My dharma name is Hua Yong. I am very grateful for having the good fortune to attend the Guan Yin Bodhisattva of Great Compassion Empowerment Dharma Assembly led by Dharma Master Ruo Hui. Dharma Master Ruo Hui is Abbess of Hua Zang Si at San Francisco.
We started off by diligently reciting the Six-Character Great Bright Mantra. After a dozen of recitations, tears kept emerging as I kept reciting the Six-Character Great Bright Mantra. I did not know why I had tears, but it felt comforting and soothing. Minutes later, a bright white light shone towards my face, the light then transformed into a rainbow colored beam of light and eventually formed into a very large lotus flower of clouds. Immediately, I felt energy surging from the floor where I stood up through my entire body. My eyes were shut and I stood still as I felt my body very heavy. Sounds of a lion’s roar and footsteps were coming from the hallway People behind me started to pat their own bodies. Sister Hua Rui walked passed me while singing out loud. Qinbu Rinpoche joined in shortly after. Eventually, I started to recite “Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva.” Every syllable was dragged out loudly.
Suddenly, Sister Hua Rui began to deliver Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva’s message out loudly in Cantonese, “We are all destined to be here today. You have acted sinfully in your past lives. You must repent your actions!” I thought to myself, “Of course, of course.” I felt a moment of despair as I began to cry while reciting “Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva.” Moments later, all I could see was a red circle in the middle of darkness. This could possibly be the symbol of my karma, I thought. I immediately requested a blessing from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to clear my karma, be diligent in my practice as well as bring my husband and daughter to practice Buddhism! After requesting this blessing, I began to sing even louder and more passionately. My arms naturally began to swing from side to side, however, both of my feet remained still.
Meanwhile, while Qinbu Rinpoche was singing, she came behind me and started to slap my shoulder all the way to my lower back. It felt very painful as I felt that Qinbu Rinpoche’s palms were very large, however, I continued to stay still and recite “Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva” out loudly and prolongly. Sounds of people crying, falling to the ground, slapping, people reciting the Six-Character Great Bright Mantra and “Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva” were being heard everywhere in the hall. Shortly after, I heard the master say “Stop”, but I kept going on. I did not know when, then Qinbu Rinpoche came behind me and slapped from my shoulder to my lower back again very intensely and I could not stop singing in a high pitch. It was until the master came to me and tapped my head that I stopped.
It felt as if time flew by really quickly as if the Dharma assembly ended really quickly. However, I am sure I received an extraordinary amount of empowerment and blessings even though my body still felt heavy. After the Dharma assembly ended, a lot of sisters and brothers went up on stage to share their personal experiences. I also went up to the front, knelt on my floor with my palms together, and from the bottom of my heart, I shared my experience and expressed my utmost gratitude to H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva, and all other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Returning home, I found out that 10 years of pain and failed treatment on my right shoulder and spine has disappeared! Back then, because of my right shoulder pain, turning my head to the right was not possible. But now, I can do that without any problems! 10 years of pain has disappeared!
It was late January, just a few weeks before Chinese New Year, when we headed to Zhoushan in Zhejiang Province. It was bitterly cold and traveling to Mount Putuo (普陀) for a two-day visit was not good timing. COVID-19 was—and still is—running rampant around the world. Any kind of travel required constant and painstaking vigilance, including full compliance with stringent prevention measures in China. Nevertheless, our destination looked as beautiful as ever, a glimmering island in the great ocean, celebrated as the “Buddha-land in the sea.” (Haitian fogou 海天佛國)
Mount Putuo is very environmentally friendly. Except for public buses, no vehicles are allowed, so we had to leave our car at the wharf. Most residents simply cycle around for their daily errands, and even said bicycles are under a quota control. For visitors to move about, you can take a bus, cycle, or simply walk. Roads and pathways are well maintained, and there is a long road that connects all the temples on the island, big or small, affording a pleasant journey at one’s own pace.
It was warm and sunny with a gentle breeze by the time we reached the island in the early afternoon. As there were very few visitors, we could stroll around at our leisure, enjoying the sunlight’s embrace. “You are so lucky,” commented our trip’s docent. “It was so windy in the morning that the ferry service was about to be suspended. In a week, the entire mountain might be closed to prevent the chance of further infections, no matter how sporadic.” We were blessed with the good fortune of a joyful excursion.
