Master Xu Yun Prays for Snow in the Summer to Rescue the People
I have translated into English the Chinese text entitled ‘虚云老和尚暑天祈雪救万民‘ (Master Xu Yun Prays for Snow in the Summer to Rescue the People). Like many such stories, it appears on various web-pages throughout the Chinese language internet. This is a very remarkable story that serves to demonstrate the power of the focused mind. Master Xu Yun, during the turmoil of the Boxer Uprising and subsequent invasion of China by Western and Japanese forces in 1900, was able, through the use of meditation and ritual, to cause it to rain and snow in the middle of summer in north-western China. This story does not appear in detail in Charles Luk’s English translation of Cen Xue Lu’s early biography of master Xu Yun – simply because master Xu Yun chose not to relate it in-depth at that time. However, as it involved hundreds of people, eventually the story was recorded. I have added a photograph of master Xu Yun in meditation. This picture is from 1933 rather than 1900, but it gives an indication of the spiritual strength of the master.
In 1900, Beijing - the capital of China- was in turmoil due to the aggression inflicted upon it by the foreign powers. The Emperor, Empress Dowager, Secretary of State, the eunuchs and the ladies in waiting all fled to Xian. Prince Qing (庆亲王) knew that master Xu Yun was well renowned and believed him to be fully enlightened. For this reason he asked Xu Yun to accompany the royal entourage on the journey as a way of ensuring safety on the westward journey.
Upon arrival at Xian, the situation was terrible. The ordinary people were starving, and those living devoured the flesh of the dead. Everywhere was death and destruction and piles of rotting corpses covered the land. Seeing this master Xu Yun immediately requested that the emperor issue an edict banning the eating of human flesh and to mobilise the wealthy by raising taxes to buy emergency food and set-up soup kitchens.
The situation was compounded by the fact that it was the 8th lunar month and Xian was experiencing very hot summer days. The rotting bodies stank in the sun, and as a consequence plague broke out in the area. Master Xu Yun, motivated by compassion for the people retired to the Wo Long Ch’an Temple (卧龙禅寺 – Wo Long Ch’an Si) for seven days where he organised a great Dharma ritual requesting that snow and rain fall in the area and eliminate the plague.
Prior to master Xu Yun making this attempt on behalf of the ordinary people, he was advised in private in the following manner: “Times of plague and great destruction are unusual. If you fail to create snow and rain the Emperor might well see this as an affront to his authority and order you beheaded. Why not forget this idea and leave now, whilst you still have the chance.” However, master Xu Yun did not care about his own life or death, he only cared about helping the ordinary people. This is why he entered the Wo Long Temple and together with abbot Dong Xia (东霞), and all the monks, prepared the platform and instruments that were to be used. The virtuous and moral strength of master Xu Yun compelled thousands of people at temples throughout Xian to combine their collective will and focus their minds to assist in the ritual. Even the master in charge of monastic discipline all year long on Zhong Nan Mountain (终南山 – Zhong Nan Shan) came to help. Buddhists who heard about the ritual came from far and wide in support.
The Dharma platform was high and measured just over 3 zhang (丈) wide, (with a ‘zhang’ measuring a little over 10 feet). Represented on the platform were Sakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara, and Mahāsthāmaprāpta. Either side of the Dharma platform were two tall flagpoles, each being 3 zhang (丈) in height. From each flagpole hung golden Buddha banners that streamed down. On one side of each banner was written the mantra; ‘Namo Suo Jie Luo Longwang Pusa Mohesa!’ (南无娑竭罗龙王菩萨摩诃萨). This is an invocation to the great Dragon King requesting that he might dance across the land and bring rain to relieve the drought. On the other side of each banner was written the mantra; ‘Namo Suí Fong Pu Ying Xing Xue Longwang Sheng Zhong Pusa’ (无随方普应行雪龙王圣众菩萨). An invocation requesting that the Dragon King (and other Bodhisattvas) bring snow to the land. Over the Dharma platform was laid a yellow cloth, and on the cloth was placed flowers, fruit, incense and candles as offerings. There was nothing missing.
Master Xu Yun led 9 masters in meditation, with each master wearing a red robe. They sat for 7 days and 7 nights upon the platform practicing the Dharma. Around the platform 108 monks continuously recited the snow dharani mantra, whilst 360 monks led the crowd reciting the ‘Great Compassion Repentance’ (大悲忏– Da Bei Chan). The rest of the monks and nuns led the crowd chanting Amitabha Buddha’s holy name – this activity went on around the clock. On the morning of the 7th day very dark clouds appeared in the sky, and in the afternoon very large snowflakes began to flutter in. As snow was now dropping, the monks and nuns were returned to their temples. Master Xu Yun continued to sit with no cover upon the Dharma platform continuing the powerful ritual – snow fell for miles around Xian.
The Empress Dowager and her ladies in waiting, travelled under armed guard to the Wo Long Temple. When she saw master Xu Yun sat in meditation she said: “This is a living Buddha who can call the wind and rain!” She then fell on her knees bowing her head to the ground. After this the Princes Su (肃) and Qing (庆) both requested that master Xu Yun return to Beijing so that he might live in the palace and teach them the Dharma. Early in the 10th lunar month, master Xu Yun was tired of the fame this incident had attracted and quietly left the Xian area. He went to live in seclusion on Zhong Nan Mountain (终南山 – Zhong Nan Shan).
'Licchavi Vimalakirti came to the foot of that tree and said to me, ’Reverend Sariputra, this is not the way to absorb yourself in contemplation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation so that neither body nor mind appear anywhere in the triple world. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest all ordinary behavior without forsaking cessation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest the nature of an ordinary person without abandoning your cultivated spiritual nature.' Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra