Bodhi Stand


     One night Upasika Tan had a dream that a High Monk came and rubbed her crown. A few weeks later she saw the Venerable Master's picture for the first time and the sight of it made her weep. That was a few weeks before be actually arrived in Malaysia during the 1978 Dharma Propagation Tour. Once she'd seen his picture, every time she recalled that moving Dharma pro trait her tears would flow freely. Finally, the Venerable Master arrived in Malaysia and as she knelt before him, he reached out and rubbed her crown. More tears fell as she heard his compassionate admonishment: "You are still laden with emotion. Unless you put everything down you cannot get out of the circle of birth and death."

At the sound of his instruction she understood and was deeply moved. From that moment on, she was determined to leave everything behind, move to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and cultivate the Way.

Actually, Tan Swee Tee had been a Buddhist all her life, but her efforts to take refuge and later to leave the home-life had been thwarted, in part by the strictness of her teacher and In part by her own bad habits.

Instead of a married life, Tan Swee Tee chose to live in the Malacca Branch of the Buddhist Association and remain celibate. During her years here she organized a Buddha's Name Chanting Group and took the lead in the chanting sessions.

      But even though she has been Buddhist all her life, she had a hard time taking refuge. Dharma Master Kim Sing is very strict about accepting disciples. At nineteen, Upasika Tan wanted to take refuge with him, but she had the habit of going from one temple to the next, wherever events were taking place and her help was needed. Since she wasn't very settled, the Dharma Master refused her request. Finally, her brother interceded on her behalf and Master Sing agreed to accept Miss Tan if she could compose a matching line for a rhymed couplet. She did it on-the-spot and thereby was allowed to take refuge.

      Even so, she still always got interested in people's problems and would go off to help out wherever she could. She devoted her time to teaching children Buddhism, to tending the business matters of the temple, and to helping her Master propagate the Dharma. In 1974 she took the Bodhisattva Precepts.

Now, at fifty, Upasika Tan realizes that time is running short and there is no end to cultivating other people's relationships. It has dawned on her that when the end comes no one will be there to take her across. She, herself, must cultivate the Way to cross herself over. But once again she met a stumbling block when she asked her master's permission to leave the home life. He denied her because she was too involved with people and he did not feel she could single-mindedly cultivate the Way.

On the second day of the Venerable Master hub's visit to Malaysia, she expressed to him both her desire to leave the home-life and her bad habits that deterred it.

"It doesn't matter," was his reply. "You have a big temper? I welcome people who have big tempers. You can change if you really want to. You can come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and leave home."

"But I'm useless," she replied. "Of what use can I be? I'm old and my bones ache."

"You can join the Avatamsaka Assembly," was the Master's reply.

So she received permission from her master Kim Sing, and came. From the day of her arrival on, she has quietly found work to do that she enjoys and constantly recites the Buddha's name. To her own dismay and delight, she participated fully in the five-week winter session, which included a week of Amitabha Buddha recitation, three weeks of Ch'an and a week of reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva's name. Of ch'an she says,

"I was scared to death at the thought of sitting, but by the end of the first week, I realized there was nothing to fear and was drawn to the practice of meditation.

Upasika Tan is studying English, Buddhist Studies, and Chinese philosophy at Dharma Realm Buddhist University.