When we were little, without fail every night my sisters and I would kneel in a row before a Guanshiyin Bodhisattva image. We would say a rhythmic prayer, earnestly requesting her to protect and bestow peace, happiness, good health, wealth and luck upon the family.
However, in my mid-teens I abandoned my childhood faith and embraced Christianity due to the influence of Bible Study classes in school. I was brainwashed into believing that Buddhism consisted of mere idol worship and thus refused even to light a stick of incense or to partake of fruits that had been offered to the Buddha.
In 1988, while I was sitting for my pre-university examinations, the Venerable Master and his disciples visited Malaysia. Being a Protestant, naturally I refused to attend the daily Buddhist lectures and ceremonies held by them. After much coaxing from my mother, I relented and attended the Master's last Dharma lecture in Kuala Lumpur. That was the first time I had ever attended a Dharma talk.
Surprisingly, I found it to be interesting. Later, at my mother's request, I reluctantly went forward for the Master's blessing. When my turn was over, I stood aside. I took the opportunity to study the visage of this remarkable and distinctive individual whose arrival caused quite a stir among Malaysians, not to mention my family circle and relatives. Despite the flurry of activity and excitement, the Master appeared to be extremely calm and composed. His countenance was solemn and earnest. Oblivious to the hubbub, his attention was totally focused on blessing the people who went towards him with a deferential attitude. I further watched with interest the peaceful Sangha members who were reciting the names of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
The encounter with the Master and the Dharma assembly made a great impact on me. How was that so? After that eventful meeting, I spent the next few days immersed in confusion and guilt. Why was that? I found my interest in Christianity dwindling fast. Desperate attempts to concentrate on the Bible to revive my faith proved fruitless. Reading the Bible was no longer a joy but a forced commitment. My mental state was in turmoil as I frantically searched for an explanation to my waning interest in Christianity.
Moreover, whenever I lay down to rest, I would recollect the Master's serene image and the sounds of that evening chanting. My sleeplessness, doubts and guilt were not confided to anyone. However, one night, I could not suppress my mixed feelings anymore and told my mother about my inner war. Although somewhat surprised, she managed to convince me that I should not let guilt haunt me and reassured me that it was a favorable sign that I remembered the Master and the sounds of chanting. Thus, she was able to ease my mind and relieve the guilt that had tormented me for a couple of days.
Encountering the Master was the turning point in my life. For no apparent reason, a sudden interest in Buddhism surged in me. Thirsty as I was for the Dharma, I could not delve deeper into it as I was in the midst of my examinations. I was torn between reading Buddhist books and my school textbooks. Knowing my dilemma, my mother would read to me excerpts of the Master's Dharma talks whenever time permitted. Soon, more obstacles came my way. The East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia was hit unexpectedly by floods and examination dates had to be postponed. Thus, I had to repress my rising interest in the Buddhadharma for an extended period and concentrate on my exams instead.
When my exams were finally concluded, I began reading the Master's books and discovered a rich heritage of Dharma treasures. Such revelation! His wisdom is indeed awe-inspiring. The books come alive with relevant teachings given at the most appropriate moment. It cannot be sheer coincidence that on numerous occasions, I would chance on the answer to my queries, the right and opportune teaching to heal my state of mind and cure my ingrained bad habits and faults. It is truly inconceivable that something spoken a long time ago can be used to treat an illness in the future at the most befitting time.
I believe that the Master did not leave us at all. I feel his guidance and concern for me through dreams, reciting and calling his name in times of pain or distress, reading his books and listening to his taped lectures. His omniscience has deepened my faith in him. I often speak to his image and photograph and he never fails to respond. The manifold ways in which he has aided me are too many to relate.
The Master's compassion knows no bounds. He is aware that my heart aches with regret for letting slip by the golden opportunity to take refuge with him during his last trip to Malaysia. Hence, he allowed me to become his refuge disciple by mail. In addition, the Master granted scholarships to my sister and I to study at Dharma Realm Buddhist University and cleared the obstacle-filled path for me to come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas on a few occasions.
I am eternally grateful to the Master for radically changing my life through his virtue and vow-power. If it were not for his 14th vow,
'I vow that all living beings who see my face or even hear my voice will fix their thoughts on Bodhi and quickly accomplish the Buddha Way'
I would still be groping in the dark and living in utter delusion.
In the Flower Adornment Sutra, Chapter on Entering the Dharma Realm, the Pure Youth Good Wealth advises,
'It is difficult to see...hear...accept... and follow a Good Knowing Advisor.'
Knowing its rarity, I made a vow that, in every life at an early age, I will meet up with the Master as my Teacher. With my scanty blessings, I did not deserve to encounter and draw near to him in this life. It is only due to the Master's great compassion and my parents and ancestors' virtuous conduct that I have enjoyed this good fortune of encountering a genuine Good Knowing Advisor. And so, like Good Wealth, I should leap with joy. Why is this? I have found my true teacher and he has shown me the right path home.