Events in the Life of the Venerable Master Hua


Another strange thing happened to me at that time. I began to feel that I had some real skill in cultivation. When I was in Manchuria, before I became sick, I was active in the Virtue Society. What did I do there? I was one of the leaders. We would lecture on morality, humaneness, and righteousness, and exhort people to do good deeds. When I exhorted others to do good, did I do good deeds myself? Yes, I did even more good deeds myself. I didn't preach without practicing.

One day I read an article about the virtuous behavior of a man named Zhang Yaxuan. The article said that a woman named Yu (the niece of Zhang Xueliang's wife) had become infatuated with Zhang Yaxuan and knelt in front of him hysterically demanding that he marry her. Zhang Yaxuan, seeing that it was not a good situation, gently persuaded her to give up her wish.

When I read this article while sitting beneath a tree, I admired his conduct and immediately made a vow: "Heaven, I will definitely emulate the conduct of Zhang Yaxuan." I regretted the statement as soon as I said it. I thought, "Why would I want something like that to happen to me? It was stupid of me to say that." I felt that my vow was wrong.

What happened then? It's very strange, but that very evening, a woman demon came. The room that served as the office of the Virtue Society was used as a women's dormitory at night. The brick beds (which we use in northern China) in the women's dorm were separated from those in the adjacent men's dorm by a wooden wall with a gap at the bottom. She reached her hand through the gap and tried some hanky-panky. I thought, "This is inconceivable. I made a vow to imitate Zhang Yaxuan today, and now a demon has come to test me to see if I can really do it." What did I do? I ignored her, and then she stopped making advances. From this, I know that if we make vows, the Bodhisattvas will come to test us. We should never make arrogant statements.

Another time, I had a dream in which I was staying in a house with two women, one in her fifties or sixties, the other in her twenties. I was sleeping on a brick bed on the north side of the house, and they were on one at the south side. At night, when I was neither asleep nor fully awake, the young woman came to the north side, embraced me, and started dragging me towards her brick bed. I knew she was up to no good. "What are you doing? What are you doing?" I shouted. There was no answer and I thought, "She's probably not a human!" Then I recited, "Homage to the Greatly Compassionate Bodhisattva Guanyin." As soon as I recited, everything disappeared and I woke up. But the portion of my body that she embraced ached for a week. You may say it was real, but then everything disappeared; say it's unreal, but the aching was there. That was another experience I had.

I didn't attend school until I was fifteen. It is one of my greatest regrets that I was not able to receive a proper education. Thus I was very eager to promote education. After attending school for two and a half years, at the age of eighteen I began a free school in my own home. I didn't collect tuition, but taught the students for free, teaching them what I myself had learned and studied in school.

I was teaching in a culturally undeveloped area in the mountains, and I called the school "Toad Hall." In the autumn, the toads would crawl under the rocks. If you turned up a rock, you would see lots of little toads. It is said that these toads were used for imperial tributes. I taught over thirty students, spending day after day with them. Why did I volunteer to teach them? Was it a honorable position being the leader of the kids? No. Since it had been difficult for me to study, I sympathized with other children who didn't have the opportunity to go to school. I knew that poor families couldn't afford to send their children to school.

At that time in China, education was not widespread and the literacy rate was extremely low. I hoped all the young people could have the opportunity to go to school and receive an adequate education. That's why I started a tuition-free private school and worked without pay teaching those illiterate children.

I also thought to myself, "Why is the world going bad? It's because of money. Money has deluded the members of every profession and every line of work." That's why I taught without asking for pay. I thought a teacher should teach for the sake of educating students, not for the sake of money, fame, or benefit. I wanted to promote the idea of free education--students don't pay tuition, and teachers don't ask for a salary. Only then can teachers show that they are devoted to teaching rather than to making money. Since my family hadn't been able to pay for my schooling, I knew that the children of other poor families had no money either. That's why I didn't collect any tuition or material fees. I supplied the books, brushes, and ink. I didn't want children to be unable to study because of lack of money.

During that period, there was an epidemic going around called "Sheep's Hair Lumps." The disease may have been due in part to the climate. Many adults came down with it and grew blisters on their body--seven in the front and eight in the back. The blisters were about the size of matchstick heads, and would collapse if you poked them with a matchstick. If you pricked them with a needle, there was really sheep's hair inside. If the sick person's blisters were pricked and bloodletting was done, the person would get well. Recovery was very rapid if the sick person received the proper treatment.

