Events in the Life of the Venerable Master Hua


When Japan invaded Manchuria, I was mourning beside my mother's grave. Meanwhile, somebody told me that the Japanese had seized a lot of Chinese people and put them into labor camps. They didn't have enough food to eat or clothes to wear and so a lot of people starved to death and froze to death. It was extremely bitter. I pondered this situation and the severity of their plight, and then I made a vow to eat one meal a day. I wished to save my breakfast and dinner for those who didn't have food to eat.

Somebody might say this kind of attitude is very stupid. Well, you can say it's very stupid because those hungry people might not directly receive the food which I saved. But all of you should know it's the law of the conservation of matter. The food I didn't eat will remain in the world. Since it remains in the world, somebody will get to eat it. So I made this vow to eat one meal a day. The Sutra in Forty-two Sections says, "Bhikshus take only one meal a day at noon, pass the night beneath trees, and are careful not to acquire worldly things." That's why I vowed to take one meal a day.

I also vowed not to wear padded cotton clothing. During the winters in Manchuria, the temperature often dropped to 33 or 34 degrees below zero. When the temperature dropped to 38 degrees below zero, people would freeze to death. But even in such cold weather, I wore only three layers of clothing. Whether in winter or summer it was always the same, I did not even put on an extra sweater. By my vow I saved the cotton for those who didn't have clothes to wear. I transferred it to them. Did they obtain benefit from it? This again is a case of the law of conservation of matter. Somebody would use it for sure. From the time I made that vow not to wear padded clothes, I didn't feel cold even in very chilly weather. Later on, I even went without socks and shoes, and I could walk with bare feet on icy ground at any time. My feet didn't get frozen.

That reminds me of a funny thing that happened. I had an eighteen-year old fellow student who was a very energetic young man. He saw me walking on the icy ground without wearing socks and shoes, and he wanted to try it out. But he hadn't taken more than 100 steps when his feet completely froze and then swelled up. He couldn't endure it any more and hurriedly ran into the temple. It took six months before he was able to walk again. At that time, I was twenty years old, and I could bear the cold, but even though he was younger, he couldn't. How could I bear it? It had to do with my vow not to wear padded clothes. Since I didn't wear padded clothes, I didn't feel cold at all. Since I didn't eat so much food, I didn't feel hungry.

Before when I wasn't eating one meal a day, I had to eat five small bowls of food at each meal, which means a total of fifteen bowls a day. But after I vowed to eat one meal a day, I could manage with three bowls of rice at most. If the bow was a big one, I ate two bowlfuls. If the bowl was a small one, I ate three bowlfuls. It is not that I put myself on a diet. Actually I feel uncomfortable when I eat too much. And so even though I was eating less, I didn't feel hungry at all. From this, people should recognize the power of vows. If you make vows, you will be able to fulfill them. This is the story behind why I eat one meal a day.

Most of my disciples also eat one meal a day. Not only do the left-home people eat one meal a day, but a lot of the laypeople also eat one meal a day. They like to learn my stupid method. In this scientific age, they want to use this stupid method to cultivate. You can say that they don't know how to calculate. But from another viewpoint, they can be said to be calculating very clearly. They give away the food which they don't eat and save it for other people. This is creating food-affinities with other people. So, I believe they will never starve to death to the ends of time. It is because we're afraid that we'll starve that we save some food for future use. The ancients had a saying,

If one decreases the clothes one wears,
One's blessings will grow.
If one decreases the food one eats,
One's lifespan will increase.

Because I think that my lifespan will probably not be too long, I want to decrease my intake of food in order to increase my lifespan. Actually this is not true. I'm just joking with you!

We have to follow the Buddha's instructions to cultivate. The Buddha said, "Bhikshus should eat one meal a day, and sleep each night under a different tree." They should not dwell for more than three days in the same place, because if they do, people may come to make offerings. But shouldn't they receive any offerings? They are allowed to accept offerings, but they should not accept the offerings out of greed. Once you live in a place for a long period, Dharma conditions will arise. It is said,

Sitting for a long time, one attains samadhi.
Dwelling for a long time, one develops affinities.

Therefore, unless a Bhikshu has some important matter to attend to, it is better that he travel around. So in China left-home people travelled around everywhere and paid respects at every famous temple. This is called "hiding one's light." Not wanting to show off or sell their cultivation, wherever Bhikshus dwelled, they would not stay for over three nights.

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