In Manchuria, south of the city of Harbin, in the village Da-nan-gou there lived a filial son called Defu Gao. His mother was sick and none of the Chinese or Western doctors could cure her. In order to save his mother he vowed to cut off his hand and offer it to the Buddha. His filial act moved heaven and earth, and his mother was rescued from the clutches of death. This event caused quite a stir at the time. Even women and children knew that Gao was a greatly filial son. The story goes like this:
Gao’s mother was very ill. She could neither eat or drink, and she was dying. Gao went to Three Conditions Mona¬stery (it happened to be Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday, so there was a big Dharma assembly going on, with a few hundred Buddhists attending) and lit a stick of incense in front of the Buddha. After three bows, he took out a kitchen knife and was just about to chop off his left hand, when he was discovered and stopped by some people. When asked why he wanted to cut off his hand, he explained that he’d vowed to chop off his hand and offer it to the Buddha because of his mother’s illness. At that time a layperson called Jinghua Li said to him, “Go to the Abbot’s office and plead with him. He has spiritual powers. Maybe he can save your mother.”
Gao went to the Abbot’s office and explained why he had come. The Abbot told him, “Why don’t you go ask Dharma Master An Ci. He can cure your mother’s illness.” So he came to my room asking me to be compassionate and attend to his mother’s illness. I had heard he was a filial son, so I promised to help him. I said to him, “Ride your bike home first. I’ll be there right away.” He left happily. Since he was riding a bike, he had to go by the main road, while I took a shortcut. I arrived there ten minutes before him.
When he came in the door and saw me sitting on the brick bed, he was shocked and said, “Master, how did you get here before me? You walked faster than I rode the bike!” Then the whole family came to bow to me. This was a typical case of people who usually never lit incense, but were seeking help from the Buddha in an emergency. I wrote a declaration vowing that his mother would get well. After the declaration was burned, the mother fell asleep peacefully. Everyone went to bed.
The next morning, the mother sat up and called her son by his nickname, “Juzi, Juzi! I’m hungry. I’d like some rice porridge.” When the boy realized that his mother could talk, he felt unspeakable joy. Quickly he cooked some porridge for her. She ate a bowl of porridge and regained enough strength to talk. (For eight days she hadn’t been able to talk, eat or drink. Her lips were parched and her tongue had turned black.)
“Mother, how did you feel during the past few days?” the boy asked.
“Oh! I got lost, and I couldn’t find my way back home. It was dark. There were no stars, moon, or sun. I groped in the dark for days and didn’t know which way to turn. Last night, a monk brought me home.” When the boy heard that, he understood.
“Mother, what did this monk look like?”
The mother said, “He was dressed in rag robes.”
“Mother, look, was he the monk?” the boy asked, pointing to me. The old woman looked at me carefully, and said, “That’s the one who took me home!” The whole family then took refuge with me, and the old woman gradually got well.
A talk given on July 15, 1983