However, if no one treated the disease by pricking the blisters, the person would die in three days. That's how lethal a disease it was. When I was teaching, in a single day over ten of my students came down with the "sheep's hair lumps." I had learned to treat the disease after watching others do it, and so I was able to cure my students very quickly. But when one of my favorite students, named Li Youyi, who was intelligent, well-behaved, and a good student in every respect, came down with the disease, I was a little worried and the fire rose in me. When fire rises, it's easy to catch the disease. After I finished pricking this student's blisters, he went home and recovered. But then I fell sick and was in terrible pain. Seeing the little blisters on my chest, I knew I had "sheep's hair lumps."

I couldn't prick my own blisters and cure myself, and no one else knew how to treat the disease. Then I lost my temper and declared, "Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, I want to help the people of the world. You shouldn't let me get sick like this! If I really cannot contribute anything to Buddhism, I might as well die right now. I won't treat myself or find anyone to treat me; I'll just wait for death." I could have taught the others how to prick the blisters, but I was sick and in no condition to go and call someone else. I thought, "I have offered my life to Buddhism. If Buddhism has no use for me, I might as well die! If Buddhism still needs me, then I will get well without treatment."

My head hurt so badly it felt like it would split into two, but I paid no attention. I patiently bore the pain and fell asleep. As I slept, I stopped breathing and woke up gasping for air. Something was stuck in my throat and I couldn't breathe. I coughed forcefully, and up came a dozen or so lumps of sheep's hair--it really looked like sheep's hair! As soon as I spit them out, I recovered--without treatment. From this, I knew that I could still do a little work for Buddhism. I knew then my life truly belonged to Buddhism.

Afterwards, my mother became sick and was confined to bed. I continued teaching on the one hand, and tended to my mother's sickness on the other. I don't know what her sickness was, but for over half a year she could neither walk nor turn over in bed. I helped her go to the bathroom, prepared her food, and did everything for her. My mother's body had a foul odor because she was old and sick, but I didn't mind the smell at all. I exhausted my strength and did my very best to take care of her.

Although I was a young man, there was no one else who could take care of her. I searched everywhere and found a lot of good doctors to treat my mother, but none of them could cure her. During this period (my eighteenth year) I often fasted--sometimes for seven days, or for eighteen or thirty-six days. While fasting, I continued to teach  in school. Why did I fast? It was to show my extreme sincerity in praying for my mother's recovery.

At that time there was a spirit called the Fox Immortal at White Cloud River (Baiyunhe) who bestowed medicine upon those who prayed to him. People came from over a thousand miles away to seek medicine from the spirit. When the Japanese had their base there, the Fox Immortal also dwelt in the barracks, but later it chased the troops away. The Japanese army had secretly built an electrically run oil cauldron near their base, and they shipped Chinese prisoners in by the trainload to be boiled in it. It's not known how many people they boiled to death.

Probably the Fox Immortal was upset by what was happening. He transformed himself into a white-haired old man and walked into the area. The Japanese chased after him carrying their guns, but he ran into their armory and blew it up. After two such explosions, the Japanese knew they couldn't stay there any longer and so they moved out. That's how powerful the Fox Immortal was.

After the Japanese left, the Fox Immortal began giving medicine to those who sought it. All one had to do was go to his place, set out a bowl with a red cloth over it, and make a request. Whatever medicine one prayed for would appear in the bowl. I went to the Fox Immortal seeking medicine for my mother. I set out the bowl, knelt down, asked for help, and waited. I knelt for three days and three nights, but no medicine appeared in the bowl.

Later, after I left the home-life, the Fox Immortal possessed one of my relatives and sought to take refuge with me. When he identified himself as the Fox Immortal of White Cloud River, I said, "When I went to seek your help, you didn't give me any medicine. How can you have the gall to ask to take refuge with me?" The Fox Immortal said, "When you were kneeling there, I couldn't give the medicine to you because I was blinded by a golden light."

Having failed to obtain medicine from the Fox Immortal, I went to the herbal shop myself and bought some medicinal herbs and decocted them for my mother. But she still didn't get well. Not long after that, on the ninth day of the third lunar month, my mother died.

I didn't have a single penny on the day she died. My whole family was destitute. Despite our poverty, I taught school for free. That's the kind of stupid person I was. I didn't know how to benefit myself, but only wanted to help others. I'm not boasting about my virtue--my temperament really is that way--I only wish to renounce myself to help others.

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