Breaking Misconceptions and Superstitions
In the past, Buddhism in China always gave people the mistaken impression that it was a religion that specialized in crossing over dead souls and so the intelligentsia looked down on and tried to get rid of Buddhism. Two years prior to the Master's Nirvana, he cried out in dispair:
- Chinese Buddhism's Water Lands, Flaming Mouths and other ceremonies and their saving of souls have become the "status quo" in Chinese Buddhism. They never stop to think that if they keep it up, they are going to be doing nothing but handing out free meals to unemployed vagrants under the guise of Buddhism. What a terrible shame! All they know how to do is make money saving souls! Actually, in order to save souls, you must have a foundation in virtuous conduct. Then, not to speak of reciting mantras or reciting sutras, the single sentence "you can go to rebirth" is sufficient for a soul to be able to gain rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. For those of you who lack any virtue in the Way, who don't have any cultivation, I ask you, what's your basis for being able to save souls? What you are actually doing is runing up a debt with the donor. Besides that, you are destroying the basic system of Buddhism.
Right! It's a real shame that they don't open up the Tripitaka [Buddhist Canon] with its Twelve Divisions -- a precious treasury of infinite wisdom -- and learn to teach from it instead of applying all their effort to superfluous things.
Among Asian Buddhists who have taken refuge there is a popular misconception. Eveyone thinks that the more teachers you take refuge with, the better. This is a sign of the Dharma Ending Age. By taking refuge with this one and then taking refuge with that one, they cause contention among the Dharma Masters, who quarrel with each other over who has the Dharma affinities and who gets the disciples. But the Master always asked those who had already taken refuge not to sign up to take refuge again -- that they could just follow along and rejoice from the sidelines. The Master said:
- Some people say, "The Youth Good Wealth visited fifty-three teachers; why can't I bow to a few more teachers?" But you need to realize that the Youth Good Wealth was always sent on by his previous teacher to the next teacher. It wasn't that he greedily longed for another Dharma Master endowed with virtuous conduct and so turned his back on his current teacher and stole away to take refuge with another. A lot of older Chinese Buddhist disciples have taken refuge with another. A lot of older Chinese Buddhist disciples have taken refuge tens or hundreds of times. But when you ask them what "taking refuge" means, they don't know. Isn't that pathetic? They say that all left-home people are their teachers. But I say they don't have any teacher at all because their minds lack faith, so how can they be saved?
Excerpt from Upasaka Youbing Chen's thesis,
A Discussion of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's Contibutions to Buddhism,
p. 433 - 434, "In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Vol. III"