper Dharma and will not let there be any demise of the Dharma. Wherever I go, that place will have blessings and wisdom and there will be a diminishing of disasters and difficulties. That is my vow. Because of that, ignoring the limits of my capabilities, I go everywhere speaking the Proper Dharma and practicing the Proper Dharma.
Although the Buddha mentioned the Dharma's demise many times, still, the fact that the Buddha tried to curtail the demise of the Proper Dharma is clearly evident in such passages as the one in the Nirvana Sutra where he said "During the Dharma Ending Age there will be 120,000 Great Bodhisattvas who will uphold the Dharma and keep it from extinction." From that we should be able to recognize the Master's "not permitting the Dharma's demise"--isn't that really the great kind and compassionate mind of the Thus Come Ones?
The Master made an even more painful remark:
When the Dharma becomes extinct, it is the Sangha itself that becomes extinct.
Virtue in the Way should be cultivated,but people won't cultivate it.
Those who are honest and sincere are ridiculed.
Those who are false and cunning receive praise and precedence.
To make the entire world pure and fresh and to awaken beings forever from their three-layer-deep stupor,
Diligently remind the young Sanghans that
The spreading and flourishing of my teaching depends on the Bhikshus.
In Buddhism there can't be just 99%. If even one part of Buddhism is false, then it is no longer "Proper Dharma." And so we must distinguish clearly, because in temples there are both "deviant dharmas and externalists." There's a saying in Buddhism: "I would rather not get reborn for a thousand years than to enter the paths of demons for a single day." If we lack the wise vision found in the Four Clear Instructions on Purity, we may join the retinue of demons without even realizing it.
This student will take this opportunity to present seven points that are essential in distinguishing the proper from the deviant.
1. A religious teacher who promotes swapping marriage partners, promiscuity, and perverse practices as bait to entice disciples and as means to save the world is deviant.
2. A religious teacher who appeals to people's greed by claiming that he can employ talismans, incantations, and gods of wealth to make them rich is deviant.
3. A religious teacher who advocates direct or indirect killing of beings and eating of their flesh and who claims he can save the souls of the creatures being eaten by means of talismans and incantations is deviant.
4. A religious teacher who tries to impress people by practicing all kinds of weird asceticism and passing it off as undergoing suffering for the sake of living beings is deviant.
5. A religious teacher who uses special psychic and spiritual powers and miracles to attract curious people is deviant.
6. A religious teacher who distorts the stages of Buddhist practice and gives a twisted interpretation of the meaning of faith, understanding, cultivation, and certification, setting himself up as a religious authority, is deviant.
7. A religious teacher who sets himself up as the leader of his own sect without any authentic basis in the principles of Buddhism is deviant.
Section One: Proper Dharma and Dharma Ending
Once a disciple made this inquiry, "The Master often says:
Truly recognize your own faults.
Don't discuss the faults of others.
Others' faults are just my own.
To be one with everyone is called Great Compassion.
And so why is the Master always openly criticizing others in Vajra Bodhi Sea (the monthly journal of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas)? Isn't that a case of saying one thing and doing another? The Master answered:
The one who will fall into the hells is me, not you. If what I say is true, then it's not gossip; if it's not true, then I will definitely fall into the hells. If someone says great cultivators are not subject to cause and effect, then the retribution for that is 500 lives as a fox.
If I deny cause and effect--calling black white and white black, calling right wrong and wrong right--saying things that are not so, then I will go into the Hell of Plowing Tongues. If I haven't spoken incorrectly, then I have no offense. Mencius said: "I don't like to debate, but I have no choice. If the teachings of Yang (Zhu) and Mo (Zi) aren't put to rest, then the teachings of Kong Zi [Confucius] cannot flourish. "Why do I like to talk about what's right and what's wrong? It's because in Buddhism there are entirely too many rights and wrongs!
There's the black teaching, the white teaching, the yellow teaching, the red teaching--they've become all kinds of different colors that confuse the eye. It's gotten to the point that the blacks don't know they are black, and the whites don't know they are white. And so I like to say things that others don't dare to say. If any of you are offended, it doesn't matter--I'm not concerned. I specialize in breaking through people's deviant knowledge and deviant views.
From the above passage we can recognize the depth of the Master's compassionate mind, which couldn't bear to see living beings suffer. The so-called great kindness and compassion that borders on being harsh is actually an expedient used to teach and transform living beings. The Master once wrote a verse that clarifies his determination:
If I speak the truth,
Then I'm not afraid of being beaten or scolded.
Kill me, I have no fear.
What inhibitions are there in liberation?
Elder Master Hsu Yun said imperial scholars are Confucian criminals; monks are Buddhist criminals. He also said, "The demise of the Buddhadharma is wrought by its own disciples, not by any other teaching. What defeated the Six States was the Six States themselves; it wasn't the State of Qin. What finished the State of Qin was Qin itself; it wasn't the Six States."
These various manifestations of the Dharma's decline can be perceived everywhere--such things as monks with wives, precepts sashes turning into secular clothing, laypeople ascending the high seat, and so forth. There's also Upasaka Ouyang Jingwu who, based on his own opinions, wrote A Discussion of the Many Spurious Aspects of the Shurangama, which is an attack on the Shurangama. Dharma Master Yuan Tsan says that the Avatamsaka, the Perfect Enlightenment, the Lotus and other sutras as well as the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana are all fraudulent. These are signs of the Dharma Ending Age.
The Master repeated his instructions about protecting and supporting the Proper Dharma many times:
In Buddhism all the sutras are very important, but the Shurangama Sutra is even more important. Wherever the Shurangama Sutra is, the Proper Dharma abides in the world. When the Shurangama Sutra is gone, that is a sign of the Dharma Ending Age. When I explained the Shurangama Sutra, I said, "In the Dharma Ending Age, the Shurangama Sutra will become extinct first. Then gradually the other sutras will also become extinct." The Shurangama Sutra is the true body of the Buddha; the sharira of the Buddha; the stupa of the Buddha. If the Shurangama Sutra is false, then I am willing to fall into the unintermittent hell, stay there forever, and never again come back to the world to see all of you. Whoever can memorize the Shurangama Sutra, whoever can memorize the Shurangama Mantra, is a true disciple of the Buddha.
In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha said to the Venerable Kashyapa:
In the past when I was a king named Possessing Virtue, in order to protect the Proper Dharma, I went to war against those who wanted to destroy it, and I lost my life. After I died, I was born in Akshobhya Buddha's land and became his foremost disciple... Kashyapa! Those who protect the Proper Dharma receive such rewards of infinite merit and virtue. Because I protected the Proper Dharma, I now am endowed with all kinds of physical hallmarks and have perfected a vajra indestructible body.
The Dharma itself isn't Proper, Image, or Ending; these are merely distinctions that exist in people's minds. The Master's view is that any time people work hard at cultivation is a time when the Proper Dharma abides. If no one cultivates, if no one reads, recites, and memorizes the Shurangama Sutra, then that's the Dharma Ending Age. That's because the Shurangama Sutra's "Four Clear Instructions on Purity" which discuss killing, stealing, lust, and lying and its "Fifty Skandha-Demon States" that expose the very bones of all the heavenly demons and externalists, both say flat out that when people don't hold the precepts, then that's the Dharma Ending Age; whenever there are precepts, there is Buddhadharma. In l990, in a serious talk given at the Labor Hall in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the Master said that the Dharma Ending Age results from the laity singling out individual left-home people to protect and support. What did he mean? The Master said:
Left-home people go off to live alone in their own temple and act like kings, like dictators, like emperors. The laity lack the "Dharma-selecting eye" and go about protecting here and protecting there until they protect people right into the hells. In the Proper Dharma Age, everyone lives and cultivates together in large monastic complexes. In the Dharma Ending Age no one wants to live in large monastic complexes. It's one person per temple. You have your way of doing things, and I have mine. And this throws the laity into a real quandary. They see that a certain monk is good-looking and decide to protect his Dharma, so they set him up with his own temple. Then they notice another monk who's not bad and build a temple for him. Protecting here and protecting there, they cause the left-home people to get greedy for benefits to the point that they return to lay life.
The Master is certainly not opposed to building temples. It's just that nowadays everyone is too comfortable and so they forget that they should be using the "meanings in the Dharma and the principles of education" to rescue living beings. All they understand is using "big temples" to save beings and come up with ways to get famous and rich. The Master's view on building temples is this:
“Creating temples is not as good as creating human beings; creating human beings is not as good as creating Buddhas.” I want to mold teachers; I want to mold living Buddhas; to mold living Bodhisattvas; to mold living Patriarchs. I want to mold living beings in this world so that they turn into living Buddhas, living Bodhisattvas and living Patriarchs.
“What I'm demolishing are not large monasteries. It's the small-town temples, the little-city temples, and the family-line temples. When those who live in the small temples move to the large monasteries and cultivate together with everyone else, then the lifestyle of the large monasteries can be preserved. Why is life in a small temple so good? It's because of the total lack of restraints and hindrances. There's no need to“Contemplate At Ease.” Rather, one can eat at ease, relax at ease, sleep at ease, travel at ease-it's really easy to forget all about cultivation. All day long is spent in climbing on conditions. Habits like that are the fatal wounds that will completely destroy Buddhism.”
I hope Buddhism will take these words to heart and not continue to "plug up its ears while stealing a bell"-cheating all of humankind. At present the signs of turmoil in Buddhism are alarmingly serious. But no one dares to stand up and shout. Everyone just stands by and watches while Buddhist followers race toward their demise. Three steps and a hermitage; five steps and a big temple-they run around having Dharma Assemblies, crossing over souls, anointing crowns, transmitting dharmas, and setting up temples. They never stop to realize that they should be propagating the teachings and explaining their meanings-instructing and guiding living beings in how to end birth and death.
The fundamental intent of the Buddha's teaching is education--to cause everyone to develop wisdom and the Dharma-selecting eye, so that they recognize cause and effect, cut off evil, and do good. The intent is not to focus on building monasteries and setting up temples. One wonders how much blood, sweat, and tears are hidden behind this stern instruction by the Master.
As it's said, such a one "only wants the light of the torch he's holding to shine as far as possible; he's never concerned about getting burned." "Despite the odds, I will stick to my intentions." This is the best description of the Master.
Section Two: Souls and Ceremonies for Saving Them
Given current affluence in certain Buddhist countries, everyone is into "money" and this has led to the business of saving souls--such things as "making offerings to unborn souls." The Master's comments regarding this issue are:
“You can't call that ‘making offerings’ because they are not the Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha). If you call that ‘making offerings’ then you have fallen into deviant views. It should be called ‘saving.’ But their enmity is extremely deep and so they are difficult to save, because the debt is one of having had their lives snatched away and so it has to be paid back with having one's own life snatched away in return. But if one encounters a true cultivator who is not ‘greedy for wealth’ then there's a ‘chance’ to save them.
“The question of abortion is an extremely serious one. One of the biggest reasons there are so many doubts and difficulties and so many different kinds of diseases is because of abortions. Stop and think about it: Before the life-form even had a chance to come out into the world it became a resentful ghost. Tell me, with so many small ghosts around, who are bent on taking life because their own was taken, how can we ever expect humankind to be at peace? These small ghosts must find someone who practices the Way and is not ‘greedy for wealth’ before they can be saved.”
In this passage the Master brings up how "their enmity is so extremely deep," that they are difficult to save, and that the cultivator must "not be greedy for wealth" before there's a "chance" to save them. So please don't be superstitious, everyone, and think that using "money" to create lots of merit and virtue will "take care of everything" and get involved in "saving souls." If you do, then that is a case of failing to understand the essentials of cause and effect. Besides which, the Buddhist Sutras repeatedly say that one should not kill or have abortions. For instance, in The Buddha Speaks the Dharani Sutra of Long Life and the Protection of Pure Youths there is a passage: "There are five things in the world that are difficult to erase, even through repentance and reform. What are the five?
