Breaking Misconceptions and Superstitions
the past, Buddhism in China always gave people the mistaken impression
that it was a religion that specialized in crossing over dead souls and
so the intelligentsia looked down on and tried to get rid of Buddhism.
Two years prior to the Master's Nirvana, he cried out in dispair:
Buddhism's Water Lands, Flaming Mouths and other ceremonies and their
saving of souls have become the "status quo" in Chinese Buddhism. They
never stop to think that if they keep it up, they are going to be doing
nothing but handing out free meals to unemployed vagrants under the
guise of Buddhism. What a terrible shame! All they know how to do is
make money saving souls! Actually, in order to save souls, you must
have a foundation in virtuous conduct. Then, not to speak of reciting
mantras or reciting sutras, the single sentence "you can go to rebirth"
is sufficient for a soul to be able to gain rebirth in the Land of
Ultimate Bliss. For those of you who lack any virtue in the Way, who
don't have any cultivation, I ask you, what's your basis for being able
to save souls? What you are actually doing is runing up a debt with the
donor. Besides that, you are destroying the basic system of Buddhism.
It's a real shame that they don't open up the Tripitaka [Buddhist
Canon] with its Twelve Divisions -- a precious treasury of infinite
wisdom -- and learn to teach from it instead of applying all their
effort to superfluous things.
Among Asian Buddhists who have
taken refuge there is a popular misconception. Eveyone thinks that the
more teachers you take refuge with, the better. This is a sign of the
Dharma Ending Age. By taking refuge with this one and then taking
refuge with that one, they cause contention among the Dharma Masters,
who quarrel with each other over who has the Dharma affinities and who
gets the disciples. But the Master always asked those who had already
taken refuge not to sign up to take refuge again -- that they could
just follow along and rejoice from the sidelines. The Master said:
people say, "The Youth Good Wealth visited fifty-three teachers; why
can't I bow to a few more teachers?" But you need to realize that the
Youth Good Wealth was always sent on by his previous teacher to the
next teacher. It wasn't that he greedily longed for another Dharma
Master endowed with virtuous conduct and so turned his back on his
current teacher and stole away to take refuge with another. A lot of
older Chinese Buddhist disciples have taken refuge with another. A lot
of older Chinese Buddhist disciples have taken refuge tens or hundreds
of times. But when you ask them what "taking refuge" means, they don't
know. Isn't that pathetic? They say that all left-home people are their
teachers. But I say they don't have any teacher at all because their
minds lack faith, so how can they be saved?
Excerpt from Upasaka Youbing Chen's thesis,
A Discussion of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's Contibutions to Buddhism,
p. 433 - 434, "In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Vol. III"