Mount Putuo is classified by the Chinese government as an “AAAAA Grade Scenic Resort and Historic Site,” attracting about 10 million visitors each year under normal circumstances. Visitation, though down 40 per cent during the pandemic in 2020, has rebounded sharply; as of April, 2.8 million people had visited Mount Putuo, a fivefold increase. The effort to attract visitors is ongoing: the Putuo Mountain College of the Buddhist Academy of China was recently completed, and Guanyin Dharma Park opened last November.
Putuo is a Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit Potalaka, which is mentioned in several Buddhist scriptures, including the Gandavyuha Sutra (added as the final sutra in the Avatamsaka Sutra). Potalaka is described as the holy residence of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. According to Guang Xing, Mount Putuo was identified as the mythical Potalaka mountain by Buddhist monks and Chinese literati (Guang 2011: 1-22). It has been the pilgrimage site of Avalokiteshvara for about a millennium, honored as one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in Chinese Buddhism. We speak here of Guanyin, the feminine form of Avalokiteshvara popularized in Chinese Buddhism. We will return to Guanyin below. For now, we simply need to know that Mount Putuo’s status matches that of Mount Wutai (五台) for Manjushri, Mount Jiuhua (九華) for Kshitigarbha, and Mount Emei (峨眉) for Samantabhadra.
There seem to be three main demographics for visitors to Mount Putuo: sightseers, pilgrims, and students of Buddhism. The majority of sightseers are visitors who do not have much knowledge of Buddhism, nor much interest in its history, sutras, or temples. Nevertheless, everyone, regardless of background, recognizes this place as one expecting reverence and respect for the buddhas and bodhisattvas. When we worship and make our wishes before the famous 33-meter statue of Nanhai Guanyin, we are also introspecting, contemplating, and reflecting on the vicissitudes and travails of our lives.
The town nearby is neat and chic, full of activity and interesting souvenirs for tourists to commemorate their visit. Even in the winter, Mount Putuo is generously covered with greenery and vegetation, with a multitude of species including ancient camphor trees and the rare wild plants of Carpinus putoensis (普陀鵝耳櫟). They are one of the major treasures on Mount Putuo and monoecious. There are red and yellow variations coexisting, but they do not mature at the same time, so the pollination rate is extremely low. When the Sun is shining, the leaves of many trees turn golden in the backdrop of the Prussian blue sky, surrounded by the various temples. It is truly a picturesque sight.
The beautiful scenery, unique to Mount Putuo, is reminiscent of places I have visited in Japan. The connection between Mount Putuo and Japan can be traced back to the Tang dynasty (618–907), when a Japanese Zen and Tendai monk-pilgrim named Egaku (Chinese: 慧鍔; Hui’E) wanted to bring a statue of Guanyin from Mount Wutai to Japan. However, his voyage back via Mount Putuo was hampered by storms and waves despite several attempts. One day, Egaku had a dream in which he realized that the statue of Guanyin did not want to leave. He decided to enshrine it and built a simple hut near the Tidal Sound Cave. Immediately, his ship sailed through and he was able to return to Japan. This is the story of Guanyin “bu ken qu” or “unwilling to go,” and is the source of many folktales surrounding the establishment of temples and monasteries on Mount Putuo. Exchanges between Mount Putuo and Japan continued over many centuries.
Guanyin is the real protagonist linking Japan and China, with Guanyin known as Kannon or Kanzeon in Japan. Belief in this personification of compassion and benevolence has a long history in China. First introduced from India in the Western Han dynasty (202 BCE–9 CE), Avalokiteshvara was adapted and amalgamated into Chinese culture, most famously through the female figuration and her unique 32 transformations (Guang 2011: 1-22). Beginning in the Song dynasty (960–1279), the Chinese transformed the bodhisattva into the Goddess of Mercy, depicted in the feminine. (Minneapolis Institute of Art)
Belief in Guanyin has flourished in China ever since, going beyond even religious boundaries in everyday life (Guang 2011: 1-22). She is not confined to monastic life, as it is said in the Universal Gate chapter of the Lotus Sutra that any worldly being in danger will be delivered instantly on calling her name. Therefore, Guanyin has been worshipped and revered by all classes of people. As she is a compassionate divinity with countless virtues and merits, she is endowed with transcendental power. She excels in skilful means, allowing her to appear in whatever form needed by sentient beings. And that, in my opinion, is probably the reason behind the 32 forms in the Chinese tradition, including Guanyin Yangzhi (楊枝), or Willow Branch Guanyin. The Guanyin Yangzhi is only one example among many of her history-rich gender transitions.
