Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and all fellow cultivators:
My name is Sarah, and my Dharma name is Guo Xue (Fruit of Study). I feel like the person who has not gone to get the money for the lottery because I was really lazy in this session. However, I feel like my whole life has been a response to recitation.
When I was born, I was born three months early, and the doctors told my parents that babies born that early had about one chance in five of surviving. But my mother recited the Great Compassion Mantra, and I turned out okay, except for the fact that I was rather wild as a young girl and always afraid of everything and had rather wild ideas in my head and wouldn't think before I did things.
My mother would encourage my brothers and me to recite, not just Amitofo, but recite Guanyin's name, and bow to the Buddhas, and so that's what I did. And I would do that especially when I was afraid or had some kind of problem. When reciting Amitabha's name, my brother and I would imagine that we were sort of making a stairway up to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Each time you recite "Namo Amitofo," one more stair would appear, and you would get that much closer to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. And my life has sort of been like those stairs, but Amitabha and Guanyin, I believe, have helped me up them, one step at a time.
When I was about seven, my mother took my brothers and me to visit Shifu (The Master) for the first time. We didn't really know who he was, we just knew that our parents respected him. I don't remember anything about the visit, except that Shifu was just like the Buddha. I remember thinking, "Oh, what's the big deal? He's just like the Buddha." He had his golden robes on and seemed very big to me. We bowed to him, and everything was fine.
He asked my brothers and me, "So, which one of you wants to stay with me?" And I said, "I do!" I don't remember this too well, but someone told me about this, and now I can relate, because who would not want to stay with Shifu, especially when you're seven years old?
Of course, now it makes me feel very good to think about this, because it must have been planting a root, because I feel I am staying with him now, at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
I'm sure this was another response from recitation, because that's the most cultivation that I've done. Every good experience in my life has something to do with becoming closer to the Dharma
Masters and Buddhism. When I was younger, before I came here, school was very difficult for me, and learning anything took forever. It took me forever to learn to read. When I got here, the first thing that I learned to do was recite, "Namo Dazhi Wenshushili Pusa" ("Homage to the Greatly Wise Bodhisattva Manjushri") as we walked. The teachers would say, "Okay, c'mon, we need to recite. Everyone recite!" Some of the kids would be thinking, "Oh, my God! Why do we have to recite?" This was such a big deal to them, but to me, it was like, "Wow! How can you not recite? It's just so easy!" And it really is easy, and not just easy, but what better thought to have in your mind than limitless light or great compassion or Wenshushili—great wisdom? We had to recite that always when we walked. And I'm sure that there was a response from reciting, not just because it made us focus our minds, but from Wenshushili Bodhisattva himself. Because gradually school became much easier, and I began to do better in my classes.
So now we have the opportunity, and many of us have had the opportunity a long time, to .recite Amitofo. We're really lucky that we have been given this Dharma door. So many people in the world have never heard of it and they don't have anything to fall back on, like reciting Amitabha's name. It's up to us to take the opportunity and use it, and I feel rather bad that I didn't come to the session more. Instead I listened to the lazy voice that said, "Oh..." You don't even listen to it. It's just that you don't listen to the deep down voice that's there, always saying, "Cultivate, cultivate, you must cultivate. Why aren't you cultivating? What are you doing that for? Where are you? Why aren't you in the Buddha Hall?" Most of us have that little voice inside, I think, but sometimes it's really easy to just pretend like it's not there and ignore it and say, "Well, I really have to sweep the floor; it's really important for me right now." Or, worse yet, "read this novel" or something like that.
I've been thinking about it a lot: Why do we listen to that voice that ignores the cultivation voice? The only explanation that I have is that it must be a BIG habit, and habits are really difficult to change. It's like swimming upstream sometimes. But the fact that it's difficult to change certainly doesn't mean that we should just ignore it. But how can we break such a habit? How can we constantly listen to the voice that says, "Cultivate, recite, recite more Amitofo"?
I don't really know how to break this habit, except by working harder, or just saying, "Okay, go to the Buddha hall. You don't have to stay; just go." Because once you get here, it's so wonderful that you don't want to leave.
And we have to break the bad habit of being lazy or staying away from the Buddha hall, or even during our work, we should be listening to that voice that says, "Namo Amitofo, Namo Amitofo."
Because on our deathbeds it will be too late. We spend all this money buying insurance, getting a good education, making connections, and investing in stocks, but we have to make some kind of an insurance for after we die, because our lives are so short, and when we're laying there dying, I know that my number one thought is going to be, "Why didn't I recite more 'Namo Amitofo'?
That's all I'd like to say, except that I want to encourage anybody who has any ideas of how to be more perseverant and work hard to come up and talk, because coming up here and talking is part of our cultivation. It's important that we come and learn to speak our experiences and what we have learned and ask questions. So don't be afraid. It's scary, but that's okay. Amitofo!
To be continued