Early Years

The Venerable Master, a native of Shuangcheng County of Jilin Province, was born on the sixteenth day of the third lunar month in the year of Wu Wu at the beginning of the century. His family surname was Bai and his name was Yushu. He was also called Yuxi. His father, Bai Fuhai, was diligent and thrifty in managing the household. His mother, whose maiden name was Hu, ate only vegetarian food and recited the Buddha's name every day throughout her life. When she was pregnant with the Master, she prayed to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The night before his birth, in a dream she saw Amitabha Buddha emitting a light so radiant that it penetrated heaven and shook the earth. Shortly after, she gave birth to her youngest son. When the Master was born, the room was filled with a rare fragrance. For three days and nights the Master cried continuously, a sign of his deep sympathy for beings suffering birth and death in this Saha (defiled) world.

As a child, the Master followed his mother's example and ate only vegetarian food and recited the Buddha's name. The Master was quiet and untalkative by nature, but he had a righteous and heroic spirit. At the age of eleven, upon seeing a neighbor's infant who had died, he became aware of the great matter of birth and death and the brevity of life and resolved to leave the home-life. At the age of twelve, he heard of how Filial Son Wong of Shuangcheng County (later known as Great Master Chang Ren) had practiced filial piety and attained the Way, and he vowed to follow the Filial Son's example. Repenting for being unfilial to his parents in the past, the Master decided to bow to his parents every morning and evening as a way of acknowledging his faults and repaying his parents' kindness. He gradually became renowned for his filial conduct, and people called him Filial Son Bai.

At fifteen, he took refuge under the Venerable Master Chang Zhi. That same year he began to attend school and mastered the Four Books, the Five Classics, the texts of various Chinese schools of thought, and the fields of medicine, divination, astrology, and physiognomy. During his student years, he also participated in the Moral Society and other charitable societies. He explained the Sixth Patriarch's Sutra, the Vajra Sutra, and other Sutras for those who were illiterate, and started a free school for those who were poor and needy.