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The Venerable Master As I Knew Him

He was the happiest person I have ever known.

By Kuo Ts'an

It is difficult to write about someone as special as the Master. The boundaries that limit most of us did not exist for him. His heart reached out and gathered in everyone — the wealthy, the poor, leaders of nations, common citizens, children, the elderly, Buddhists, Christians, Moslenms, Jews, Asians, Americans, Europeans. He saw through all of the differences that come between us, deeply understood us all, and used every ounce of his energy to bring the Buddha’s teachings into our hearts and expand the capacity of our minds.

Yet, to me, the most miraculous quality of the Master was his simplicity and ordinariness. All that he accomplished was done without any pretense on his part. He was always one of us. He conducted himself as an ordinary human being; never drawing attention to himself as being special or better that others. He never asked anyone to believe in him, but he did encourage us to believe in ourselves. Isn’t that the most amazing thing of all, that ordinary living beings can become Buddhas?

In the over twenty years that I have been lucky enough to be his disciple, I have watched the Master forget himself completely for the sake of the Dharma and give of himself endlessly to help others. He never neglected even the tiniest thing he could do to help others, and always refused to take even a moment for himself. Yet, he was the happiest person I have ever known. It is his joy in the Dharma and his unfailing sense of humor that I treasure most in difficult times. I only pray that we can see through the illusory differences we put between ourselves and others, and repay the Master’s kindness by working together and delighting in the joy of the Dharma.


I heard him speak of pulling weeds in the street,

Of cleaning toilets with his bare hands,

Of doing what others could not do.

Not just once -- many times


I saw him get out of the car after traveling for hours,

And not stop to rest even for a moment,

Before coming to speak the Dharma.

Not just once -- many times


I watched him give away whatever he could to others --

Food, clothing, happiness,

Even the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
    he gave to all living beings

He gave whatever made others happy,

Not just once -- many times


I got to be there when he made big problems seem small,

And little problems disappear,

Sometimes only with a smile or a few words,

Not just once -- many times


I watched him bring people together that others

    swore could not get along,

East and West, North and South,

And they worked together.

Not just once -- many times


I saw his great compassion move people to

    completely change their lives.

Turn from the improper to the proper,

From the small to the great.

Not just once -- many times


But I never saw him do anything out of selfishness,

Or forget others to protect himself,

Or act in any way for personal gain.

Not even once -- never.