1) Killing one's father; 2) killing one's mother; 3) killing an unborn child; 4) shedding the Buddhas' blood; and 5) breaking up the harmony of the Sangha. If one creates this evil karma, the offenses are hard to eradicate." In The Buddha Talks About Different Karmic Retributions Sutra there's a passage that says: "There are ten kinds of karma that will cause beings to receive the retribution of a short lifespan. 1) Personally committing acts of killing; 2) exhorting others to commit acts of killing...7) destroying an unborn child [that means personally having abortions]; 8) telling others to destroy an unborn child [that means advising someone else to have an abortion]...These ten deeds bring the retribution of a short lifespan." Also in The Buddha Explains the Five Upasaka Precepts Marks he said: "If one deliberately has an abortion and the foetus dies, one commits 'an offense that cannot be repented of.'"
True, the Master also did ceremonies to cross over souls, but the Master said quite humbly:
“Throughout my entire life I have never been willing to participate in‘professionally reciting Sutras and doing repentances,’‘Flaming Mouth Ceremonies,’and‘Water and Land Ceremonies’ because I simply don't have the virtuous conduct required. My Way is insufficient to move people; my virtue is not enough to teach people. I haven't even successfully saved myself yet, how can I go about saving dead souls? I haven't got that much gall!”
But now, not only are there "centers for saving souls" everywhere you go, there's also a fixed "price." Even the laity have taken up this "business." Those who make a living as professional "savers of souls" are really the freeloaders of a mishmash of Buddhism and externalism.
The Master said:“Now in the Dharma Ending Age, the laity casually accept people's offerings ["laity" is literally "those in white (secular) clothes."] Left-home people casually charge money for reciting Sutras for people and performing ceremonies to save souls-while wearing the Buddha's robes and eating the Buddha's food. Laypeople casually agree to save souls-well, who's going to save them? Not to mention laypeople, left-home people who charge money for professionally reciting Sutras and doing repentances, or for crossing over dead souls, also have a big problem.”
It's obvious that, in the Dharma Ending Age, for laity to be crossing over dead souls is something that's absolutely not in accord with Dharma. That's because the amount of merit and virtue derived from cultivating as a layperson is definitely limited. It cannot compare with the strength of pure cultivators who are left home. It is appropriate for the laity to protect and support the Triple Jewel and to make offerings to the Triple Jewel. It is not appropriate for them to be leading ceremonies to cross over dead souls. They haven't even crossed themselves beyond birth and death, how can they save others?
When it comes to really being able to save others, the only way it will work is to start with oneself and then to rely on the aid of the Triple Jewel and the virtue of one's teacher. The Master said:
“Don't get angry, don't fight, don't be greedy, don't seek, don't be selfish, don't pursue self-benefit and don't lie. Be a good person. Don't do anything evil and do all kinds of good deeds. In that way your parents and ancestors will naturally be saved.”
From this we can see that if we work hard at cultivation, don't get angry, and are good people, then quite naturally we will acquire infinite merit and virtue. And from that merit and virtue, the dead souls will, of course, attain benefit and be liberated. In the "Chapter on Doubts and Questions" of the Sixth Patriarch's Sutra there's a passage that says:
"Continuity of thought is merit and the mind practicing equality and directness is virtue. Self-cultivation of one's nature is merit, and self-cultivation of the body is virtue. Good Knowing Advisors! Merit and virtue should be seen within one's own nature, not sought through giving and making offerings." Nor is it the case that you must spend some money or recite some Sutras in order to get benefit. It's said, "I vow to save the living beings of my own nature." Saving oneself is simultaneously saving others; saving others is simultaneously saving oneself. There's no distinction of before and after. In the "Chapter on Doubt and Questions" of the Sixth Patriarch's Sutra there's another passage that says: "The living beings in our minds are deviant, confused thoughts, insane thoughts, and treacherous thoughts. All such thoughts are living beings and they must all be crossed over within our own nature. That is the real meaning of saving."
Once someone asked how many times one would have to say the Rebirth Mantra in order to be effective in crossing over the tens of thousands of lives one had taken in the past. The Master's answer was:
“If you cut off lust, then a tremendous response can be achieved by reciting it once. If you haven't cut off lust, then reciting it tens of thousands of times won't be effective.”
"Cutting off lust" means nothing other than cutting off our afflictions, getting rid of our ignorance, casting out our sexual desire and emotional love, and putting a stop to our bad temper. If we can cut off our sexual desire and the greed in our minds, then we will be using a pure mind to recite mantras and sutras and of course there will be an efficacious response.
In the past, Buddhism in China always gave people the mistaken impression that it was a religion that specialized in crossing over dead souls and so the intelligentsia looked down on and tried to get rid of Buddhism. Two years prior to the Master's Nirvana, he cried out in despair:
“Chinese Buddhism's Water Lands, Flaming Mouths, and other ceremonies and their saving of souls have become the "status quo" in Chinese Buddhism. They never stop to think that if they keep it up, they are going to be doing nothing but handing out free meals to unemployed vagrants under the guise of Buddhism. What a terrible shame! All they know how to do is make money saving souls.“Actually, in order to save souls, you must have a foundation in virtuous conduct. Then, not to speak of reciting mantras or reciting sutras, the single sentence "you can go to rebirth" is sufficient for a soul to be able to gain rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. For those of you who lack any virtue in the Way, who don't have any cultivation, I ask you, what's your basis for being able to save souls? What you are actually doing is running up a debt with the donor. Besides that, you are destroying the basic system of Buddhism.”
Right! It's a real shame that they don't open up the Tripitaka [Buddhist Canon] with its Twelve Divisions-a precious treasury of infinite wisdom-and learn to teach from it instead of applying all their effort to superfluous things.
There's also the problem found in Buddhism of "burning paper money." Actually the custom of burning paper money began in the Han dynasty according to Wong Yu, a Tang dynasty scholar who says: "From the Han on, money was sacrificed at funerals. Later generations used paper money in ceremonies for ghosts." The meaning is that the corrupt practice of burning money at funerals became a custom. That's because in China, from of old to now, everyone thinks that "people die and become ghosts" and that probably in the path of ghosts they will need some cash. But nowadays it's turned into the burning of paper money being an essential item used in the saving of souls.
The Master point out:
“Once the money is burned it becomes ashes. Once it's ashes, how do I know whether it still has any value? If you say that burning it has value, well, Westerns don't burn paper money, but you'd be hard-put to say they all become poverty-stricken ghosts who are beggars! It's said ‘There aren't any poor ghosts in the West, nor any rich spirits in the East.’"
“Ghosts consume the ‘nature’ of things; they don't need real money or actual edible items. If you have some money, you can use it to do some merit and virtue and transfer the merit to the departed ghost. But people who spend it on burning paper cars, paper airplanes, paper mansions and the like are terribly confused. It's likely that using fire to burn the money has some connection with the religion that worships fire (Brahman), which claims that the fire spirits can somehow take the burned things and give them to the ghosts and spirits. In the Indian religion, kuverna (a fire spirit) is credited with this ability. In general, it would be best to cut out these customs in Buddhism lest it becomes a "booming business."
Section Three: Pure Vegetarian And Pseudo-Vegetarian
Along with the recent increase in the number of vegetarians have come strange new names like vegetarian chicken, vegetarian duck, vegetarian baby birds, vegetarian fish and so forth. The Master has this to say about that problem: "Vegetarians who make imitation chicken, duck, or fish meat are those who are still unable to forget the flavor of meat and always want to taste it. They try to satiate the gluttony by eating imitation meat. Buddhism absolutely must change this custom; if it's not changed, eventually there won't be any left-home people who are vegetarian. Vegetarians shouldn't even mention the names of chicken and duck, how much the less go check out the consistency and flavor of those animals. I hope that every Buddhist. disciple will use the Dharma-selecting eye to recognize cause and effect and not fail to be clear about the cause and effect involved in this."
The Shurangama Sutra says. "if the cause is not true, the result will be crooked." Although they are imitation animals, still, there is subtle cause and effect involved. Let's look at what the 6th roll of the Shurangama Sutra says: "Ananda, I permit the Bhikshus to eat five kinds of pure meat. This meat is actually a transformation brought into being by my spiritual powers. It basically has no life-force. You Brahmans live in a climate so hot and humid, and on such sandy and rocky land, that vegetables will not grow; therefore, I have had to assist you with spiritual powers and compassion. Because of the magnitude of this kindness and compassion, what you eat that tastes like meat is merely said to be meat; in fact, however, it is not. After my extinction, how can those who eat the flesh of living beings be called the disciples of Shakya?"
These "five kinds of pure meat" are only transformations brought about by the Buddha's spiritual powers; they never did have a life-force. "That's because the place where you Brahmans live is so hot and so sandy and rocky and so I created the illusion of five kinds of pure meat for you to eat "- that's also a case of eating "imitation meat." "But how could my disciples be so worthless as to casually eat 'real meat' after my Nirvana and still pass themselves off as Buddhist disciples!"
The Buddha predicted that later the Buddha's disciples would eat "real meal" and excuse themselves by saying that the Buddha permitted it. And now vegetarian restaurants everywhere use "vegetarian meat" which, other than as an expedient to get meat-eaters to become vegetarian, can only classed as "impure" in terms of cause and effect because there's grave danger that after eating the "imitation" for a while, people will want to eat the "real thing." .
People should not be putting all their energy into food and drink. Eating one's fill is good enough; no need lo think about the appearance and taste. Then there's the question of whether vegetarians can eat eggs. Or should those who eat eggs be called "pseudo-vegetarians" and those who don't "pure vegetarians"? Although this is a question that everyone has his own opinion about because "It's hard for the government to judge the domestic matters and it's hard for the Patriarchs to judge religious matters," still, the Patriarchs and Greatly Virtuous Ones of all generations all take a negative stand on this issue. For example: "It is not appropriate to eat eggs because they apparently have life and because they are contaminating.' "Eating eggs is not permissible! Those with deviant views say: 'Eggs that have not been fertilized can be eaten.' Don't believe it!" "It is not Fitting to eat anything that has awareness. And one should not eat any kind of egg, because, although they don't have awareness, they apparently have life."
The Elder Master Guang Qin's Way-place, Chengtian Chan Monastery has a rule posted: "Meat and foods containing meat, cigarettes, alcohol, and eggs are strictly prohibited on these grounds." Venerable Chan of Lianyin Monastery said in a taped talk: "Do not eat chicken eggs."
And the Master also says:
You say it doesn't matter if a vegetarian happens to eat eggs? Wait till you are a chicken, and then you will know that the reason you are, can be traced directly to eating chicken eggs.
Some Buddhist disciples eat the three kinds of pure meat and some out-and-out eat meat. If you are a glutton and like to eat delicacies, then why ask me? If you want to eat eggs, then you may as well eat meat.
Section Three of the Vajra Sutra titled "The Orthodox Doctrine of the Great Vehicle" says: "I must cause all living beings-those born from eggs, born from wombs, born from moisture, born by transformation...to enter Nirvana without residue so they can enter tranquility. It would be hard to say that a chicken egg is not a being "born from a egg" wouldn't it? The Shastra on the Manifestation of Consciousness says: "No eggs of any kind should be eaten because they all have young in them."
Actually we don't have to try to figure out if eggs are vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Just stop and think about it: People can give up eating the flesh of chickens, ducks, shrimp and crabs, and yet "not be able to give up" an egg? That's really too stupid! Besides, if a person were to eat a steady diet of eggs (and nothing but eggs) it's likely his system would be poisoned. On the other hand if a person drinks milk (and nothing but milk), not just for a week, even for a month, he won't experience any bad effects. If you don't believe it, try it! The problem isn't whether eggs are classed as meat or vegetable; the problem has to do with the greed behind our gluttony.
