On fasting


When the Master set out for America, he had a 10-day stop-over in Japan. He visited a temple where Chinese Dharma Masters were staying and upon entry detected their acute jealousy. Although it was his practice to take one meal a day at noon, when tea and refreshments were served, the Master decided to take a bite of food so as not to appear to be too different from the others and risk arousing their jealousy even more. He accepted six or seven fried soy beans and ate them.

Immediately he knew that the beans were loaded with deadly poison. Although he knew, he chose not to give any indication at the time, and did not dispel the poison from his body at once as the First Patriarch of China, Bodhidharma, had done when he spit it out on a tray one time, and on a rock another time, when he was poisoned by jealous people. Although the poison did not kill the Master, it lodged in a single place in his body and a painful sore formed on his lower leg.

Having been unsuccessful in poisoning the Master to death, one of the jealous monks went on ahead to San Francisco, the Master's destination, to campaign against him. After the founding of the Buddhist Lecture Hall in San Francisco in l958, word of the Master's virtue, compassion, and cultivation had spread and many people sought to take refuge with him, sight unseen.

The jealous monk did his best to dissuade people: "He claims he never eats after noon, but I watched him with my own eyes while he ate one afternoon in Japan," he reported, failing to mention that he and the other monks had put poison in the food. But his skilled persuasion caused many who had planned to welcome the Master at the airport upon his arrival to change their minds and decide not to go.

Jealousy comes in many forms. One kind was this intense jealousy his contemporaries felt toward the Master--they wanted the rewards that came to the Master. Another kind of jealousy was harbored by some of his disciples--they didn't want to share the Master with anyone. One such disciple was a young, unmarried man in his early thirties who came to the Master because he wanted to learn gung fu, for he could see at a glance that the Master possessed skill. The Master always tried to save whoever drew near and so he used expedients to try to help this disciple, allowing him to accompany him and attend to some of the matters involved in doing the Buddha's work.

That's how it happened that this disciple accompanied the Master when he took a trip to the Southwestern States and visited the Hopi Indians. The Master felt deep concern about the pitiful conditions under which the Hopis were forced to live--their dwellings being no better than crude sheds fit for animals. It appeared that in the Hopi religious tradition was something about a prediction that eventually a savior would come to help their tribe--one who could be recognized by his red robe, black hat, and a symbol resembling a swastika on his chest. Needless to say, when the Master, who had been invited to speak to them, appeared before them in his red precept sash and black cap, bare skinned to the waist, due to the desert heat, so that the wan character burned on his chest was clearly visible--the Hopis were filled with a mixture of awe, joy, and hope. Transcending language barriers, the Master recited the Shurangama Mantra for them. The whole tribe was deeply moved. Wishing to draw nearer, they approached the disciple who was accompanying the Master, leaving their names and addresses and asking if there were any chance to see the Master again.

But that disciple's jealousy obstructed the situation and he not only failed to give them the opportunity to take refuge with the Master, he also did not keep their names and addresses and refused to arrange interviews for them. [Note: That disciple died within few years after that incident, without ever being able to open his heart and do the good deeds that might have saved him from his untimely death.]

That was also the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis--a tense moment in history when the Soviet Union began a missile base installation on Cuba. President Kennedy gave Russia and Cuba an ultimatum: The US was prepared to go to war if the installation preparation continued.

For those three reasons--the Cuban Crisis, the Hopi plight, and the poison in his system--the Master began a fast dedicated to world peace. The method of fasting, one of Guanyin Bodhisattva's Greatly Compassionate Dharmas, normally stipulates no food or water whatsoever for the first few days of fasting, and then only one-half cup of water per day for the duration of the fast.

Near the end of the 35-day fast, to the surprise and relief of everyone, the Soviet Union unexpectedly, voluntarily withdrew the missiles and the Crisis abated. During that time, civil rights movements began bringing the nation's attention to the plight of the Native Americans. And by the end of the fast, the poison had been dispelled, leaving just a permanent scar on the Master's leg.

The Master with young disciples in San Francisco.

