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Did You Have Lunch Today?
A talk given by Bhikshu Jin Gong at the Buddha Hall of CTTB on June 16, 2018
Vajra Bodhi Sea, issue 579, August 2018, pages 23 - 25
I will talk about the Venerable Master. He could bring benefit to millions of people, but he would sometimes look after just a few persons. Here is a story of how he did both.
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas was founded on July 1, 1976. That was a year when California had very little rainfall. 1976 was the tenth driest year ever recorded. The rainfall was 57% of normal. The next year, 1977, was worse. 1977 was rated the very lowest year of rainfall ever recorded. It was at 37% of normal.
California had lost half a billion dollars of agricultural income due to the drought. The Russian River runs through Mendocino County, the home of CTTB. In 1976, it had the lowest water recorded in its history. In 1977, it set another record. That year it had less water; it was at 6% of normal.
Meteorologists said there was a high-pressure zone over the Pacific Ocean. It was 4 miles high and 2000 miles long. No one knew what had formed it and why it persisted for 2 years. The high-pressure ridge was causing unusual weather for the whole country. Snow fell in Florida for the first time ever recorded. Florida is the southernmost state after Hawaii and usually has very warm weather. Alaska is the northernmost state and had an unusual heat spell.
In the middle of February 1977, the winter rains were over for California. There was no prospect of any rain until the next fall or winter. The Venerable Master announced we would have a day of recitation for rain in Golden Gate Park. Here are a few quotes from the Venerable Master:
“Every problem can be solved by Buddhism. The Buddha’s wisdom and radiance are like the sun because they shine on the entire earth, lighting up even the most remote corners of darkness. With this body of yours, you ought to do some work and make a contribution to the world. We should know that nothing in this world comes easily. How can we expect reward when we do not put in the work?”
We went to Golden Gate Park to recite for rain on February 19, 1977. We spent 12 hours in the park, reciting almost every minute. One nun described the experience as “joyous intensity.” Here’s part of a newspaper report, written 4 days after on Wednesday, February 23.
“The high-pressure ridge which had been sitting about 450 miles off the Pacific coast from southern Alaska to central California began breaking up Saturday after causing most of this winter’s unseasonable weather across the nation. “We just don’t know why these things happen,” said Paul Ellis, chief weather forecaster for the National Weather Service’s Seattle station. Ellis said that the disintegration of the ridge was a hopeful sign.
“Rain began falling Sunday over the drought-stricken Pacific Northwest. A storm that blew in off the Pacific on Monday dumped 1 1/2 inches of rain on central California.”
That is what the newspaper report said. And here is my story: When we planned the recitation, the Venerable Master said, “I will not eat until it rains.” All of us who participated joined in; we would not eat until it rained! This was February. It did not look like there would be any rain until September or October. I do not know how many of us would do that today, if we set out to recite for rain. But we had great faith in the Venerable Master and were willing to fast with him.
I think all the lay people like myself had taken a practice of eating one meal a day at noon. Of course, all the monks and nuns ate just one meal a day. We ate the lunch we brought to Golden Gate Park. That evening, we had no dinner. We never had dinner anyways. The next morning, we had no breakfast. Well, we didn’t have breakfast anyway.
The next day, unexpected clouds gathered over San Francisco. The Venerable Master asked that lunch be prepared as usual. By noon, a brief but intense rain fell over the area surrounding San Francisco. I was not at Gold Mountain for lunch that day but I saw the rain and had lunch. That evening, the Venerable Master met me at door as I came for evening recitation. He asked if I had had lunch. I bowed to him and thanked him. Amituofo.
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