Events in the Life of the Venerable Master Hua


When I was nineteen and still a novice, many people in Manchuria wanted to take refuge with me. Why? They saw that I was different from ordinary people. I walked barefoot in the snow in wintertime, and I wore only three layers of cloth all year round and never wore padded clothing. People saw that I could do this without freezing even when the temperature dropped to 34 or 35 degrees below zero, and so they wanted to take refuge with me.

I didn't want to accept them as disciples, but they were extremely sincere and knelt in front of me for several hours without getting up. I remember a non-Buddhist teacher named Guan Zhongxi who lived by Beiyin River in Manchuria. He had large knees characteristic of people living near the mountains. His religion was called the Shouyuan Sect, and he had over three thousand disciples. One had to pay a considerable sum to join his religion. Why was that? He had hundreds of treasures for sale at a thousand dollars each. What kind of treasures were they? The treasures existed in name only, and he would explain, "The time is not right and so I can't give them to you now. When the time comes, the world will change and you will have your treasures." His three or four thousand disciples all had great faith in him. He was over fifty years old then.

Later, he knew that he could not rely on his business of cheating people. He didn't have any treasures to protect his own life. Knowing that the time of his own death was approaching, he was afraid that without understanding how to cultivate the Way, he would die in panic and confusion. Therefore, he went to pay visits all around. Whenever he heard that a person had attained the Way, he would call on that person no matter how far away he was, and request instruction on cultivating the Way.

Taking his nephew Guan Zhanhai with him, he went around visiting for three years. His surname Guan is the same as that of the warrior Lord Guan, so he is probably Lord Guan's descendant. After three years, he still had not discovered the Way, and was very anxious. Every day he thought, "Alas, death is upon me, and I still don't understand how to cultivate. This is terrible!" His nephew planned to remain single and follow him to cultivate. So the two of them became fanatics of the Way.

One day, I went to his home. Strange to say, before I went there, Guan Zhanhai had a dream. In his dream, I had already come to his home and was sitting on his brick bed. He knelt in front of me and begged me to teach him to cultivate the Way. In the dream, he saw me peel a layer of skin from his body, tearing it off with both hands and throwing it on the ground. It was the skin of a pig. He thought, "How could I have a layer of pig skin on my body?" In the dream, he heard me say, "You aren't vegetarian, and you eat pork. In the future you will have a pig skin on your back." He was scared stiff and said to me, "Oh no! Pigs are filthy and useless!" Then he woke up.

When I showed up at his house the next day, the nephew asked his uncle, "Do you recognize that monk?" His uncle said, "Yes, I knew him before he practiced filial piety beside the grave." Then the nephew said, "Last night I dreamed that this person came to our house, and now he is actually here."
His uncle was excited. "Really?" he said. "What did you dream?" After he related the dream, his uncle said, "This person has the Way and he has brought it to our house. The two of us must certainly seek the Way from him." After talking, they went into the room where I was sitting, closed the door, and knelt before me to request the Way.
"Have you both gone insane? I said. "What do you want from me? I'm just the same as you. I don't understand the Way."

"We know you cultivate filial piety," they said. The uncle, who knew that I had cultivated filial piety beside my mother's grave, had wanted to meet me, but had never found the time. He said, "We know you have brought the Way to our home, for my nephew had a dream last night. In the dream, you peeled a pig skin off his body."
"You're confused," I said. "He's not a pig. How could I peel a pig skin off him?"
"But it's true," he said, "and no matter what, you have to teach us how to cultivate!"
"I can't teach you to cultivate, but if you want to find a teacher, I can help you look."
"We've looked everywhere, but we haven't found one. Wherever we go it's always the same. They all have a big reputation, but no genuine skill."
"I can take you around," I said. They had wanted to bow to me as their teacher, but I didn't know if they really had faith in me. I never did anything casually.

I took them to meet Great Master Chang Ren and many other great cultivators. But after meeting with them, they were always dissatisfied. After sending them everywhere for two years, they still insisted on taking me as their teacher. But I was still a novice monk and did not want to take disciples. Finally, they knelt before me and refused to get up. "It's useless to talk about whether or not I have the Way," I said. "First learn to sit in full lotus and then I will teach you."