Section Four: Qi Gong And Deviant Vs. Proper
Nowadays the whole world is talking about qi gong. And the enthusiasm over qi gong is another "new occupation." But after it's been through the devices of deviant people, qi gong becomes "deviant energy." That's because "when proper people practice a deviant dharma, it becomes proper; when deviant people practice a proper dharma, it becomes deviant." Qi gong has become a tool for making money and getting "spiritual penetrations." Having, deviated far from the proper path, it's become a kind of demonic skill. The Master's comments on qi gong are:
"Qi gong" (skill of energy) is a name that doesn't fit. "Qi" (energy) is a senseless entity and so it couldn't possibly have a "gong" (skill). It ought to be called "skill of spirits" or "skill of ghosts" or "skill of demons" or "skill of weird entities." "Skill of spirits" means that while maintaining a proper frame of mind, a person uses his mental energy to allow spirits to direct his energy. That's why it's called "skill of spirits." But "skill of spirits" still involves the conscious mind and has not reached the state of ultimate transformations; one is still attached to appearances. "Skill of spirits" means that the spirit controls the energy, not that the energy controls the spirit. When the spirit comes, the person does not jump up and down or run about, nor does he chatter gibberish. Skill of spirits is relatively dignified. When "skill of ghosts" comes, the person jumps around, trembling and quaking, crying and laughing. It's a "method of transporting five ghosts." The ghosts are let loose and they take possession of the person. The possessed person utters all kinds of nonsense; this is because the skill of ghosts is deficient in concentration. As lo "skill of demons" and "skill of weird entities," both are totally unreasonable, haughty and harmful to people. Their specialty is lust, and all of them are manifestations of demons and freaks.
Genuine specialists in qi gong won't jump around, whooping and hollering. Nor will they be greedy for riches and relaxation or go around selling their wares and putting up advertisements. The Master is not opposed to qi gong, all he's doing is telling us that we must be able to recognize it clearly, that we must have Dharma-selecting vision. That is to say "the skill of spirits, the skill of ghosts, the skill of demons, the skill of weird entities-all these come under the label of qi gong. It takes Dharma-selecting vision to determine what is real and fake, what is proper and deviant."
On the subject of "a mishmash of Buddhism and externalism," most Asian Buddhist groups don't like to openly distinguish the deviant from the proper, which allows those who are "a mishmash of Buddhism and externalism" to get more out-of-hand every day. Ill-intended and depraved, they cheat people out of their money and deceive them into committing acts of lust - while wearing the Buddha's clothing and eating the Buddha's food. I'll bring up a couple of well-known cases. One is a female teacher in the Sikh religion of India. She calls herself a "Buddha-in-the-world" and goes about transmitting a "Guanyin Dharma-door of "instant enlightenment and liberation right in this life." The Master's stern criticism other is:
Many people are confused by her all because they are greedy. When one takes refuge in the Triple Jewel, the text of the ceremony states very clearly, "I would rather give up my life than to ever take refuge with heavenly demons or externalists. " The deviant things she says are the words of deviant demons and externalists, and all of it is designed to cheat people, if you believe that stuff, you are really idiots - complete dolts - and you are all boring your way into the hells.
Quite a statement - "boring your way into the hells." The Master doesn't mince words. He always "points straight to people's minds." His "needle pricks blood" in order to break through living beings' ignorance and confusion.
In the "Opportunities and Conditions" chapter of the Sixth Patriarch's Sutra is this statement: "Prior to Awesome Sound King it was possible. After the time of Awesome Sound King anyone who claims to have gotten enlightened on their own without a teacher belongs to the externalists who believe in spontaneity." The meaning a to one and certify one's level of accomplishment, that is the externalist path of spontaneity.
Also in the Shurangama Sutra's "Four Clear Instructions on Purity" the Buddha said: "How can thieves put on my robes and sell the Thus Come One, saying that all manner of karma one creates is just the Buddhadharma? They slander those who have left the home-life and regard Bhikshus who have taken the complete precepts as belonging to the path of the Small Vehicle. Because of such doubts and misjudgments, limitless living beings fall into the unintermittent hell."
The other one is a certain "Supreme Master" -a "lotus-born living Buddha" with "vast spiritual penetrations" who eats meat, drinks alcohol, and plays around with women. The Master's critique of him is: "Alas! In the evil time of the Dharma-ending Age, living beings' blessings are slight, it is difficult to train them. Far indeed from the Sages of the past! Their deviant -views are deep. Demons are strong, the Dharma if weak; many are the wrongs and injuries. Hearing of the door of the Thus Come One's Sudden Teaching, they hate not destroying it as they would smash a tile. "(Song of Enlightenment). In the Dharma-ending Age people are not able to distinguish between deviant and proper. You need only look to see: does he have any greed, any fighting, any seeking, any selfishness, or any self-benefiting in his mind? Is he lying and cheating others all day and all night long? I don't know what this person is. I call him a demon runt. "
These heavenly demons and externalists are right out of the Shurangama Sutra's "Fifty Skandha Demons." If one becomes very familiar with the content of the Fifty Skandha Demons, then one will not go astray in cultivation. For example, in the "Four Clear Instructions on Purity" in the Shurangama Sutra, the Buddha said: "After my extinction, in the Dharma-ending Age, these phantoms and apparitions will abound, spreading like wildfire as they surreptitiously cheat others. Calling themselves Good Knowing Advisors, they will each say that they have attained superhuman dharmas...They say that they have attained what they have not attained, and that they have been certified when they have not been certified...These icchantikas destroy the seeds of Buddhahood." This is referring to these externalists. They all claim that they themselves have already become enlightened. Not having received any certification of their enlightenment, they say that they have; not having attained the Way, they say that they have. People who cell those great lies destroy the seeds of Buddhahood. They cut off their good roots forever. Also in the middle roll of The Buddha's Treasury Sutra the Buddha predicts that in the Dharma-ending Age the evil demons will assume the appearance of Shramanas and will teach living beings deviant paths. The Sutra says: "Shariputra! The evil demons are now concealed in the bodies of those who aid Devadatta in destroying me (the Buddha), the Dharma, and the Sangha. Because a Thus Come One with great wisdom is in the world, those corrupt demons cannot succeed in doing great evil. In the future, evil demons will take on the appearance of Shramanas (left-home people), enter the Sangha, and say all kinds of deviant things, causing many people in turn to become deviant and to speak deviant dharma...The Buddha foresees that things like these, designed to destroy the Dharma, will happen in the Dharma-ending Age." In the Dharma-ending Age, with living beings' blessings so scanty and their wisdom so superficial, quite a few "demonic Sanghans" are inspired to "come into the world to save the multitudes". Under the guise of Buddhism they transmit deviant dharmas on a massive scale, taking beings into their "retinue." How can one help but grieve!
The contemporary High Sanghan Elder Master Hsu Yun once said, "This is the Dharma-ending Age. Where can you go to find a Good Knowing Advisor? It's better to read the Shurangama Sutra until you are thoroughly familiar with it. Then your cultivation will be secure and you will have a chance to be saved. By putting a stop to deviant conditions, your own body and mind can enter the Buddha's knowledge and vision and with that achieved, you will not go down the wrong road!" See how much emphasis the Patriarchs place on the Shurangama Sutra! This Sutra is a "demon-spotting mirror" to use in cultivation. It is a sutra that every Buddhist disciple should use his sweat and blood to protect and uphold. As to how to tell the difference between Buddhas and demons, between the deviant and the proper, the Master gives some very clear advice:
If you are able to refrain from getting involved in sights, sounds, smells, taste, touches, and mental dharmas, then these skandha demons cannot do anything to you. If you don't have any greed, hatred, or stupidity, then you have conquered these skandha demons. Being without the faults of selfishness, pursuit of self-benefit, fighting, and seeking, no demon can do anything to you.
Actually Buddhas and demons exist in a single thought. If a person does not have thoughts involving greed, seeking, selfishness, and lying, then these different kinds of demons will not manifest. It's said, "When there are superior people within, superior people will come; if there are petty people inside, then petty people will be drawn there." That's the principle of "the myriad dharmas are created from the mind alone." The Master has a verse: "When the nature is in samadhi, the demons are subdued and every day one is happy. When false thoughts do not arise, then every place is peaceful. To stop the mind and put thoughts to rest is to be truly wealthy and honored. To completely cut off sexual desire is to be a true field of blessings." That is the very best method for subduing all demons.
I hope all of us students can "slice down demons when demons come, and slice down Buddhas when Buddhas come." All good dharmas and all evil dharmas are brought about by our own false thinking. We should "not dwell anywhere." It should be that "if you do not think you have become a sage, then it is a good state. But if you think you have become a sage. you will be vulnerable to deviant influences.
Section Five Taking Refuge and Red Envelopes
Among Asian Buddhists who have taken refuge, there is a popular misconception. Everyone thinks that the more teachers you take refuge with, the better. This is a sign of the Dharma Ending Age. By taking refuge with this one and then taking refuge with that one, they cause contention among the Dharma Masters, who quarrel with each other over who has the Dharma affinities and who gets the disciples. But the Master always asked those who had already taken refuge not to sign up to take refuge again-that they could just follow along and rejoice from the sidelines. The contemporary High Sanghan Great Master Yinguang also said that in taking refuge, the member of the Sangha is representing the Buddha in transmitting the three refuges. He is a certifier, not the person one is taking refuge with. That means we really should ask, "Who was the Master who certified your being transmitted the three refuges?" not "Whom did you take refuge with?" The Master said:
Some people say, "The Youth Good Wealth visited fifty-three (teachers), why can't I bow to a few more teachers?" But you need to realize that the Youth Good Wealth was always sent on by his previous teacher to the next teacher. It wasn't that he greedily longed for another Dharma Master endowed with virtuous conduct and so turned his back on his current teacher and stole away to take refuge with another. A lot of older Chinese Buddhist disciples have taken refuge tens or hundreds of times. But when you ask them what "take refuge" means, they don't know. Isn't that pathetic? They say that all left-home people are their teachers. But I say they don't have any teacher at all because their minds lack faith, so how can they be saved? One must have faith in order to be saved. Don't say "Probably the Buddha didn't notice the first time I took refuge, so I'd better do it again."
Actually when it comes to the question of red envelopes, all along the Master was very opposed to the custom. That's because there's an element of cheating in it. No one knows how much money is in those red envelopes. For Buddhist disciples in Asia, taking refuge and red envelopes amount to the same thing. That being the case, people who can't come up with red envelopes and those of externalist ways don't dare believe in the Buddha and take refuge. The Master said:
In the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Youth Good Wealth holds a very important position and yet he has had a very complicated influence on Chinese Buddhism. Most Dharma Masters know very well that for a person to take refuge with lots of different teachers is incorrect. It is not in accord with the Buddha dharma. But if they don't let it happen, their "tokens" (the red envelopes) will diminish significantly. And so to this day no one openly opposes this custom. Knowing full well it is wrong, they still do it. Complicated, huh? Why? First, it's for the sake of the "youths" (pulling in laity) and second it's for the sake of "Good Wealth" (getting one's share of red envelopes). This is the worst habit going in Buddhism.
The Master's true knowledge and brilliant views are decisively different from the multitudes. How much compassion there is behind the Master's lion's roar that he emits because he "cannot bear to watch the sagely teachings decline"! A lot of "movie star teachers" in Taiwan, being put on pedestals by their disciples, forget all about their responsibility to "carry on the Thus Come One's work of saving living beings." Every day they wallow in their intoxication for fame and profit and neglect the great matter of birth and death. Actually when disciples of the Triple Jewel encounter left-home teachers, they should inquire about the Buddhadharma, not just be intent upon giving them red envelopes. In Thailand, Sri Lanka and so forth, the laity makes offerings of food to the Triple Jewel. Besides which, the Buddha restricted the Bhikshus to one meal a day at noon. he definitely would not have permitted them to use their bowls to beg for money.
