Venerable Master, a native of Shuangcheng County of Jilin Province, was
born on the sixteenth day of the third lunar month in the year of Wu Wu
at the beginning of the century. His family surname was Bai and his
name was Yushu. He was also called Yuxi. His father, Bai Fuhai, was
diligent and thrifty in managing the household. His mother, whose
maiden name was Hu, ate only vegetarian food and recited the Buddha's
name every day throughout her life. When she was pregnant with the
Master, she prayed to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The night before
his birth, in a dream she saw Amitabha Buddha emitting a light so
radiant that it penetrated heaven and shook the earth. Shortly after,
she gave birth to her youngest son. When the Master was born, the room
was filled with a rare fragrance. For three days and nights the Master
cried continuously, a sign of his deep sympathy for beings suffering
birth and death in this Saha (defiled) world.
As a child, the
Master followed his mother's example and ate only vegetarian food and
recited the Buddha's name. The Master was quiet and untalkative by
nature, but he had a righteous and heroic spirit. At the age of eleven,
upon seeing a neighbor's infant who had died, he became aware of the
great matter of birth and death and the brevity of life and resolved to
leave the home-life. At the age of twelve, he heard of how Filial Son
Wong of Shuangcheng County (later known as Great Master Chang Ren) had
practiced filial piety and attained the Way, and he vowed to follow the
Filial Son's example. Repenting for being unfilial to his parents in
the past, the Master decided to bow to his parents every morning and
evening as a way of acknowledging his faults and repaying his parents'
kindness. He gradually became renowned for his filial conduct, and
people called him Filial Son Bai.
The Venerable Master's Diary of Cultivation, written at age 16.
fifteen, he took refuge under the Venerable Master Chang Zhi. That same
year he began to attend school and mastered the Four Books, the Five
Classics, the texts of various Chinese schools of thought, and the
fields of medicine, divination, astrology, and physiognomy. During his
student years, he also participated in the Moral Society and other
charitable societies. He explained the Sixth Patriarch's Sutra, the
Vajra Sutra, and other Sutras for those who were illiterate, and
started a free school for those who were poor and needy.
Translation of diary contents:
I resolve to emulate the sages and worthies.
I resolve to accomplish great deeds.
The father is weak, so the son must be strong
To make a living to support our lives.