Hsuan Hua

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Hsuan Hua
Hsuan Hua in Ukiah, California
Religion Chan Buddhism
School Guyiang School
Lineage 9th generation
Dharma names An Tzu
Tu Lun
Nationality Chinese
Born (1918-04-16)April 16, 1918
Jilin, China
Died June 7, 1995(1995-06-07) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, United States
Senior posting
Title Chan Master, Founder and abbot of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, President of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, Rector of the Dharma Realm Buddhist University, the ninth patriarch of guiyang school.
Religious career
Teacher Hsu Yun
Students Heng Sure, Heng Lyu, Heng Chau, Heng Lai
Venerable Hsuan Hua meditating in the lotus position. Hong Kong, 1953.

Hsuan Hua (Chinese: 宣化; pinyin: Xuānhuà; literally: "proclaim and transform"; April 16, 1918 – June 7, 1995), also known as An Tzu and Tu Lun, was a monk of Chan Buddhism and a contributing figure in bringing Chinese Buddhism to the United States in the 20th century.

Hsuan Hua founded several institutions in the US. The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association[1] (DRBA) is a Buddhist organization with chapters in North America, Australia and Asia. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) in Ukiah, California, is one of the first Chan Buddhist monasteries in America. Venerable Master Hsuan Hua founded Dharma Realm Buddhist University at CTTB. The Buddhist Text Translation Society works on the phonetics and translation of Buddhist scriptures from Chinese into English, Vietnamese, Spanish, and many other languages.

Early life

Hsuan Hua, a native of Shuangcheng County of Jilin (now Wuchang District, Harbin, Heilongjiang), was born Bai Yushu (白玉書) on April 16, 1918. His parents were devout Buddhists. At an early age, Hua became a vegetarian like his mother, and decided to become a Buddhist monk.

At the age of 15, he took refuge in the Three Jewels under the Venerable Chang Zhi. That same year he began to attend school and studied texts of various Chinese schools of thought, and the fields of medicine, divination, astrology, and physiology. At 19 years of age, Hua became a monastic, under the Dharma name An Tzu. (安慈)


He made the following eighteen vows to all sentient beings:

1. I vow that as long as there is a single Bodhisattva in the three periods of time throughout the ten directions of the Dharma Realm, to the very end of empty space, who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain the right enlightenment.

2. I vow that as long as there is a single Pratyekabuddha in the three periods of time throughout the ten directions of the Dharma Realm, to the very end of empty space, who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain the right enlightenment.

3. I vow that as long as there is a single Shravaka in the three periods of time throughout the ten directions of the Dharma Realm, to the very end of empty space, who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain the right enlightenment.

4. I vow that as long as there is a single god in the Triple Realm who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain the right enlightenment.

5. I vow that as long as there is a single human being in the worlds of the ten directions who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain the right enlightenment.

6. I vow that as long as there is a single asura who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain the right enlightenment.

7. I vow that as long as there is a single animal who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain the right enlightenment.

8. I vow that as long as there is a single hungry ghost who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain the right enlightenment.

9. I vow that as long as there is a single hell-dweller who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain the right enlightenment.

10. I vow that as long as there is a single god, immortal, human, asura, air-bound or water-bound creature, animate or inanimate object, or a single dragon, beast, ghost, spirit, or the like of the spiritual realm that has taken refuge with me and has not accomplished Buddhahood, I too will not attain the right enlightenment.

11. I vow to fully dedicate all blessings and bliss which I myself ought to receive and enjoy to all living beings of the Dharma Realm.

12. I vow to fully take upon myself all sufferings and hardships of all living beings in the Dharma Realm.

13. I vow to manifest innumerable bodies as a means to gain access into the minds of living beings throughout the universe who do not believe in the Buddha-dharma, causing them to correct their faults and tend toward wholesomeness, repent of their errors and start anew, take refuge in the Triple Jewel, and ultimately accomplish Buddhahood.

14. I vow that all living beings who see my face or even hear my name will fix their thoughts on Bodhi and quickly accomplish the Buddha Way.

15. I vow to respectfully observe the Buddha's instructions and cultivate the practice of eating only one meal per day.

16. I vow to enlighten all sentient beings, universally responding to the multitude of differing potentials.

17. I vow to obtain the five eyes, six spiritual powers, and the freedom of being able to fly in this very life.

18. I vow that all of my vows will certainly be fulfilled.


I vow to save the innumerable living beings.

I vow to eradicate the inexhaustible afflictions.

I vow to study the illimitable Dharma-doors.

I vow to accomplish the unsurpassed Buddha Way.[2]

Bringing Chinese Buddhism to the United States

In 1959, Hsuan Hua sought to bring Chinese Buddhism to the West.[3] He instructed his disciples in America to establish a Buddhist association, initially known as The Buddhist Lecture Hall, which was renamed the Sino-American Buddhist Association before taking its present name: the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association.