Jimmy Wong discovered the Buddhist Lecture Hall in San Francisco's Chinatown even before the Master came to America. While studying Taijiiquan there, he heard about the Master's virtue and decided to write the Master. "I wrote him a letter to say hello and asked him when he was going to come to America," says Jimmy. "I was about thirteen at the time." Kim Lee, who was fourteen at the time, had been a Buddhist all his life and as soon as he saw the Master, he begged to be allowed to become a disciple. He and Jimmy were among those who received the first transmission of the Three Refuges given by the Master in America. Kim's Dharma name became Guo Qian "Fruit of the Yang Energy" and Jimmy's name became Guo Ren "Fruit of Humaneness."

The two boys devoted much of their time and energy to helping the Master and the Buddhist Lecture Hall. Kim learned printing and Jimmy joined him in helping print many materials for the Buddhist Lecture Hall in those early days. Kim made a vow to help print Buddhist texts and even now, in l996, Kim is still the Association's printer.

Among all the experiences he gained in drawing near to the Master during those early years, Jimmy vividly remembers one event which made a deep impression on him. It was the Master's 35-day fast. During that time, the Buddhist Lecture Hall was virtually Jimmy's "second home." And so during that fast, Jimmy stayed close to the Master and was filled with wonder at the Master's incredible skill. Jimmy personally witnessed that during the entire thirty-five day fast, the Master took no more than one cup of water each day, and during the last two weeks, he did not even take the water. Nothing at all passed through his lips. Yet, Jimmy noted, whereas most people would have been debilitated after the first week or so, the Master continued his regular full day of monastic duties throughout the entire time.

Dr. Ron Epstein, who is now a Professor in the College of Humanities at San Francisco State University, comments:

During the Cuban missile crisis, the Master fasted for 35 days. There are newspaper articles in the archives about the Master fasting to help to resolve the Cuban missile crisis. I think Shr Fu was in a couple of locations in Chinatown, starting out in a basement location.

This is a translation of the caption at right of photo.

Dharma Master To Lun, who recently arrived from Hong Kong and is lecturing Sutras at the Buddhist Lecture Hall here in San Francisco, is now in the twelfth day of a total fast for the sake of world peace and harmony among humankind. This is the fifth fast the monk, who is in his fifties, has undertaken.

The Chinese Times article titled "Seeking World Peace," dated September 27, 1962 read:

Dharma Master To Lun has been fasting for twelve days at the Buddhist Lecture Hall, 731 Sacramento Street, in order to seek for world peace, for the abolishment of cruelty, and for good health for all humankind. It's said that this is the fifth fast the monk, now in his fifties, has conducted. He arrived in San Francisco from Hong Kong six months ago. During this fast, he rises at 4 am, dons his precept sash, sits upright in meditation, and fasts. When his fast will terminate is not known


Flower Adornment Sutra with Commentary http://www.cttbusa.org/fas17/fas17.asp :

(In response to a question on fasting)

You don’t want to drink too much water while fasting. Each day only drink a single cup of water. You can’t drink too much. It is best to sit in meditation and recite the mantra. Don’t think about whether you’re eaten or not. It is best to be able to enter samadhi. Not eating things is just smelting your indestructible Vajra body.

If common people don’t eat for seven days, they will certainly die. The first fast is eighteen days, which is about three weeks. The second fast is 36 days—that is, five weeks without eating things. If you can keep up this practice, you are cultivating patient. What was said before had a lot of principle, “ The mind fills up the world.” If your mind is without any fighting then the world is peaceful and the world’s wars will be eradicated. Why isn’t the world peaceful now? Because each person has a heart of greed and everyone only wishes to benefit himself, and so jealousy, obstructions, arrogance and all kinds of faults arise. If you don’t have a heart of greed, then the world is peaceful. If each person didn’t have a heart of greed, then no one would fight with anyone else.

