By the time Heng Wen was seven years old she had taken refuge with the Triple Jewel under the guidance of the Elder Monk Kuang Ch'in in Taiwan. Her parents were both faithful Buddhists and she remembers accompanying her mother to the temples often. She learned to recite the Sutras and attended Buddha-recitation sessions and in general Buddhism was part and parcel of her life.

During her college years, she came to America and in the absence of temples where she could keep up her practices, she forgot everything. She didn't recite, she didn't bow to the Buddhas, and she even forgot to be mindful of herself. This situation reached a critical point one Christmas season when she attended the party for foreign students and drank a lot of orange juice. While at the same time wondering why it tasted so bitter, she continued to drink more. Eventually it dawned on her that the punch was probably spiked but in her forgetfulness she let it pass with the thought, "Well, I haven't taken the precept against intoxicants yet." Within seconds after that thought she went into a total daze, nearly lost consciousness, and turned white as a sheet, much to her sister's consternation. That night her sister has a dream, in which their mother appeared looking stern and displeased. "Where is Yea-in (Heng Wen's layname)? Where are the Sutras?" she demanded. And when Heng Wen heard about the dream, she knew for sure that it was her one thought of "I haven't taken that precept" that brought things to such a head.

After that, she remembered again, but still there were no Buddhist temples that she knew of, and it wasn't easy to practice on her own. She knew from her mother's warning that cause and effect were really serious and one couldn't be a Buddhist disciple and be casual about one's regard for the Dharma. Still, she liked dancing and would watch the college bulletin boards for a chance to attend performances. But then one night Pure-land Patriarch Yin Kuang appeared in a dream and gave all the cultivators at a table where they were sitting bowls of wateróGreat Compassion Sweet Dew water. Last of all he handed Heng Wen her bowl. Suddenly several children, dressed in fancy clothing like that worn by the dancers Heng Wen liked came dancing up to her and in their exuberance, bumped against her arms and hands, causing her to spill the Sweet Dew in her bowl. Patriarch Yin Kuang then pointed out, "Look, you're spilling all your water." The point was made and Heng Wen began looking in earnest for a Buddhist Temple and a Good Knowing Advisor to draw near to. Having heard of Gold Mountain while still in Taiwan, Heng Wen made the move to San Francisco, found the Monastery, moved into the Translation Institute, and eventually left the home life.

Once both she and her sister had left the home life, Heng Wen had a dream one night in which her mother appeared with cake in hand, one that she had baked herself, to express her delight in her daughters' good fortune. "She was really happy," Heng Wen told her sister, and they felt their filial debt would be repaid by being members of the Sangha who worked diligently at cultivation.

      "It's true," relates Heng Wen, "that leaving home is a peaceful and happy state-of-being. And especially at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas where every sound speaks Dharma--someone sweeping the walks, the sound of footsteps, the crickets' chorus. I should have left home much earlier. Little did I know that leaving home was just the beginning of it all--a new and wonderful beginning whose end is most ultimate: Buddhahood. Too bad I was so slow about making my decision to leave the home life. I could have started that much sooner. But I'm reminded of the saying that you only have to beat a good horse once and from then on he knows to go. But with a bad horse, you have to

Shramanerika Heng Wen

beat him every time for him to get the idea. I'm a lot like the bad horse.

      "It becomes so clear when you leave home, the law of cause and effect, that is. You see quite well that it is truly never off by a hair's breadth. If you don't undergo a little distress now, you will have to take a loss later. That's just the way it works. And yet even when you leave home, you have to be careful to increase the measure of your mind. Itís too easy to even make cultivation for the sake of yourself. Like when your parents or teachers would offer you a reward for doing something that ultimately was of benefit to you, not to them. They gave the prize but the work you did was really for the sake of improving yourself. The Buddha is most compassionate. ďStudy well, and Iíll give you candy." And in the end who benefits? You do. Two-fold. You get the benefit of the study and the candy, all because of the endless compassion of your Original Teacher."

And so it goes that a Good Knowing Advisor will most compassionately never miss a chance to get disciples to change for the better. Heng Wen remembers one time at Gold Wheel Temple when she was due to have to speak Dharma during the evening lecture period. Nervously pondering over what she could talk about, she sighed and said to herself, "Why is it that I don't have the lease bit of eloquence? Answering herself she admitted, "It is because you are too ku du, 'like lonely."'

That evening during the course of the Venerable Master Hua's instruction, he asked, "Why is it that some people don't have any eloquence? It's because they are too ku du, and then said in English, 'like lonely.' The very same way Heng Wen had thought it.

Another time when Heng Wen had been indulging in idle talk she had a dream that night of the Master who stood up and asked, "Who's been joking around?"

Actually Sramanerika Heng Wen is a serious-minded student of the Dharma. She is careful to keep up certain daily practices including several recitations of the Surangama Mantra, recitation of the Sutra of Introducing Eight Great People, practice of Dharmas of Great Compassion, and recitation of Amitabha Buddha's name. Heng Wen hopes to be reborn in the Pure Land of Amitabha and knows that such a seemingly simple thing as reciting the Buddha's name every day can insure a peaceful rebirth in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss.