The Master (Shr Fu)
Let me first make this clear: I won’t answer difficult questions because I don’t have a great deal of wisdom. I also won’t answer simple questions because I will be wasting other people’s time.
Q : Master, will you please tell us your life experiences?
A : My experience has been to do no business. That’s my experience.
Q : In your poem, “White Universe,” there is a phrase, “One breaks the cover of empty space with two fists.” What does it mean?
A : There is no meaning to it. If it meant anything, the cover of empty space would not be broken.
Q : The Master always says “To truly recognize our faults and do not discuss the faults of others. Others’ fault are simply my own. That is great compassion.” However, the Venerable Master often criticizes others (in the Vajra Bodhi Sea). Doesn’t that mean you don’t practice what you preach?
A : If what I say is true, then I’m not finding fault with them; if what I say were false, then I would go to hell. You know the person who said, “Great cultivators are not affected by cause and effect,” had to face the consequence of being a fox for 500 lives. I would go to the tongue-pulling hell if I were wrong or have twisted the facts by treating black as white, white as black, true as false, and false as true. If what I say is correct, I am not guilty. Why do I talk about the ways in which others are right or wrong? It is because there is too much gossip in the Buddhist community, calling this one the Black Sect, that one the White Sect, Yellow Sect, Red Sect. There are so many colors that they blind people’s ability to tell them apart. They can’t tell that black is black and white is white. Therefore, I must say what others dare not say.
Q : Master, would you please beat me over the head a few more times?
A : Don’t be greedy.
Q : Master, which Dharma Master do you most respect in this lifetime?
A : Venerable Master Hsu Yun.
Q : Master, please be compassionate and save my daughter. She was diagnosed with hereditary weak metabolism, which has affected her bones and heart.
A : When I was in Hong Kong, there was a five-year-old child who couldn’t walk. His mother brought him to bow to the Buddhas at our monastery in the mountains every day. After half a year, he was well without having to take any medication. Please ask the person who bowed to the Buddhas. I don’t understand it.
Q : Master, I have heard you call yourself stupid on many occasions. You are probably being humble. However, if you say that too often, it may reflect your lack of self-confidence and indecisiveness. How could you preside over an organization that way? And what exactly does stupidity mean?
A : If I were not stupid, why would I tell the mosquitoes to bite me instead of other people? If I were not stupid, why wouldn’t I be interested in more money? If I were not stupid, why would I renounce what most people find enjoyable? What else do you call this but stupidity?
Q : Master, since you still reminisce about China, why did you establish your monasteries in the United States?
A : I have always been the one to take what others have abandoned and to go where others don’t want to go. There are plenty of temples in Taiwan already.
Q : Most people say that you have several kinds of supernatural powers?
A : I will not admit to it. It’s just coincidental. Those who are meant to live will not die by asking me for help. Those who are meant to die will not live by asking me for help. Do you understand?
Q : Venerable Master, since becoming a monk, you have persevered in maintaining a life according to the precepts such as “eating one meal a day” and “sleeping sitting up.” Is it necessary for you to suffer so much?
A : I want to save my food and my clothes for other living beings. I made this vow: may I bear the sufferings of all living beings in the Dharma Realm.
Q : Master, are you tired?
A : I might as well die from fatigue.
Q : Please tell us where the Dharma Master will be going after your death?
A : There is nowhere to go.
Q : Master, how do we say thank you at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas?
A : People at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas do not say thank you. Whoever says so will be fined $500. I never say these two words, “thank you.” That’s why rumor has it that I only like to yell at people.
Q : Master, in your Dharma talks, you told us to study Chan samadhi. We really want to learn, but you will be going back to the U.S. shortly. We will not have an opportunity to learn from you.
A : If you have enough faith, I can teach you every day, not only while in Taiwan, but from the U.S. also.
Q : Someone says that so-and-so is a devil and that he should be kicked out.
A : It’s precisely because he’s so awful that I’m trying to teach and transform him. I’ll leave the good people for that “someone” to convert.
Q : What are the qualifications to becoming your disciples?
A : You must change yourself.
Q : I have heard many people say that cultivators are protected by many gods, dragons, and Dharma protectors. Cultivators have many mystical experiences. May I ask the Master what kind of mystical experiences or miracles have you encountered?
A : I have encountered many miracles, but I don’t know about the eightfold heavenly dragons, ninefold earth dragons, or tenfold human dragons.
Q : It just so happens that the third week of next month will be the Master’s birthday. Would you allow us to hold a birthday celebration for you?
A : You could celebrate my birthday by reciting the names of Earth Store Bodhisat tva and Guanshiyin Bodhisattva 10,000 times every day. Can you do it? This would be a real birthday celebration. Birthdays are better left to the gods than to people.