In roll 7 of Translations of Extra Material from the Agama Sutra, the Buddha said: "Holding gold or other money or valuables is not one of the Dharmas of Shamans, disciples of Shakya. If they do hold gold or other money or valuables, then they are not according with the Dharmas of Shramanas. " And so begging for money is not pan of the method of cultivation for left-home people. In the 54th roll of the Four Divisions Vinaya the Buddha told the Elder Pearl Garland: "Shramana, disciples of Shakya should not hold gold and silver; they should give away their pearls and gems, and should not adorn themselves. Anyone who holds gold or silver will involve themselves in the five desires. If they involve themselves in the five desires, then they are not following the Dharmas of Shramanas, disciples of Shakya." Who would have thought that in these days of the Dharma-ending Age there are left home people who use their bowls to beg for money. This has a devastating effect on the reputation of Buddhism and on the practices of members of the Sangha, especially now when those who are begging are just passing themselves off as left-home people in order to destroy the Buddhadharma. If members of the Sangha themselves did not carry their bowls to beg for money, then there certainly wouldn't be people willing lo undergo the suffering of passing themselves off as part of the Singh. That's why the Master encouraged his disciples lo hold the precept against possessing money as much as possible; to avoid "lying up conditions" with money as much as possible. The Master said:
That's because left-home people can cultivate if they don't have money. As soon as they have money, they certainly won't be able to cultivate. I can guarantee it. Look into it! Investigate it. Taoists are referred to as "poor Taoists." Sanghans are referred to as "poor Sanghans." Nobody talks about "rich Sanghans" or "rich Taoists." And so when you use your money to make offerings to "rich Sanghans" and "rich Taoists," it's the same as if you were committing offenses. I'm going to offend a lot of people by saying this. But although I am offending you, I have to tell the truth.
Another thing that's happening in contemporary Buddhism is so-called "Dharma for getting rich." The Master was also stern and proper about this one: "There isn't any such Dharma of getting rich in Buddhism." Great Master Yongjia said in his Song of Enlightenment: 'The Shakyan disciples say that they are poor; they are indeed poor in body, but not poor in the Way. As to poverty, their bodies are ever wrapped in coarse rags. As to the Way, a priceless jewel is stored in their hearts." That's referring to Buddhism's "poor Sanghans." The expression "rich Sanghans" does not exist. Since they are "poor Sanghans,' how can they transmit "Dharmas of getting rich"? (and delude people by saying it's a method of the Buddha's when in fact it absolutely is not!) The Master's comments are:
You should look carefully at anyone who teaches others "Dharmas for getting rich" to see if he himself is rich or not. If he is, then that's because you are hoping to get rich and so you give your riches to him. That's why he has money. It's like investing in stocks. You first have to buy some stocks before you can make money. And so you first have to make an offering to him-maybe a thousand, or ten thousand, or a hundred thousand—and then your whole safe will be chocked full of money and it will emit red light, is it? Or yellow light? Or black light? Or purple light? If that isn't a professional crook at work, what is it? Since I would never transmit a Dharma for getting rich, I am exposing this secret.
Buddhism is a lofty teaching. It certainly doesn't stop with the "red envelopes" that accompany seeking fame and profit. Nor does it stop with the "Dharma Assemblies" that go along with saving souls. The Buddhas and those with great wisdom want living beings to understand that the world is impermanent and that they should get rid of their greed, hatred, and stupidity. How can the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas be relegated to the level of gods from whom one "seeks for wealth and officialdom'? Isn't that just bribery? Then how would Buddhism be different from Eastern or Western folk religions?
Section Six Wearing the Precept Sash and Eating One Meal a Day
Everyone knows that "wearing the precept sash and eating one meal a day" are things that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is especially well-known for. The Master specifically announced that anyone who left home with him had to venerate the Buddha's regulations: "eating one meal a day at noon and always wearing the precept sash." And so no matter how much the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas came under criticism by those outside—even slander that the City was doing new and strange things to show off. the Master would never, ever change his policy because of that. Regarding the barrage of slander, the Master merely said: "This is not some rule I made up. This is the Buddha's regulation. We want to venerate the Buddha's regulations." But the Master was expedient with the relatively older left-home people and allowed them to take three meals a day. This rule remained right up to the Final instructions given by the Master just before his Nirvana—it never changed. The Master himself said: Even before I left the home-life, while I was still a layperson, I ate one meal a day. And from the time I left home to now—all those many years—I have eaten one meal a day. If people who want to leave home with me can eat one meal a day, then I will accept them. If they cannot eat one meal a day, I will not accept them. This is a fixed requirement for anyone who leaves home with me. In spite of any pressures whatsoever regarding the times and circumstances, this cannot be changed.
Why does the Master look upon "one meal" as so important? It's because "when you are full and warm, you think of sex." The more one eats, the more sexual desire one has. This is discussed (roll 22 of the Long Agama Sutra's "Chapter on Record of the World: Basic Conditions of the World") in the record of how, when the blessings of the gods in the Light-Sound Heaven ended and they descended to the human realm, they began lo eat rice. Their bodies became coarse and ugly and took on the appearances of male and female. Looking at each other caused sexual desire lo arise and they went off to covered places to engage in impure conduct." And so there's a Chinese idiom that says: "Food and drink bring about male and female." These verify the idea that the amount of sexual desire has a direct relationship to the amount of food. And if it's a matter of "eating at the wrong time," then it's a matter of breaking precepts.
Some people look at it this way: this is not the lime of the Buddha and we are not in India now; what is more, Chinese people are not Indian, and so, since the precepts were created for the times and the locations, then they are precepts only applicable to the people of India and are not appropriate for the people of China. Actually that is incorrect because, in Buddhism, the precepts are one of the three non-outflow studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, all of which were explained by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. If "precepts" are not appropriate to the people of China, then does that mean that "samadhi and wisdom" are also not appropriate to the people of China? Ridiculous!
Not eating at the wrong times is a practice that left-home people should keep and is the first requisite for those who shave their heads and leave home. "
Further, the lay people's Eight Vegetarian-Seclusion Precepts also include "the precept of not eating at the wrong time." And so it's a question of whether the precepts are strictly upheld or not. Except when one is sick, there's no other rationalization acceptable.
What is more, in the In All Places Sutra five kinds of blessings and virtue derived from not eating after noon are listed: "1. Little sexual desire; 2. Little sleep; 3. A concentrated mind; 4. No problems with abdominal gas; 5. Physical tranquility and no diseases. From this we can see that not eating after noon can generate blessings. Also in the Large Vibhasha Shastra it is thought that: not eating after noon lessens the amount of sleep, eliminates the problems of storing food overnight, makes it easier for the mind to enter samadhi, and because of chose benefits, the instruction to eat before noon was given. In The Sutra of the Questions of the Long-nailed Brahman it says: "The fact that the Thus Come One's forty teeth are clean, white, and straight comes from his strict avoidance of eating at the wrong time when he upheld that precept in previous lives. "
And the Buddha sternly advised Shariputra in The Sutra of Shaiputra's Questions: "Those who eat at the wrong times are people who are breaking the precepts, are people who steal; are people who will suffer insanity because they destroy wholesome rewards and they are not my disciples." They steal the benefits of my Dharma, they steal a reputation, they steal food—a lump of this and a pinch of that; a bit of salt and a touch of vinegar—and after they die they fall into the Hell of Burning intestines and everything becomes not iron pellets. "
In the Vinaya Samadhi Sutra there's this explanation: "Morning is when the gods eat, noon is when the Buddhas eat, afternoon is when the animals eat, and night is when the ghosts eat. Now, as a cause for being able to leave the six destinies and to do as the Buddhas of the three periods of time do, caring at noon is considered the proper rime to eat." Thus, even now, in India and other countries where the Southern Transmission of Buddhism prevails, the Buddha's regulation of not caring after noon is strictly upheld. But in my country, most of the Chinese monks make exceptions when it comes lo this precept, calling the evening meal "medicine." The Master does not agree with this. The Master said:
In your Chan meditation session you have learned how to have a Chinese caring session where there are three tea breaks and four meals, with extra hot buns served in the late evening. I don't believe you can eat all that and still work on developing your skill. I eat once a day and still feel it's troublesome. What about caring four meals and extra hot buns in the evening! In Chinese Buddhism what do they call the evening meal? They called it "medicine"—eating "herbs"?caring "stones" (note: The Chinese for "medicine" is the two characters: "herbs" and "stones."] It's just a dose of medicine! That's called plugging up your ears while you steal a bell. That's called cheating yourself and cheating others. Because they want lo eat at night, they call it "medicine." That's what Chinese Buddhism is like. It's a Buddhism that cheats people; a Buddhism that deceives people - I have no way to rectify it.
As to the meaning of "medicine", roll 18 of the meaning of Unusual Terminology says: "Medicine (literally: herbs and stones) is what is used to cure illness. The ancients used stones slivers to draw blood, while iron is used nowadays. These are all for the purpose of curing illness." The section "Arhats Medicine" in roll one of the Collection of the Buddha's Stories says. "Food is taken to cure. illness, and so is called 'medicine'." The section on "Food and Drink" in Terminology of Chan Utensils has this to say about "medicine": "Medicine is a metaphorical term that refers to rice gruel taken in the evening. Since gruel is taken in the evening to bolster one's health and cure illness so that one may make progress in one's practice, it is called 'medicine.' " From this it may be seen that the term 'medicine' is merely a different name for 'dinner' invented by Chinese Buddhism!
In general, although the Buddha, the World Honored One, gave up some of the very minor precepts before he entered Nirvana, the precept of not eating at improper times could not be renounced. Roll 15 of the Miscellaneous Agama Sutra says, "When one knows to cut off the taking of food rolled in lumps (at improper times), one will have the merit and virtue of eliminating greedy craving among the five desires. Of those learned and sagely disciples who have the merit, and virtue of eliminating greedy craving, I have not seen any who have failed to eliminate even a single, knot (affliction) among the five desires. If even a single bond were to remain, they would still be reborn in this world." The precept of not eating at improper times refers to the pure conduct of not taking food rolled in lumps at improper times. How can cultivators who wish to end birth and death and leave the home of the Triple Realm not pay attention to this precept?
Below let us discuss the Venerable Master's view on wearing the precept sash. Most Shramaneras (novices) and lay people who have received the five precepts or the Bodhisattva precepts wear what is called the "plain robe" (Chinese: man (tiao) yi. Sanskrit: pattha), which is a kashaya sash without the partitions (patches) resembling fields. Roll Forty of the Four Division Vinaya records that the Buddha allowed Sangha members to wear antarvasaka robes without patches. In the Illustrated Record of the Six Articles the Buddha Required Bhikshus to Have, it is recorded that "The plain robe has three uses. Originally it was a robe for Shramaneras. The Vinaya stipulates that Shramaneras should have two plain robes, one with seven strips for entering the assembly, and one with five strips for working." (The word "should" is used since the style of the robes had not yet been standardized.) For the first hundred years or so after Buddhism entered China, the monks did not yet know how to make the patched robes, so they wore plain robes. It was not until the time between the Han and Wei dynasties that they gradually started to wear the samghati (upper) robes. The Venerable Master strictly required those who left the home-life with him to wear their precept sash at all times and never let it leave their bodies. The Master said,
If a left-home person doesn't wear his precept sash, it's as if he has returned to lay-life. He's no different from worldly people. Wearing the long Chinese robe with the arched collar is not enough to show that one is a left-home person. Not to speak of the Chinese robe, even if you do wear the precept sash, you still break the precepts and do dishonest things every day. How much worse it'd be if you didn't wear the sash!
Nowadays the left-home people in China and other places—in fact the vast majority of (left-home people in) Mahayana Buddhism—do not wear their precept sashes. They feel perfectly justified and natural not wearing them—they think that's just the way it should be. What they don't realize is that without the precept sash, they no longer have the appearance of Bhikshus.
The Venerable Master stated very decisively that "left-home people definitely must wear their precept sashes, or else they don't look like Bhikshus." The precept sash is what distinguishes one as a disciple of the Buddha. The Buddha himself had his three robes and an alms bowl, and he always wore his robes. The Dharani Collection Sutra says. "The Buddha's golden body was clad in a saffron kashaya robe." The Sutra on the Essentials of Recitation says. "The Buddha's body seemed to be burnished gold, adorned with thirty-tow marks and eighty subtle characteristics. He was clad in a saffron kashaya robe and sat in full lotus." Thus it was not without reason that the Venerable Master advocated that monks wear their precept sashes.
