Some people described the United States in this way:
“A heaven for children, a battleground for young people, and a grave for the old.” People are busy all their lives for the sake of their families, the society, and the country, but their final refuge is always the graveyard. How depressing! In Western society, which does not value its elderly, the plight of old people is particularly sad. Yet at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, one can find a blessed land, a heaven, for old folks.
The following account will illustrate the Venerable Master’s compassion towards the elderly.
Several years ago, after listening to a certain Elder Master lecture on the Sutras in Taiwan, I conceived the wish to leave the home-life and told the Elder Master I would like to become his disciple. The Elder Master asked,
“How old are you this year?” I said, “Sixty-five.” He said,
“Reciting the Buddha’s name and cultivating at home is the same. There’s no need to leave home.” Hearing his answer, I was filled with despair! It was only the following year that I shaved my head and left home under the Venerable Master, thus fulfilling my wish.
A fellow cultivator and her young grandson came to visit the Venerable Master at the Sagely City. Afterwards, grandmother and grandson simultaneously requested the Venerable Master’s permission to leave the home-life. The elderly woman was already eighty and illiterate. Would the Venerable Master be so kind as to allow her to leave home? The Venerable Master sighed and said,
“Even those who are a hundred years old need to be taken across!” The elderly woman’s wish was granted, and she and her grandson left home together. She is extremely diligent. Although her age shows slightly, her body is healthy and she walks with quick, light steps. After leaving the home-life, she has been very vigorous and never indulges in idle talk. She rises at two o’clock every morning and recites the Great Compassion Spiritual Mantra 108 times. She is learning to recite the Amitabha Sutra. Every morning and evening she recites the holy name of Amitabha Buddha twenty thousand times. She also cultivates the Forty-two Hands and Eyes transmitted by the Venerable Master. Every day she rushes to make offerings of water, flowers, and fruit to the Buddhas. Her fellow cultivators see how much she likes to take care of the altar, and they follow her wishes. This year she is eight-seven. Although she is small and slender, she is still healthy. All the laypeople who see her praise her and wish that she will be reborn in the West as she has vowed and personally bow to Amitabha Buddha.
Another elder, who was already ninety-two years old, was also extremely fortunate to receive the Venerable Master’s kind permission to leave the home-life. Although she is healthy, her hands and feet are not agile. The Venerable Master assigned a young laywoman to prepare her food and attend to her needs.
When the Venerable Master was young, he was known as Filial Son Bai to the villagers because of filial piety towards his parents. The Venerable Master also showed the utmost concern and respect for elderly people. At the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the elderly reside in the newly renovated Tower of Blessings. They are allowed to take three meals, following the Buddha’s instructions for the elderly. Thus the elderly have the opportunity to concentrate on reciting Sutras, bowing to the Buddhas, and reciting the Buddha’s name.
We elderly are deeply grateful to the Venerable Master for his compassion and concern. We wouldn’t have been cared for so well even at home. We vow to be reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. Once we see Amitabha Buddha, what worry is there that we won’t become enlightened? After enlightening to the nonproduction of dharmas, we will return by the power of our vows to help the Venerable Master propagate the Buddhadharma and lead all living beings to realize Bodhi together. Only then will we have repaid a tiny bit of the deep kindness of the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and the Venerable Master.