Basically, fasting does not necessarily make the world peaceful. It’s just a method. Do the best you can, nothing more. If you can do the best you can in every respect, and if you don’t harm people in the word, that’s good. You want to have a sincere heart, yet it’s not certain that you will be successful. That is, it is not certain that you will be able to cause the world to be peaceful. Nobody can insure it. If you want to be able to caause the world to be without war, then wvery person musst himself or herself be without greed in body and mind. Without greed there is no war because the world’s wars are brought about by people’s greed. The reason for wars is that opposing sides seek aan advantage at the expense of the other. They think, “I want to gain something so I thak the otherside’s gains for myself.” Because of this there are wars. But if you don’t have a heart of greed, then all places will be without wars. If every person had no heart of greed, the whole world be without wars.


Flower Adornment Sutra with Commentary - http://cttbusa.org/fas17/fas17_2.asp :

The number of people who are fasting has increased to eight. Why does one want to fast? It is because one prays that the world will be peaceful and harmonious. Or perhaps that our Bodhimandala will be successfully completed. When praying for world peace or the successful completion of the Bodhimanda,you have a sincere heart. So don’t fear hunger. You want to fulfill the power of our vows, and fasting is just cultivating concentration. If you don’t have greed you are able to have concentration power, and if you have concentration power you can have a response. "The response and the way will intertwine.” If you have a response, it is certain that Buddhas and cultivating concentration power, you don’t want to think about whether or not you have eaten anything. Forget about it. Become empty. Make everything empty. Make everything non-existent. At that time the originally existent treasure of great light will manifest.

So during the time one is fasting, the most important thing is to not give rise to fire. You shouldn’t get angry. If you get angry you will brun up all your merit and virtue. You want to have practice until you don’t have the slightest bit of anger. This is just the perfection of your application of effort. Be patient. If you go along with your greedy habits,they will never end. If you go along with hour heart of anger, it will not stop. If you go along with your heart of stupidity, it too will not stop. Fasting is just "understanding the mind and seeing the nature.” It is a way to get rid of thoughts of desire, because one’s thoughts of desire become less and less each day. These are just some of the good points of fasting. Therefore, each person who is fasting should not have any fire in his or her self-nature. You don’t want to have even the slightest bit of fire. Fundamentally our bodies have a lot of fire. If your mind continuously gives rise to fire. If your mind continuously gives rise to fire, then your fire becomes too great. So at all times and all patience, cultivate the practice of giving, cultivate the practice of upholding morality, and cultivate the practice of vigor. Now those who have fasted for 18 days have already finished. But there still are those of you who are going to fast for 36 days, who have not yet finished. Now you should not drink too much water. Drinking too much water is useless. At the very most you should drink no more than one cup each day. This is smelting your indestructible body of vajra, and is no easy feat!


Flower Adornment Sutra with Commentary - http://cttbusa.org/fas17/fas17_7.asp :

With respect to all worlds he does not discriminate. When the Bodhisattva teaches and transforms living beings in the world, he uses wisdom light to clearly understand all living beings’ basic natures, yet he does not discriminate between good and bad. Regarding all dharmas he is without false thinking. He is equal towards all dharmas and does not give rise to false thinking and say, “I should use this particular dharma and transform that particular living being.” He doesn’t produce this kind of false thinking. Although he contemplates all dharmas, he does not grasp at them. Although he uses wisdom to contemplate all dharmas, yet he doesn’t grasp or become attached to any of them. He always rescues living beings, yet none are crossed over. He constantly rescues and crosses over living beings but he doesn’t grasp at the thought of crossing over living beings. He doesn’t say, “Do you know? I now teach and transform living beings. I now am doing doing this good thing for living beings. I am cultivating the Bodhisattva path.” He doesn’t have this kind of consideration. “Everyday he crosses over living beings, yet there are nore which are crossed over.” Everyday he is teaching and transforming living beings, yet everyday there are no living beings that are crossed over. This is also like what is said in the Ch’an school, “Everyday eating rice, yet not a single grain is eaten. Everyday wearing clothes, yet not a single thread is worn.” Why does it say this? This is just describing the state of one who is without attachment.