We were able to visit a 2.5-meter-high, 2.2-meter-wide monument of Guanyin Yangzhi at a nunnery of the same name. The nunnery, situated at the foot of Putuo’s Western Xiangwang Peak, was built in 1608. The artistic style was pioneered by Yan Liben (閻立本), a famous figure painter in the Tang dynasty, while the stele’s engravings appeared during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Holding a tender willow branch in her right hand and a clear water vase in the left, Guanyin is luxuriously crowned with pearls and precious stones, dressed in sumptuously embroidered garments, and adorned with agate, amber, and pearls. She spreads dewdrops to all the world’s quarters to dispel suffering and pain.
Guanyin is replete with the marks of beauty, dignity, and calm. Except for her face, there are not many traditionally female features shown. Indeed, she appears tall and somehow mighty and masculine, standing on her bare feet. Her belly bulges out slightly, and she has large hands and feet. While beholding her, I could not help but think of the mural of Padmapani, another manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, at Ajanta Cave No.1, in India. Painted during the sixth century BCE, the bearer of the blue lotus is a male figure with a slender body. Both forms of Avalokiteshvara are crowned and bejewelled, have physically beautiful features, and appear composed and graceful.
There are many temples on Mount Putuo, but the two most well known are Puji Temple (普濟寺) or the “front temple” (又稱前寺), and Huiji Temple (慧濟寺) on the peak of the mountain. They receive the most pilgrims, but Fayu Temple (法雨寺) is my personal favorite; when there is no pedestrian crowding, it has a gentle and soothing atmosphere. It is surrounded by towering ancient trees, suspending the visitor in time between past and present. From a distance, one can see that the gate to the monastery is unique, unlike those of other temples on Mount Putuo, which are painted in yellow ochre. Here it is light red in color: a soft, ambient hue that emphasizes an atmosphere of paradisical peace and bliss.
Upon entering and reaching the main hall of Nine Dragons, where a statue of Guanyin is enshrined, one feels a strong sense of sublime and resplendent majesty. Yuantong Hall of the Fayu Temple is renowned for its resplendent appearance and ingenious interior structure, with a large ball hanging from the ceiling of its dome surrounded by nine vertical rafters. Each rafter is carved with a dragon that rears its head in a scramble for the ball. This intricate layout is called the Bracket with Nine Coiling Dragons and is ascribed to Emperor Kangxi (康熙) (1654–1722), who used the materials of the former palace of the Ming dynasty in Nanjing to reconstruct an earlier monastery, Zhenhai Monastery, on Mount Putuo.
What strikes me most, however, is not Fayu Temple’s imperial heritage, but rather two great minds that made their mark here. Venerable Yinguang (印光) (1861–1940) was the 13th patriarch of the Pure Land tradition and the abbot of Fayu Temple for decades. Meanwhile, Ven. Hongyi (弘一) (1880–1942) wrote in traditional calligraphy Fayu Temple’s nameplate of “heavenly flowers and Dharma rain”—first devised by Emperor Kangxi. Li Shu Tong (李叔同) was Hongyi’s secular name. A wealthy and rakish young man, he was also an eclectic and learned scholar of high culture. He relinquished what he possessed and committed to living a monastic life. Fully devoted to promulgating Buddhism, he rose to become an eminent monk.
At some point, the two monastics met each other. It is said that Master Hongyi admired Master Yinguang and asked him to be his teacher. Humble and modest, Master Yinguang refused, but invited him to stay as long as he wanted. The two spent seven days together, studying, practicing, and meditating without a single word exchanged. They simply were, as minds think alike, without verbal obstructions, thoughts traveling and flowing effortlessly. How wonderful it is to exist together beyond words. But in the era of the Internet, we are bombarded with so many words and so much information that we lose our sense of their meaning, let alone their authenticity.
If we wish to be heard, we need to be sincere, candid, and heartfelt. “Guanyin” in Chinese means the Perceiver of Sounds, or “Guanshiyin,” the Perceiver of World’s Sounds. As chanted in the Universal Gate chapter of the Lotus Sutra: “Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, heavenly voice, the voice of the sea’s tide—magnificent, rich and harmonious surpassing all worldly sounds.” If we keep Guanyin in our hearts and call on her sincerely, she will always respond.
Hua Zang Si is my favorite sacred spiritual worship place in the bay area. In there I find peace, relaxation, and harmony, and a home for my soul. I have gone there many times, to chant the sutra, join the meditation sessions, and participate in Dharma assemblies.
