Before I learned about the Buddhadharma, I grew up in a Catholic family. As a child I often got sick. I went to a Catholic-run hospital and my doctor was a nun, so my conditions with Catholicism ran very deep.
In my work, I regularly represented my company on trips abroad to perform business inspections. For an Asian woman, this was a very difficult job to do over ten years ago. The farthest I travelled was to South Yemen, an extremely underdeveloped country. I’ve also been to Lebanon, a nation beset by unending religious wars.
One day I asked myself, “What am I so busily
running around and working for? Ultimately,
what’s the point?”
I’ve seen wars, and I’ve seen the ravages left by war. I’ve also seen Communist countries, some European countries where people are very well off, and the United States, which is also very prosperous. There are also many very poor and underdeveloped areas. So I asked myself,
“What do I want in this life? What am I seeking for?” I didn’t know what I had gained. I felt that despite all the coming and going, everything was empty. I felt that the Saha World was extremely miserable. And I also felt the doctrines of Catholicism could not resolve my doubts satisfactorily.
I began with popular belief and kept searching until I found my ideal. One day, I came across a Buddhist book for the first time at my classmate’s house. Her husband was a Buddhist, and they had a shrine on the top floor. She showed it to me and I asked her about how to make offerings to the Buddha and so on. Then I asked her,
“Who is your teacher?” She pointed to the Master’s photo and said,
“This is my teacher.” I was very curious. The photo made a deep impression on me, because the Master was holding a whisk. When I was little I liked to dress up and pretend I was one of the seven fairies, so I was very interested in the whisk. I said,
“I’ve never seen a monk holding a whisk.” I took a liking to that whisk. She told me about some of the responses she’d had. She said,
“When the Master came to Taiwan, I dreamed about him.”
“Really?” Quite interested, I asked, “Do you have some books by your Master, or his biography, that I can read to find out more about him?” She said,
“Yes.” She gave me one of her only two Buddhist books─the first volume of the Master’s Instructional Talks.
That evening, I stayed at their home. After reading two pages, my tears came without stop. In one night, I read two-thirds of the book. All the questions I wanted to ask, all the answers I’d been searching for so diligently, were in this book. At that time I told myself, "This is my teacher! But where could I go to find him?" The address on the books wasn’t very clear because the book was very old, although she took good care of it and treated it as a treasure. I said,
“Your teacher is in America. How can I go to America?” That was a major turning point in my life. However, there was no way I could go to America in the short term. So I said to myself,
“No matter how difficult it is, no matter how much hardship it involves, I must go to America to find my teacher.” At that point I didn’t really understand who the Master was. I just knew that every sentence and every word he said, and every thing he did, was so ordinary and honest, yet he had given me all the answers I had been searching for in my life. The words that he said truly pointed straight at the mind.
At that time I felt very remorseful as I thought,
“Oh! So this is what life’s all about. When the time comes, everything is empty. Nothing belongs to us!” My wish to see the Master was a very innocent thought. I didn’t want to see the Master for any particular reason, but just to see him and think,
“Ah! This is my teacher!” I didn’t even know what it meant to take refuge. But during the next two years, I did things according to the Master’s method. He was so strict with his disciples. I thought,
“They eat only one meal a day, and a vegetarian meal at that, and they also memorize Sutras and mantras, and sit in meditation...His disciples must work very hard; just how many hours of sleep do they get each day?” I had a lot of doubts. There were a lot of other requirements, such as having a college degree. I didn’t know if being tall was also a requirement, because I am very short.
In this way, during those two years, I corrected my faults and bad habits and reformed myself. I did this all for the sake of seeing the Master. Without anyone introducing me, I very sincerely came to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. That was in October of 1992. I cried all the way from Gold Mountain Monastery in San Francisco to the Sagely City. When I arrived at the Sagely City, it seemed entirely familiar, as if I had been here before. I couldn’t have been more familiar with it. I felt like a lost lamb who had found its way back home.
When I was at Gold Mountain Monastery, I said to a Dharma Master,
“I hope to see the Master.” She said, “Well, it all depends on your sincerity!” I felt I had been doused with cold water. I thought,
“Am I still not sincere enough? I prepared for two years and came all the way from Taiwan to America. Do you mean to say I’m not sincere enough? Fine. If I get to see the Master, then it’s my blessings. If I don’t get to see the Master, then so be it!” That’s what I thought. Then I bowed in the Buddhahall. Afterwards I came to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for two days, and then went to the International Translation Institute in Burlingame to see the Master. Strangely enough, the Master seemed to know all about me when he saw me. I, however, didn’t understand the Master. I didn’t understand how lofty a monk he was. I really didn’t know. I was really stupid then.
When the Master saw me, the first thing he said was,
“You’ve come!” I said, “Yes, I’ve come!” It was like talking with my family.
