If there is something that I can do to benefit living beings, I want to do it, even if I have to die.
Do you all understand what I say? [Everyone: "Yes."] Are there any people who understand only English and not Chinese? [Everyone: "No."] Now I will tell you something that you may not like to hear. That is, I am different from other people in my thinking, conduct, and way of doing things.
How is my thinking different? Other people all wish to benefit themselves. I don't wish to benefit myself. If there is something that I can do to benefit living beings, I want to do it, even if I have to die. That is how my thinking differs from that of others.
As for my conduct, most people do not understand my actions, nor do I explain myself to them. As for my way of doing things, I do the things that no one else wants to do. For example, when I left the home-life and became a Shramanera (novice monk), I cleaned out the pit toilets and spittoons and swept the floors. I did all of the chores that other people didn't like to do.
All of you should know that I am different from intelligent and wise people in my thinking, conduct, and way of doing things. Compared to fools, there is no one more stupid than I am.
Coming here to speak at a Dharma assembly with so many people is also something I dislike. People have asked me to do it, so even though it's something I'm not willing to do, I'll try my best to do a little bit. The main reason I have come toTaiwan this time is to bring blessings to all of you good men and good women. However, people may not recognize or understand my way of bringing blessings. Whether people recognize or understand it is not my concern. I only ask myself if I have done the work. I don't ask whether I will gain anything in return. This is my attitude in coming to Taiwan. Whether the people in Taiwan understand or not is not my concern. I am just telling everyone.
Secondly, I have come with an illness that has afflicted me for years. In the United States, I rarely lecture on the Sutras or lead Dharma assemblies now. Why? With my sick body, the doctors have told me to get a lot of rest and and not work too hard. Actually, I am not afraid of toil and I like to work hard, but since that's what the doctor said, I don't want to disobey him. So I said I would do a little less. This time, in fact I am taking a risk to my health in coming here. I'm not trying to scare you. The Dharma-protecting spirits kept telling me not to come. However, since I promised these good men and faithful women I would come, I could not worry about my own well-being. I will not worry about whether I live or die. If I have promised to do something, I will certainly do it.
Strangely enough, when I left the United States, my illness became more serious, and when I arrived in Taiwan, I caught the flu. You can all hear from my voice that my throat is blocked up, so my voice isn't very clear. In spite of this, I have come to the Dharma Assembly. I cannot be lazy and take a break, making the young people work harder. Some Dharma-protectors did not approve of my coming, saying I was endangering my life by coming here when I am sick. I said that I see life and death as being the same, with little difference. I said that forgetting the body for the sake of the Dharma is the basic duty of a disciple of the Buddha. So I have come to Taiwan to hold this Dharma Assembly.
Each day I shall concentrate single-mindedly in order to aid and silently bless the assembly. I cannot tell you what advantages you will obtain. I cannot say, "If you take part in this Dharma Assembly, you will obtain such and such benefits and advantages," because "The secrets of Heaven cannot be divulged. Once divulged, they are no longer efficacious." So I cannot say that anyone who participates in this Dharma Assembly that I am hosting will obtain any kind of benefit or merit.
To tell you the truth, participants in the Dharma Assembly should not have the attitude of hoping for benefit, advantage, or merit. If you have a sincere mind, then without needing to seek anything you will obtain a response in the Way. Your mind has to be truly sincere. If you seek things, then I'm afraid you will not obtain them. The things you seek will be like "reflections of flowers in a mirror or of the moon in water"--you can see them but you can't grasp them. If you have thoughts, that's just false thinking. Without thoughts, you will have a response.
When I was twelve, I started bowing twice a day to Heaven and Earth, to the Emperor, to my parents, and to my teachers. Later, I also bowed to all the great worthies, great sages, great filial sons, and great heroes in the world. Because they can 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, I wanted to bow to them in gratitude. In this way, I increased the number of bows I made every day. Later on, I also bowed to the most evil people as well. Whatever I do, I do it on a grand scale. I bowed to bad people, hoping that they would mend their ways and become good, bring forth the resolve for Bodhi, and attain the Buddha Way.
