During the first such ceremony that these young Americans had ever witnessed,
held on the roof of the Buddhist Lecture Hall in 1968, thirty-eight pigeons
were released. All but two flew away. Those two pigeons stayed around and became
regular participants in the activities at the Lecture Hall. The Master shed
tears as he explained that these birds had been his left-home disciples during
the Tang Dynasty (around 750 A.D.) in China.
The Master gave them the names 'Twelve Causes and Conditions' and 'Seven Bodhi Shares,' and their dispositions were quite distinct. Seven Bodhi Shares was gentle, but Twelve Causes and Conditions was impatient and would often beat her wings against the Master, who taught her with wise and gentle kindness.
Or she would fly about in a rage if she didn't get what she wanted. The
Master's wisdom and clever expedients in teaching the birds weren't lost on
his human disciples, who suffered from many of the same afflictions.
One of these afflictions was food, because many of the young American disciples, inspired by the Master's practice of taking only one meal a day, were trying to master that practice themselves.
The Master wisely directed to the birds his teaching about greed for food. He fed them from a tall glass jar filled with the best of grains. At first the jar was filled to the brim and the two birds would happily perch on the rim and peck at the grain. Gradually the amount of grain in the tall glass jar decreased until the birds had to reach far into the jar, often unceremoniously losing their balance in the process, in order to get the food. The Master, shown here feeding the birds from a nearly empty jar.
Excerpt from an article compiled by Shi Hengchi
p.44 - 46, In Memory of Ven. Master Hua, Vol. II