Then I taught them to sit in lotus posture. I instructed them to sit with their backs erect, not leaning to the front or back, or letting the head droop, but sitting with determination and resolve. They practiced sitting every day. The nephew had no trouble, but the uncle's bones were old and he had big kneecaps, which stuck up about fifteen inches in the air when he tried to sit cross-legged. But the uncle kept trying. He pushed his knees down over and over. When I returned after seventy days, I noticed that his knees were swollen. They were so sore, in fact, that he couldn't even step over a cart rut.

"You shouldn't sit in full lotus," I told him. "Are you still practicing?"
"I am," said the uncle. "My knees are swollen, but I can sit in full lotus."
"You shouldn't continue," I told him. "You won't be able to bear it."
"What do you mean?" said the uncle. "I'm about to die and if I don't practice now, what will I do then? No matter what, I'm going to practice meditation. If I die, that's another matter, but as long as I'm still alive, I'm going to practice."
"Do what you like," I said, and left. When I returned a hundred days later, I noticed that the uncle's legs were no longer swollen. "You're not still sitting, are you?" I asked.

Guan Zhongxi smiled. "I can sit in full lotus," he said, "and no matter how long I sit, it doesn't hurt and my legs don't swell." Then I taught him how to apply effort in meditation. The uncle was incredibly happy and sat in meditation every day. After cultivating for three years, about three months before his death, he gathered his family together and said, "On such and such a day, at such and such a time, I'm going to leave; I'm going to die. The only wish I have is to see my teacher once again. But I don't know where he is now, and so I cannot see him." Then on the appointed day, he sat upright in full lotus, and without any illness, he died. That evening, many of the villagers had the same dream; they dreamed that they saw the uncle accompanied by two youths in dark robes, being taken to the West.

The uncle, originally a non-Buddhist, later studied the Proper Dharma and cultivated without fear of pain or suffering. Even if he died, he wanted to practice meditation, and so eventually he had some accomplishment. If he had stopped practicing when his legs swelled up, I don't think he would have accomplished what he did. Cultivators have to suffer for a time before they can realize infinite happiness. If you can't bear suffering temporarily, you can't attain eternal bliss. Guan Zhongxi is a good model for all of us. If we wish to obtain true samadhi and wisdom, to obtain eternal bliss, we must first undergo a period of suffering.

Well, the nephew didn't die, and one day as we were walking down the road, he suddenly knelt, clutched my sleeve, and begged to become a disciple. I said, "I have no cultivation. What's the point of taking refuge with me?" He said, "I'm determined to take refuge with you, no matter what." I brushed him off and left. After walking about a mile, I turned around and saw the boy still kneeling. I returned and saw that he was crying, and so I felt compelled to accept him as a disciple. He was my first disciple. He was truly filial and always thinking of his teacher.

Later I made a vow, because while I had no virtue and was not worthy of being a teacher of others, there were people who sincerely requested to take refuge with me. My vow was neither great nor small. I vowed that if any being who has taken refuge with me--whether human or nonhuman, or a god, dragon, or member of the eightfold division--has not become a Buddha, I will not become a Buddha. I will wait for him or her.

This shows my sincerity towards my disciples. How they treat me after taking refuge is of no concern to me. In general, if you practice in accord with the teachings, you will definitely have the chance to become a Buddha. Why did I make such a vow? I feel that if someone takes refuge with me and I fail to help him realize Buddhahood, I have not done my job and am not worthy to be his teacher; I am not even fit to be his disciple.

Today I have told you the reasons I made this vow. After you take refuge with me, you must certainly advance vigorously in your practice. Don't be lax and lazy. Change your faults, reform yourselves, and proceed forward on the Bodhi path. If you fail to cultivate, you will delay your teacher from attaining Buddhahood.

After I failed to start a revolution in my youth, I left the home-life and later went around curing people's illnesses. Although I had studied the texts on Chinese medicine, I didn't use my medical knowledge to cure disease. I relied instead on the Shurangama Mantra and the Great Compassion Mantra. I used the Forty-two Hands and Eyes in the Great Compassion Mantra and the thirty-two dharmas in the Shurangama Mantra to subdue the heavenly demons and those of outside ways. I used the power of samadhi to capture and overcome those demonic and weird creatures. In this life alone, I have encountered countless demonic beings who transformationally appear in human form. When most people hear this, they don't believe it because they aren't aware of these strange and mysterious phenomena.

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