The Story of Liberating Two Burros

Excerpt from Dharma Master Heng Sure’s Lecture on the Ten Transferences Chapter of the
Flower Adornment Sutra
on March 4, 2001 at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

From the June 2003 issue of Vajra Bodhi Sea

Do people remember the story about the burros that are in the back property? Wild burros were being culled by the government. There were herds of these burros running wild somewhere in Arizona. The government was basically exterminating them, because they were too many. Somebody said, “Hey, maybe we could buy some and liberate them. Liberating life, something big, not just these pheasants, turtles, and pigeons. Let’s liberate something big.” So they obtained the burros and brought them to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

I came out of the Tathagata Monastery and was heading over to the Buddha Hall because I heard that there was going to be liberating life. There were two monks, a layman and these two burros. They were trying to get the burros to come over to the Buddha Hall so that they could be liberated. The only problem was the burros didn’t want to go to the Buddha Hall. The burros had in their minds that they were happy right where they were. Have you ever tried to move a donkey that doesn’t want to go anywhere? They planted their feet and one monk was in front tugging on the bridle and the other monk was in the back pushing.

The other said, “Don’t push too hard. They can kick, you know.” And they had somebody there with his beads reciting a mantra trying to get the donkey to move, using the Great Compassion Mantra. It got really hilarious because the burros were having a great time. One monk’s tugging, the other monk’s pushing, the other one’s reciting, and the burros are standing still. They just, ‘Hmm hmm hmm hee haw hee haw’ like that. It was very very funny to see. One said, “Let’s call so and so, he used to ride horses, let’s call him.” “Oh, get a carrot.” “No, we can’t get a carrot. The kitchen is shut already; it’s after one o’clock. No carrots left. What are we going to do?”

And then around the corner comes Shr Fu’s little blue golf cart. Shr Fu [the Venerable Master] gets out and doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t say, “Oh you dummy,” or, “What’s going on?” or anything like that. He gets out of the golf cart. The whole ceremony was waiting. The Buddha Hall was full of people, no monks, no donkeys. So the abbot comes over and walks directly up to one of the burros, takes the burro’s ear and talks into it. The abbot whispered into the burro’s ear and the burros followed Shr Fu down to the Buddha Hall by themselves. Shr Fu got there first. The burros walked right behind him just like little kids following their dad. Totally subdued, they walked right down to the Buddha Hall, where the liberating life ceremony was performed. The monks and layman were standing there with their mouths open thinking, “What did we just see?”

Now, how could that happen if the abbot didn’t have happiness in his heart? Those were happy burros, happy just following Shr Fu. Who knows what Shr Fu did, but it worked great. The burros followed him right down and then we did the ceremony, and later they were released in the back to graze on the grass. That kind of incredible affinities with living beings comes from many many lifetimes of making living beings happy--the four-footed ones, the ones with feathers, the ones with scales slithering on the ground, and the two-footed ones like us. So don’t think it’s easy to be a Bodhisattva. It should be easy to make people happy, shouldn’t it? It’s not that easy.

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