Propagating Dharma in Vietnam
by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

"Before I speak Dharma, I have to beg something from each of you." Will the Venerable Master's introductory sentence scare the audience in the packed Auditorium at the Vietnam National Monastery in Saigon? Those who had heard the name of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua before were filled with faith and smile beamingly. Those who did not know about the Master stared at each other in surprise. The Master continued with a smile, "Some people are saying, isn't it true at Gold Mountain cultivators are freezing to death, but climb not on conditions; starving to death, but beg not for anything; dying of poverty, but ask for nothing? Why do you beg now when you are in Vietnam? Isn't that
contradictory to your principles?"

Talking about Vietnam, I think of the French. In the early part of the Nineteen century, Vietnam was under the French rule. During the Second World War it was occupied by the Japanese. In 1946 Ho Chi Mink led the people to fight for independence. Until 1954, when the French lost the battle and retreated,Vietnam gained self-rule or Independence. Not long after the Civil war broke out, the Northern Vietnamese communists and the non-communists of the South were persistently opposing each other. In 1961 the United States intervened and
offered support to the South Vietnamese.

In 1975, the Northern Vietnamese suggested a peace talk, and the American army pulled out. Right after the American Military Aid ceased, North Viet Gong attacked the South Vietnamese on April 30 unexpectedly. South Vietnam was totally defeated. After Vietnam turned communist, they lost all the outside financial aid, businesses were sluggish. They could only rely on the Soviets. As the Government used high-handed measures, the people were at a panic and could not live in peace. In 1979, the Chinese Communists attacked Vietnam at the border, the whole country was filled with people in misery. Groups of Vietnamese escaped through the sea route to seek for a quiet place to stay. This started the refugee exodus.

In 1974, the Venerable Mater and his two left-home American disciples toured like whirlwind through Japan, Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Nepal, and arrived Vietnam. Though there was a Civil War, yet with the American Military support. everywhere except the border was serene and peaceful. Business in Saigon wasprosperous, no citizen knew a great disaster was on its way. Why did the Master insisted to go
to Vietnam? Maybe he had great affinity with the Vietnamese devotees ad wanted to tell them about the four noble truths --the sufferings, the aggregation of sufferings, its extinction and the way -- before they actually encountered extreme misery. Dharma Masters Thick-tam-chau and Thick- sieu-Tran and Upasika Phuong Kuo-wu (Mrs. Ong So) sponsored the Dharma lecturing. The Venerable Master and his disciples sometimes spoke three times daily.

"No, what I wish to beg is not what you think. I do not want to beg formoney or goods. What is it then? It's you basic, inherent afflictions." The Venerable Master's incisive remark suggested to them the coming of disaster.

How to avoid such imminent disaster? On that day, the Master's lecture mentioned, "After you have given me all the afflictions, give me the three poisons, that is, your greed, your hatred and your stupidity. Then your morality, samadhi and wisdom will be perfected. So to-day I come specially to beg."

"Besides begging from you your afflictions, greed, hatred and stupidity, what I now want to beg is your mark of self. We have to expand the sphere of our mind. The capacity of your mind exhausts the empty space and pervades the Dharma Realm. Buddhism is one unity. We should not have opinions of sects such as Mahayana and Theravada. Sakyamuni Buddha once said, 'All living beings have the wisdom and
virtuous mark of the Thatagatas, its merely because of false thinking and attachment that they are unable to certify to that attainment.' So we should not attached to such concepts as 'I am Chines', 'I am Vietnamese,' or I am Thai'."

Kuo Yu, who followed the Venerable Master on this trip to South East Asia recalled, "Wherever the Master went, there was fabulous response. It was truly unbelievable. The crowds packing the auditoriums wherever we went. I remember in Saigon when the Master spoke to a house of around a thousand people, they would cheer and applaud after each little three minute segment. First in Chinese, then
when it was translated into Vietnamese. It sounded like we were at a basketball game. They went wild. What struck me most about the Master during this exhausting trip, was how much energy he had. It was just like he was a nuclear reactor or something.
All these long, long, days with lots of traveling, hassles, lectures, and endless streams of people waiting to see him,to have him help them with their problems. And he never let up."

The Venerable Master came back in early January. On January 17, 1975 he ordered one of his disciples to send a telegram to Upasika Ong So. The content of the telegram was like this: If you have finished everything in Saigon, hope you and husband come to America little sooner. Look forward to seeing you. Gold Mountain.

Soon after, Gold Mountain Monastery had one more sincere Dharma Protector coming from Vietnam.

Mr. Chung, an upasaka from Vietnam recounted the past, "In 1975, Saigon was still consider peaceful, the Chinese immigrants were usually well-to-do and business flourishing. Nobody would dream of Saigon would fall into Communists hands on April 30. No one had prepared. Not until 1975 people had find ways to escape and drifted at sea for many days, pending permission to land in certain countries. My wife and I, with the blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, fortunately received attention from the Red Cross and was finally succeeded in
making arrangements for us to stay in the United States.

It is said that, "To understand the disaster of war in this world, one has to listen to the cries inside the slaughter house at midnight." When retribution comes around people, though the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are compassionate, they can only help following the condition. The Venerable Master tried his best to help. So, from 1980-1986 he set up the Buddhist Council for the Rescue and Resettlement of Refugees authorized by the United States Government to give vocational counseling and English training.