Events in the Life of the Venerable Master Hua


I remember there was a time in Manchuria when the Japanese had surrendered, but the Nationalist government had not officially taken power in Harbin, nor had the Communist party completely occupied Manchuria. Many demons, ghosts, and weird creatures appeared in the world at that time. These demonic beings had remained in hiding and had not dared to be so wild when we had a government. But during the period when we had no government, these demonic beings all came out of hiding. I remember one of the most important demons I met at that time was a several thousand year old demon. I will tell you her story now, but don't be afraid. She doesn't harm people anymore.

It is said that this big demon leader was a ghost in the Zhou dynasty, which was several thousand years ago. Since I haven't studied history very thoroughly, I'm not sure if it was three or four thousand years ago. This "As-you-will Demon Woman" did nothing but harm people back in the Zhou dynasty. She did things that transgressed the laws of heaven. Later a person who had spiritual powers shattered her with thunder, but didn't completely destroy her.

She had been a ghost before, but then she cultivated and gathered her scattered energy and spirit back together, perfected her demonic skills, and turned into a demon that was invulnerable to thunder. In the interval when there was no government, she went around causing trouble and taking people's lives, because she wanted to increase her power and the power of her retinue. Each time she caused a person's death, the other demons would congratulate her: "You're really powerful!" It's similar to how other officials act toward an official who has just been promoted. A demon's power increases with the number of people it kills, until even ghosts have to follow its orders.

The "As-you-will Demon Woman" had killed ninety-nine people by then, and if she could capture the soul of one more person--killing a hundred people in all--she would become the most powerful demon king, and all the common demons would have to listen to her orders. She would be the leading demon, and all the souls she had captured would become her retinue and would have to obey her. She lacked only one more soul, so she went around looking for a victim. Later when she met me, she took refuge with the Triple Jewel and reformed herself. Thus she's an example of a demon who took refuge with the Buddha. I could write an entire book on this.

Twenty-seven years ago [1945], on the twelfth day of the second month, I passed through the Zhou family station in Manchuria. In the town there was a Virtue Society whose members met daily for lectures on morality. Since some of the members were my disciples, I would usually stay in the town for a few days when I passed through. This time I met a Chinese astrologer who cast people's horoscopes by looking at the eight characters (two for the year, two for the month, two for the day, and two for the hour) of their birth. His horoscopes were very efficacious.

He cast my horoscope and said, "You should be an official. Why have you left home? Had you wanted to, you could have been a great official."
"I haven't any idea how to be an official," I said. "But I do know how to be a Buddhist monk, and so I have left home."
"What a pity," said the astrologer, and he looked at my hands. "At the very least," he said, "you could have been a top-ranking imperial scholar."
"No," I said. "I couldn't even have come in last."
He looked my hands again and said, "Oh, this year something very lucky will happen to change your life!"
"What could that be?" I asked.
"After the tenth of the next month you will be different from now," he replied.
"Different in what way?"
"Right now, all the people within 1000 li [350 miles] believe in you, but after the tenth of next month, everyone within 10,000 li [3500 miles] will believe in you."
"How can that be?" I asked.
"When the time comes, you will know," he said.

Two days later, on the fourteenth or fifteenth of the second month, I went to the village of Xiangbaichi, fourth district, and stayed with my disciple Xia Zunxiang, who was over sixty years old and had a family of over thirty people. He was one of the richest landowners in the area and had never believed in Buddhism or anything else. But when he saw me, he believed in me and wanted to take refuge with me. He and his whole family took refuge, and every time I went to the village I'd stay at his house. His family of over thirty was extremely happy to see me this time. I stayed with them for ten days, and about seventy-two people came to take refuge. On the twenty-fifth, I set out in Mr. Xia's cart for Shuangcheng County. Since it was over seventy li [25 miles] away, we left at three o'clock in the morning.

Although it was early spring, the weather was bitter cold. The driver and the attendant were dressed in fur coats, trousers, and hats. Being very poor, I wore only my usual rag robe made of three layers of thin cotton cloth, trousers made of two layers of cloth, open Arhat sandals with no socks, and a hat shaped like folded palms that didn't cover my ears. That was the kind of hat that Master Ji Gong wore. We rode from three in the morning until dawn, reaching the city at seven in the morning. The driver and the attendant thought I would freeze to death, since I was so insufficiently dressed. They had stopped repeatedly to exercise and keep warm, but I had remained in the cart from the beginning of the trip. When we arrived at the eastern gate of Shuangcheng County and I got out of the cart, the driver exclaimed, "Oh, we thought surely you had frozen to death!"

I stayed with friends, Dharma protecting laymen, for more than ten days, and on the ninth of the third month, I returned to Xia Zunxiang's home in Xiangbaichi. When I arrived, he told me that one of my recent disciples, the daughter of Xia Wenshan, had fallen dangerously ill. She hadn't eaten or drunk water for six or seven days. She did not speak, and she looked fiercely angry, as if she wanted to beat people. Then her mother came. "Master," she said, "my daughter became very ill a few days after taking refuge. She won't talk, eat, or drink, but just glares and sticks her head on the bed. She doesn't sleep either. I don't know what illness she has."

At that time I was with Han Gangji, who was able to look into people's past lives and could know their causes and effects. I said to the mother, "I can't cure her, so it's useless to ask me. However, my disciple Han Gangji has opened his five eyes and knows people's past, present, and future affairs. You should ask him."
Han Gangji had also taken refuge on the twenty-fifth of the second month. At first I had refused to take him as a disciple, because before I had left home, the two of us had been good friends and had worked together in the Virtue Society. After I left home and Han Gangji opened his five eyes, he saw that, life after life, I had always been his teacher. And so he wanted to take refuge with me.

I said, "We're good friends; how could I take you as a disciple?"
"But if I don't take refuge with you, I shall certainly fall in this life," Han Gangji said, and he knelt on the ground and refused to get up. I was just as determined not to accept him, but after perhaps half an hour, I finally said, "Those who take refuge with me must follow instructions. You have talent; you know the past, present, and future. Is it possible that it has caused you to become arrogant? Will your pride prevent you from obeying my instructions?"
"Master," he said, "I'll certainly obey. If you tell me to throw myself into a cauldron of boiling water, I'll do it. If you tell me to walk on fire, I'll walk. If I get boiled or burned to death, that's all right."
"You'd better be telling the truth," I said. "If I give you instructions, you can't ignore them."
"No matter what it is," he said, "if you tell me to do it, I will do it, and fear no danger whatsoever."

And so Han Gangji was one of the seventy-two people who took refuge on the twenty-fifth. Hearing that one of my disciples was sick, I told Han Gangji, "You can see people's causes and effects, and you know how to diagnose illnesses. Now my disciple is sick. Take a look at her."

Han Gangji sat in meditation and made a contemplative examination of the illness. Suddenly his face blanched with terror. "Master," he said, "we can't handle this one. It's beyond our control."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"There's no way we can subdue this demon," he said.
"What kind of demon is it?" I asked.
"The demon who is causing the illness is extremely violent and can assume human form to bring chaos into the world and injury to humankind."
"What makes the demon so fierce?" I asked.

"The demon was a ghost long ago in the Zhou Dynasty," he said. "Because it didn't behave properly, a virtuous man with spiritual powers shattered it with thunder. But the ghost's spirit did not completely disperse, and through gradual cultivation it later fused into a powerful demon that could fly and vanish and appear again, at will. Now it has taken the form of an old woman and it goes around capturing people for its retinue. I don't think we're any match for her. We can't deal with this one."
"What would happen if we tried?" I asked.
"We might lose our lives as well," said Han Gangji. He was really scared.
"The demon has refined a magic weapon," he continued. "It's an exclusive anti-thunder device: a black hat made out of the thin membranes that cover the bodies of newborn children. When she wears the hat, the thunder cannot hurt her, because thunder has a great aversion to filth."

Westerners think that thunder has no one controlling it, and while that may be the case for ordinary thunder, there is a special kind of thunder that is used by gods to punish the goblins, demons, and ghosts who wander throughout the world. In addition to the black hat, which protected her from thunder, she had refined two other magic weapons: two round balls, which were originally the eyeballs from a human corpse. If she put her hat on someone, his soul would fall under her control, and he would become one of her followers. If she hit someone with one of the two round balls, he would immediately die.

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