There are countless instances where the Sutras mention the benefits of wearing the kashaya robe. For example, the Mahayana Sutra of the Contemplation of the Mind-ground discusses ten benefits of wearing the kashaya. The eighth roll of the Compassionate Flower Sutra describes five holy merits of the Buddha's kashaya. The sixteenth roll of the Ten Dwellings Vibhasha Shastra describes twenty-six kinds of robes and their ten benefits. The fourth roll of the Sutra of the Sea Dragon King speaks of how the dragon king escaped from the golden-winged Peng bird by the protection of the Buddha's kashaya. Yet there are still those who oppose wearing the precept sash and regard it as trying to put on a special style. The Venerable Master said,
Now people have unknowingly turned a bad habit into a convention. Those who don't wear the precept sash are regarded as' genuine Buddhists, while those who do wear it are considered phony. If all of you students of Buddhism don't even understand this elementary point, then you basically aren't Buddhists.
The Great Compassion Sutra says, "Even if they are Shramanas (Buddhist monks] by nature who defile the Shramanas' practice, if they have the appearance of Shramanas and wear the kashaya, they will all without exception be able to enter Nirvana between the time of Maitreya Buddha and Lokeshvararaja Buddha." After reading these words from the Sutras, can we still oppose the rule of wearing the precept sash? The Master said, "What need is there to distinguish between right and wrong? True and false will become clear in time. Wise ones see what is real, while stupid ones practice what is false. Those who are good learn to be like Bodhisattvas, while those who are evil dare to slander the Buddha. With a mind of equal great compassion, universally save all sentient beings."
Part Three: Chapter on Lecturing the Sutras
The Sutras which the Master lectured during his life are generally listed here: Avatamsaka Sutra. Dharma Flower Sutra, Shurangama Sutra. Vajra Sutra. Heart Sutra. Sixth Patriarch's Sutra. Earth Store Sutra, Amitabha Sutra, Forty-two Sections Sutra, Hundred Dharmas Shastra. The Buddha Bequeaths the Teaching Sutra, Great Master Yung Jia's Song of Enlightenment?more than thirty different ones. Also the Master explained two areas of Chinese philosophy: The Four Books and the Book of Changes. Among all these are three that are quite unusual—very few people have ever explained them. They are: Verses and Commentary on the Shurangama Mantra, Water and Mirrors, and modem-language explanations of the Biographies of the Buddhist Patriarchs.
The Master' lecture series on Verses and Commentary on the Shurangama Mantra lasted for eight years, from 1979 to 1987. Throughout all of Buddhist history this mantra has rarely been explained. Only Dharma Master Xu Fa of the Qing dynasty and Dharma Master Be Ting of Compassionate Cloud Monastery in Wu Lin ever explained it. Dharma Master Be Ting investigated the Esoteric Division and wrote the Commentary on Anointing the Crown in the Shurangama Sutra in 26 rolls, translating the Sanskrit into Chinese and further gave a thoroughly detailed explanation of the mantra. In Buddhism there are "five kinds of terms not translated" in sutras and mantras. because the secret languages of Buddhas is difficult for most other sages to comprehend, how much the less ordinary people. Although the custom is not to translate the mantras found in sutras, still, people have different things to say about it. Some people think that translating the meaning of mantras has twenty-four kinds of benefits. And so when the Master came in possession of a copy of the "Commentary on the Shurangama Mantra" in 1949, he records: I obtained what I'd never had before. I continually investigated that thorough explanation of the esoteric, carrying it always with me and never being apart from it. He also said for the Proper Dharma to remain long in the world, and to stop the deviant discourses once and for all, people must join together and enter the ultimately firm great samadhi.
Later, after the Master came to America, he himself explained the Shurangama Mantra, using seven-characters per line verses to explain each of the 554 lines and further gave a modem-language commentary. Truly this masterpiece is something "never done before." It is exceptionally valuable. The Master said:
The four-line verses used to explain every line of the mantra do not by any means exhaust the explanation because the wonderful meanings in the mantra are infinite and endless. These four-line verses are a mere mention of the broad idea-just tendering a bit of brick, hoping someone will come up with jade. These four-line verses appear to be very simple, but they come from my heart. You could say they are my blood and sweat. They certainly aren't plagiarized—copied from someone else's work! I'm explaining the Shurangama Mantra for you now, and throughout hundreds of thousands of eons, no one even explains it. Also, it's not easy to explain in its entirety. When I'm explaining it, I know that none of you really understand what I'm saying. Even if there are those who think they do, they don't really. But perhaps ten years from now, or a hundred, or a thousand years from now, someone will read this simple explanation and gain a profound understanding. Below are other comments the Master made regarding the Shurangama Mantra:
Infinite esoteric wonder so hard to appraise,
These vajra secret phrases come from our own nature.
The Shurangama Mantra is endowed with an efficacy
That can open the five eyes and six. penetrations.
The Ultimately Durable king among Samadhis?nbsp;
With a straight mind practice and study it, and the Way Place can be reached.
Purify the karmas of body, mouth, and mind;
Sweep clean the thoughts of greed, hatred, and stupidity.
From sincerity comes a response; clear certification is obtained.
From concentration one accomplishes spiritual powers which are great.
Endowed with virtue, you have encountered its magical, wonderful phrases.
At all times, never forget to glorify its magnificence.
Ananda had already certified to the first fruition, but he still had to undergo difficulty with a woman. The Buddha had to use the Shurangama Mantra to save him. How much the more is that the case for us ordinary beings? If we don't rely on the Shurangama Mantra. how are we going to end birth and death?
As long as there is even one person left in this world who knows how to recite the Shurangama Mantra by heart, the monsters, demons, ghosts, and weird creatures will not dare to show themselves openly. But if it comes to the point that no one can recite the Shurangama Mantra from memory, then the monsters, demons, ghosts, and weird creatures will openly display themselves.
Actually by studying the Shurangama Mantra you are the Buddhas' transformation body: not just a transformation body but the transformation Buddha atop the Buddha's crown. The inconceivable qualities of the Shurangama Mantra are hard to fathom!
Now let us introduce the Portraits of Buddhist Patriarchs , which is thirteen years' worth of lectures given by the Venerable Master, extending from 1972 through 1985, for a total of 346 topics. Important personages introduced in this text are as follows: Shakyamuni Buddha, who, after twirling a flower and giving a subtle smile, transmitted the Dharma to Venerable Kashyapa; who transmitted it to the Second Patriarch, Venerable Ananda, and so forth to the Twenty-eighth Patriarch, Bodhidharma, who became the First Patriarch in China and brought the Dharma of Chan meditation to China. Continuing through the Thirty-third Patriarch (the Sixth Patriarch in China), Great Master Huineng, at that point "one flower opened five petals. After that comes Five Divisions with Seven Schools, which are the fayan school, the candong school, the yunmen school, the weiyang school, the linji school as well as the huanglong sect and the yangqi sect. Add to that the niutou sect, holy Sanghas of two lands (east [China] and west [India]), the tiantai school, the huayan school, the ceen school, the yujia school, the vinaya school, the lotus society school, and ten contemporary High Sanghans, and the grand total is three hundred thirty-eight Venerable Ones who are introduced. There is also a verse in praise of each Venerable One (regulated Chinese verse form with eight lines containing seven characters each.). From Great Master Yungmingshou, Sixth Patriarch of the Lotus Society School on through the final contemporary Sanghans, Elder Master Guangchin, another verse is added composed of eight lines containing four characters each.). It can be said that these three hundred thirty-eight Venerable Patriarchs are all duly praised. The text is written in the literary style of Chinese and has no punctuation. Add to that liberal doses of Chan banter "enlightened words" and it becomes doubly difficult to comprehend. It is difficult to fathom the deeply esoteric state of those greatly virtuous ones of old. It only be described as ineffable, "and likened to only the person who drinks the water knows whether it is cold or warm."
Actually the Master's explanation of the Portraits of Buddhist Patriarchs comes about from great causes and conditions. In 1958, the Elder Master Hsu Yun mailed this book to the Venerable Master, enclosing a letter which said, "I am sending you this volume of Portraits of Buddhist Patriarchs that I have composed in recent years. Read and remember it well and I hope you will benefit yourself and benefit others and treasure the Way." Actually on the 9th of April in 1956 Elder Master Yun sent a certificate to the Master that named him the ninth Patriarch of the Weiyang School. The letter said, "You are a disciple who is concerned about the preservation of the Dharma and the continuation of the wisdom-life of the Buddhas and Patriarchs. Now, in accord with your vows, I am sending you the Source, the inheritance of the Patriarch's pulse, the Patriarch's Way. Entrusted to you, it will prosper. It is my hope that this transmission will be perpetuated." It is evident that the Master followed his teacher's instructions and explained the Portraits of Buddhist Patriarchs into modern language so that beings could gain the benefit this unprecedented Dharma. That is why I consider these three to be the Master's three most important works. And beings who have the good fortune to be able to read these precious Dharma jewels are truly endowed with blessings!
I generally estimate that the Venerable Master composed over two thousand verses and poems during his life. Every verse is rhymed and evidence the Master's profound prajna wisdom. This is especially true of the unprecedented verses on the lines of the Shurangama Mantra; only someone who had truly entered the Great Shurangama Samadhi would be capable of such explanations. Also the Master's explanation of the Portraits of Buddhist Patriarchs sometimes transcends historical records, leaving the reader wondering if the Master really has the Penetration of Past Lives.
Part Four: Chapter on Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi
The reason this chapter is called "Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi* has to do with the extent to which Lao Zi's philosophy is evident in the Venerable Master's instructions and practices. In Reflections in Water and Mirrors Reversing the Tide of Destiny, the Master's critique of Venerable .Mahakashyapa states: Transforming and appearing as Lao Zi, he roamed through China; Welcoming those who had affinities to ascend to the other shore. Obviously the Master recognized Lao Zi to be a transformation-body of Venerable Mahakashyapa. Although Lao Zi left behind only five thousand words, they have been profoundly cherished and enjoyed by generations of cultivators and ordinary people. Much of what the Venerable Master said and did accords with Lao Zi. For instance Lao Zi said: Proper words may appear to be the opposite. Truthful words are not pretty; pretty words are not truthful. Being proper has value; being pretty is cheap. Counteracting is the movement of the Way; gentleness is the function of the Way. The Venerable Master often used reverse psychology to prod living beings. One example is when the Master was asked about exterminating house pests and insects. The Master replied:
I am an insect, I am an ant. It doesn't matter if you kill me, but you shouldn't kill them.
If you want to exterminate insects, first exterminate me. That is how based in equality the Master's compassion was!
All his life the Master used the Six Great Principles of not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing self-benefit, and not lying to teach and transform living beings. (Actually these are the Five Precepts). Many people didn't take them seriously, thinking that even a child of three knew those things. What need to discuss them? Still, I don't know how many times the Master said, "Any success that I have had in my life is due to abiding by these Six Great Principles. Anyone who wants to cultivate the Way should follow these Six Great Principles." Didn't Lao Zi also say, "My Way is easy to understand and easy to practice and yet there isn't anyone who understands and practices it!" He also said, "People say that my Way seems unfathomable, but that's because they have just discovered it. If they acquaint themselves with it for longer, they will fathom its subtitles." He also said, "The Great Way is level, easy for everyone to traverse."
Basically cultivation is quite simple: 'The Way is right there with you; don't seek afar for it." But people are always looking for shortcuts; they scout around trying to find "secret dharmas" to cultivate. It's really a case of people getting more and more muddled. Shouldn't we realize that "the secret lies with us." It's in being able to pursuit of material desires and attachments of the discriminating mind; it's in refraining from anger and refusing to lie. Those are instantaneous "secret dharmas"; that is the Way!
Those Six Great Principles, experienced by the Master through his lifelong asceticism, were fervently set forth by him with the hope of contributing to the good of the world and the benefit of humankind. But people did not take them seriously; even made fun of them. It is truly as Lao Zi put it in Chapter 41: "When the superior person hears of the Way, his is moved to practice it. When a mediocre person hears of the Way, he accepts and rejects at random. When an inferior person hears of the Way, he makes fun of it. The Way is found in not ridiculing and not being self-satisfied."