I had been bowing in gratitude to the people of great goodness, the great worthies, the great filial sons, the great sages, and the great heroes, but then I had a false 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 on the wheel of 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, so as a result I began bowing to all living beings in the world, including mosquitoes, ants, and the tiniest creatures. I identified with the smallest beings and felt that I ought to guide them to quickly accomplish the Buddha Way. Those were the reasons I bowed.
Every morning, I made more than eight hundred and thirty bows, which took me two hours. Every evening, I also made more than eight hundred and thirty bows, which took about two hours. I was bowing four hours a day. I wanted to cut back on bowing and do some other things, so I condensed the eight hundred thirty-some bows to five bows. Just now, we recited the first verse of the Shurangama Mantra, which means, "Homage to the eternally dwelling Triple Jewel throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, which pervades empty space and the Dharma Realm." This is worshipping all the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time. The ten directions are the four cardinal directions of east, west, south, and north; the four intermediate directions of southeast, southwest, northwest, and northeast; and above and below. I condensed my bowing to five bows.
First, I bow to the eternally dwelling Buddhas, Dharma, and Sangha throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, which pervade empty space and the Dharma Realm. My second bow is also to the Triple Jewel of the Buddhas, Dharma, and Sangha. My third bow is again to the Triple Jewel of the Buddhas, Dharma, and Sangha.
Whom do I bow to on the fourth bow? I bow to great sages, great worthies, great filial sons, people of great goodness, great heroes, great people, great virtuous ones, big evil-doers, big bad guys, and all parents throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm. 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 towards them and towards all living beings, for I do not know how many lives I have taken in my past lives. Now I feel I should make these bows to them to compensate for my offenses, and I hope that they will not hold 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. It's just that you don't know, but perhaps in your heart you know." Therefore, anyone who bows to me now is probably just returning my bows. That's why I can neither accept nor refuse their bows. That's the fourth bow.
On the fifth bow, I bow to the Pratimoksha--the precepts-- spoken by all Buddhas in the ten directions and the three periods of time throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm. It is because of the Buddhas' precepts that I can follow this path, the Buddha Way. The kindness and benefit shown to me by the precepts is boundless and limitless.
This is how I bow every time. I don't think there is another person 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.
Why have I told you about the way I bow--about this stupid behavior? It's because you should listen to me and not to the people who say, "Hsuan Hua has such and such spiritual penetrations and responses. He's really extraordinary." That is nonsense. I don't know why people spread this kind of rumor, setting me up as all-perfect.
My conduct has caused not only the laypeople, but even the left-home people, to boycott me. If any of you believe in me, you should deeply understand that you may have taken a big loss. Perhaps it's not a big loss, because if you are compassionate and humble, you can create affinities with all living beings, and that's a good thing.
Now I want to share with you something I composed about the recent circumstances of my illness. If you would like to take notes, I will recite it slowly. You can write it down and study it later. What is it? There are eight lines, but they cannot be considered formal poetry. You can regard them as casual verses in plain language.
The first line says: I linger on, breathing with difficulty as I live out the remainder of my life. When this breath goes out, it's not for sure the next breath will come in. Embroiled in the sufferings of old age and disease. I am not asking you to pity me. I am not saying, I'm so old now, you all should feel sorry for me--this stupid person. The symptoms of old age and disease didn't arrive overnight. They have been developing gradually ever since the time of my birth. Now my legs are not agile, my arms are sore, my back aches, my eyes are blurred, my ears are going deaf, and my teeth have fallen out. Being this way is very painful and inconvenient.
Every day I take my meals as if they were poison. When it is time to eat, I don't feel like eating. No matter what fine delicacies and savory food are served, as soon as I taste them I lose my appetite. It's as difficult as taking poison.
At night, I lie on the sickbed just like a stiff worm. When you hear this, doesn't it make you want to laugh? Lying on the sickbed, I'm just like a dead worm that has gone stiff. I'm pretty much like that.
