THE BODHI MIRROR
SRAMANERIKA HENG CHENG
Since leaving the home-life about a year ago, Sramanerika Heng Cheng has
emersed herself in the training program for novice nuns conducted at the
International Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts, San
Francisco, and Joyous Giving House, City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Study of
the Sramanera Vinaya, memorization of the Surangama Mantra, and practice
of the Vinaya for Daily use, which includes mantras and verses, are all
prerequisites to ordination. In addition, Heng Cheng practices meditation
and bows the Great Compassion Repentance regularly to help eradicate
In Heng Cheng’s case, she can remember her karmic obstacles forming a veritable wall, which hindered her in her relationships with people in her studies before leaving the home life.
As a layperson, before encountering the Buddhadharma, Heng Cheng looked to psychology and philosophy to explain this phenomenon. This study led her to the Buddha’s teachings and as she puts it, "The universe started opening up its doors."
What are the origins of our karma, which Heng Cheng describes as "a brick wall which I kept smashing into without realizing that the wall was my own obstructions manifesting in one solid mass." In his commentary on the Earth Store Sutra the Venerable Master points out:
When living beings in Jambudvipa generate thoughts, they usually commit offenses, because most of their thoughts are motivated by greed, desire, jealousy, obstructions, and arrogance. Proper thoughts respect those who are better in something than oneself and aid those who are less able. Because we beings have not resolved to act in this fashion, our thoughts almost all constitute offenses.
Through her repentances, Heng Cheng has come to see that part of her particular mass of karma comes from unfilial acts she committed toward her mother and siblings. She remembers:
At age 19 I left my mother's house with all my worldly possessions, much stored up anger, and a feeling of not belonging anywhere. I left my mother grappling with my state of confusion along with her helpless feelings of not knowing what to do. I realize now that I didn't even officially tell her I was going. Now, some eleven years later I feel ashamed of this past behavior toward my mother. I also acted on impulse and with hostility toward my brothers and sister. It is no surprise to me now why I have had a difficult time getting along with others in school and why I was a loner.
Now, as a person who has left the home-life in the orthodox tradition, Heng Cheng has a chance to repay the kindness of her parents and family in the most ultimate way, for it is said,
When one child attains the Way,
Seven generations are crossed over.
Seeing elder men and women as one's former fathers and mothers and all younger men and women as one's former brothers and sisters is a practice of expanding the measure of one's heart. As one who practices the Dharmas of Great Compassion and is mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, Heng Cheng and others like her who cultivate the Way at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas hope to keep expanding their hearts through the functions of kindness, compassion, joy, and giving until they can effectively relieve the sufferings of all living beings.
As a new novice, Heng Cheng comments:
Thanks to the Great Compassionate Heart, I have been going through old programs and gradually breaking down habit patterns one by one. My path has many large rocks and trees blocking it, and sometimes it takes a long time to clear just one of them. When I trip and fall along the Way I feel like a child who has to run home for comfort when she scraps her knee. My security is in the ever-present light and life of Great Compassion found here at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which continually refreshes me.
The source of that light and life is found in personal cultivation of the Orthodox Dharma. In a day and age when the Proper Dharma is not easy to meet with, Heng Cheng now has the perfect opportunity to tap that source in herself and discover her inherent Buddha-nature.