Clouds Floating in the Blue Sky and Water Kept in the
--- A Trip to the White Cloud Mountain (Part I)by Liu Hui Shu
“The stone path zigzags its way as I climb up the chilly mountain
Hidden in the depth of the clouds is a secluded farm house”
The two lines from a carefree and leisurely ancient poem create images of its lingering charm of over 1,000 years ago, on the White Cloud Mountain, in the cold winter, echoing in the fine drizzle of January on the Lunar Calendar, and permeating into its misty and foggy chill.
We drove along the spiral road in the forest. The green trees on both sides delighted our eye, enhancing the quiet and secluded woods. The bamboo groves were thick, tall and erect. Exotic and fragrant flowers danced in the refreshing breeze. Our eyes feasted on the panoramic view of the enchanting mountain scene.
The car wound its way upwards. On a piece of treasured land towers aloft a temple – Neng Ren Temple, circled by trees and with the beautiful mountain in the background. Nearby stood a stone tablet inscribed with four Chinese characters “Wu Chen Jing Jie” (literally No Dust State). Visitors were few, making the forest more secluded and the temple cleaner and more tranquil. The pure land was originally unpolluted, without any dust - so should be people’s minds. When their hearts are free from any attachments, the dust can then vanish and thus they are able to see the True Nature of Suchness. The stone stairs led us to the sublime and towering halls, the Main Hall, the Vajra Dharmadhatu Hall and the Hall of the Sixth Patriarch.
Shakyamuni Buddha, with the greatest compassion and loving-kindness, took pity on the worldly people. His hallmarks are perfect and dignified. With utmost sincerity, we paid obeisance to the Buddha images. Suddenly it started to rain. What Dharma rain! All Tathagatas started their practice at the causal stage. By realizing the perfect, pure, internal illumination, they sever ignorance forever. Since time without beginning, all sentient beings have been misled by various kinds of distorted dreams. Because their true nature is veiled, they cling to all kinds of attachments. The illusive mirages formed by the Six Dusts (Six Defilements) cover their true nature like dust. Thus, led by the Karmic obstructions, they transmigrate in the bitter sea of birth and death running ceaselessly. Only after they break free from their ignorance can they reach the unsurpassable supreme Dharma Realm and attain the perfect wisdom.
Having left the pure land behind us, we arrived at the special place for birds with nets above and snares below. Many varieties of birds were caged in a huge iron net. They chirped and flew happily in the confined space, sometimes staying still for a long time, and sometimes fluttering their wings while strolling. In thousands of different forms, they hovered in the sky. Not knowing the great joy they brought to others or the Karma of incarnation that binds them in the same net, they were carefree, still searching for food and playing in the chilly mist of winter. In the middle of the net was a pool of crystal clear water, with several white swans swimming gracefully in it. The statues in the water were so lifelike and full of vitality. Some naï bve children sat around a weather-beaten man with a long beard. Occasionally, white doves came and perched on their heads. All of a sudden, the peaceful scene was filled with life, gentleness and quietude, beautiful and harmonious, enriching the soft verdant grasslands. The grass and leaves were clean, luxuriant and beautiful, as if the fine drizzles from the sky had just washed them. When one’s heart is serene, he feels that the mountain is empty and when birds chirp, the flowers are even more tranquil. In front of the quiet pond, we performed the Buddhist ceremony of salvation for the birds. Our wish was for them to take refuge in the Three Gems and to be reborn in Buddha’s Pure Land. The water sometimes rippled and sometimes became still. Perhaps these birds had some connection with us in our previous lives, so that we could experience this miraculous encounter in this life.