Throughout his life, the Venerable Master advocated a philosophy of non-contention that was identical to Lao Zi's non-contention. The Master often mentioned the verse:
Contention, thoughts of victory and defeat, is in opposition to the Way.
Once the four marks arise in the mind; how can samadhi be attained?
Those who are truly non-contending don't get angry. They have reached the level of being able to forgive and are truly forgiving. The Master brings up another verse:
It's easy to get rid of other things, but our temper is hard to change.
Those who can truly refrain from anger have attained a priceless gem.
Further, if we can not blame others, then everything will go our way.
Afflictions will never arise and so resentment will never find us.
By always picking at others 'faults, it's impossible to end our own suffering.
Now isn't that an extremely simple instruction? True non-contention amasses boundless and infinite merit and virtue. But the Venerable Master would no doubt omit Lao Zi's conclusion: "Rare are those who know me; honored are those who can fathom me; such is a sage's rare jade that he keeps wrapped in coarse cloth."
In addition to the Master's Six Great Principles, there are two verses worthy of believing and putting into practice. They are:
Let us truly recognize our own faults and not discuss the faults of others.
Others 'faults are just our own;
to be one with everyone is great compassion.
Everything is a test to see what we will do.
Not recognizing what's before our eyes, we have do start anew.
In the Analects and Mencius the sages tell us that when things don't go our way, we should look within ourselves. Also the superior person seeks within himself; the petty person looks at others. Also when the superior person makes a mistake, he takes responsibility for it. When a petty person makes a mistake, he blames heaven. (Xun Zi). The Venerable Master's guidance was also to turn around and seek within yourself.
It's true that people were sometimes stunned by the Master's teachings, like the time on February 10, 1993, when he wore masks during his visits to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. It turned out to be because his disciples had violated the practices of taking only one meal a day at noon and always wearing the precept sash. It was with a sense of grief that the Master wore the masks when he returned to the City. He commented:
Before I went to Taiwan I knew that all the principles I had established from the founding of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas onward would be wiped out; I knew people would not honor them. That has caused me a tremendous lose of hope and I cannot face you all. And so I'm wearing a mask to avoid having to look you all straight in the face.
The Master's stance is unprecedented in Buddhist history. Never has a teacher donned a mask. Actually it is we disciples who violate the precepts who should be covering our faces, not our teacher. My own aside on this is that it verifies that the Venerable Master has reached the state of "no self."
Another example of teachings that stunned the disciples took place in the spring of 1992 at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas when an unprecedented "The Unrestrained Great Assembly" was organized. During that meeting the Master said: I painfully beat myself. I have beaten myself several times to the point of knocking my self unconscious. Because I lack virtuous conduct, the disciples I teach end up like this. If the power if repentance and reform is real, then whatever mistakes have been made, I vow to take upon myself. But if you don t speak truthfully, and are only hoping to fall into the hells a little faster, then I have no way to save you. Tell the truth; use your true mind to repent and reform and then all the retributions for offenses that you should have to endure in the hells I will count as mine.
As far as I know, there has never been a teacher who beat himself because his disciples were not filial. It really leaves a person profoundly grieved and pained at heart. The Venerable Master's practical application of the principle: "Others' mistakes I take as my own; to be one with everyone is called Great Compassion" can be perceived at a glance. It is just as described in the Twenty-fifth Chapter of the Flower Adornment Sutra.
I should, for the sake of living beings, universally undergo all their sufferings on their behalf so that they will be able to quickly escape the deep abyss of endless births and deaths. I should, for the sake of living beings in all worlds and in all evil destinies, universally undergo all their sufferings on their behalf throughout all time to come.-.1 would rather undergo all beings' sufferings myself than to ever allow beings to fall into the hells. I prefer to stand in for all beings who are in the dangerous and difficult situations of being in the hells, among the animals, or among the asura kings so that I can rescue and ransom all beings in the evil paths, enabling them to escape and attain liberation.
I remember when Elder Layman Li Bingnan was still alive, one time a disciple presented a long whip and asked his teacher to beat him with it. Instead the Elder took the whip from the disciple saying: "Will everyone please rise. When the students fail to learn, it is the teacher's fault. I will take this whip away with me and beat myself with it." That. too, caused people to be profoundly moved. In the Analects. Confucius said, "Chastise yourself more and blame others less. In that way you will avoid resentment." (Venerable Weiling, Chapter Fifteen). King Tang of the Shang said as he made sacrifices to Heaven, ''Please do punish the people for my mistakes, and if the people err, the offense is mine." (Xiaoyue, Chapter Twenty) The words and actions of these sages are similar. They all act as models, subduing themselves, only in that way are they able to influence others. The Venerable Master has another verse:
Vast, proper energy Fills heaven and earth.
Transform what is great and learn from the sages and worthies.
When you fail in your endeavors, seek within yourself.
Turn the light around and shine within; don't exploit conditions.
Act like an old fool; don't be clever.
Diligently sweep the dust from your mind; get rid of craftiness.
If you can constantly spur yourself on in this way,
It won't belong before the Buddhadharma fills the universe.
Finally, let's discuss the Master's philosophy of kowtowing. The Master once remarked that the secret to his life's cultivation was bowing to others and taking losses. The Master often would say to his new disciples in refuge, "As my refuge disciples, you must learn to be patient and not to contend. If people beat you, you should buy to them. If they scold you, you should bow to them. Always be willing to take a loss." "If people scold me, you ought to bow to them. No matter who slanders me, you shouldn't defend me."
The Master frequently bowed to his own disciples in America. If his disciples were disobedient, he would kowtow to them, and then they would behave. In his early years in the United States, one night when the Master was giving a lecture at Wonderful Words Hall in the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, not a single left-home person was willing to go up on stage to speak. After the lecture was over and the assembly was filing out of Wonderful Words Hall and returning to the Buddha Hall, the Master knelt by the door and watched everyone walk out. He was reproaching himself and giving a wordless teaching. That's really "Space Age cultivation," where the teacher bows to his disciples. It shows the Master has realized the spirit of nonself. Moreover, the Master often led the assembly by personally kneeling to listen to lectures given by guest Dharma Masters at the Sagely City. He certainly was not haughty, as certain rumors might say. The Master started bowing to all living beings from the time he was twelve (he wasn't bowing to the Buddhas). Every day he bowed to heaven, earth, his parents, teachers, elders, insects, ants, and so forth, making a total of 1,670 bows. This was certainly not something ordinary people could do.
Nowadays Buddhists only know how to bow to the Buddhas outside. They don't bow to the Buddha in their minds, nor do they repent and admit their errors before their parents and all living beings, thus their practice is not perfect. We ought to learn to bow to our parents and ail living beings every day. We should constantly "seek within ourselves, reflect upon ourselves, and listen to our own natures" Let us "strive to emulate those who are worthy, and examine ourselves when we see those who are not worthy."
Part Five: Birth and Death
The final goal of the Buddhadharma is to help us end birth and death. There are many ways to do this, but there is something we must be aware of. The ancients said, "If you don't cut off love, you can't be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. If you didn't have heavy offenses, you wouldn't be born in the Saha World." If emotions and desires are not severed, it's impossible to end birth and death. The Shurangama Sutra says, "If lust is not cast out, one cannot leave the dust." It also says, "If living beings in the six paths have no lust in their minds. they will not continue in birth and death." The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment says, "One should know that transmigration is based upon love. Due to all kinds of desire, which help to generate love, birth and death are perpetuated." The Sutra of Li mi (less Life says in Chapter Forty-one, "Ending Delusion and Seeing the Buddha." "If there are living beings who plant wholesome roots and create great blessings, but who cling to marks and discriminations and have deep emotional attachments, they will ultimately fail in their attempts to escape transmigration." The Commentary on the Sutra of Limitless Life says, "Lust is the source of flowing in birth and death and the cause which brings us far away from liberation."
All the Sutras and commentarial literature seem to indicate that lust is the root of birth and death. The Venerable Master promoted education all his life, for he believed that virtuous people come from good marriages, and good marriages come from mutual fidelity and avoidance of adultery. These values must be instilled in children at a young age. We must educate them to have proper relationships and not indulge in promiscuity. This is an extremely critical issue. All the strange diseases and calamities in the world are caused by killing and lust. Although many people may not like to hear about or discuss this topic, the Master said, "Whatever you oppose the most, that's what I like to talk about most. Then the two of us will have business to do!" All his life the Venerable Master urged people to refrain from sexual misconduct and lust. Even the year that he passed away, he was still cautioning, "Lust is the foremost of all evils; don't walk that road to death"; "People are born from lust and die from lust. That's all there is to it"; "Boys should not look for a girlfriend before they reach twenty-five years of age. Girls should not look for a boyfriend until they are at least twenty." The Master spoke of the old-fashioned ways at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which has separate schools for boys and girls. This encourages people to behave themselves and to avoid promiscuity, abortions, and contraceptives. Lust is the major cause of degeneration in the world. The Master said,
Do people die for money? No. The desire for wealth is actually driven by lust. People go to their death on account of lust. The proverb that "people die for money" is a misnomer, but the Chinese people aren't willing to expose it. They know it's wrong, but they won't speak about it. They just want to fool themselves. But as it's said, ''Good medicine is bitter to the taste, but cures the illness. Honest words are hard on the ear, but can cause people to reform their behavior." I can't bear to see people catch AIDS, so I have to say this." He also said, 'If you can't put an end to lust and love, then even if you have left the home-life for 84,000 great eons. you're just wasting time within Buddhism and creating offenses with every meal you take.
Every day the newspapers are filled with reports of murder, robbery and theft, sexual misconduct, and perjury. Homicide and sexual misconduct are especially prevalent. The Master said, "In terms of the law of cause and effect, sexual misconduct is the most serious offense and carries the most severe punishment. According to the law of cause and effect, however many times a person engaged in sexual misconduct in his life, that's how many times he or she will be sawed from head to foot with a giant saw. If the person was married a hundred times, he or she will be divided a hundred times at death." In the Writings of Great Master Yinguang, the Great Master had some stem words to say:
"Those who engage in sexual misconduct are using human bodies to engage in the behavior of animals. When their lives come to an end, they will first fall into the hells and then be reborn in the animal realm, where they cannot escape for thousands of billions of eons. Since all living beings are born from lust, this precept is difficult to hold and easy to transgress."
"Those who engage in sexual misconduct have no modesty or shame. They are filthy and vile to the extreme. With human bodies, they act like animals. They have already become animals while still alive, and in their next life they will be born as animals... Those who engage in sexual misconduct will certainly give birth to children who do not preserve their chastity... Those who ruin their bodies through masturbation—even if they don't engage in sexual misconduct with others—will still fall into the great hells. When they come out of the hells, they may be born as sows or bitches. If born among people, they will become prostitutes..."
Some people may think the Patriarch's words are exaggerations or overcorrections of mistakes, but that is not the case. Living beings in the Dharma-Ending Age have done so much evil that if the corrections were not excessive, they wouldn't be effective. Have you not read "Teng Weng Gong," Part II, of Mencius ?. It states, "The times were bad and the Way was weak; deviant teachings and violent deeds prevailed. Ministers assassinated their lords, and sons murdered their fathers. Confucius was fearful and wrote the Spring and Autumn Annals." It can be seen that people's hearts were already quite degenerate in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods, how much the more in the present Dharma-Ending Age? The Patriarchs spoke that way for a reason; we ought not doubt or speculate 'about it. As Lao Zip said, 'True words seem paradoxical."
Someone may say, "People are creatures of emotion. [The desires for] food and sex are part of their nature." That's the very reason we must cultivate! The Sutra in Forty-two Sections Spoken by the Buddha says, "Think of elderly women as your mothers, of those who are older than you as your older sisters, of those who are younger as your younger sisters, and of very young girls as your daughters. Bring forth thoughts to rescue them, and put an end to bad thoughts." This passage is not telling you to hate people, but to realize the Middle Way which is to neither love nor hate; to practice the Middle Way of regarding friends and foes in the same light and seeing men and women in equal terms.
