THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
WHITE MOUNTAINS and BLACK WATERS NURTURE RARE TALENT
Events in the Life of the Venerable Master Hua
From In Memory of the First Anniversary of the Nirvana of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
(Compiled from the Venerable Master's Lectures by the Editorial Staff)
After an interval, I still felt I wasn't doing enough, so I started bowing to the sages of the past and present. Having heard that sages are wise from birth and that they benefit people, I thought I should thank them. And so I bowed to the great sages and worthies. Then I reflected that I should also bow to virtuous people, in order to thank them for doing good deeds and rescuing people. Later I also added to my list loyal ministers, filial children, great people, wise scholars, brave heroes, and faithful husbands and wives. I bowed to Lord Guan Yu, to General Yue Fei, and to just about every renowned figure in history. In general, I bowed to all the good people in the world. They could influence me to avoid doing any evil and to practice all good deeds, and to be an upright and good person with a clear conscience. That's why I wanted to bow to them in gratitude.
In this way, I increased the number of bows. Later on, I also bowed to the most evil people as well. Whatever I do, I like to do it on a grand scale. I bowed to bad people, hoping they would mend their ways and become good, bring forth the resolve for Bodhi, and attain the Buddha Way. I had been bowing to the great sages and worthies, great virtuous ones, great filial sons and daughters, and great heroes, but then I thought, "What about the big evil-doers, the big bad guys, and the big outcasts? What about them?" And so I began bowing to them as well. Other people bow to the great Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas, but I very foolishly thought of the big evil-doers and the bad guys. These people are very pitiful, because the longer they turn in the six paths of rebirth, the farther they get from the Buddha Way. So I wished to transfer merit to them, hoping they would reform and renew themselves and become good.
Later, I thought I should also show respect to ordinary people of all nationalities, because in the past I might have mistreated them in some way. As a result I began bowing to all of the living beings in the world, including ants and mosquitoes. Why did I bow to them? I figured that I have also been an ant, a mosquito, and other kinds of creatures in the past. Now that I am a human being, I can't forget about my old friends. When I bowed to them, I thought: "I am paying respect to you, because I used to be an ant and a mosquito myself." I identified with the smallest beings and felt that I ought to guide them to quickly accomplish Buddhahood. Those were the reasons I bowed.
I kept increasing my bows until I was making 833 bows each time, which took me two and a half hours. I bowed outside the house in the open air. Every morning before the others got up, I would go outside and bow my "superstitious" bows. At night after everyone had gone to sleep, I again went outside to bow. I had no real reason for bowing like this; I simply didn't want people to know.
Think it over: if I wasn't foolish, why would I bow so many bows every day, rain or shine? No one had told me to bow these superstitious, senseless bows. Wind, rain, thunder, and snow couldn't stop me. I bowed regardless of the weather. I didn't care if the rain drenched me. When it snowed, I continued bowing, putting my bare hands on the snow-covered ground. Why did I do this? It was to show my sincerity. I was sincere to the point of foolishness.
For more than ten years, I bowed two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening, making eight hundred and thirty-some bows twice a day. I was bowing four hours a day. I wanted to decrease the bowing time and do some other things, so I condensed the eight hundred thirty-some bows to five bows.
The first bow is to the eternally dwelling Buddhas, Dharma, and Sangha pervading empty space and the Dharma Realm in the ten directions and the three periods of time. The second and third bows are also to the Triple Jewel of the Buddhas, the Dharma and the Sangha. Whom do I bow to on the fourth bow? I bow to the great sages, great worthies, great filial sons and daughters, great virtuous ones, great heroes, and great scholars, and all other beings in the past, present, and future throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm, including great evil-doers and great bad guys. This includes my good friends the mosquitoes and my good friends the ants. I also bow to them. Who knows how many mosquitoes and ants I killed throughout countless eons in the past? Now I feel truly sorry toward them and toward all living beings, for I do not know how many of them I have killed in past lives. Now I feel I should bow to them to compensate for my offenses. I hope they will not bear a grudge against me.
I often joke with people and say, "You are bowing to me now, but actually I've bowed to each of you in the past. You may not know it consciously, but perhaps in your heart you know. Therefore, you are simply returning my bows! That's why I can neither accept nor refuse your bows." That's the fourth bow.
