At 3:30 in the morning, the darkest hour of the night before the dawn, the sound of wooden boards being struck together penetrated the silence and the cold air. Rubbing my sleepy eyes, I (ordinarily a late riser) dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, and walked into the Buddha hall shivering. As we bowed to the Buddhas and recited Sutras, another day began at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
I have always liked the atmosphere at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The sound of the bell and drum at pre-dawn and in the late evening bring a sense of dignity and peace that help us to focus our mind. Past visits to the City brought me joy and peace; this time I came away feeling shaken up. The Dharma Masters' words kept touching my soft spots and bruising my sensitive ego. During the three-day program, my deepest impressions came from the discussion of repentance and self-education. Listening to the Dharma Masters repeat over and over that cause and effect is never off by the slightest, and that right before we die, we will see the events of our entire life--our every action, word, and thought--pass before our eyes just like a movie, I can't help but break out in a cold sweat. I wonder: when this play is over, will I be able to watch this movie with a calm mind? Will I feel comforted or full of remorse? Taking an honest look at my life, I think I will feel more remorse than anything else. A wave of fear washes over me. What's done is done, and there's nothing I can do but repent for past mistakes. As for the future, what I can rely on for guidance to make sure I don't go wrong again?
The next day, the Dharma Masters very wonderfully answered my question in a discussion of the Ten Great Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. Tears well up in my eyes as I reflect on the ten kinds of compassion of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. How merciful Shakyamuni Buddha was to come to this turbid world to teach living beings! If it weren't for the Buddha, how many more living beings would still be lost and adrift in the Triple Realm? The Buddha's kindness is vast and great, and only by practicing the teaching and realizing Buddhahood and then saving living beings can we repay it. This is the answer I was looking for.
In addition to reflecting upon our own behavior, we should make great vows to achieve Buddhahood and save living beings. As one Dharma Master said, "To perfect our practice, we must have blessings and virtue. Blessings and virtue can be likened to an ox that is driven by the power of our vows." Repenting of our mistakes, correcting our faults, and doing good deeds are all ways of fostering blessings and virtue. However, we need vows to help direct our blessings and virtue towards the ultimate goal. Every person is endowed with the Buddha nature--the potential for Buddhahood. The path to Buddhahood is long and difficult, yet it is the most supreme and proper path to take. If we study Buddhism, we have something to rely upon. People who believe in cause and effect will not become bad. I hope everyone will follow this advice. Let us all practice the pure precepts, develop strong samadhi, and activate our inherent wisdom.