The Zen Master Shih Lien-hai was born and grew up in a destitute family. At the age of ten, he was shocked by the scene of hell while he was watching with his mother a video tape about the Maudgalaputra’s Venture to Rescue His Mother. After that, he was always pondering: “from where the man comes to birth and where he goes after death? Are all of the men going to the hell at the end of their lives? Who is supposed to deliver?” Being obsessed by the inexplicable questions of life-and-death, he became despondent.
During his youth, he had a great bent for reading the rare books about goodness, and often transcribed the dictums he had read in his weekly reports. His teachers were quite surprised by his restraint and steady character but might praise his distinct tendency of escape, a temperament evidently different from his peers. When he was twenty, his father became bedridden on account of illness, and the family was slumped into the mire of economical straits. This situation urged him to work through his school years with the attempt to earn some money to make up the family’s
expenses so as to weather the crisis. To his great sadness, however, his father died before long. For the first time in his life, he suffered the deepest bitterness that tortured him for years: being unable to reciprocate the graces and favors of his father, though longing for retribution. After that, he became aware of the emptiness and impermanence of the world. The only way to appease his worry was to read the Buddhist scriptures and the relevant texts. Being inspired by Buddhism, he decided to seek refuge and was named as Rungdin. Then he plunged into the study of the Buddhist sutras in the years and awakened to the truth of life through the comprehension of Buddhist teachings.
He was ordained by Patriarch Pai-sein and received from him the full commandments. In the venue of commandment transmission, the masters inculcated all of the disciples with the rule that “being a Buddhist, whatever you do must comply with Buddhism” and for what’s worth in life, a Buddhist has to devote and sacrifice for all sentient beings. With such thoughts in mind, he contemplated over and over that Buddha, during His renouncing period of cause-ground in practicing Boddhisattva-hood, had dedicated in converting all beings with six paramitas through countless lifetimes to attain to supreme grace in exceptional encounters and abstentions. Going through all kinds of ordeals, He had achieved in the highest wisdom, the greatest merciful with insuperable will and persistence. Deep in his heart, he tried to emulate the Buddha.