I once had a discussion on Buddhism with Venerable Zhou Ying.
"Master Lu, you claim that you're enlightened. May I ask what the enlightenment is?"
I replied, "This is beyond words."
"How does one know?"
"You know what you experience, whether it is warm or cold."
"Even a three-year-old can say that!" Venerable Zhou Ying said.
"Yes, indeed. But you need to ask yourself if you're truly free within, or not."
"Does the Tao have a form?"
"As it is, the Tao is formless."
"If the Tao is formless, how does it seek its balance?" Venerable Zhou Ying asked.
"It does it naturally."
Having been practicing Zen for the past twenty years, Venerable Zhou Ying thought he could shut me up once and for all by discussing the Buddhadharma with me. All it would take is one flaw in my speech and he would go for the kill.
I smiled, remaining firm in my verbal defense.
"Master Lu, you are neither preaching Buddhism nor Taoism. People talk about you!" ?
"Let me ask you this: is the highest peak connected with the deepest sea?"
The Venerable Zhou Ying said, "Why do you have to include the spirits?"
"As mighty as the universe may be, it is nothing more than a bubble." I uttered.
Venerable Zhou Ying could no longer question me any further.
This time, he asked, " Master Lu. You claim you have supernatural power. Can you offer me some proof?"
"I wish to save your life!" I uttered. ?
"Save my life?" unconvinced, Venerable Zhou Ying sneered at me and said, "I can liberate myself. I don't need your help."
"Whether you are liberated or not is of no concern here. You have a pending disaster coming your way."
"Rubbish! This is just one of those fortune-teller's tricks."
"Believe it or not, it's up to you."
"Alright then, go ahead and tell me about it!"
"There are four men in black who are near you, and they want to take your life!"
"How do I protect myself?"
"Chant the Marici Bodhisattva Mantra."
I spoke in no uncertain terms to the monk, "Chant the Marici Bodhisattva Mantra: Om Marici-yee So Ha."
I added, "When you chant the mantra, you must also recite the following:
Protect me against troubles from any ruler.
Protect me from thieves.
Protect me in my travels.
Protect me from disasters of fire and water.
Protect me from harm in a war.
Protect me from psychic attack.
Protect me from being poisoned.
Protect me from wild beasts, poisonous insects and all enemies.
Protect me in all places and at all times."
Venerable Zhou Ying said, "You saw four men in black around me and I see nothing. You want me to recite the Marici Bodhisattva Mantra. I can do this. You say that I will encounter a disaster. If nothing happens to me, I will expose you as a fraud, and your so-called enlightenment will be reduced to nothing more than just plain mental knowledge."
I told him, "It's really up to you."
The Venerable Zhou Ying clasped his palms and left.
Actually, when the monk first approached me, I already sensed that he would face a disaster. That was because he had four men in black, who were spirit officials waiting for him.
These four spirit officials were ahead of the monk, and they wanted to rush into my house. I stopped them before they could enter and they had to linger around the vicinity as they were waiting for him.
This is how I secretly save many sentient beings. Many face calamities and they do not necessarily know about them. I would not let them know. I help them resolve their situations without their knowledge.
Actually, there is bound to be some degree of calamity in our lives. Shakyamuni Buddha foresaw this when he said, "The human life is one of uncertainty."
The Three Realms of Existence are engulfed in one scorching flame.
Even the ordained are not ensured safety
Impermanence awaits one nevertheless.
Calm your thoughts and prepare yourself for the final journey.
I am aware that people are afraid of calamity and disaster. Thus, I cultivate myself daily and secretly help many go through their hard times. I chanted the Marici Bodhisattva Mantra, and I dedicated the merits to Venerable Zhou Ying. With my help, Venerable Zhou Ying would be saved.
Venerable Zhou Ying lived alone in a small hut, deep within the Bagua Mountain in Changhua, Taiwan. He practiced Zen meditation and sat cross-legged in yoga posture.
The monk was once a student studying abroad in Japan. However, while in Japan, he developed a strong interest in Buddhism and was ordained as a monk in a famous Zen monastery of the Soto Sect in Kyoto. His lineage thus comes from Japan.
I learned that the Patriarchal lineage of the Zen School had stopped with the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng, due to a dispute over the Fifth Patriarch's Dharma robe. It has since blossomed into the five sects of Zen Buddhism, which are the Lin Ji Sect (Rinzai Sect), T'sao Tung Sect (Soto Sect), Wei Yang Sect, Yun Men Sect and Fa Yen Sect. Zen Buddhism is known as the teaching of the heart. The name of Zen was adopted for this school during the beginning of the T'ang Dynasty. Zen means cultivation of one's thoughts, which is the process of contemplating on truth itself. This is a practice of serenity and concentration.
The First Patriarch, Bodhidharma, a Southern Indian, arrived in China during the Liang Dynasty to transmit the School of Buddha Mind teachings. His method emphasizes the importance of serene meditation and silent recital, expressing the Buddha Mind and focusing on the practice of concentration and purification. In so doing, the method gives the impression of sitting in meditation; hence it is known as the Zen School.
The Zen School stresses the following:
Omission of the written language,
Direct revelation of the mind,
Attaining Buddhahood through Enlightenment, and
Active discussion on Prajna, or wisdom
One stormy night, Venerable Zhou Ying was meditating alone in his hut. The rain had been pouring for three consecutive days and nights. Venerable Zhou Ying was aware that the market place at the foot of the mountain was swamped. If the rain persisted, a flood would be inevitable.
