Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua (1918-1995)
Hsuan Hua (Xuanhua, 1918-1995) was a monastic reformer and the first Chinese master to teach Buddhism to large numbers of Westerners. He emphasized the primacy of the monastic tradition, the essential role of moral education, the need for Buddhists to ground themselves in traditional spiritual practice and authentic scripture, and the importance of mutual respect and understanding among religions. This included clearly explaining the essential principles of the Buddha’s original teachings, and organizing and supporting the translation of the Buddhist canon into English and other languages.
Born in 1918 to a peasant family in a small village south of Harbin, in northeast China, Master Hua was the youngest of eight children. He formally became a Buddhist, in his mid-teens and was given the Dharma name Anci (Peace and Compassion). After his mother’s death, when he was 19, he became a monk and was given the name To Lun (Dulun “Liberator from the Wheel of Rebirth”). He meditated by his mother’s grave for three years and practiced other austerities before receiving full ordination in 1947 at the Buddhist holy mountain Putuoshan.
At Nanhua Monastery in Guangdong Province, he received the Dharma-seal of the Weiyang (also pronounced Guiyang) Chan lineage from the Elder Chan Master Xuyun (1840-1959). Master Xuyun also bestowed upon him the Dharma-transmission name Hsuan Hua (Xuanhua “Proclaim and Transform”).
In 1949, Master Hua left China for Hong Kong, where he taught meditation, lectured on the Buddhist sutras, and helped to establish three Buddhist monasteries. In 1962, he traveled to the United States at the invitation of disciples, who formerly lived in Hong Kong, but were then living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he began lecturing at the San Francisco Buddhist Lecture Hall (Sanfanshi Fojiao Jiangtang). In 1970, Master Hua moved from Chinatown to the newly established Gold Mountain Monastery (Jinshan Si) in the Mission District of San Francisco. In 1975, Master Hua established the organization’s first branch monastery – Gold Wheel Temple (Jinlun Si) in Los Angeles – and in 1976 he established a new headquarters at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (Wan Fo Sheng Cheng), in Ukiah, California.
Additionally, he founded the Buddhist Text Translation Society with the goal of translating the Buddhist canon. It has now published well over a hundred volumes of translations, including several of the major Mahayana sutras with Master Hua’s commentaries.
In 1995, after a long and tireless career, Master Hua passed away at the age of 77.
In his final instructions he said: “After I depart, you can recite the Avataṃsaka Sutra and the name of the Buddha Amitābha for however many days you would like, perhaps seven days or forty-nine days. After cremating my body, scatter all my remains in the air. I do not want you to do anything else at all. Do not build me any pagodas or memorials. 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…. From emptiness I came; to emptiness I return.”
Ronald Epstein, translated this text. He is a practicing Buddhist scholar, who holds a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and recently retired from teaching Buddhist studies and world religions at San Francisco State University.
Topics covered include
- What are the benefits of meditation?
- How do we sit in meditation?
- What are the states of meditation?
- How do we reach nirvana?
- What is absolute enlightenment?
In forty chapters the sutra conveys a vast range of Buddhist teachings. It presents, in detailed description, the stages of Awakening that a Bodhisattva or 'Awakened Being’ must progress through on the path towards Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi – ‘Supreme Perfect Enlightenment.’
The sutra depicts the events that immediately unfolded upon the Buddha's Awakening under the Bodhi tree. It describes a cosmos that has infinite realms within realms, boundless and interpenetrating.
Chapter 28 describes the Ten Spiritual Powers that Bodhisattvas attain upon perfecting their meritorious virtues in the practice of the Bodhisattva Path. These powers enable Bodhisattvas to discern the potentials of living beings to teach and guide them to bring forth the aspiration for enlightenment.
Chapter 29 describes the Ten Patiences that Bodhisattvas must develop in their quest towards ultimate Awakening. If Bodhisattvas can perfect these ten kinds of patience, they will attain the positions of unobstructed patience of all Bodhisattvas.
Buddhism belongs to all of humanity, to all living beings.
Venerable Master Hua
Fulfilling one of his vows to spread Buddhism from the East to the
West, Tripitaka Master Hua and a group of disciples traveled to Europe in
1990 to spread the Dharma in Europe. In lively lectures and discussions in
England, Belgium, Poland and France, he touched on the subjects of
¨ stopping wars
¨ harmony among religions
¨ karma and illness
¨ education as national defense
¨ spiritual mantras