The fine drizzle seemed to dance happily when we looked at the unbroken chain of mountain trees through the window of the car as we swept past them. We were approaching the highest place of Guangzhou—Mo Xing Ling (Scraping Star Ridge). We walked up the stone steps. In the misty clouds, Guangzhou looked like an exquisite picture scroll. The green trees and buildings enhanced each other, scattered in a beautiful configuration and spanning a long history, with the dense mist floating in the air. This scene was just like the complete and utter tranquility of the universe coming after all its noises when one observed it with peace of mind. The ordinary immediately follows the peaks of splendour. Facing the creation of nature, all my thoughts were gone. I seemed to hear the faintly echoing chimes from a distant bell. “Everywhere on the green mountain is wonderful, but how can it be more beautiful than my home town? If I can live a life free from all cares, this mortal world will be Peng Lai Island (a legendary abode for the immortals)”
The scenery on the peak is indeed enchanting. However, the feeling of elation is nothing but momentary happiness, and so is our life. Attached to the route of continuous clamber in our life, we have passed countless attractive scenic spots, only to find that our destination is not the permanent home but a stop on the hectic journey. Looking at the endless journey ahead of us, we feel desolate and lost. The other shore is so far away, like an intangible flower in the dream, out of reach, clasped to the branch of destiny, and changing incessantly under the control of Karma. The moon causes the clouds to drift in the sky, and the boat sails along the moving banks. If we do not attach ourselves to the various illusive mirages of the Three Thousand Great Thousand Worlds, our minds will be completely tranquil, free from any cares, just like the clean and pure lotus blossoms. Then we can be reborn in the Buddha’s Pure Land as we wish. A gatha quotes: “Thousand rivers reflect thousand moons, and cloudless sky is pure and boundless sky.”
Letter to Liu Hui Shu from Maha Acarya Yang Fo Xing
April 15, 1996
Dear Hui Shu,
I was delighted to receive your letter and gratified at your progress in Buddhism practice.
Maha Acarya Feng Da An once gave me an instruction. It quotes: “The Wise Elderly Subhuti (who was actually the incarnate of a Buddha) was also called as “Emptiness Upon Birth” because everything in his room was transformed into emptiness the moment he was born, and the room was illuminated with pure light This phenomenon is Transforming Forms into True Nature, also described by the Sixth Patriarch of the Ch’an School as the state Non-form as the Basis. The Wise Elderly Subhuti had another name ‘Wonderful Manifestation’. He was so called because he had broken free from all the ignorance and obstacles. He realized the Equality Wisdom and merged into oneness with the Ratna Division so that sublime and wonderful forms could be manifested. As he reached the state of Buddha Ratnasambhava, the Diamond Sutra turned into his own language. Therefore, it was Subhuti who requested the Buddha to expound on the subtle, profound and wonderful purport of the sutra.
Your letter reads: “When I practice the Maha Cakra Vajra (Big Wheel Vajra) Mantra, I see lights shining in front of me. From time to time, I feel that my physical body and everything around me no longer exist. I am enveloped in a round space and bathed by strong lights.” The internal state described above is a true internal realization if you reach it in practice when you are both physically and mentally healthy, when your consciousness is subdued and when you achieve it in the state of complete tranquility and brightness in Samadhi. If you have this experience when you practice the mantra in a state of physical fatigue and mental exhaustion or confusion, this is false realization You shouldn’t be proud nor should you indulge in it. Even the true achievement can change, coming and going from time to time, so you should not abide in it either. You must keep on practising hard and should never tire of trying to make even further progress. Only in this way can you achieve the two states “Emptiness upon Birth” and “Wonderful Manifestation”. Then your great achievements in the practice of Buddhism can benefit sentient beings when the appropriate conditions arise.
The Vidyarajas are powerful and wrathful deities who help sentient beings break off their Karmic obstructions. Acala Vidyaraja is always portrayed as sitting on a triangle-shaped stone bench, with a sword in the right hand and a coiled rope in the left hand. His bulging eyes burn with rage, and the blue body radiates fierce flames. He is indeed powerful and terrifying! The third layer the Fire Cakra (Fire Wheel) of the Five Cakra Stupa (Five Wheel Pagoda) of the Esoteric School is transformed into a triangle cone in red. By now you can understand the esoteric meaning of the reverse triangle which you saw in your practice.
One can have true effect when he practices the Sadhana with great energy. When it is midnight, one can easily get tired and unable to think clearly. The result of his meditation would not be good. If he is exhausted, he should stop his practice at once and take a good rest. In this way, he can avoid doing it badly.
Your article entitled “Clouds Floating in the Blue Sky and Water Kept in the Bottle” touches many people. Luo Xiao Wen, who graduated from Zhong Shan Medical University, commented on your article, saying: “Just like the birds in a big cage, mundane people lead a muddled life. Her article would be thought-provoking if she could make the association between the birds and the people who are deluded.” You can decide if her suggestion is a good idea.
