When I was little, on every New Year’s Eve, my mom would take me to the temple to thank the spirits in order to ensure that our family would be peaceful and our business would prosper. On important holidays, my grandmother would stay overnight in the temple. She always chose me to accompany her. One of my deepest memories is of being awakened by the sound of bells and drums when I stayed in the temple with my grandmother once, and seeing the nuns reciting a Sutra in the Buddhahall, which was brightly lit with lamps and candles. I have always felt a deep awe for the images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Vajra-spirits, and Arhats. Even when I was studying in a Catholic high school, I continued to feel reverence for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
After I went to the United States where I attended college, graduated, and began working and raising my children, I was so busy that I had no time to look into spiritual subjects or the philosophy of life. Occasionally I would bring my kids to church, but we went mainly to take part in the activities of the Chinese community. We sent our children to a Christian preschool, hoping that they would learn to be good people. When my youngest child entered preschool, I finally had some time to delve into the meaning of life.
Since I had studied medicine in college, I paid no attention to religion and the question of whether God or ghosts exist. But I was extremely curious about spiritual powers, supernatural abilities, possession by ghosts, and the dead coming back to life. My elder sister was vigorously studying the Buddhadharma, and I often borrowed Buddhist books from her. Reading those books convinced me that spiritual penetrations were real. Later on, I read a book called
Introducing Buddhism to the Intelligentsia, which helped me to distinguish between Buddhism and superstitious Chinese beliefs. When I started to study the Venerable Master’s Dharma talks and his commentaries on the Sutras, I realized that several precious decades of life had gone by without my hearing the wonderful sweet dew of the Master’s Dharma. I knew only that I wanted to walk the path of cultivation prescribed by the Buddhadharma. The day I took refuge with the Triple Jewel under the Venerable Master, my mother-in-law and my husband also took refuge; less than three years later, my daughter and son also took refuge and became disciples of the Venerable Master.
Less than a week after I took refuge, I dreamed that I flew up to a sublime place, a temple with an adorned atmosphere. I seemed to be an onlooker, for no one paid any attention to me and I didn’t bother anyone else either. The buildings of the temple were mainly golden, yellow, and red in color. The place was very bright. When I went up to the second floor, I saw people working there in silence. Suddenly I was in the main hall on the first floor, standing at the back of the hall. I saw more than ten monks wearing yellow robes with red sashes on top. I felt peaceful and comfortable.
The Venerable Master has taught us the advantages of being a vegetarian, and that the greatest form of compassion is to refrain from eating the flesh of living beings. I once borrowed an illustrated book on liberating life and abstaining from killing written by Great Master Lian Chi. After reading it, I resolved to always be a vegetarian. During the first three months of being vegetarian, I felt an immediate improvement in my blood circulation and an unprecedented amount of energy.
The Venerable Master emphasizes both the Shurangama Sutra and the Shurangama Mantra. The Dharma Masters in the monastery also encouraged cultivators to memorize the Shurangama Mantra, and so I memorized the Shurangama Mantra as well. I still remember the week I was almost done memorizing the mantra, I felt the dust falling away from my body layer after layer. The feeling of purity and lightness lasted for over a month.
This is how I came to study the Buddhadharma. I am an ordinary person who began without any understanding of the Buddhadharma or the law of cause and effect. When I was young, I was busy consolidating my livelihood; in my middle age, when my livelihood became somewhat settled, I started to investigate the puzzle of life. It started with a curiousity about psychic powers, and when the conditions ripened, I encountered the proper Dharma. I regret only that I didn’t encounter it earlier. What could be more important than the questions of
“Where do I come from? Where am I going after death?”? Each word of the Venerable Master’s teachings is full of wisdom. To know how to leave suffering and attain bliss and how to end birth and death should be the main goal in our cultivation. I vow to follow the Venerable Master’s teaching, overcome my bad habits and evil karma with determination, cultivate single-mindedly, and walk upon the proper path.
Wealth and honor are but a springtime dream at dawn.
Fame and position are a wisp of floating cloud.
The blood relations of the present are temporary.
Love and affection soon turn to hate.
Don’t drape your neck with golden chains,
Or bind the body with shackles of jade.
With a pure mind and few desires, you can transcend the world.
The scenes of happiness are originally yours.