Hsuan Hua traveled to Australia in 1961 and taught there for one year, returning to Hong Kong in 1962. That same year, at the invitation of American Buddhists, he traveled to the United States; his intent was to "come to America to create Patriarchs, to create Buddhas, to create Bodhisattvas".[4]

San Francisco

Hsuan Hua resided in San Francisco, where he built a lecture hall. Hsuan Hua began to attract young Americans who were interested in meditation. He conducted daily meditation sessions and frequent Sutra lectures.

At that time, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred between the United States and the Soviet Union, and Hsuan Hua embarked on a fasting period for thirty-five days to pray for an end to the hostilities and for world peace. In 1967, Hsuan Hua moved the Buddhist Lecture Hall back to Chinatown, locating it in the Tianhou Temple.

First American Sangha

In 1968, Hsuan Hua held a Shurangama Study and Practice Summer Session. Over thirty students from the University of Washington in Seattle came to study the Buddha’s teachings. After the session was concluded, five young Americans (Bhikṣu Heng Chyan, Heng Jing, and Heng Shou, and Bhikṣuṇīs Heng Yin and Heng Ch'ih) requested permission to take full ordination.

Venerable Hsuan Hua lectured on the entire Śūraṅgama Sūtra in 1968 while he was in the United States. These lectures were recorded in an eight-part series of books containing the sutra and a traditionally rigorous form of commentary that addresses each passage. It was again lectured by the original translator monks and nuns of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas at Dharma Realm Buddhist University in the summer of 2003.

Vision of American Buddhism

With the founding of his American Sangha, Hsuan Hua embarked on his personal vision for Buddhism in the United States:

  • Bringing the true and proper teachings of the Buddha to the West and establishing a proper monastic community of the fully ordained Sangha here
  • Organizing and supporting the translation of the entire Buddhist canon into English and other Western languages[5][6]
  • Promoting wholesome education through the establishment of schools and universities

Hosting ordination ceremonies

Because of the increasing numbers of people who wished to become monks and nuns under Hsuan Hua's guidance, in 1972 he decided to hold ordination ceremonies at Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery. Two monks and one nun received ordination. Subsequent ordination platforms have been held at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in 1976, 1979, 1982, 1989, 1991, and 1992, and progressively larger numbers of people have received full ordination. Over two hundred people from countries all over the world were ordained under him.

Theravada and Mahayana traditions

Having traveled to Thailand and Burma in his youth to investigate the Southern Tradition of Buddhism, Hsuan Hua wanted to bridge what he perceived as a rift between the Northern (Mahayana) and Southern (Theravada) traditions. In an address to Ajahn Sumedho and the monastic community at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery on October 6, 1990, Hsuan Hua stated:[7]

In Buddhism, we should unite the Southern and Northern traditions. From now on, we won't refer to Mahayana or Theravada. Mahayana is the "Northern Tradition" and Theravada is the "Southern Tradition." [...] Both the Southern and the Northern Traditions' members are disciples of the Buddha, we are the Buddha's descendants. As such, we should do what Buddhists ought to do. [...] No matter the Southern or the Northern Tradition, both share the common purpose of helping living beings bring forth the Bodhi-mind, to put an end to birth and death, and to leave suffering and attain bliss.

On the occasion of the opening ceremony for the Dharma Realm Buddhist University, Hsuan Hua presented Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda of the Theravada tradition with an honorary Ph.D. He also donated a major piece of the land that would become Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, a Theravada Buddhist monastery in the Thai Forest tradition of Ajahn Chah, located in Redwood Valley, California.

Hsuan Hua would also invite Bhikkhus from both traditions to jointly conduct the High Ordination.

Chinese and American Buddhism

From July 18 to the 24th of 1987, Hsuan Hua hosted the Water, Land, and Air Repentance Dharma Assembly, a centuries-old ritual often seen as the "king of dharma services" in Chinese Buddhism, at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and invited over seventy Buddhists from mainland China to attend. This was the first time the service was known to have been held in North America.

On November 6, 1990, Hsuan Hua sent his disciples to Beijing to bring the Dragon Treasury (Chinese: 龍藏; pinyin: lóngzáng) edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon back to CTTB, furthering his goal of bringing Buddhism to the US.


On June 7, 1995, Hsuan Hua died in Los Angeles at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His sudden passing came as a shock to most of his disciples.


Hsuan Hua's funeral lasted from June 8 to July 29. On June 17, Hsuan Hua's body was taken from Southern to Northern California, returning to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. All major services during the funeral were presided over by Venerable Ming Yang, abbot of Longhua Temple in Shanghai and a longtime friend of Hsuan Hua's.