In my dreams, I often encounter the ghosts of impermanence. Do you all know who the ghosts of impermanence are? I often meet them in my dreams, but they haven't caught me yet. Whenever they want to take me, a Bodhisattva comes and tells them, "It's not time yet. You shouldn't take him; he is serving living beings, and his work isn't done yet." As soon as they hear that, they let me go. They only come in my dreams to catch me, and I have seen them many times, not just once. But I have also seen Buddhas and Bodhisattvas come quite a few times. When the ghosts of impermanence see the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas protecting me, they look around, make a bow, and then leave. I don't know why they bow to me.
Upon awakening, I cannot find a god who can save me. When I wake up, it's difficult to find a spirit or immortal who can save me. Who can rescue me? I still have to struggle on my own and battle with the demon kings in my sick condition.
I'll tell you honestly, this time that I have come to Taiwan, the demon kings are all waiting for me, ready to challenge me. If I didn't have any fortitude, I wouldn't have dared to come to Taiwan. There are so many demon kings here. All the demon kings were trying to stop me from coming to Taiwan! I will say this whether or not you care to listen; since I have already come to Taiwan, I might as well go along with the situation. I am not afraid of anyone who challenges me.
Who are the demon descendants? They are the Buddhist disciples themselves in the Dharma-ending Age. In the past when I came to Taiwan and Bai Sheng was still alive, he spread the rumor that I was a Communist. A few decades ago in Taiwan, if you were labelled a Communist, people would think you were a traitor and a spy, and you would definitely be put in jail. So when I arrived in Taiwan, no monk dared to go meet me at the airport, because I was a Communist! None of the well-known Dharma-protecting laypeople went to meet my plane, either. Only the elder Upasaka Zhou Xuanzhe knew better than to fear my "Communist connections" and came to meet my plane. Another layman, Dong Zhengzhi, also met me and saw me off. He probably wasn't afraid that I was a Communist either. Later, there was also Huang Daren and some other people whom I cannot remember. At that time, if you were labeled a Communist, everyone would fear you as they would fear a tiger. They would think you were as ferocious as a tiger that could hurt them at any time. That was when I first came to Taiwan.
Later on, I sent five American disciples to Taiwan to receive the precepts. Although the people of Taiwan were wary of the Communist Party, they were not afraid of the United States. So my disciples caused quite an uproar, and afterwards the five of them were subjected to interrogation. Who was interrogating them? I don't remember now,was it Hui Feng? He said, "These five all used to be hippies. None of them are up to any good. In America, Dharma Master To Lun would go to the park for recreation. He would sit down in the amphiheater, and hippies from every direction would gather around him. Then To Lun would explain the Buddhadharma to them. The hippies didn't quite understand Chinese, but after someone translated for them, they felt the Dharma had some principle to it. Then he would lure them to his temple, where he would give lectures, which someone translated for them. Then they all left the home-life. That's how he came to have American disciples." That was one of their explanations.
Another thing they'd say was, "Those hippies take drugs and sell drugs. And guess what? To Lun himself also takes drugs, even though he doesn't deal drugs. When Americans take one pill of the drug, they show their true selves and feel on top of the world, very free and easy, as if they've gone to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. To Lun himself can take more than ten pills without any effect." That's what they tell people.
Why do they say these things? Because they're afraid that people in Taiwan will believe in To Lun. To Lun takes one meal a day, and they can't stand it. They aren't able to do that. To Lun teaches his disciples to wear the sash every day, to never be apart from their sash, and they think that's really weird. They say, "The hippies go to his place and find everything very convenient: The food is free and so is the lodging. That's how he lured these drug-addicted hippies there. Now they've decided to leave the home-life, but they haven't changed their bad character."
The time is up, and I will not say any more. When I'm not giving a talk, I rarely say a word. Once I start giving a talk, I might never finish! If you want to hear more, you will have an opportunity in the future. If you don't want to listen, then I can say a little less.
A talk by the Venerable Master Hua
in the morning of January 11, 1993,
at the Taipei County Stadium in Banqiao, Taiwan