Francisco Rivera was born in a Catholic family on September 11, 1951 in Mexico. He is the youngest of thirteen brothers and sisters. When he was born, he was pronounced dead by the doctor. The family arranged his funeral and his father placed him in a tiny coffin at home. Shortly after, much to the astonishment of the doctor and his family, he revived and started crying!
In 1975, Francisco became a vegetarian when he studied Yoga under a master who taught him to refrain from consuming meat, eggs, and milk. In the same year, he encountered Japanese Buddhism of the Nichiren sect. For a long time, he only found temples where improper activities occurred. For example, there were monks who smoked and ate meat, and who thought that vegetarianism was bad for one. He also experienced racial discrimination at two temples.
Nevertheless, Francisco was not discouraged. Finally he encountered a Way-place of proper Dharma. When he first saw Gold Wheel Monastery, instinctively he had a special feeling about the building. He smelled some kind of fragrance inside the monastery. The left-home people who received him were so free from worldly ways. The following weekend he went to join the Dharma Assembly. The bilingual Recitation Handbook helped him to understand. For the first time, Francisco knew he had found what he was looking for--a pure Way-place to cultivate. The assembly at the monastery was like his family. They all came to pray and cultivate, and did not engage in useless idle chatter.
The first time he met the Venerable Master at Long Beach Monastery, he thought to himself that he had found a truly good spiritual advisor who could teach and help him in cultivation. He had many questions in his mind which he did not ask at the time. Later, as he read the Amitabha Sutra (Spanish version), he was delighted to find that all his answers were already in the commentary! Francisco also read the Spanish version of Records of the Life of Venerable Master Hua. He was impressed with the part where it says one must always work hard, try his best to uphold the precepts and never try to take things away from people. Moreover, one must be very careful with his speech, body and mind. It reminded him of what his father had told him when he was a child: "Never be lazy! Work hard at all times and try your best to help those in need. Do not accept money or seek favor from others." Presently, his daily cultivation includes learning the Daily Recitation Handbook, reciting the Buddha's name and the Great Compassion Mantra, and meditating in the evening.
On December 24, 1993, Francisco visited the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to celebrate Amitabha Buddha's Anniversary. The following is a description of his experience during the Buddha Recitation Session on Christmas Day: "This is my first visit to the City and the first time to participate in the Buddha Recitation Session. On December 25th, around 4:40 am, after we had finished chanting A-mi-to-fo, I remained sitting on my cushion and relaxed my body. During this time, I didn't feel that my body existed, nor did I feel cold. I just let my body and mind relax. Suddenly, I could see clearly in my mind, many golden people walking on floors of gold above me. They all wore long robes and I could also see light emitting from them. As a matter of fact, everything I saw was gold. The environment was very serene and beautiful. There were fragrances and heavenly music which I had never heard of before. Then I saw a big Buddha sitting in the center of a hall. As soon as I saw him, I said: "Buddha, I'm ready for you. Please take me." I wanted to remain in this place forever. I didn't want to return to the mundane world. Then the Buddha stretched out his arm and caressed my crown. I felt very happy inside. Just as I was wondering where I was and who those golden people were, I heard the sound of the hand bell, the vision disappeared, and I found myself back in the Buddha Hall. End of the first meditation period."
"After this unforgettable experience, I felt like a different person. When I returned to my home in Los Angeles, I felt very tranquil both inside and outside. Before, I sometimes felt depressed because I lived alone. My mother and my siblings are all in Mexico. When I visit them, they would serve meat for lunch and urge me to eat. With the exception of my nephew and his wife, my family thinks I'm crazy for being a vegetarian. It had been difficult for me since my divorced wife had remarried and lived with my daughter. So I used to cry a lot. But after the session, I felt very calm and content and there was no more problem. I prayed that Buddha would take care of them. Once in my dream, I saw a white-robed Guanyin Bodhisattva standing in front of me and smelled a rare fragrance in the room. When I woke up, I felt very happy. If I can't sleep at night, I recite Amitabha Buddha's name and meditate for half an hour. Whether I am at work or driving, I recite the Buddha's name and Guan Yin Bodhisattva's name. I recite everyday whenever I can."
"The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a very special place. I felt like I was in another world. When I heard the chanting and prayers at the Buddha Hall, I thought to myself that it's almost like heaven! I used to pray in Latin as a Catholic. I've read a lot of books about the roots of Catholicism. I really believe that Jesus Christ continued the tradition of the Buddha and that Catholicism was derived from Buddhism. I will certainly return for other Dharma Assemblies in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and prepare myself to cultivate the Way."