Hua Zang Si, an impressive-looking temple located in the center of the Mission District in San Francisco. The building was formerly the St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, built in 1903, and has been repurposed as a Chinese temple. To me it is really a friendly symbol that different religions can coexist in harmony.
The large outside facade of the temple is painted red color, made the building a very outstanding and eye-catching landmark in the neighborhood. Red is a good color in Chinese culture that symbolizes auspiciousness and warding off evil spirits。
Once entering the temple, I feel like I am in another world. The marvelous statue at the entrance of the temple is an oversize representation of a jolly, laughing Buddha: Maitreya Bodhisattva (the next Buddha in this Saha world). It is such a warm welcoming sign. The big belly not only means jolly, it also means tolerating those intolerable things in the world. So when you look at the statue, you will start to feel that learning Buddhism is happy and kind.
Walking inside, the first floor is Shakyamuni Buddha Hall. The golden statue of Shakyamuni Buddha is a very dignified-looking Buddhist statue. On the left side is the one thousand-armed and one thousand-eyed Guanyin Bodhisattva, an awe-inspiring statue. On the right side is Skanda Bodhisattva, a standing majestic full-body armored statue. With a sword in hand, Skanda Bodhisattva is a Buddha Dharma protector, and it is believed he can subjugate demons and evil spirits.
The second floor is Amitabha Buddha Hall. The twenty-one-foot-high statue of Amitabha Buddha (designed by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III) has been generally recognized as the most majestic Buddhist statue in the world. It is an extremely solemn sight. The color painted on the face is so lifelike, one feels like seeing the real Amitabha Buddha from western paradise. The Buddha’s eyes seem alive as well, looking down at all beings full of compassion and love. Every time when I look at the Buddha, I feel so moved and touched, tears fill my eyes. I can’t help but to kneel down and pray wholeheartedly: Please Buddha save me from the birth-death cycle, please take me to the western pure land. I feel my whole body melted into the compassionate gaze of the Buddha.
In the center of Amitabha Buddha hall, there is a large circular mandala on which a Yun sculpture (carved by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III) depicting Mt. Sumeru is placed. In that Yun sculpture are shariras (sacred relics) of the Shakyamuni Buddha for worshipping.
Directly facing the Amitabha Buddha is a tall Dharma altar, there is a huge blue Dorje Chang Buddha image. Dorje Chang Buddha is also called Buddha Vajradhara or Ruler of the Vajra Beings. In the entire universe, Dorje Chang Buddha is the first Buddha with form and is the highest Buddha. That is, the highest leader of Buddhism in the entire universe came into being in the form of Dorje Chang Buddha. It was Dorje Chang Buddha who began transmitting dharma and saving living beings in the dharmadhatu. As a result, Buddhism was born and the Buddha-dharma began spreading.
In front of the image of Dorje Chang Buddha are photos of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III. Dorje Chang Buddha has come to this world twice. The first time was in the form of the holy and venerable Vimalakirti, who was Dorje Chang Buddha II. The second time was in the form of H.H. Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu, who is Dorje Chang Buddha III.
These photos were true records of the holy miracle Buddha Dharma. On October 18, 2012, H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III within ten minutes, reversed his appearance back to a youthful look. This incredible Buddha Dharma ever practiced successfully by Guru Rinpoche long time ago in Tibet.
Hua Zang Si has many Holy Treasures , make sure you check them out at the corner of this hall as well.
The third floor contains a library of Buddhist scriptures.
The backyard — a city oasis in the shadow of surrounding Victorians — is home to a magnolia tree, which the faithful say rained nectar for three days, along with a miraculous lotus tub used in the bathing of the Buddha and heavenly beings.
Further back, there is Dharma protector pavilion, a statue of the Dharma Protecting Deity Guan Yu was installed inside.
Guan Yu took refuge in Master Zhiyi at Yuquan Hill. He then manifested great supernatural power and constructed the Yuquan Temple overnight on a barren lot, where he resolved to become a protector of Buddhism. That is why, upon the plea of many Buddhist practitioners, he was recommended to be the Dharma Protecting Deity of Hua Zang Si.
Hua Zang Si is different from other temples that propagate only one sect within Buddhism. It teaches all of the various sects within Buddhism. If you want to know and learn Buddhism, Hua Zang Si is the best place to start with.
GuanShiYin (Avalokitasvara) Bodhisattva is a well-known Buddhism figure in China and southeastern Asian. Actually the influence of Buddhism has reached to western countries as well. In my yoga class at San Francisco, the teacher often play music that chanting the name of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva in English version.
Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva is a Bodhisattva at the level of marvelous enlightenment, which means possessing the marvelous enlightenment of a Buddha. That is, the Bodhisattva is one of the great holiness and virtue who is no difference from a Buddha. As recorded in sutras, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva is the incarnation of an ancient Buddha called True Dharma Brightness Tthagata and is the king of great compassion. The Bodhisattva is incessantly busy day and night helping all humans and other living beings in Three Spheres and has accumulated boundlessly vast merit.
There are many different kinds of status and portraits of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva in the world. In China, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva is generally portrayed as a young woman wearing a flowing white robe, and usually also necklaces symbolic of Chinese royalty. In her left hand is a jar containing pure water, and the right holds a willow branch. The crown usually depicts the image of Amitabha Buddha.
At International Art Museum of America, there is a chinese painting of Na Mo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva, the artist is H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III. It gave me a really deep impression – Amazingly beautiful portrait. It is a fine brush stroke traditional Chinese painting. The painter used very fine and complicated strokes, all the details were vivid and perfectly presented. I can clear see the hair, the crown, all the small part of the jewelry, even the delicate pattern of the flowing strings. Through those details I can feel the painter’s expression of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva’s meticulous compassion and love for all living beings. The whole portrait looks lifelike with infinite grace. The artist’s superb artistic skills is beyond perfection.
The great art work not only gives people artistic enjoyment, but also an experience of spiritual encounter. I stood in front of the painting for a long time, and I felt like forgetting about all worldly affairs and emerging into the Bodhisattva’s boundless compassion for ever and ever…
After graduate school, I moved to Wilmington, Delaware. I lived in a very nice neighborhood, with many towering trees, a beautiful pond and grassy land. Wild animals often jumped in your view: squirrels, raccoons, birds, sometimes even deer. I loved to walk around, especially after rain, with the fresh air and tranquil blue sky making me feel so calm and peaceful. However, I found there were some little inconvenient spots where earth worms would drown in the small rainwater puddle. I knew earth worms couldn’t breath in water, that they would die in the puddle. I always tried to find a twig to pick up the worms gently and then put them in the grass. I didn’t have any other thought when I did this, I just didn’t want to see them die. I did not realize this little good deed would save me later.
One day I went to visit one of my friends, and he showed me a picture he got from a temple. It was a painting of The Three Holy Beings in West Paradise, and I was deeply attracted by image of Amitabha Buddha and Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva. I felt a great compassion flow from the paper into me. I bowed to the holy beings involuntarily. My friend gave me the picture and a small booklet about buddhism. I framed the picture very elegantly and set up a small sacred altar in my home. Maybe because of my Karmic condition, I started to chant the name of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva in front of the holy image whenever I had the time. I also read the small booklet. It told me a brief history of Buddhism, and the law of Karma — cause and effect exists everywhere and every time. What kind of actions you did, will bring you what kind of effects. Seems to me like what goes around will comes around. At that time, I didn’t disagree with it but also didn’t truly believe in it.
One year later, I had my first baby. After the delivery I was very weak, because of the excessive blooding. Taking care of a newborn was a lot of work, and sometimes I didn’t even have strength to cook a meal for myself. My husband was traveling a lot, and when he was not at home, I felt very scary at night for no reason. One night I was so exhausted. When I fell asleep I saw a very fierce man whose whole body was black except for two big white eyes, and he held an iron ring and tried to attack me. I was so frightened, I wanted to run, but I couldn’t move. At that very moment I saw Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva like the purest white angel stand on my head, and then that evil black demon disappeared immediately. While I was still half awake and half dreaming, I felt the floor lamp in my room lighten up, and on the ground I saw many earth worms. Suddenly I heard a voice telling me that because I saved those earth worms before, so I have been saved this time.
I completely woke up, and came to the altar. I deeply homaged to the greatly loving and compassionate Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva! I was so grateful for being saved by the holy Bodhisattva! I prayed to the Bodhisattva sincerely, to please protect me and my baby.
My prayer did get answered, for very soon my mother got a visa after being rejected twice. She could now come to the US to help me go through the most difficult time in my life.
Now I truly believe in the Buddhism teaching. I practice cultivation diligently every day. And I hope I can attain liberation in my life and have the opportunity to help people be free from suffering, frightening, and sorrow.
I deeply wish all living beings have a happy and prosperous life with good health and an abundance of good fortune!