A lecture by the Venerable Master Hua in January, 1983 at Gold Wheel Monastery
The Shurangama Sutra is a Sutra that acts like a demon-spotting mirror in Buddhism. All the celestial demons, externalists, and the li, mei, and wangliang ghosts reveal their true appearance when they see the Shurangama Sutra. They have no way to hide and no place to flee to. And so in the past, when Great Master Zhi Zhe heard of the existence of this Sutra, he bowed in the direction of India for eighteen years. For eighteen years, he used this spirit of utmost sincerity to pray for this Sutra to be brought to China.
Of all the greatly virtuous and eminent monks of the past, all the wise and lofty Sanghans, there was not a single one who did not praise the Shurangama Sutra. Therefore, as long as the Shurangama Sutra exists, the Buddhadharma exists. If the Shurangama Sutra is destroyed, then the Buddhadharma will also become extinct.
How will the decline of the Dharma come about? It will begin with the destruction of the Shurangama Sutra. Who will destroy it? The celestial demons and externalists will. They see the Shurangama Sutra as a nail in their eyes and a thorn in their flesh. They can't sit still, and they can't stand steady; they are compelled to invent a deviant theory, saying that the Shurangama Sutra is false.
As Buddhist disciples, we should recognize true principle. Every word of the doctrines in the Shurangama Sutra is the absolute truth. There isn't a single word that does not express the truth. So now that we are studying the Fifty Skandha-demons, we should realize even more just how important the Shurangama Sutra is. The Shurangama Sutra is what the deviant demons, ghosts, and goblins fear most.
The Venerable Master Hsu Yun lived to be a hundred and twenty years old, and during his whole life, he didn't write a commentary for any Sutra other than the Shurangama Sutra. He took special care to preserve the manuscript of his commentary on the Shurangama Sutra. He preserved it for several decades, but it was later lost during the Yunmen incident. This was the Elder Hsu's greatest regret in his life. He proposed that, as left-home people, we should study the Shurangama Sutra to the point that we can recite it by memory, from the beginning to the end, and from the end to the beginning, forwards and backwards. That was his proposal. I know that, throughout his whole life, the Elder Hsu regarded the Shurangama Sutra as being especially important.
When someone informed the Elder Hsu that there were people who said the Shurangama Sutra was counterfeit, he explained that the decline of the Dharma occurs just because these people try to pass fish eyes off as pearls, confusing people so that they cannot distinguish right from wrong. They make people blind so that they can no longer recognize the Buddhadharma. They take the true as false, and the false as true. Look at these people: this one writes a book and people all read it. That one writes a book, and they read it too. The real Sutras spoken by the Buddha himself are put up on a shelf, where no one ever reads them.
From this, we can see that living beings' karmic obstacles are very heavy. If they hear deviant knowledge and deviant views, they readily believe them. If you speak Dharma based on proper knowledge and proper views, they won't believe it. Why won't they believe it? Because they don't have sufficient good roots and foundations. That is why they have doubts about the proper Dharma. They are skeptical and unwilling to believe.
Here at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we will be setting up the Shurangama Platform, so it would be ideal if some of you bring forth the resolve to read the Shurangama Sutra every day for one or two hours. You can study it daily just as if you were studying in school, and memorize it so that you can recite it by heart. If you can recite the Shurangama Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, and even the Avatamsaka Sutra from memory, that would be the very best.
If someone is able to recite the Shurangama Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, and the Avatamsaka Sutra from memory, then it will mean that this is still a time when the proper Dharma exists in the world. Therefore, in such a wonderful place as the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, everyone should bring forth a great Bodhi resolve to do these things. It is not that we are competing with others. We should be outstanding, rise above the crowd, and do these things.
In the past, I had a wish: I wanted to be able to recite the Dharma Flower Sutra and the Shurangama Sutra from memory. In Hong Kong, there is a disciple named Guo Yi (Heng Ding) who can recite the Shurangama Sutra from memory. I taught him to study the Dharma Flower Sutra, but in the end he probably didn't finish memorizing it, which is very regrettable. In such a fine place as we have here, all of you should bring forth a great resolve to study the Buddhist Sutras and precepts--the Shurangama Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, the Vinaya in Four Divisions, and the Brahma Net Sutra--until you can recite them from memory. That would be the best, for then the proper Dharma would surely remain here for a long time.