A brief biography
Venerable Master Fa Hoi
Venerable Master Fa Hoi (1910-1996) was born in Zhanjiang Mao Ming in the province of Guangdong. His surname was Li, and he became a monk at the age of 29. He obtained his Threefold (full) ordination in 1943 at Nanhua Temple in Shaoguan, and had been a fully ordained monk for 53 years. At the age of 86, the venerable master passed away peacefully on the 14th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar in 1996 at the Hong Kong Buddhist Hospital.
Lineage: Venerable Master Xuyun (or Hsu Yun)
Fa Hong monastery is located just a few steps away from Po Lam Monastery at Tei Tong Tsai, Lantau Island. In fact, Master Sheng Yi of Po Lam Monastery obtained his Threefold ordination at Nanhua Temple in the same year as Master Fa Hoi. Both of them as well as Master Sum Ming at the Aranya of Sek Kai in Sam Nga Shui were disciples of Master Xuyun.
There exist very few written records about Master Fa Hoi, nonetheless, there is a brief biography of Master Tsang Sau at Po Lam Monastery which states that “Master Tsang Sau attained his perfect rest in January of 1975. Master Fa Hoi performed the Ceremony of Lighting the Fire for Cremation.”
The memoir of Master Sheng Yi also said, “there were lectures on the Diamond Sutra and the Śūraṅgama Sutra etc. taught by Venerable Masters such as Fa Wai, Cun Wai, Zou Yan, Fa Hoi, Man Sam in 1950 at Jetavana on Lotus Hill”.
Master Fa Hoi had a number of lay followers, including Lou Yuen-sam, Lai Gwai-sam, AuYeung Yung-sam, Chan Yuet-ngan, Chan Lin-sam, Leung Ling-sam, and Leung Chiu-yin. Most of them are now nearly 70 years old. They had been learning from Master Fa Hoi since the 1960s, and had followed him for several decades from Fa Hong Zen Temple in Lam Tei, Tuen Mun to Fa Hong Monastery in the remote area in Lantau Island. Through the decades, they had observed the daily life of the old Master, and had witnessed how he kept a low profile in his practice, how he was unmoved by fame and wealth, and how he observed his precepts strictly. They remembered him as an ascetic monk with his ragged patchwork robe, unshaved hair, quiet demeanour, and prolonged closed eyes. According to Master Fa Hoi, he adopted this image as a tribute to his beloved teacher Master Xuyun so that he could always recollect the compassion and asceticism of his old Master.
After Master Fa Hoi had a stable venue to practice, he observed a fixed routine of closed-door self-retreat for three years, and then practicing with others for another three years. Meanwhile, he insisted to get up at 3:45am every morning to strike the wooden plank and attended the morning chanting with his followers. He observed noble silence strictly before lunch, and if there were Dhamma discourses, he would deliver them after lunch.
Master Fa Hoi had been frugal all his life. According to his disciples, he had only one intact Haiqing (long robe) reserved for important Dhamma Ceremonies, and at other times, he always wore his ragged robes which was well known for its numerous patchworks. His disciples said that it was not an easy task to wash his ragged robes because all the patchwork made it very heavy. Many disciples thought the old Master did not have any new robes, and had offered to donate new ones to him, but he always declined their offers adamantly by saying that he had numerous unused new robes, and he would like to reserve them for other monks in times of need. After the old Master had passed away, his disciples did indeed find many unused new robes in his room.
Being an ascetic monk, the Master rarely left the mountain. However, one month before his passing away, his disciples realized that he had become bedbound and thus decided to transport him from Fa Hong Monastery to Baptist Hospital via helicopter. However, due to the lack of vegetarian meals at Baptist Hospital, the Master insisted to be transferred to Hong Kong Buddhist Hospital. He later told Chan Yuet-ngan, his lay disciple who delivered food to him for each meal, that he could “depart” if he were to fast for three days. However, upon his disciples’ reluctance to let him go, the Master persevered for over a month, and despite the date forecasted by his doctor and healthcare providers, he chose to pass away on 26th September 1996 (14th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar).
Passing Away of the Master
After Master Fa Hoi passed away, his body was transported from urban Kowloon to Po Lin Monastery for cremation ceremony on the auspicious day of transmission of Three Platforms of Great Precepts. On that day, 12 tourist buses were deployed by the monastics and lay followers. Using the alms money of the old Master, 60 tables were served to monastics and lay followers. Lotus-shaped clouds appeared in the sky during the cremation from which over 150 relics were left behind. Some of the relics were being brought to the Chi Lin Nunnery by his disciples Master Fo Yin and Master Fo Ming, and some were enshrined at the Nanhua Temple in Shaoguan where Master Fa Hoi received his precepts. The rest of the ashes were scattered on Lantau Island, Tai Mo Shan, and in the ocean. Master Fa Hoi passed away during autumn, and it was the first time purple orchids bloomed all over the hillside at Fa Hong Monastery where he resided for many years.
Master and His Disciples
Master Fa Hoi had a few monastic disciples including the late Master Man Sam who was the abbot of Fuk Wai Temple in Fu Yung Shan, Tsuen Wan. There were two other disciple nuns, Master Fo Yin and Master Fo Ming, both had moved to practise at Chi Lin Nunnery due to old age, and both had passed away a decade ago.
Fa Hong’s Three Moves
Master Fa Hoi had served in the military before being ordained as a monk. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the master was practising in the area of Guangdong with quite a bit of attainment. When the war broke out, the Master brought the youngest disciple Samanera Man Sam (the late Abbott of Fuk Wai Temple in Fu Yung Shan, Tsuen Wan), who was only 9 years old at that time, to Hong Kong to stay at Tung Po Tor Monastery. Later, with the support from Master Mau Fung of Tung Po Tor Monastery, Master Fa Hoi built a grass hut nearby. That was how Fa Hong Monastery began.
In the early 1960s, Fa Hong Monastery moved to Lam Tei in Tuen Mun, and changed the name to Fa Hong Zen Temple. Since it could be accessed easily, during Dharma Ceremonies there were about 200 to 300 disciples attending.
Around the 1970s, due to the government’s land resumption exercise at Lam Tei, Fa Hong Zen Temple moved to Tei Tong Tsai in Lantau Island with the support from many lay disciples, and the current Fa Hong Monastery was built.
Before Master Fo Yin, Master Fa Hoi’s disciple, passed away, she asked her lay disciples to look for Master Chi Wan of Hong Kong Buddhist Avalokitesvara Garden, and entrusted him to take over Fa Hong Monastery.