In Memory of the
Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

The beneficial shade from his tree of teaching
extended thousands of miles and comforted
my restlessness and uncertainty

By Gary McMillen

Deep roots make a tall and sturdy tree.
The cool shade is all-encompassing.

It was my good fortune to receive the guidance and protection of Master Hua even though I never met him personally. The beneficial shade from his tree of teaching extended thousands of miles and comforted my restlessness and uncertainty.

My story is small and insignificant. I am an American layperson who is at the Beginner-Kindergarten level of Buddhism. Living in New Orleans, Louisiana, I attend services in a Chinese home-temple. The Sangha is very friendly, patient, and helpful to me. It was through this spirit of giving in the association that I began to receive newsletters, magazines, and tapes from the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

I was touched immediately by the clarity and directness of Master Hua. Even though he could not see me, I felt he was able to see through me. Constant and perpetual--Master Hua's wisdom-message caught my attention and kept knocking on the door of my muddled and unsettled mind. Even in death he does not go away.

The monk who cultivated by his mother's grave taught me three universal lessons:

1. There is no more time to waste. To delay one day is to delay one year. Keep death on both eyebrows, and my life will not be wasted.

2. Leave the academic and intellectual discussion of Buddhism to others who are better suited or more inclined. What counts is action. Bodhi resolve and lofty aspirations are good-sounding terms but somebody better be cooking the rice and sweeping the floor. A cultivator's practice is not some mysterious quality. Practice is normal, routine, direct, pragmatic, and uncomplicated. Good practice means that your knees hurt. Master Hua opened my understanding to the importance of staying grounded on Earth and not flying, unnecessarily, off to Heaven.

3. The contemporary world today is upside-down and totally unbalanced. The only way we can remain undistracted and stay on the path is to have rules that we believe will work for us. There are ancient solutions to modern problems. The way to see our way through this "new age" modern mess is to respect, preserve, and honor the ancient and traditional teachings. Master Hua clearly gave us those rules to live by. That was his effort. Our job is to follow and obey the rules.

The Master's death should not be alarming. Actually you could say that he died many times for us during the course of his lifetime. Each time he let go of some attachment, or seeking, or some piece of selfishness, he died a little. Think of how many small deaths he incurred that brought him closer, each time, to the root of his tranquility. From this deep, natural peacefulness the seeds of his teaching could sprout, flourish, and propagate. Everything arises, returns, and is returned.


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