Freezing and Starving are Tests to Endure
Master Hsuan Hua
Here in the “ice-box” three days have quickly passed. On the first day,
someone thought, “I can’t take it. I am cold because there’s no heater and
hungry because we only eat one meal a day.
All day we sit and walk, sit and walk, reciting, “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” and
the more I recite, the colder and hungrier I get. I really can’t take it.”
But for two days he took what he couln’t take, afraid that the rest of us
would call him a coward if he
left; and now on the third day, he finds it much easier. “It’s not important
if I’m a little chilly, and a little hunger doesn’t matter.” It’s all a test
of your fortitude.
You haven’t run off but instead have recited the Buddha’s name, and
accordingly your good roots have grown. I know that there are some who
already have seen light, flowers, and the Buddha. Some have seen Amitabha
Buddha rub the tops of their heads and transmit predictions of Buddhahood to
them. “Really?” you ask. “Why haven’t I seen this?” How can you ask such a
question! You should ask yourself whether or not you have singlemindedly and
sincerely applied effort which would cause such states to manifest. “Oh,”
you say, “it’s too much suffering—suffering so that I think I’m going to
die.” If that’s the case, then give up your life. What do you want your life
for anyway? It is said,
If you can’t let go at death you
won’t obtain a good rebirth;
If you can’t let go of the false, you won’t obtain the true.
If you only wish to enjoy yourself, you’ll have no share in the
transcendental Dharma. If you wish to obtain the transcendental Dharma, to
return to the root and go back to the source, then you have to undergo a bit
of suffering and view worldly dharmas as less important. Don’t look upon
trivial problems as being so weighty.
I remember a poem Upasika Phuong wrote
when she was at home with nothing to do. She gave herself a job and wrote:
Alone and still I gaze from the
At wave tops capped with flowers of white water
And pounding surf below, startling the gulls.
The water swells into waves and the waves subside
And disappear: defiled conditions cease.
Return to the root; go straight back to the source.
You’re free to roam at will.
Silent, as if entering samadhi, she saw the ocean waves wearing white flower
caps and heard the roaring surf which frightened the seagulls into flight.
The water swelling into waves is an analogy for afflictions arising in the
self-nature, and the waves returning to the water represents our
afflictions, however heavy they are, being transformed into the Bodhi
self-nature. It is causing the defiled conditions to cease, letting go of
all worldly dharmas. At this time you may return to the root, go back to the
source, and view your own original face, free to do whatever you wish. But
now, before we have returned, we must follow the rules and earnestly recite
the Buddha’s name until, with undeviating singlemindedness, we perfect the
Buddha Recitation Samadhi. We will then be free to roam at will.
There’s an old saying, “In the coldest
weather, the pines are the last to lose their green.” San Francisco has
never had such cold weather; it’s been under twenty degrees and most people
are staying indoors with their heaters turned up. We aren’t going outside
either, but instead of a heater, we have turned on the coolers! Pine trees
may be the last to be harmed, but we are proving that we are vajra. Some of
you could be comfortable at home, but have chosen to come here to recite the
Buddha’s name, cultivate, and endure the bitterness instead. This is very
rare and has proved that you have a little bit of sincerity which has moved
Amitabha Buddha. He certainly will help yout out; when you are about to die,
he will guide you to rebirth in the Western Land.
Here in San Francisco, Amitabha Buddha has entered the Vajra Samadhi and
made the earth firm and solid. We should enter the Vajra Samadhi, too, and
cause the earth foundation of San Francisco to be as indestructible as
vajra. Didn’t I say last night that it wasn’t that there couldn’t be an
earthquake, but rather that the earth was not permitted to quake? Amitabha
Buddha is the one who is not permitting the earth to quake because his is
the Land of Ultimate Bliss, and any place his name is sincerely recited is a
part of the Land of Ultimate Bliss. If you don’t believe me, wait until the
fourth of January and see!
December 10, 1972
Day #3 of Buddha Recitation Retreat