Q : Can bows made on a bowing pilgrimage be counted toward the 10,000 bows that we must do? (Editor’s note: The Venerable Master required that anyone who takes refuge with him must bow 10,000 times)
A : I asked you to bow 10,000 times for taking refuge with the Triple Jewel, but you try to negotiate and pull numbers from here and there. This is not a business and you are not paying off a loan. If you can’t complete the bows, you are not sincere enough. We are not bargaining over prices.
Q : What are your vows?
A : Buddhism in China is generally conservative. I want Buddhist Sutras to be translated into English. Why are Catholicism and Christianity so prevalent? It is because they have translated the Bible into different languages. Buddhists should translate the Sutras into different languages, taking their cue from Catholics and Christians. I am ready to integrate every religion at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Every religion may conduct their services in the new facilities we plan to build. By being inclusive, I believe sectarian thinking will diminish.
Q : At Chang Geng Hospital in Linko ( Taiwan), I saw the Master beat a patient over the head with your cane. What was that supposed to mean?
A : I did not like the looks of that sick patient, so I hit him.
Q : If no one were to make any donations, where would you get food to sustain you?
A : In that case, I might as well starve to death.
Q : Master, what is your view on spiritual penetrations? Do you have any?
A : What spiritual penetrations? I don’t even have ghostly penetrations, let alone spiritual ones. I don’t talk about spiritual penetration, only wisdom. Intuition or foresight could be a result of your wisdom, not necessarily because of spiritual penetration. Our spirit has incredible power. If you behave properly and follow the rules, you will naturally have that wisdom after some time. Spiritual penetrations are some minor abilities developed on our spiritual path. They are not worth mentioning. Don’t think they are something special. People who really cultivate do not pay attention to them and do not reject them either. They are a natural tendency.
Q : Please describe the spirit of Venerable Master Hsu Yun.
A : He did not sleep.
Q : Master, what motivated you to become a monk in the first place?
A : Why do you want to know about my becoming a monk? You want to dig into my roots that are long gone.
Q : Master, why do you always walk behind your disciples?
A : I pick up what people toss away. I let people have what they want. To pick up what people toss away is to not fight, to not be greedy, and to not seek. To let people have what they want is to be selfless, to refrain from pursuing personal advantage, and to refrain from lying.
Q : I would like to make some offerings to you, but I don’t know what to give.
A : The best offering to me is the recitation of the Buddha’s name. To recite the Buddha’s name sincerely is an offering of sincerity; to recite the Buddha’s name with a commitment to precepts is an offering of commitment to the precepts; to recite the Buddha’s name with samadhi is an offering of samadhi; to recite the Buddha’s name with wisdom is an offering of wisdom.
Q : We respectfully request the compassionate Master to save the patients who have passed away in this hospital so that they may avoid suffering.
A : I already reflected on that as I came in. I have already dedicated merit and virtue to those who died though they shouldn’t have, and those who cannot transcend their current realm. Nothing that I do has to be visible.
Q : My second question is, why is your Dharma name Hsuan Hua?
A : Why do you want to know about my name? This is a ghost from hells!
Q : The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is too big!
A : The City is not too big. Your mind is too small.
Q : I want to donate a monastery to be one of your branch temples in Taiwan. Would you like to have it, Master?
A : You have to ask yourself. Don’t ask me. If I were to say that I want it, then I must be greedy. If I were to say that I don’t want it, then I would not be granting your vow to make this donation. You have wisdom, so you should decide for yourself. It’s up to you whether you make the donation or not.
Q : Has the Master been sick before? If so, how did you treat yourself? Did you heal yourself or did you use Western medicine?
A : “Sickness enters through the mouth, disasters exit out of the mouth.” You’ll get sick if you eat good food that is too nourishing. I don’t dare to eat anything good, that’s why I don’t get sick. I don’t have money to use Western medicine, and even less money to take Chinese medicine. So I figure that I might as well not use any doctor. It’s okay to die and it’s okay to live.
Q Reporter : Why did the Dharma Master think about coming westward to North America to propagate the Buddhadharma?
A : Buddhism wasn’t growing in America several decades back. Some places here have never heard of Buddhism. That’s why I had decided to come and propagate Buddhism in a country without it. I do what I must do regardless of whether people accept it or not.
Q : If I were to give my afflictions to you, what would I be left with?
A : Wouldn’t it be better if you were to have no more afflictions while I did? I can handle them.
Q : Some people say that you are an old demon king. What should we do about that?
A : So I am the old demon king!
Q : My child took refuge with the Master when he was three or so. What happens if he can’t finish bowing his ten thousand bows?
A : There are lots of young people in America who took refuge with me when they were still in their mothers’ womb. What do you think they should do?
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