I grew up as a deeply devout Christian. However, the concept of “no self” in Buddhism really intrigued me and led me to explore it more in my life. Growing up and having the opportunity to read a monthly Buddhist magazine entitled, “Wisdom Torch,” which my father subscribed, opened my thirst for Buddhism. That was a long time ago -- almost thirty years. However, I was not immediately drawn into the practice of Buddhism at that time. I was only tremendously intrigued and the thought of practicing Buddhism was placed on the back burner.
During my youth, I was too busy pursuing academic achievements, building a family, pursuing a career, busy gathering wealth and so on, just like everyone else. While those wishes have been realized, there was always the feeling of “emptiness,” even as early as in my teenage years. I saw the uncertainties, sadness, tragedies, and sufferings going on in the world and I constantly saw the unsatisfactory nature of this mortal existence. My Christian fervor has not offered answers at this point of my life, so I once again ventured into Buddha's teachings on a steady basis. The more I studied, the more my thirst for wisdom grew, so I really prayed hard about it. And Lord behold, my prayer has been gracefully answered. What was the answer? It is, "To take up the spiritual cultivation taught by the Buddha!"
Although I have steadily studied Buddhism, I never practiced it during those thirty years of exploring. What really struck me was about three years ago, when I was browsing Buddhist websites and discovered Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. I was so deeply touched by his Bodhisattva vows that I immediately decided to take cultivation seriously. I've been practicing Zen meditation faithfully ever since and have been diligently learning and studying the sutra. I also started bowing practices as inspired by learning from the stories of the “Three Steps One Bow” pilgrimage made by DM Heng Sure and his dharma protector Heng Chau.
Finding such utmost beauty in the Buddha dharma is like finding the most precious jewel. No secular knowledge, books or articles can compare whatsoever. I instantly realized what true joy meant. Now, immersing myself in the wisdom of Buddha has become the center of my life. This is the most rewarding thing you can ever do to your life.
The Four Noble Truths taught me how to not suffer anymore. Although desire itself is hard to sever, I learned not to attach to it because Buddha taught that all compound things are not permanent and have no substance. I can see its teaching clearly and therefore lose interest in worldly phenomena and in turn, detached from it. I find myself more content and relaxed just by changing my mindset because of the teachings. It works and works very well, indeed!
The Eight Fold Paths taught me about Precepts, Samadhi and Wisdom. It makes so much sense to me. I no longer smash ants or bugs just because they are annoying. Instead I use loving kindness toward them. This kind of attitude brings me happiness knowing that their lives are spared. I am more watchful of my speech and strive to stay away from idle chat and unwholesome talks. Instead, I use kindness and truth as the foundation which brings me peace.
As for Samadhi, I engage faithfully and persistently in the practice of meditation which has helped me understand Buddhist teachings of who we truly are. With practice I am able to concentrate better and taste the beauty of stillness. I realize that peace is always there with me. By listening and reading the sutras, I gain more and more insight on the wisdom of the Buddha. Ever since I embarked on the journey of the Buddha path, I have felt a kind of unfolding occurring in my life toward the goal of liberation.
I firmly believe that this tremendous growth cannot happen without the power of the vows made by the Bodhisattvas eons ago and still is going on at this very moment. The vows of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua whose sincerity and sacrificial dedication to cross over sentient beings, have moved me so deeply that I have started cultivating seriously for the rest of my life. It has taken me thirty years since my initial encounter to start benefiting from meditation and developing a natural inclination to do more of it on a daily basis. I also listened to the advice of the Buddha to be mindful and learn to see things as they really are. These practices have brought positive results. I definitely have become more peaceful and calm. I don't react as much as I used to. I also get along better with people. Most of all, I understand the laws of Karma and how to live a meaningful life.
This is not based on blind faith. I took upon Buddha's challenge to apply mindful observation and meditation practice day in and day out, and I can verify true to the earth of what Buddha has taught. Not only that, I have gained peace, joy and even wisdom beyond my wildest dreams and it is happening every day! I can hardly contain it but have to share with everyone here.
Believe me, I was a “born again” Christian and I know how that felt. Now blessed with the profound teachings of the Buddha and being able to see it blossom into real joy and happiness is just beyond words.
Pardon me for this Christian like fervor but it is true. Buddha's message is the greatest Gospel of all! I bear my own witness here. Please take up Buddha's challenge, investigate and practice with all your heart, all your strength, and all your might every single day of your life, with confidence and diligence. Something positive will come to you! Of course, there will always be new challenges and obstacles but they will serve as catalysts for us to strive even harder and harder with willingness and gladness.
I want to use this opportunity to testify my own experience on my path into Buddhist practice, and my deepest gratitude to Venerable Master Hsuan Hua who took me there. May we all grow and wake up from the Adam's dream!