“What day did you arrive? Have you been to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas?”
“Yes!” I replied.
The second thing the Master said was, “Ah! So your search for your teacher has brought you to America! It’s cost you a lot of money!” I said,
“Yes, I’ve spent a lot of money. I spent two years getting ready to see the Master!”
“You’ve come to America to find your teacher. The teacher also has to search for his disciple, you know?” I think what the Master meant was,
“You’re very selective about your teacher. Well,
your teacher is also very selective about
disciples. Are you qualified to be my disciple?”
The Master’s third statement was, “You have to leave the home-life.”
“Huh?” I didn’t know what to reply, because my only thought had been to see the Master. I said,
“Master, you say I have to leave home. When should I leave home then?”
“It’s up to you! How can I decide for you?” I said nothing.
Later the Master said some things to me, which I wrote down in a notebook. Even now I haven’t been able to completely understand exactly what they mean. What was he referring to? What would happen in the future? In a few words, the Master had delineated my whole life’s affairs. Then I said,
“I wish to take refuge with the Master.” The Master said,
“Okay, but I’m very busy today. There’s a press
Later the Master said he was going to Los Angeles, and I went along. However, because there was no refuge ceremony at Gold Wheel Monastery, I knelt beside the Master’s Dharma seat. The Master said,
“I can’t hold the refuge ceremony for you alone.” I thought to myself,
“Then I’ll go back to Taiwan and take refuge.” I continued kneeling there, waiting to see if the Master had anything to say to me. The Master only said a few words, but I remember them very clearly to this day. Even though they are just a few words, I can benefit from them all my life:
“When you see those who are worthy, strive to
emulate them. When you see those who are not
worthy, reflect upon yourself.”
I returned to Taiwan, and in January of 1993, I took refuge with the Master at the Banqiao Stadium. Ever since I took refuge with the Master, everything I wanted to do went according to my wishes. I wanted to study at a Buddhist Academy, but they said I was too old and they couldn’t accept me. I felt very arrogant, thinking,
“Well, if you don’t want me, then forget it. I won’t study either.” I single-mindedly sought to understand the Buddhadharma and to discover why I had such deep affinity with this religion. Why did I feel the Master’s books were so familiar? And why did they stir me up in such an ineffable way?
I have a deep impression of the one year that I spent transcribing the Master’s commentary on the Dharma Flower Sutra. As the Dharma Master mentioned earlier, the Master is a very learned person. I can give a very simple example to illustrate how erudite the Master is. You all know that the Chinese character 圈
“circle” is pronounced quan. When the Master was explaining the Dharma Flower Sutra, he pronounced it juan. I had to leave a blank in my transcription for a long time because I couldn’t figure out what the word was. I knew it wasn’t the word jian
“firm,” but I couldn’t think of any other word. One day, when I looked up the word 圈
“circle” in the dictionary, I discovered that it was pronounced juan when used as a verb, meaning
From this small incident, we can see that not only does the Master know the lore of the heavens and earth, explaining the Sutras is no problem at all for him. His learning is extremely profound and vast. If any of you are transcribing or proofreading commentaries on the Sutras, I hope you will be very careful and concentrated. What you gain out of this will enable you to advance greatly in your cultivation. At the same time, you will be able to see very, very clearly, as if in a mirror, the faults and bad habits that you need to get rid of in your cultivation.
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Now I’d like to tell about one of my supervisors, who has a very bad temper. In the monthly journal
Vajra Bodhi Sea, I read something the Master said,
“Why are you stupid? Because you have a temper!” I made an enlarged photocopy of it and showed it to my colleagues. When my supervisor saw it, he said,
“I don’t want to be stupid!” I said, “If you
don’t want to be stupid, then you’ve got to
change your temper.”
I brought this up because I want to point out that the Buddhist books and the monthly journal
Vajra Bodhi Sea that we publish in bilingual (Chinese and English) format are very good reading material for Westerners. They are very simple and easy to understand. To what degree was my supervisor influenced by the Master’s statement? As soon as he’s about to lose his temper, he balls his fists up and says,
“I can’t lose my temper. I must not get angry, because this wise person said we can’t lose our temper. As soon as we get mad, we will make a lot of wrong decisions.” Even more than a year afterwards, he still asked me often,
“Have I made any progress? Is my temper getting
From this, we can see what a far-reaching influence the translations of the Master’s explanations of Sutras, his Dharma talks, and
Vajra Bodhi Sea, can have! This is just a small episode from my daily life which illustrates how important the work of translation is.
After reading our publication of the Song of Enlightenment by Great Master Yongjia, some Westerners said,
“We never knew the Buddhadharma was this simple!
We always thought it was very complicated.” Amitabha Buddha!