In 1981, I had the fortune of hearing the Venerable Master's instructional talk for the first time when he lectured at the Public Welfare Center in Taipei. I found his talk lively, moving, and easy to understand. I was especially impressed by his instructions on reciting the Shurangama Mantra. Another unique feature of his Dharma lecture which was unprecedented in Taiwan was that he asked his left-home disciples to take turns speaking Dharma after him. Later I learned that this eminent Patriarch had actually knelt before his disciples to beg them to speak, for the sake of nurturing the Sangha's abilities to propagate Dharma. At the conclusion of the lecture, I took refuge with the Master along with the assembly.
I am ashamed to say that I didn't follow the Master's teachings at the time. Until I went with a colleague to the Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Society in 1994, tears came to my eyes as I bowed to the Master's picture. I felt like a child coming home and seeing his parents after a long absence. The Master seemed to kindly say to me, "It's okay, now you're back."
Since then, I began to attend Dharma events at the Society every Sunday, and I read the Master's explanations of the Sutras and his instructional talks. I gradually began to comprehend the immense magnitude of the Master's kindness, compassion, wisdom, vows, and conduct. Influenced by the Venerable Master's virtue and the practice of his disciples, I soon became a vegetarian. Just as I was congratulating myself for meeting a Clear-eyed Good Advisor, the Venerable Master entered the stillness on June 7, 1995. I felt sad and lost, like a boat that has lost its navigator. Fortunately, the Dharma Masters helped us to understand that we should "rely on the Dharma, not on a person"; that although the Master's body is gone, he left us the Proper Dharma, and his Dharma body pervades the entire Dharma Realm.
In gratitude to the Master's tremendous kindness and virtue in undertaking suffering on our behalf, transferring his blessings to us, and teaching us the Proper Dharma, which is for ending birth and death, I increased my hours of volunteer work and cultivation at the Society, travelled to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in America for the Master's Cremation Ceremony, and worked as a volunteer during the Memorial Ceremony in Taiwan. It may appear that I expended a great deal of energy, time, and money to do all of this, but the priceless things I learned and gained far surpass what I spent. In the past year, though I didn't get to recite the entire Avatamsaka Sutra, I was filled with Dharma joy each time I did recite. Though I didn't memorize the Shurangama Mantra, I became quite familiar with it following along in the book. If it hadn't been for the Master, I would never have had the blessings to read and recite the Avatamsaka and Shurangama Sutras, two supreme treasures of Mahayana Buddhism. I have also learned how important it is to hold the precepts. Although I knew this before, my karmic hindrances were heavy and I would involuntarily slap biting mosquitoes. Later I was filled with remorse upon hearing the Venerable Master said on tape,
If you want to slap an ant,
you might as well kill me first.
Now not only do I refrain from killing insects, I gladly and remorsefully offer them my blood when they bite me.
It's also worth mentioning that my wife and my eleven and twelve year old children have joined me in volunteering and attending Dharma events at the Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Society this past year. They have quickly become vegetarians as well. My wife has learned a lot since she began, and she is even more vigorous and resolved in her practice than I am. My two children were reluctant to come to the Society at first, but now they regard it as their second home. They have memorized Great Master Yongjia's "Song of Enlightenment" and are now memorizing the Shurangama Mantra. How could they have made such great progress were it not for the Venerable Master's virtue and blessing?
Two incidents at the end of last year confirm this. One evening when my wife was working at the Society, as I was crossing the street to buy supper, a motorcycle suddenly came careening by. The motorcycle fell to the ground, but neither its rider nor I were injured. On another day, my wife forgot to turn off the gas stove at home. The gas could not escape, since the windows were all closed in the cold weather. None of the family noticed that the gas was leaking, however. Just then someone happened to telephone and ask my wife to go out. About an hour later, when she walked in from the fresh air outside, she choked on the gas-filled air and realized she had forgotten to turn the stove off. I can hardly imagine what would have happened if that phone call had not come.
Last year one of my colleagues decided to attend the Venerable Master's Memorial Ceremony in November despite her poor health. When she was on the verge of passing out while bowing the Avatamsaka Repentance on the first day, she saw the Master give her aid and she felt better on the next two days of the ceremony.
So, as long as we are willing to vigorously practice in accord with the Proper Dharma, the Master will always aid us, eradicate our karmic hindrances, increase our wisdom, and help us to quickly realize Bodhi.