On July 28, monks from both Theravada and Mahayana traditions hosted a memorial ceremony and cremation. The two thousand and some followers from the United States, Canada, and various Asian and European countries, including many of Hsuan Hua’s American disciples, came to CTTB to take part in the funeral service. Letters of condolences from Buddhist monks and dignitaries, including from President Bush, were read during the memorial service.

A day after the cremation, July 29, Hsuan Hua's remains were scattered in the air above the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas by two disciples, Heng Sure and Heng Chau, one of Master Hua's first disciples, from a hot air balloon.

After the funeral, memorial services commemorating Hsuan Hua's life were held in various parts of the world, including Taiwan, China, and Canada. His śarīra (relics) were distributed to many of his temples, disciples and followers.


  • To Prevent A Nuclear Holocaust, People Must Change Their Minds
  • The Heart of Prajnaparamita Sutra Without the Stand
  • Should One Be Filial
  • Guanyin Bodhisattva is Our Brother
  • Master Hsuan Hua on Stupidity Versus Wisdom
  • In An Emergency
  • Doing It Just Right is the Middle Way
  • Chan
  • The Dharma Door Of Mindfulness
  • Causes And Conditions
  • The Efficacious Language
  • Exhortation to Resolve Upon Bodhi
  • Herein Lies the Treasure Trove
  • Listen to Yourself, Think Everything Over
  • Water Mirror Reflecting Heaven
  • Why Should We Receive And Uphold The Five Precepts?


  • The Fifty Skandha Demon States
  • The Intention of Patriarch Bodhidharma's Coming from the West
  • Commentary on The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
  • Commentary on The Sutra in Forty-Two Sections
  • Commentary on The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra
  • Chan: the Essence of All Buddhas
  • Guanyin, Guanyin, Guanshiyin
  • The Professor Requests a Lecture From the Monk in the Grave
  • Venerable Master Hua's Talks on Dharma, Volumes I-XI
  • Buddha Root Farm
  • News From True Cultivators

See also


  1. DRBA Founder's Bio Archived 2008-01-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. The Eighteen Great Vows of theVenerable Master Hsuan Hua
  3. Epstein, Ronald (1995). "The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua Brings the Dharma to the West." In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Volume One. Burlingame, CA:Buddhist Text Translation Society, pp. 59-68. Reprinted in The Flower Adornment Sutra, Chapter One, Part One “The Wondrous Adornment of the Rulers of the Worlds; A Commentary by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. Burlingame, CA: Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2004, pp. 274-286.
  4. Prebish, Charles (1995). "Ethics and Integration in American Buddhism". Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Vol. 2, 1995.
  5. Epstein, Ronald (1969). “The Heart Sūtra and the Commentary of Tripiṭaka Master Hsüan Hua.” Master’ Thesis, University of Washington.
  6. Epstein, Ronald (1975). “The Śūraṅgama-sūtra with Tripiṭaka Master Hsüan-hua’s Commentary An Elementary Explanation of Its General Meaning: A Preliminary Study and Partial Translation.” Ph.D. Dissertation. University of California at Berkeley.
  7. Hsuan Hua. The Shurangama Sutra with Commentary, Volume 7. 2003. p. 261

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John Blofeld Bodhidharma Edward Espe Brown Polwatte Buddhadatta Thera Buddhaghosa
Acharya Buddharakkhita Marie Byles Ajahn Chah Rerukane Chandawimala Thero Channa
Chokgyur Lingpa Edward Conze L. S. Cousins Brian Cutillo 1st Dalai Lama
2nd Dalai Lama 3rd Dalai Lama 4th Dalai Lama 5th Dalai Lama 6th Dalai Lama
7th Dalai Lama 8th Dalai Lama 9th Dalai Lama 10th Dalai Lama 11th Dalai Lama
12th Dalai Lama 13th Dalai Lama Bidia Dandaron Alexandra David-Néel Marian Derby
Devadatta U Dhammaloka K. Sri Dhammananda Dharmaditya Dharmacharya Dharmakirti
Dharmapala of Nalanda Anagarika Dharmapala Dharmottara Dignāga Dōgen
Dongchu Dongshan Liangjie Khakyab Dorje, 15th Karmapa Lama Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, 3rd Karmapa Lama
Heinrich Dumoulin Düsum Khyenpa, 1st Karmapa Lama Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Walter Evans-Wentz Family of Gautama Buddha
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Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen Gyeongbong Han Yong-un Thich Nhat Hanh Walisinghe Harischandra
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9th Jebtsundamba Khutughtu Jeongang Kadawedduwe Jinavamsa Mahathera Ken Jones (Buddhist) David Kalupahana
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King Suppabuddha Jamgon Kongtrul Kukkuripa Kumar Kashyap Mahasthavir Kunkhyen Pema Karpo
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Mahakasyapa Mahākāśyapa Mahamoggallana Mahasi Sayadaw Jyotipala Mahathera
Nagasena Mahathera S. Mahinda Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera Marpa Lotsawa Peter Matthiessen
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