Part Six: Prajna
Many of the answers the Venerable Master gave to people's questions have .been recorded. Whenever the Master answered people's questions, his answer would always be a "wild card" that took people by surprise, filling them with Dharma joy and making them clap and cheer. The Master's humorous answers always carried hidden Chan meanings that gave the questioner a timely blow on the head and pointed straight to the mind. A quote from the Sixth Patriarch Sutra, Chapter Eight. "Sudden and Gradual", sheds light on the Master's Prajna humor: "Those who see their own nature can establish dharmas in their minds or not establish them as they choose. They come and go freely, without impediments or obstacles. They function correctly and speak appropriately, seeing all transformation bodies as integral with the self-nature. That is precisely the way they obtain independence, spiritual powers, and the samadhi of playfulness. This is what is called seeing the nature."
The meaning of the passage is that enlightened people, who have truly understood their own minds, can set up methods or not set them up, as they wish. They can come and go whenever they wish. without obstructions. This indicates freedom over birth and death. If someone asks them a question, they can answer without thinking, but their answers have principle and are not nonsensical. At that point, their transformation bodies are everywhere, and yet are not apart from their own nature. At all times and places, they contemplate at ease and have the five eyes and six spiritual powers. Those who have seen their natures are able to answer questions as soon as they are asked, and yet they never answer wrongly or lead people astray. Below are some answers the Master's gave to questions asked by the faithful.
Q: How can we end birth and death?
A: Eat, wear clothes, and sleep.
The Venerable Master wasn't joking. Actually, "In every move you make, watch over yourself. Whether moving or still, asleep or awake, don't wander away from home." The ordinary state of mind is the Way!
Q: Can we bow to a Buddha image which has not been "inaugurated"? A: If you have no attachments in your mind, the Buddha image is always inaugurated. If you are attached, then even if it's inaugurated. it's the same as not being inaugurated.
Q: If we 're supposed to recite the Great Compassion Mantra 108 times a day, how many times should we recite the Shurangama Mantra? A: 1800 times.
Q: How can we prevent earthquakes?
A: If people don't get mad, there won't be any earthquakes.
Q: What Sutra or mantra should we recite that will make it easiest for us to attain Buddhahood?
A: Recite the Sutra of not getting mad, the Sutra of not scolding others. and the Sutra of not losing your temper. With these three Sutras, you will very quickly attain Buddhahood!
Q: How can I get rid of lust?
A: If you don't think about it, you've gotten rid of it. If you keep thinking about it, how can you get rid of it? As soon as the thought arises, be aware of it. Once you're aware of it, it's gone.
Q: Dharma Master, where will you go after you pass away? A: Nowhere!
Actually the Master had already attained freedom over birth and death, so he had ''no coming and no going." That's why he had nowhere to go. The Master said many times, "Life and death don't make any difference to me." "I can live if ( want to live, and die if I want to die. I am free to choose life or death." "I regard death and life as the same. There isn't any difference. I can forget myself for the sake of the Dharma. This is the basic duty of a Buddhist disciple."
Q: How can I break through attachments and false thinking?
A: Who gave you attachments? Who gave you false thinking?
Q: What does it mean, "You should produce the mind which is nowhere attached"?
A: Where is your mind? First tell me that.
Q: How can one leave the Triple Realm and enter the door of liberation?
A: Once you're no longer in the Triple Realm, you've left the Triple Realm.
Q: Where did Guanshiyin Bodhisattva come from?
A: Why don't you ask yourself where you came from?
Q: Are people afraid of ghosts, or are ghosts afraid of people?
A: If you have ghosts in your heart, then people are afraid of ghosts. If there are no ghosts in your heart, then ghosts are afraid of people.
Q: How should laypeople practice "not lying down to sleep" (bu dao dan)?
A: Laypeople should first practice "not stirring up mischief (bu dao dan)!
Q: How can we bring the Buddhadharma into our daily lives?
A: By not contending, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying.
Q: How should we deal with rebirth?
A: Why do you want to be reborn? You're carrying so much garbage and stuff around; how could you possibly go?
Q: Is it a good idea for Buddhists to donate their organs after death?
A: Donating organs after death is not as good as donating them while you're still alive—then it's for real! If you don't donate them until you're dead and can't use them anymore, what's the use? As it's said, "Don't give to others what you yourself don't want."
Organ donation has been a topic of hot debate in recent years, and people are not in agreement. The Venerable Master is unique in his view that if one can give up one's organs while still alive (being able to endure the pain), then it won't be any problem to donate them right before death. So he maintains that one need not wait until the point of death to donate one's organs (at that time no one can be sure they will not regret their decision because of the excessive pain). The Master also thought that one who truly cultivates the Bodhisattva path should "give what they themselves would like to others."
Someone once said to the Master, ''When I see the Master leaning on a cane because he has taken so much karma for living beings, I feel very bad. Will the Master please be compassionate and stay in the world for a long time?" The Master immediately threw down his cane, drawing a round of applause, and said, "Do you still feel bad'?" This is an instance of the Master's wonderful Prajna which, ''in the midst of appearances. sweeps away all appearances." Isn't it fascinating?
Throughout his life, the Master emphasized "not losing one's temper" and "cultivating forbearance," because "the Buddhadharma is not apart from the world. To seek Bodhi apart from the world is like looking for a hare with horns." The Master said,
You can eradicate disasters only if you don't get afflicted. You can lengthen life only if you don't lose your temper.
If a person never loses his temper, all his karmic obstacles can be cancelled.
The Master also composed two very interesting mantras:
Patience! Patience! Gotta have patience! Don't get angry, suo po he.
If you never get mad,
You can escape all illnesses.
Mf A wonderful cure-all medicine?nbsp;
Set up on a high shelf and forgotten!
Suo po he.
When the Master returned to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas wearing a veil over his face (for a detailed account see Vajra Bodhi Sea issue 275), one of his disciples couldn't bear to see it and went up and ripped the veil from the Master's face. The Master humorously remarked,
If you pull off my veil, I can put on another one. I've prepared five of them. I have a green one, a yellow one, a red one, a white one, and a black one—five veils!
On the surface it doesn't seem like much, but actually this was not a casual incident. I believe it is an instance of the Master's Prajna of teaching by example. Ripping away the veil represents "smashing through all appearances" and rediscovering our original face. The five colors represent the five skandhas. He was testing his disciples to see if they could destroy the five skandhas and produce the mind that does not dwell in form—equivalent to breaking through the three barriers in the Chan school. As it's said, "Seeing things and understanding them, one transcends the world. Seeing things and becoming confused, one sinks and falls." Have any of us awakened yet?
If you read the Master's replies and instructional talks with careful attention, it will be easy for your inherent wisdom to come forth, for "general words and detailed explanations all express the ultimate truth." As the Master often said,
Don't believe in me, and don't believe in the Buddha. Believe in your own wisdom. Discover the Prajna of your own nature, and then you'll obtain the Dharma-Selecting Vision. If it's the Way, then go forward. If it's not, then retreat from it. Don't put on your hat thinking it's your shoe.
Part Seven: Miracles
What are spiritual penetrations? "Unfathomable transformations are 'spirit'; the absence of restrictions and impediments is 'penetration."' It is the ability to cause others not to be able to figure one out, and at the same time to be able to do whatever one wishes without hindrance. The Master also said, "Wondrous functionings that are hard to fathom are 'spirit'; freedom and ease without obstruction is 'penetration."' Those who have genuinely attained spiritual penetrations have the five eyes and six penetrations. In Buddhism, the five eyes and six penetrations are states of Prajna which naturally manifest as one cultivates nonoutflows and advances toward enlightenment; they are not considered anything extraordinary. The only difference is whether one's views are proper or not. One should take care to uphold the precepts purely and to guard against greed, so as not to stray onto wrong paths.
Actually, spiritual penetrations are simply penetrations of one's own nature. Everyone is inherently endowed with the Buddha nature, and also with the five eyes and six penetrations. It's just that they've been covered over by ignorance and afflictions. Of course -when the Buddha was in the world, he warned everyone that it was not permissible to casually show off one's spiritual penetrations, but he didn't prohibit people from revealing them altogether. lf Bodhisattvas who have spiritual penetrations didn't manifest them to expediently teach and transform living beings, what would they be good for? The Buddha only feared that people would "casually" show off their powers, or use them to cheat others or lead them into demonic states (as is clearly described in the "Fifty Skandha-demons" section of the Shurangama Sutra). As that section of the Sutra says. "If one doesn't think one is a sage, it is a good state. If one interprets it as sagehood, one will be overcome by the deviant hordes." This is a very important sentence.
Many people are under the impression that the Master was someone who showed off his spiritual powers. The miraculous events in the Master's life are too many to count. I will mention three incidents for everyone to consider. Whether or not you believe them is up to you. Everyone probably has heard these three famous lines of the Master:
As long as I'm in Hong Kong, I won't permit a typhoon to hit Hong Kong.
As long as I'm in San Francisco, I won't permit San Francisco to have an earthquake.
As long as I'm here, I won't permit the Dharma's demise to occur.
If we examine these three statements closely, we should realize that the words "I won't permit" indicate not "spiritual penetrations," but rather the compassionate vows of a Great Vehicle Bodhisattva. Didn't Earth Store Bodhisattva say, "As long as the hells are not empty, I vow not to become a Buddha"? Who could know how much blood, sweat, and tears has gone into fulfilling that vow? Furthermore, since the Master strictly kept the precept against lying through his life, his words naturally have an extraordinary effect. The Master once said, "Not lying is the most efficacious mantra." Truly, it is a most magical Dharma door.
As for earthquakes in San Francisco, aside from the great earthquake which occurred on October 17, 1989 (when the Master was in Taiwan), since 1968 until the present San Francisco has not experienced any other major earthquake. The Master modestly commented,
I can't do much about big matters, but little things like earthquakes I can deal with.
Of course there have been very minor earthquakes, but those which haven't caused any harm don't count. If I didn't have something to rely upon, if it weren't for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions as well as the gods and dragons and the rest of the eightfold division who protect my Dharma, how could I have dared to make such a prophecy?
There was another incident related in an article in issue 437 of Bodhi Tree magazine, entitled "Some Thoughts on the Third Visit to Malaysia of a Delegation from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the Dharma Realm Buddhist University." The article was written by Dharma Master Jingguan, a senior disciple of Elder Master Guanghua, who has especially studied the Vajra Sutra and has gained special insight into the phrases, "All appearances are false," and "One should produce the mind which is nowhere attached." In his article, the Dharma Master mentions that the Venerable Master cured his nose cancer, which he had suffered for many years, and his "dry throat disease." At the end of the article he relates that when he was sleeping in a reclining position in his room, he suddenly felt as if he were pinched between two huge feet, and in space he heard the Master's voice saying, "Now when was it that you said you wanted to return to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas with me to cultivate? How come you're sleeping so much?" When the Dharma Master awoke, he said,
The Sutras say that the Buddha has a sixty-foot tall golden body. Today I saw the Master appearing to be that height, dazzling with golden light, tall and gigantic... Was it a dream? An illusion? But it's very clear in my mind, and my head is still reeling. Basically "the true meaning cannot be verbally transmitted", it is ineffable and inexpressible, so why do I speak? "It's easy to see the rare udumhara blossom, but it's hard to meet a good and wise teacher." For that reason, I have frankly related what is basically an inexpressible response. The "true meaning" must be left for the reader to experience for himself.
The final incident happened in 1984 when the Venerable Master was propagating the Dharma in Singapore. Before the Master left the U.S., he had promised a woman in San Francisco that he would go to take a look at her house. But after making that promise, the Master left for Singapore on a Dharma tour. Yet, on the day the Master had made an appointment with them. the woman's two children, aged five and six, actually saw the Master go to their house and look around. So Dharma Master Heng Gung said.
Our Venerable Master's virtue is extremely profound. Those who haven't been around him wouldn't know this. Do you know why we place this empty seat in the middle? It's because no one knows where the Master is. Also, we're all a little nervous and afraid to be sitting up here.
