Forest Sangha Newsletter October 1995

The Human Family; Ajahn Sumedho
The Sima Ceremony; Ajahn Attapemo
Traceless Traces; Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
In Memory of Luang Por Jun: Pt. 2; Sr. Sanghamitta
Sutta Class; Ajahn Thiradhammo
Less Trust requires More Faith; Ajahn Sucitto
Signs of Change:


Traceless Traces

The Funeral of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua - his teachings
~ Ajahn Sucitto ~

After the cremation, scatter my ashes in the air. I do not want you to do anything else at all for me...I came into the world without anything; when I depart I still do not want anything, and I do not want to leave any traces in the world. I came from empty space, and I will also return to empty space....
extracts from the Venerable Master's Final instructions
On July 24th, Luang Por Sumedho, Ajahn Sucitto and Sister Sanghamitta flew to California on the invitation of Dharma Realm Buddhist Association to attend the funeral ceremonies around Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, whose decease was reported in the last issue of the Newsletter. They were met in Los Angeles by Ajahns Amaro and Thanavaro who were about to enter their three-month retreat in Northern California. After some ceremonies in Long Beach, the party went north to the City of 10,000 Buddhas, to join an assembly of 1,000 people, lay and ordained, in the culminating rites.

Reflections and contemplation in the presence of death are of great value: they help us to re-establish Right View, to affirm our aspirations and perhaps to make new and deeper commitments to the Path. When the funeral is of a great Dharma Master, in the presence of a Maha Sangha, the effect is greatly magnified.

It would take a long essay to bring across the events in anything like a meaningful way. We were all warmly and respectfully invited into the heart of the proceedings, which despite the unfamiliar ritual and Chinese chanting were inspirational in the reverence and aspiration that they conveyed. And the message of death is simple enough for anyone who chooses to look clearly:

Leaves fall & return to the root: one sees the original source. This fleeting life is but a dream completely without traces. In this one dream, there is nothing at all. When the illusion ends, the truth continues to exist.
Presiding Master Ming Yang uttered this short poem before the casket containing the Master's body was sealed; and then added:
His spirit is unextinguished, equal to empty space, The original owner of this person. Neither going nor coming, perpetually unmoving, The green mountains have always been in the white clouds.
Cultivating the Way simply means to "turn ourselves around." Doing It Just Right is the Middle Way

After the casket had been carried to the cremation site, along streets of the City lined with people, it was burned. The next day, in the blazing morning sun, the ashes were carried into the air by a huge hot air balloon and scattered. A cloud of dust drifted and dissolved gently in an almost imperceptible breeze. Apart from the many monasteries, hermitages and disciples that the Master has left in the world, are records of his commentaries on Sutras and many Dharma talks. We print extracts from a couple of them below.

Cultivating the Way simply means to "turn ourselves around."

What is Buddhadharma? Buddhadharma is simply worldly dharma, but it's a variety of worldly dharma that most people are unwilling to use. Worldly people are always busy running here and there, constantly hurried and agitated. The source of all this activity is invariably selfishness, motivated by a concern to protect one's life and possessions. Buddhadharma, on the other hand, is unselfish and public-spirited, and springs from a wish to benefit others. As we learn the Buddhadharma, our every action gradually comes to include in its scope a concern for others. The ego gradually loses its importance. We should give up our own interests in service to others and avoid bringing affliction to others. These are the hallmarks of Buddhadharma. But most people fail to clearly understand these basic ideas. As a result, within Buddhist circles we find struggle and contention, troubles and hassles, quarrels and strife. We find an atmosphere not at all different from that of ordinary people. Sometimes the relationships within Buddhist groups don't even measure up to the standards of ordinary social conduct. Such people study Buddhism on the one hand and create offences on the other. They do good deeds, and in the next breath destroy the merit and virtue they've earned. Instead of advancing the cause of Buddhism, such behaviour actually harms it. The Buddha referred to such people as 'parasites on the lion, feeding off the lion's flesh.'

We Buddhist disciples cannot expect any results from our cultivation if we're selfish and profiteering, unable to put things down and see through our attachments. The motto of Buddhists must be:

Truly recognize your own faults, And don't discuss others' wrongs. Others wrongs are just my own: Being of one substance with all things is called Great Compassion.
If we want to thoroughly understand the truths of Buddhism, then we must first cultivate patience and giving. Then we can come to accomplishment. We must turn ourselves around and be different from ordinary people. We can no longer flow along with the turbid currents of the world. Cultivating the Way simply means to 'turn ourselves around.' What is that? It means to 'give desirable situations and benefits to other people, while absorbing the unfavourable situations ourselves.' We renounce the petty self in order to bring to perfection the greater self.

