Venerable Hsu Yun's Stillness
July of 1959, I received news of the Venerable Yun's grave illness, and
day and night I was worried. I knew it was an inauspicious sign. I had
noticed in the Venerable One's Dharma portrait of 1958 that his eyes
gazed horizontally, and his eyebrows were several inches long, so they
could have been tucked behind his ears. When I saw the portrait I bowed
before it and was moved to say, "Every time the Venerable One closes
his eyes for photographs, but this time the compassionate eyes are
gazing on living beings. This is very unusual. It must be an indication
of a major change. In less than a year it will be clear." Then I
requested the greatly virtuous Sangha of the ten directions to bow, on
behalf of the Elder Master Yun, the Jewelled Repentance of Medicine
Master Buddha Who Dispels Calamities and Lengthens Life. I also
arranged for several days of Universal Bowing to the Buddhas, and put a
notice in the newspaper to let all the Elder One's disciples know, so
that by the combined strength of the assembly's determination and
sincerity a response would come to pass. At the time, I said to the
assembly, "I fear that this is the last opportunity for us to practice
Universal Bowing before the Buddhas, to bow the Medicine Master
Repentance, and to perform other ceremonies for the Elder Master Yun."
My voice was so laden with sorrow as I spoke these words that those who
heard me also wept silently.
Then a letter came from Yunju
saying: "The Venerable One is a little better. We are deeply relieved!"
I immediately concentrated all my attention on finding an artist who
could be commissioned for the painting of the Elder One's Pictorial
Biography. The biography includes over two hundred exquisite Chinese
brush drawings. In several tens of thousands of words, it sets forth
the Elder One's life of superior virtue, his conduct and vows, the
hardships he suffered, his toil, and his singular energy and spirit.
The Elder Master is shown as an eternal model and guide for the sages
to come. There has not been a model such as he in thousands of years.
Unfortunately, death is inevitable. On October 16 (the fifteenth of the
ninth lunar month), I received a telegram saying that on October 12 at
1:45 p.m., the Venerable One had completed the stillness at Zhenru Chan
Monastery on Yunju Mountain. His instructions for those who would come
after him were to diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom,
and put to rest greed, anger, and stupidity; to forget themselves for
the sake of the Dharma; to respect one another; and so forth.
120 day recitation session held in memory of the Elder Master Hsu Yun
I heard this news, suddenly not only did the mountains collapse and the
earth quake, but the whole world and everyone in it disappeared as the
disaster of fire blazed through everything. I could not tell if I was
dreaming or awake, if things were real or illusory. I was as dull as a
puppet, as senseless as a clay image. After a while, when I came to my
senses, I experienced an overwhelming grief. The next day, on the
morning of October 17, I called together all the temple's donors to
discuss arrangements for the memorial services. We decided to hold a
21-day Buddha Recitation Session followed by a 120-day Great Prajna
Recitation Session. We hoped in this way to commemorate the Elder
Master and to repay him for the kindness of the Dharma-milk he had
given us. Then we sent telegrams overseas to inform Dharma companions
in various parts of the world. Among those contacted were the Buddhist
Lecture Hall in San Francisco; the Buddhist Association of Honolulu;
Layman Li Juncheng and Laywoman Bi Junhui and others in Hawaii; Layman
Zhan Liwu in Canada, and other disciples in Taiwan, Burma, Thailand,
India, Ceylon, and other countries; and Layman Yu Jendong, Chairman of
the World Buddhist Friendship Association. More than one hundred
telegrams were sent out, and thus disciples throughout the world
gathered in response to commemorate the Nirvana of the Elder One. Hong
Kong Buddhists were contacted by phone, and on October 18, the
newspapers in Hong Kong published the news.
Who would have
thought that this would arouse people's jealousy! Evildoers began to
slander and demonic ghosts went mad. They became so totally confused
that they did not distinguish clearly what they saw and heard. Those
self-proclaimed "Good Advisors" cleverly convinced not only themselves
but impartial bystanders to follow along and join in their campaign.
How pitiful! It is easy to believe the saying, "When deeds are good,
the demons abound." When all is said and done, I leave it for the
Venerable Yun to decide: Have I done right? When Confucius wrote the
Spring and Autumn Annals, the corrupt officials and thieves recoiled in
dread. When Sima wrote the Historical Records, his exposes put an end
to villains and criminals. I will devote all my strength to the
Venerable Yun. Although ten thousand spears may pierce my body, I am
absolutely not afraid. Proceed to aim your machinations at me. I will
gladly withstand them. Great Master Yongjia said, "Contemplate vicious
words / As merit and virtue. / Then vicious words become one's Good and
Wise Advisors. / Do not let abuse and slander arouse enmity or liking.
/ How else can the power of compassion and patience with nonproduction
be manifest?" He also said, "Let others slander me; / I bear their
condemnation. / Those who try to burn the sky only exhaust themselves.
/ When I hear it, it's just like drinking sweet dew. / Thus smelted and
refined, suddenly one enters the inconceivable." Therefore, everyone
should be aware of the inconceivable functioning of the law of cause
and effect and of the inconceivability of the resulting retribution.
Take heed! When you fall into the Hell of Pulling Tongues, it will be
too late to regret what you have done.