That Dharma Master also mentioned that when Dharma Masters Heng Sure and Heng Chau were making their three-steps-one-bow pilgrimage, the American policemen would often approach them and say, "I saw three of you bowing yesterday. One was an older Chinese man bowing behind you two. How come he's not here today?"
I don't know whether people believe these three incidents mentioned above, in which the Master gave people the feeling that he had spiritual penetrations. The Flower Adornment Sutra says it well in Chapter 17. "The Merit and Virtue of First Bringing Forth the Resolve," "Dwelling in the ultimate path of the One Vehicle, he deeply enters the wondrous, supreme Dharma. Understanding well when living beings are ready and when they aren't, he manifests spiritual penetrations to benefit them." I have read and listened to all of the Venerable Master's instructional talks and tapes, and I haven't come across any instance where the Master admitted that he possessed spiritual penetrations. The Master said,
Spiritual penetrations are merely another name for wisdom. If you have wisdom, you'll naturally be able to see the entire universe as if it were an amala fruit in the palm of your hand.
In Buddhism, spiritual penetrations are just the frills; they aren't the main thing. Anyone who emphasizes spiritual penetrations is absolutely ignorant.
I'll tell you frankly, I don't have spiritual penetrations; I don't even have ghostly penetrations. Such exaggerated claims are not something that I like.
People who understand the Buddhadharma should concentrate on not contending, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying. If you seek the five eyes and six spiritual powers or stuff like that, you're just "searching for fish in a tree."
The fact that the Master had spiritual penetrations was actually revealed by the Venerable Guangqin. On June 8, 1980, the Master sent two disciples to visit the Venerable. That evening the Venerable asked them, "Your teacher has extraordinary spiritual penetrations. Does he ordinarily teach you all spiritual penetrations?"
The two disciples replied, "Spiritual penetrations cannot be taught. They naturally occur when one has cultivated to a certain level. Moreover, spiritual penetrations cannot help one end birth and death. They are not the ultimate goal that Buddhists aim for."
From the Venerable Guangqin's mention of the Master's spiritual penetrations, it can be inferred that the Master actually possessed them.
If all you know about the Venerable Master is his spiritual penetrations, then that's really a pity; it could be said that you are not a true disciple of the Master. The Master as I knew him was not someone who merely had the five eyes and six spiritual penetrations, but a genuinely compassionate and selfless elder. In the spring of 1993, when the Master returned to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas wearing a face veil out of shame because his disciples had violated the City's traditions, he actually said, "I'm wearing a veil, I can't see clearly!" And later, on account of this, the Master "accidentally" beat the "wrong" person.
And so I consider the Master to be a teacher who uses his cane to beat himself, who confiscates and begs for other people's bad tempers, who fasts to pray for world peace and an end to war, who goes everywhere speaking the Dharma even in a wheelchair, and who kowtows to living beings every day. He is a great Bodhisattva cultivator who "spares no blood or sweat, and never pauses to rest."
If a Buddhist only cares about whether or not his teacher has supernatural abilities, but doesn't recognize his teacher's compassionate spirit of teaching living beings, then he really has his priorities mixed up and is not a true disciple of the Buddha.
Part Eight: Passing Into Stillness
On December 4, 1994, when the Master was sent to the hospital for over-exhaustion, he said,
I want to tell you what to do after I'm gone. All of you should prepare yourselves psychologically. I may depart at any time. Nothing is fixed... Every person has a time for coming and a time for going. Don't be sad. Act the same way that you do in ordinary times.
After the sincere and repeated pleas of the fourfold assembly of disciples, the Master stayed in the world for another six months. When the Master had suffered to the ultimate in bearing the karma of living beings, he said,
"I wouldn't even lift a finger to help myself as I lie on this bed."
"I'm like two people right now. One is still going about saving living beings. But as for this person here, I won't pay any attention to him. I won't help myself."
Alas for living beings' scarce blessings! The Master still entered the stillness at 3:15 p.m. on June 7. 1995. The ninth patriarch of the Weiyang Sect entered Nirvana, and the heir of Venerable Hsu Yun became part of Buddhist history.
Some people wonder why, having such lofty achievement, the Master manifested illness before he passed away. Actually the answer is very simple. All the eminent and great monks through the generations have had their reasons for manifesting certain conditions before they die. As recounted in the Sixth Patriarch Sutra, when the Sixth Patriarch was still alive there were people who wanted to kill turn: after he died someone wanted to chop off his head and take it home to make offerings to it. When Patriarch Bodhidharma went to China, six attempts were made to poison and kill him. The Twenty-fourth Indian Patriarch, Aryasimha, was beheaded by imperial order. Before Great Master Hsuan Tsang died, he tripped and fell, then became ill and was confined to his bed. He remarked, "All my afflictions, emotions, and evil karma from beginningless time. by virtue of this slight illness, are now obliterated. I should therefore be happy." His teacher. Venerable Shilabhadra, master of debate, became seriously ill in his old age and was in so much in pain that he wanted to commit suicide. Later Guanshiyin Bodhisattva came to him in a dream and said, "In the past you were a king who brought great suffering upon living beings. That's why you have received this retribution." Guanshiyin Bodhisattva advised him, "Sincerely repent, patiently endure the suffering, and diligently expound the Sutras and treatises, and then your offenses will naturally be wiped out." Before the Master passed into stillness. he also composed a verse regarding his sickness:
I linger on, breathing with difficulty as I live out the remainder of my life.
Embroiled in the sufferings of old age and disease.
Every day I take my meals as if I were swallowing poison.
At night I lie on the sickbed like a stiff worm.
I often run into the ghosts of impermanence in my dreams;
But when I wake up, I can't find a god who can save me.
Don't you know that life passes in the space of a breath?
Hurry back to the city of pure and ultimate bliss!
Up to the time of his passing, on June 7, the Master's health showed no improvement. Nor were there any auspicious portents or miracles. In that way. without leaving any traces, he embodied the Dharma of causes and conditions: formation, dwelling, decay, and emptiness: and birth, old age. sickness and death. The Master healed the sicknesses of countless living beings during his lifetime, yet he paid no attention to his own sickness. He chose the most painful way to go—dying of sickness.
We know that Dhyana Master Mazu Daoyi had great spiritual penetrations and saved countless people. His influence spread throughout the country. He had 84 great disciples, and yet he himself was constantly ill. When we think of the Bodhisattva spirit of these great masters, we are moved to endless praise!
Then there was the Venerable Hsu Yun, who lived to be 120 and was a heroic personage in the Chan School. His life included ten ordeals, forty-eight rare events and countless miracles. When he was 112, he was sold by his disciples, and robbed and tortured by Communist officials. He died and revived several times, after being beaten with a metal club until lie was bleeding and his bones and tendons were broken.
Great Master Hanshan Zibo. who left behind an undecaying flesh body. also underwent harsh torture and died from a tumor on his back. Venerable Guangqin, an eminent monk of his time, also manifested illness in 1978, and a Dhanna Master in his temple said, "The Venerable One said that he would manifest illness when he died, because there's so much suffering in the Saha World, how could he bear to waste his time?" Venerable Guangqin was right. "There's so much suffering in the Saha World, how could we bear to waste our time here?"
Someone once asked Venerable Guangqin. "if someone has very high attainment in cultivation, and yet dies in sickness or from an accident, is it because of his fixed karma, which is difficult to avert?" The Venerable One said, "You could say it's his fixed karma which is hard to avert, but you could also see him as repaying karmic debts. Only someone with attainment in cultivation will encounter this kind of suffering and tribulation. It is precisely the merit and virtue from his cultivation which allows him to settle everything once and for all this time." There are a few verses about the Venerable Master that I feel are worth savoring and which contain profound meaning, so I have quoted them below:
The old monk came in leisure, with nothing to do. He played hide-and-go-seek and lay on the sickbed.
In viewing existence, contemplate emptiness: emptiness is not empty. In diagnosing the illness, one seeks the source: the source is not the source.
These lines clearly give explain the Master's manifestation of illness. As I said before, the patriarchs and great masters have all had their causes and conditions in teaching living beings in the Saha World. We should evaluate a person's accomplishments by considering his lifelong practice of the Bodhisattva path, his compassion in saving living beings, and his contributions to Buddhism. We should not judge a person solely on miracles or auspicious omens. After the Venerable Master's cremation, over 10,000 pieces of sharira were found (including sharira clusters and twelve teeth sharira), in a range of colors, including white, brown, green, blue. black, and purple. There were many sharira formed on the bones, gleaming like jade. extremely rare. This shows the Venerable Master's inconceivable merit accrued from giving over 10,000 lectures on the Sutras and from never telling a lie in his entire life.
Part Nine: Conclusion
Patriarch Bodhidharma, undaunted by the distance, took the Buddhadharma from India to China, where it later flourished. Venerable Master Hsuan Hua made a vow early on to bring the Dharma to Europe and America, where it could guide more people to sail toward the other shore of wisdom. When the Master was in America, he made three great vows:
1. To emphasize ethics and virtue in education, and to promote education as a volunteer effort.
2. To translate the Buddhist canon into every language, and to establish a Translation Institute.
3. To facilitate communication and unity between the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions; to unite the Great and Small Vehicles.
The Master considered education to be of equal importance with the propagation of Dharma. Students at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas have to memorize "The Rules for Being a Student" and the "Three Character Classic." The Venerable Master could be considered the first person to advocate volunteer education in the West He -.actively sought out volunteer teachers in order to foster a lofty standard of both academic and ethical excellence. The Master made the vow to oversee the translation of the Buddhist canon into all languages at the time he left the home-life. He could be considered the third monk, after Dharma Masters Hsuan Tsang and Jianzhen, who has made this vow. Over 130 volumes of English translations of Buddhist texts have already been translated; translations into other languages such as French, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Indonesian are now in progress. The Master also put vigorous effort into uniting the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions:
The northern and the southern traditions both aim to help living beings make the Boddhi resolve, end birth and death, and leave suffering and attain bliss. Therefore, the northern and southern traditions of Buddhism should communicate among themselves and consider themselves one entity. It shouldn't be that you do your thing and I do mine, so that the strength of Buddhism gets all scattered.
Anyone who tries to cause dissension within Buddhism is not a Buddhist disciple. Don't speak of Great Vehicle and Small Vehicle: there isn't even a single vehicle! Our selfishness, our willingness to harm others and help ourselves, and our wanting to praise ourselves and slander others—these are the causes that lead lo wars.
The Master once spoke in self-reproach of the division between the Mahayana and Theravada:
I too am guilty in Buddhism. Why? Because I haven't fulfilled my responsibility. I haven't succeeded in closing the gap between the northern and southern traditions. If the northern and southern traditions reject each other and each raises its flag and applies effort only on the surface of things, how can Buddhism ever be in unity?
Many exchanges between the Mahayana and Theravada traditions have taken place at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, opening a new page in the history of Western Buddhism.
The Master said that he came all alone from Asia, thousands of miles away, to America this foreign land where there was no Buddhadharma whatsoever, in order to bring the Proper Dharma to the West. Today, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has become the major Way-place in the West, and various branches have been established. The Master led his disciples of various nationalities to propagate the Proper Dharma and to work to bring people of all religions into unity. The Master walked this long road with footsteps of incomparable steadfastness. The Master's wish is that all living beings will attain Buddhahood before he himself does. He wants to help all living beings leave suffering and attain bliss, regain their true wisdom, and obtain freedom and liberation. The Master said in a talk:
I'm just a little ant who wishes to crawl beneath the feet of all Buddhists. I'm a road, and I hope all living beings will travel on me and go from the stage of common people to the stage of Buddhas. If any of my disciples fall into the hells, I wish to take their place. I vow that those who see me or hear my voice, or who merely hear of my name, will all quickly become Buddhas. I'm willing to stay in the Saha World and wait until all of you have become Buddhas.
The Master's lifelong contributions to Buddhism are like empty space, how could this article fully describe them all? He has left behind countless Dharma treasures for us, so we must all vigorously cultivate from now on, following the Six Great Principles. Only then can we repay the Master's efforts and hope that the Master will soon return, following his vows, to save living beings.