Keep on practicing hard!
Yang Fo Xing
Floating in the Sky and Water Kept in the Bottle
(This part is written in the form of a letter in reply to Maha Acarya Yang Fo Xing’s letter attached above)
May 2, 1996
Dear Maha Acarya Yang Fo Xing,
Thank you very much for the book on Samaya Sila that you mailed to us. My sister Hui Cong and I studied the book carefully and discussed the contents. We encourage and support each other in the path of Buddhism practice. We are deeply touched by your loving-kindness and great compassion. No better words can express our heart-felt gratitude to you- my Guru.
My article describing the trip to the White Cloud Mountain was triggered by my feelings on the mountain at that time. Dharma friend Luo Xiao Wen’s suggestion is indeed a good one. Mundane people live a confused life, deluded and lost in daydreams, just like the birds confined in the cage, totally unaware of the objective laws of the universe. They are similar in that both of them are controlled by fate determined by their Karma. The birds, having no chance to be exposed to the truth of the world, cannot contemplate on their life. However, people can be introduced to the law of Karma and reincarnation, thus pulling back from the lost path. Born in the path of existence as human beings, with Buddha Nature innate in them, people are able to experience various kinds of disappointments and anguish. They are much better than birds that are totally ignorant of sufferings. Since time without beginning, numerous sentient beings have been fettered by boundless greed and delusions and immersed in the rimless ocean of desire. Under numerous delusions, they bustle ceaselessly on the busy journey of desire life, either occupying themselves with seeking a life of pleasure or satiating their desire for elegant clothes and delicious food. They are either indulging in worldly passions or in the accumulation of wealth. Tossed by billows of temptation of the mortal world, they drift in the boundless and unpredictable bitter sea. Gradually, they become apathetic, stupid and muddle-headed, idling away their time and having no goal in life. One’s life is full of bitterness and lasts but a short time. He can enjoy the material things for no more than dozens of years. No matter how unwilling he is to depart from this world, he must return to the final home of rest all alone, just as everyone comes into this world by himself reluctantly and crying. The saying goes: “The moon waxes only to wane. Even the grandest feast must have an end”, so is with what he has possessed. The wealth and treasures he has seized, the rare delicacies he has eaten, the enchanting scenery he has appreciated, the pleasures he has enjoyed, the vigor of youth and robust health he has had will all vanish from this mortal world like wind, not to be taken along with him simply because he is deeply attached to them. Besides, he is bound by other impermanent trifles. Even if he leads a successful life admired by mundane people, he has to go back to the cold and dark earth. In a flash, his next cycle of reincarnation and Karma starts. Unpredictable retributions follow him like his own shadow, and he must undergo boundless sufferings incessantly. A Buddhist stanza quotes:
“How difficult it is to obtain this human existence, now I have it;
rare it is to hear Buddhist teachings, now I hear them;
If I don’t make strenuous efforts to be delivered from the sea of life and death
this single life time,
can I expect to accomplish my goal in another reincarnation?”
life is only a short stop on a long journey. The most beautiful time in
one’s life is always the most hectic. What people persist in seeking
are nothing but floating smoke, passing clouds, daydreams, illusions and
bubbles. Boundless is the sea of bitterness, yet a man who truly repents
can reach the shore nearby. One’s life is controlled by the natural
law of birth, aging, illness and death. He is tormented by the
separation from loved ones, the meeting with those he dislikes, and the
disappointment of not fulfilling his desires. When he has good luck and
with his achievements, he enjoys pleasures of the good time, thus easily
indulging himself in the temptations of creature comforts. One idiom
reads: “In good fortune lurks calamity.” Once ignorance arises,
mental vexations and diseases will torture him. Deluded thoughts of
greed, anger and stupidity grow, and his bright true nature is veiled by
Karmic obstacles. Good fortune and wisdom will also perish. As his true
nature is veiled by ignorance, he unconsciously creates all kinds of
negative Karma. When one is able to transform all his afflictions into
Bodhi and follow the bright Buddha lights, he can then see the inner
lights and achieve the true nature of purity, tranquility and wisdom.
my last letter I mentioned that I had experienced the feeling
that both my physical body and everything around it
did not exist when I practiced the Maha Cakra Vajra Mantra. It is
the true internal realization in Samadhi.
