My husband Alan and I have been disciples of the Venerable Master for over 25 years. This particular incident occurred in 1985 when our daughter, Marcelle, had just turned three years old. She has lived her entire life at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and took refuge with the Master at four months of age. Before she was born, the Master named her Wonderful Flower (妙華).
At the end of the summer of 1985 our family went to Mount Lassen National Park to spend some time with Alan’s brother. Mount Lassen is an inactive volcano which last errupted in 1916. There are, however, still steaming pits and boiling mud in the park as well as caves created by the last volcano eruptions. Americans consider it a fascinating and unusual place to visit and are completely unaware that it is dangerous in any way. Unfortunately, at the time, my husband and I were equally ignorant.
From the time we arrived at the park we felt uncomfortable, mainly because a great deal of hunting and fishing was going on. At the lodge where we originally planned to stay, there was a pond where you could pick your own fish for lunch and penned deer whose mothers had been hunted and killed. Because we felt so uncomfortable, we decided to stay outside of the park. Marcelle was particularly ill at ease and asked several times to go home to see the Master and hear the Sutra lecture. Since we’d already made plans with Alan’s brother, we stayed anyway. The rest of the week was uneventful except for a trip into one of the caves in the park where Marcelle became extremely frightened and upset.
For several months after we returned home, Marcelle complained of nightmares of wolves chasing and biting her. We encouraged her to recite Guanyin’s name, but, at the time, did not realize how serious the problem was. In the beginning of January, soon after her fourth birthday, Marcelle woke up early one morning screaming in pain and saying that her legs hurt. Later that day she seemed fine, but the leg pain continued. After a few days we took her to the doctor, who assumed it was some sort of virus. As her symptoms grew more painful and severe, we became increasingly alarmed. The pain became so severe that she was unable to sit up or walk. We planned to meet the doctor at the hospital but as we were getting ready to go, Marcelle began to insist that she wanted Shifu (the Master).
The assembly was eating lunch with the Master and so we stopped to see him on the way to the hospital. Strangely, though Marcelle had asked to see him, as soon as we drew near she cried that she wanted to leave. The Master told us,
“A karmic obstacle has come.” When we explained that we were on our way to see the doctor, the Master replied,
“They won’t find anything.” And they didn’t. Blood tests were done and two doctors, a pediatrician and an orthopedist, examined her and could find nothing. They finally diagnosed it as a viral inflamation of the joints, but Marcelle was not in pain while we were there.
That afternoon we received a call from the office of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas explaining that some sort of being had attached itself to Marcelle and was making her ill. We were instructed to recite Guanyin’s name and the Great Compassion Mantra. However, Marcelle’s condition worsened and she was in a great deal of pain. Normally a sweet-child, she developed a vicious temper and refused to cooperate in reciting at all. The only thing that calmed her was listening to a tape of the Master reciting Earth Treasury Bodhisattva’s name.
Meanwhile the Master had gone to Vancouver. We became so alarmed at her worsening condition that we called there and asked for advice. The Master sternly exhorted us to recite more sincerely. He also said that Marcelle absolutely must not lose her temper and must recite Guanyin’s name. With the help of friends we thought up every expedient device we could to help her. We gave her prizes for reciting, made books with her about getting better by reciting Guanyin’s name and star charts to help her not get angry. She insisted that we add
“not growling” to the chart, which later gained more significance.
When the Master returned to the City, he came directly to our house to see Marcelle. After a long time he explained that volcanos are manifestations of hell on earth and that many hell-beings dwell there. (He first asked where we had taken her recently.) Residing at Mount Lassen was a fire-breathing dog and his retinue. These dogs are born inside the mountain in the lava and thrive on fire and anger. They have extremely cantankerous natures. When we visited Mt. Lassen, the leader was attracted to Marcelle’s purity as a young disciple of the Master, and wished to make her part of his retinue. (This involved making her sick by biting her so that she was near death.)
The Master said he’d convinced the leader to let her go, but that others in the retinue hadn’t all agreed, so we had to continue to recite diligently. I cannot describe the pain we felt when we realized that we had
“led her into the lion’s den” and brought all this suffering upon her and trouble to the Master in our ignorance. We continued to recite and bow the Great Compassion Repentance and very gradually Marcelle’s pain began to lessen and she was able to recite more. She would wake up screaming in pain, but if we could get her to recite Guanyin’s name even for a few minutes she would fall into a more peaceful sleep.
I was moved also by Marcelle’s young friends who lived at the City and who came each day to see her. Each gave her a gift of something they held precious and stayed to play by her bedside so she wouldn’t be alone. They would also sit and recite Guanyin’s name and try to get her to recite as well. Soon the pain went away completely and she was able to sit up and move around, though she was still unable to walk. The Master told us not to worry, that she would walk eventually.
Soon afterwards, Alan and I made a meal offering to the Sangha. At the beginning of the meal offering ceremony, Marcelle could walk only very awkwardly, but by the end of the meal she was walking around and playing with her friends. In the next few months Marcelle came down with an extremely high fever several times and I became frightened that she would get sick again. The Master compassionately explained that, yes, she had bumped into the fire-breathing dog again but that I shouldn’t worry. If she got sick again he would help her get well. And so the three of us are eternally indebted to the Master for his great compassion not only in allowing us to bring up our child in this pure Way-place, but also in rescuing her from the jaws of death.