“ In 1979 I safely immigrated to France with a large group of Vietnamese compatriots right before the fall of Vietnam. Before my departure, a disciple of my teacher (with whom I had received the Three Refuges in 1977) urged me to find a way to draw near an eminent monk in the United States by the name of Dharma Master To Lun. I searched everywhere and even asked Chinese friends in the United States to make inquiries for me.
“One day I heard that a Chinese Dharma Master was on a Dharma-propagating tour in France. I was overjoyed. Over a hundred people attended the Venerable Master’s lecture, and when it was over, six people immediately decided to stop killing and become vegetarians. More than ten others resolved to be vegetarian on the ten vegetarian days of the month. After waiting eleven years for Dharma Master To Lun to show up, ‘having worn out shoes with metal soles’ looking for him, I finally gave up hope and joined fifty-six others in requesting to take refuge that day.”
Coming together to join the Jeweled Repentance of Ten Thousand Buddhas this year (1997), with rosy, glowing faces the three women—Lü Guoyin, Zhen Qinzhu, and Guo Jinluan—aged sixty-nine, seventy-one, and sixty-one, told their extraordinary story of their ten-thousand-mile search for Dharma Master To Lun.
They said in unison, “Ah, there are many obstructions when you want to do something good. When we applied to take refuge, the Venerable Master refused to grant permission. He said, ‘You have all taken refuge long ago and have a teacher, so you cannot take refuge with me.’ His pronouncement was like a peal of thunder out of the blue, and we were dumbstruck and at a loss for what to do. Fortunately, one of us had her wits about her and bravely explained to the Master, ‘Our country has fallen and we will never see our teacher again. We have already been without a teacher for more than ten years.’
“When the Master heard that, he finally granted our sincere wish to take him as our teacher and transmitted the Three Refuges to us. Although we had “worn out the metal soles of our shoes in our futile search,” Heaven did not fail to grant us our sincere wish and now we had a compassionate teacher on whom we could rely in our cultivation. Although we had not found Dharma Master To Lun, we could congratulate ourselves for having met this greatly wise spiritual teacher. None of us realized that the teacher in front of us was the Dharma Master To Lun we had been searching for all those years.
“Some time after we had taken refuge, we each obtained a book of the Venerable Master’s Dharma talks. We were overjoyed with it and could hardly bear to part with it. We were totally amazed to discover that our “new” teacher was none other than Dharma Master To Lun. This was not a small matter. For half a day we could not suppress our mixture of joy and sorrow. Since we found out in 1990 until now, 1997, every time we think of it tears well up in our eyes.”
Lü Guoyin, Guo Jinluan, and the others who took refuge at that time felt that the Master’s awe-inspiring virtue gathered in all the long-lost living beings who had thirstily sought the Dharma for such a long time. They said, “When we listened to the Master speak Dharma, we didn’t feel excited. Rather, his words gave us a sense of peace and calm. They gave us the strength after we had lost our country to bolster our resolve and advance towards the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.” Zhen Qinzhu sat quietly, smiling and nodding her head in agreement as her fellow cultivators described “our Master.” She herself added, “I liked the Master, so I took refuge with him.”
Lü Guoyin also said that after taking refuge in 1990, in 1991 and 1992 they came to the Sagely City and individually received the five precepts and the Bodhisattva precepts. Each year they stayed longer at the Sagely City, staying a total of two and a half years this last time. Each time before they set out, people, even non-Buddhists, would give them donations to offer to the Triple Jewel and to the sage-monk, the Venerable Master.
Lü Guoyin even wrote to her original elder teacher (now 80 years old and living in Vietnam) to tell him that they had taken the precepts. Her old teacher wrote in reply, “This is due to supreme blessings established in past lives.”
Guo Jinluan said, “At that time when the Chinese laity in France were setting up the hall for the Dharma Session, there was an argument because everyone was too eager to make things perfect.” After the Dharma Session began, the Master asked someone to pass a slip of paper to the angry layperson. Not understanding what it was, the layperson busily stuffed it into her pocket without glancing at the contents. A little later, when she realized that the piece of paper was from the Venerable Master—a great honor—she quickly dug it out of her pocket and read it. After reading it, her face, which was pale from anger, turned purple in shame. She grabbed her companion and asked, “How did the Master know?” The Master had written, “Endure what is difficult to endure. Bear what others cannot bear.” Many people later had this valuable realization: “We are so lucky because the Master is constantly and invisibly teaching us and guiding us on the straight path towards proper knowledge, proper views, proper faith, and proper mindfulness.”