On the fifth bow, I bow to the Pratimoksha, the precepts, spoken by the Buddhas of the past, present, and future throughout the ten directions of the Dharma Realm. The Buddha's precepts guide me on the path to Buddhahood. The kindness and benefit of the precepts is infinite and boundless.
This is how I always bow. I don't think there is anyone in the world as stupid as I am. Everyone is smarter than I am, and they don't think much of my way of thinking and acting. They think I am very pitiful. Not only laypeople, but even left-home people look down on me and boycott me. If you have faith in me, you should realize that you are taking a big loss. On the other hand, it might not be a loss, because by learning to be kind and humble, you can create affinities with everyone, and that's a positive thing. When I was little, I dreamed I was walking on a road which was gutted with holes like those of a sieve. They were very deep holes, and if I wasn't careful I could slip and fall into one of them. When I walked past the holes onto a safe, smooth highway, I glanced back and saw a great many people following me--old and young, people of all ages and nationalities. I wonder if that's the road I'm walking on now.
I was born in a destitute family, and we had to work to get our daily meals. It was a beggar's life. That's why I nicknamed myself "Mendicant." You see, at such a young age I was already calling myself a mendicant. We owned a little plot of land that was just big enough to support us through the year. That's why I didn't go to school when I was young.
When I was thirteen or fourteen, I could cut double the amount of grain that my brother, who was five years older than me, could cut. For example, if he could cut three rows of sorghum, I could cut six. Sorghum is pretty tough to cut, especially for someone as young and small as I was. But I had my method, and I knew how to use my strength. Actually, I didn't use much strength. Sorghum grows very tall, but I would grab a big bunch of stalks and then stretch my arm as far as I could reach and cut through the whole bunch in one cut. None of the adults could cut as much as I could. No one taught me this method. I watched the way they did it, but I didn't follow their way. I had my own way, and I could cut more than they could.
I also did business then. For example, if each person invests five thousand dollars, then three people should invest fifteen thousand. But when I invested my share, the other two didn't. They just wanted to make money, so they used up the five thousand that I invested without putting in any money of their own. Most people would sue their partners if this happened to them, but I didn't want to fight with them. I was always willing to suffer a loss. I didn't care about getting advantages. I'm still that way now. I think taking a loss in order to benefit others is the very best thing. That's why I often refer to myself as a stupid person. I'm willing to do the things that others wouldn't do. I'm really very stupid!
I didn't have a chance to go to school when I was young. Prior to leaving the home-life, I went in search of someone who could teach me the way to end birth and death. There were many cults and non-Buddhist religions in northern China, and I visited them all. I'm familiar with all their doctrines. For example, there was a sect called the Door of Principles (Limen) that exclusively recites one line of mantra. When their High Master sits there receiving bows from people, he recites in his mind the single phrase, "Na mo he la dan nuo duo la ye ye." That's the teaching of Limen. They put on airs, sitting up there on their Dharma seats. The one in the middle is called the "leader" and those on either side are called "helpers." The three of them sit there, just like in the ceremony for feeding ghosts with flaming mouths. Their representatives transmit a secret Dharma. They tell people to hold their hand out and then they write the words "Guan shi yin pu sa" (Guanshiyin Bodhisattva) on it. Then they "seal" it and tell the people to recite "Guan shi yin pu sa" in their minds, but not out loud. And the people are forbidden to transmit the Dharma to anyone, even to their own parents, spouse, or children. They call it the "Five Character True Words" and instruct people:
Close your mouth, hide the tongue.
Let the tip of the tongue touch the roof of the mouth.
Keep reciting with the mind,
And the Dharma will manifest.
It sounds very mysterious. Mainly this sect advocates abstaining from alcohol and smoking, so it's known as the "Society for Prohibiting Smoking and Alcohol" and also the "Representative Association." It's been flourishing in China for the last hundred years. The whole "religion" is based on the one phrase, "Na mo he la dan nuo duo la ye ye," that the "Dharma Masters" recite. I've been to all these cults and know what they're about. I also attended Catholic Mass and Christian Sabbath. I wanted to study the teachings of every religion--Confucianism, the Taoism of Lao Zi, Buddhism, Islam--I investigated them all.
At the age of fifteen, I studied for half a year at the village school. I remember school started on the tenth of the third lunar month and ended on the thirteenth of the eight month. In winter the Japanese came and there was no school. I studied for two full years when I was sixteen and seventeen, and so altogether I received two and a half years of schooling.