All disciples who have taken refuge with me are like the flesh and blood of my own body. No matter which piece of flesh is severed from my body, it hurts me just the same. No matter where I bleed, the wound injures my constitution. Because of this, all of you must unite together. To make Buddhism expand and flourish, you must take a loss in places where most people are unable to sustain a loss.

You must endure the insults that ordinary people find unendurable. Expand the measure of your minds, and be true in your actions. When you're not trying to be true, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are aware of it. No one can cheat them. Each of you should examine your own faults and earnestly remedy the flaws in your character. Truly recognize where in the past you've been upside-down and where your behavior has departed from principle. Be honest, forget about yourself, and work for the sake of all of Buddhism and all of society.

Doing It Just Right is the Middle Way

In the Dharma-door of investigating Chan, you must fix your attention on what you are doing. At all times, you should return the light and reflect within. Don't be too tense, and don't be too slack. It's said,
Too tight, and it'll break. Too slack, and it'll be loose. Neither tight nor slack, and it will turn out right.
But neither tense nor slack is the Middle Way. Walking, standing, sitting and lying down, don't be apart from this. Once you leave this, you have missed it. What is this? It's the ultimate meaning of the Middle Way.

In investigating Chan, you must be impartial, not leaning to one side. Don't go too far, and don't fail to go far enough. If you go too far, or not far enough, it's not the Middle Way. If you don't fall into the two extremes of emptiness and existence, then that's the Middle Way. It's said, 'The Middle Way is neither emptiness nor existence.' It is True Emptiness and Wonderful Existence. Do not be attached to true emptiness, and do not be obstructed by wonderful existence, for true emptiness and wonderful existence cannot be grasped or renounced. You cannot take hold of them or let go of them. That's the true emptiness and wonderful existence.

When you are applying effort, you should finish what you start; only then will you accomplish anything. As it's said, "Carry it through from beginning to end." You shouldn't "put it in the sun for one day and freeze it for ten," retreat in the face of difficulty, or give up halfway - that's the behavior of people without backbone. The ancients said,

In cultivation, don't be afraid to go slowly. Just be afraid of standing still.
In your daily investigation of Chan, be mindful of your own meditation topic, and slash through all your idle thoughts with your Vajra-jewelled sword of wisdom. When idle thinking is severed, wisdom will arise. With the light of wisdom, you can smash through the gloom of ignorance. Once ignorance is smashed, you can transcend the Three Realms, escape birth and death, and crash your way out of the wheel of life (i.e. the twelve links of conditioned co- production).

Those who apply effort in cultivating the Way must have patience. No matter how hard it is, you must patiently bear it. With patience you can reach the other shore. So in joining this Chan Session, you all should not be afraid of hardship. It's said, "When bitterness ends, sweetness comes." If you don't start at the very bottom, you can't reach the top. Remember that a ten thousand foot skyscraper is built from the ground up. It isn't built in mid-air. Therefore, Chan cultivators must start with the basics, which are to get rid of idle thinking. If you can stop your idle thoughts, then at that point,

The moon appears in the waters of a pure heart; There are no clouds in the sky of a calm mind.
When the heart is at peace, all problems go away. When the mind is still, the myriad things are in harmony. As it is said:
True wealth is stopping the mind and cutting off thought: True fields of blessings are devoid of all selfish desires.
One investigates Chan just to get rid of the false and keep the true. It is also to pan for gold, to look for gold dust in the sand, which is a difficult task. But if you want to find gold, you have to look in the sand, and be patient. Do you want to understand your inherent Buddha-nature? Do you want to understand your mind and see your nature? Then you must patiently cultivate, study and investigate, and when enough time has passed, you will suddenly penetrate and enlighten to the fact that it is originally this way!

Both extracts from Venerable Master Hua's "Talks on Dharma: Volume 1", published by Buddhist Text Translation Society, Burlingame, California.

"My intent is not to contend with anyone for fame or benefit. If there is any advantage that other people want, I don't want it. What others don't want, I pick up. The Buddha treated everyone with kindness, compassion, joy and giving. He didn't exclude or give up on anyone. Even though I'm not the Buddha, I want to learn to be like the Buddha."