All worlds are only thoughts. All worlds come into being from thoughts. Living beings’ false thoughts create illusory worlds. Within each of them are all kinds of differences. In the world there are all kinds of false thinking. Each living being has his own different kind of false thinking. He knows that the state of thoughts is dangerous and deep. He knows that the state of false thinking is extremely dangerous and very difficult to understand. We cultivate the Way in order to cut off false thinking. Fasting is just for the purpose of striking down one’s false thinking, to beat it to death. So I’ve asked those who are fasting, “Have you died yet?” I’m not asking whether your false thinking has died. I’m also asking if you still have your greedy mind, a mind which thinks about how you haven’t eaten, or how many days have gone by since you haven’t eaten. If you have those considerations, then you have false thinking, and you haven’t stopped your heart of greed yet. You want to stop your greedy mind. Although you like to eat and drink good things, you’re not getting anything to eat or drink. You’re battling with your false thinking. This is the purpose of those who cultivate the Way: to stop false thinking. If you wish to touch money, that is false thinking. If you wish to take advantage of situations, that is false thinking. The Bodhisattva knows that false thinking is dangerous, And so he manifests spiritual penetrations to rescue beings. Living beings revolve in the dangerous paths. The Bodhisattva manifests all kinds of spiritual penetrations in order to cross over and liberate living beings. But these spiritual penetrations are by no means real. What are they like then?

Just like the free and easy power of a magician…This is like a magician possessed of the free and easy power of transforming something into nothing, and nothing into something. He cane make things suddenly become big, and suddenly become small. Just as the magician’s powers are unknowable and endless. So too are the Bodhisattva’s spiritual transformations. The transformations from the Bodhisattva’s spiritual penetrations are like those conjured by a magician. His body pervades the Dharma realm and space. His single body totally fills up all of the Dharma Realm and the realm of space. According with the minds of living beings, none do not see him. He accords with the minds of beings so that none do not see his form.

He is apart from the differentiations of subject and object. He does not discriminate between subject and object, because both of these discriminations are non-existent. They are both “separated from.” And there is no grasping at defilement or purity. Within the heart of the Bodhisattva, there isn’t any defilement of purity. So it is said in the Heart Sutra, “not defiled and not pure,” which means having no dwelling place. One can’t be attached to defilement or purity. Whether bound up or liberated, his wisdom is totally forgotten. Perhaps living beings are bound by karma or maybe they have attained liberation. Regardless of whether they are one way or the other, this kind of wisdom is non-existent. It is forgotten. The kind of wisdom which is connected with being bound or liberated is totally forgotten. He only wishes to bestow happiness on living beings everywhere. The Bodhisattva wants to benefit all living beings. Because living beings wish to strive for benefit they fight. Why are there wars in the world? Because groups of people strive for benefit. People who are stupid are cheated by those who are intelligent, and those intelligent people not only cheat others, they also cheat themselves. The wars in the world arise because of this. Sot he Bodhisattva wishes to transfer his advantages to all beings. He doesn’t want them for himself. He just wants you to obtain some advantage, which is whatever you happen to like. He has forgotten himself for the sake of others. He doesn’t have a “self”. This is the Bodhisattva’s motivating principle. So no one fights with the Bodhisattva. Even the demon kings are happy when they see him, and they don’t fight with him.

All worlds are only the force of thoughts. All worlds come into being by means of the force of false thinking. False thinking has brought about the illusory worlds. With wisdom he enters them with a fearless heart. He uses wisdom to understand that all worlds are false, and so he is fearless. He’s able to see through them and put them down. He considers all Dharmas in the same way. He cultivates all kinds of dhyana concentrations and meditations, the dharmas of hearing and considering, and various samadhis. He sees they are all equal. Investigating throughout the three periods of time, there is nothing which can be obtained. The past, present, and future are not obtainable. This also means that past, present and future thoughts are not obtainable. Why? Because the past has already gone by. You say this is the past, well that’s already passed. You say this is the present, well the present doesn’t stop. And the future has yet to come. In searching for the three periods of time, nothing can be obtained. Everything is without a substance. It does not matter how you seek, there is nothing that can be found. Nothing is obtainable, and nothing is real.