3 is the Commemoration Day of Cundi Bodhisattva. My sister and I are
planning to pay obeisance to Buddha images in a temple. If it is
possible, we would like to buy some fish and set them free.
wish you a good health and may everything go well with you.
Letter to Maha Acarya Yang Fo Xing from Jin Li
Feb. 21, 2001
Dear Maha Acarya Yang Fo Xing,
How is everything going with you?
I was so lucky to meet you in January of this year. Your majesty, great compassion and loving-kindness touched me. I am an unyielding woman who doesn’t cry easily. For the first time in my life I felt completely free from all kinds of burdens, so that I couldn’t help crying my heart out when I saw you. Two days before you left, just like a heart-broken baby who will lose his mother, I could hardly tear myself away from you. Tears streamed down my face, and only at that time did I – an adult aged 38 years completely understand the Chinese proverb “Melons are inseparable from vines and fish cannot live without water.”
Four years ago, I contracted an eye disease diagnosed as glaucoma by the local hospital. Since then, my eyes have been sensitive to light, and I couldn’t get angry or overtire myself. Since I learned the Cundi Sadhana from you, I have kept on practicing it every day, and with your powerful blessing from many miles away, a miracle happened. A few days ago, I went to an authoritative ophthalmology hospital in the province to have eye examination. To my great joy, the intraocular pressure was normal and I could see clearly again. After only twenty days of practicing the Cundi Sadhana, my eyes became bright, clear and sparkling, and now I even walk with greater vigor. All of my family and friends are surprised to find me a completely changed person. Buddhism is indeed inconceivable!
My husband is a salesman. He has a lot of opportunities to meet different kinds of people and can easily be influenced by them. More than ten years have passed, and I have grown more and more disappointed with him. Once a perfect man in my eye, he has changed and now, he is a different person. His shortcomings outnumber his good points. He has become unhealthily skinny, pale and wan. I have lost all of my confidence in him and the sense of security that a woman needs psychologically. For me the only support is my son because he cannot live without a mother. I had begun to despair, thinking that I had come to the end of my life’s journey, with no hope to speak of. Thus, I started to drift along aimlessly. Defiled by a bad environment, I idled away my time and my spiritual life was as blank as a piece of paper. As a result, the members of my family had a lot of complaints about me. My only son, now over ten years old, became more and more unruly, and sometimes he even had the nerve to go against my wishes. I really had nowhere to go to air my grievances.
loving-kindness and compassion is just like the boundless ocean. After
my husband met you and started the practice of Buddhism,
he immediately gave up smoking, and he no longer takes alcoholic drinks
or eats meat. His face has become lustrous, and he has put on weight. He
is vigorous again and happy to find that Buddhism
has become his spiritual support in life.
Recently, he had dinner with his clients. I was so worried, fearing that
with other’s persuasion he would start drinking wine again. When he
came back home, he said that he didn’t even touch the wine glass I
felt so relieved.
In the past, my son had to take care of himself and his studies, so he tended to be lazy in everything that he did. He was not doing well in his studies either. After he had learned the Cundi Sadhana from you, he has become so eager and happy to learn the subjects that he no longer needs me to supervise him. In such a short time, he has made rapid progress in his studies and has twice been chosen as the Three Star Student (Student with Honour for good performance in his studies, keeping school disciplines and doing physical labor). The heavy burden in my mind was unloaded for good.
No one can know the joys and sorrows of life unless he experiences them himself. In the past four years, I have been unhappy with my life and job, and I have lived in great misery. Everything and everyone was an eye sore. I was inclined to get irritated easily. But now I feel as if I had been totally cleansed inside and out. I am optimistic and have found my goal in life and now my life has taken on a new meaning. To my eye, the people around me are so amiable and friendly now. Even though I am still quick-tempered, I try to control my emotions, and I don’t lose my temper so easily now. I am amazed to see the great change in myself.
My understanding of Buddhist teachings has deepened through practicing the Cundi Sadhana and reading treasured work of Maha Acarya Feng Da An.
I’m deeply grateful to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and to your great kindness and mercy.
May all go well with you!
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