Suddenly, the cry of a child was heard outside the hut, and the sound intermingled with the pouring rain.
Venerable Zhou Ying raised his head and listened:
"Mommy! Mommy!" The words kept repeating and it was definitely a child's cry.
As he listened closely, it became: "Marici! Marici! Marici!"
He recited a line of the Mantra, "Om Marici-yee So Ha."
In the mist of the heavy downpour, Venerable Zhou Ying quickly got up and put on his raincoat and rain boots. Holding a torch in his hands, he hurried out of his hut to search for the crying child
Was it Mommy or Marici? He could not tell the difference. The cry was swinging from the front to the back area, and switched from the left to the right. It was as if someone was playing hide-and-seek with him. He walked for an hour in the storm.
Suddenly, the cry disappeared. He waited for a long time and listened. There was not a faint noise in range, and he quickly realized there was nobody living within the parameter of the vicinity. If there were no family living in this mountainous area, what would be the chances of finding any child crying? Venerable Zhou Ying rushed back to his hut, only to find that it was gone. A mudslide had buried the hut under a pile of rocks and mud, forming a molehill. Rocks and mud kept sliding downwards from the mountaintop, and he found himself in extreme danger. Frightened, Venerable Zhou Ying fled the area where he had spent two years meditating. His life was spared, but his hut, together with all his possession were gone.
Upon reflection, Venerable Zhou Ying realized that he had to go through this calamity. He remembered that this was prophesied by Living Buddha Lian-shen, Sheng-yen Lu. The four spirit officials in black clothing were waiting to arrest him. It was the suggestion of Living Buddha Lian-shen that he chant the Marici Bodhisattva Mantra, while placing more emphasis on it as his protection mantra.
Although Venerable Zhou Ying practices Zen, he was exposed to the teachings of other schools in his life. He chanted the Marici Bodhisattva Mantra in his younger days, and was now able to continue chanting the mantra upon my suggestion.
As the saying goes:
If you burn the incense, you shall be protected.
If you consume food, you shall be energized.
They sound alike.
After leaving Bagua Mountain, Venerable Zhou Ying took shelter with various temples and monasteries all over Taiwan. He was used to living the life of a hermit and cultivating alone in his little hut, indulging in almost ascetic-like practices. After experiencing the calamity, he switched from being a hermit to living among others. This was a new experience for him.
He met many fellow cultivators and heard many mentions of Living Buddha Lian-shen, Sheng-yen Lu. Generally speaking, most would choose to criticize me as negative news, and such consciousness spreads its influence. Thus, most practitioners tend to reject me and only a handful chooses to reserve their comments. This is the state of affairs in the religious circle.
Venerable Zhou Ying listened but kept his views to himself. When others called me a Mara or a heresy, he sat in silence, knowing the truth about what had happened. He wanted to clear my name but being outnumbered, he would not stand a chance against the mass. He decided to save his breath and remained silent throughout the conversation.
Venerable Zhou Ying visited me and mentioned what he had heard.
He said, "Why don't you change your approach to liberate sentient beings and use a new and different way altogether? You can start building a new foundation through it."
I replied, "People's minds are set about me. It may seem easy to start all over again, but it would take a lot of work and time to change things."
"You must at least have some hope!"
"Once people make up their mind about you, it's going stay that way forever. I'm used to this and it doesn't matter."
"You think it is unnecessary?" Venerable Zhou Ying asked.
"Yes. I take slander and criticism for the better. I take it as my own spiritual discipline!"
"But your reputation suffers!"
"Reputation is immaterial in the light of one's spiritual discipline. The experience is much needed for anyone to attain Buddhahood." Venerable Zhou Ying nodded.
I told Venerable Zhou Ying, "When I was about to leave my master, Venerable Liao Ming and descend from the mountain, my Master told me that a person like me has only three options. The first option is to enter Nirvana immediately. The second option is to take seclusion in the deep mountains, never to appear again. Or take the last option, which is to act as a fool among people."
I smiled and continued, "I am happy and contented within myself and I don't care what others say about me."
"Do you have regrets?" Venerable Zhou Ying asked.
"Are you hurt?"
"What about praise and ridicule, misery and honor?"
"They mean nothing to me! Life is but a game to me, and I merely experience it to the fullest."
Venerable Zhou Ying invited me to ascend to my teaching seat with the greatest respect, and he prostrated before me three times, in all sincerity.
"Why such prostration?"
"To thank you for saving my life!"
"I didn't save you. You saved yourself!"
"That's because you instructed me on what to do!"
I remained silent.
Venerable Zhou Ying told me this before leaving my place: "I feel like leaving this human world of suffering."
I told him, "It's all in your heart. If your heart is free, then that is truly leaving this world behind."
"You mean I should adjust and adapt to this world?"
"Nope! There is no human world to begin with." I said.
Venerable Zhou Ying contemplated on this for a while, and finally nodded his head. He realized what I meant and said; "I understand this in principle. But putting it into practice and eventually mastering this art constitutes a True Buddha!"
Here's a verse:
One two three four five six seven,
Still the mind and ascend to the Western Heaven.
It seems so easy when the words of Buddha are spoken,
Yet one stumbles, plunging into mud too often.