Upasaka Xie Guo Fu of Taiwan:
This is the second year that I participated full-time in the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance. My first time was in 1996. The year after that I twisted my back, so I was bedridden during the entire Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance. This confinement left an indelible impression with me. Typically, when we are bowing to the Buddhas and doing the Buddhas' work, we feel as if what we are doing is as natural and normal as can be. Conversely, when I was struggling to stand up and had a hard time even turning my body, I discovered that losing physical control makes everything extremely difficult.
My spinal injury has flared up again every May and June of the last three years. I always ended up with more than ten days of "vacation." In actuality, these vacations were painful retributions. Every time I was laid up in bed, I would recollect how I used to enjoy fishing when I was young. I used to squeeze the earthworms into little pieces or hang the little shrimps on the fish hook as bait. This reminds me of how the pain we inflict on living beings is hundreds and thousands of times more painful than the suffering we are currently undergoing. We have to confront our offense karma when the causes and conditions are ripe.
During this particular Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance, things started out smoothly. The more I bowed, the happier I became. However, on the afternoon of the tenth day, or approximately the 5000th Buddha, I could tell that there was something the matter with my spine. My spine felt like a stick that was about to break. The energy and blood in my stomach didn't circulate easily. Although it was hard for me to bow, I continued to do so, thinking, "Let me just finish today's bows." Usually these symptoms mean that I'll be bedridden starting the next day for ten or more days. Once I returned to the Tathagata Monastery, I recited Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, requesting the Bodhisattva's help in allowing me to complete the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance. I prayed that if I had to face my karma, let it be after the repentance session; I'd happily endure my retribution at that time.
Fortunately, I was able to get out of bed the next day. Unfortunately, I could still feel the hidden pain in my spine while walking at 7 a.m. I was losing faith. If I continued to bow to the Buddhas and repent, I could encounter problems; thus I persevered in reciting Guanyin Bodhisattva's name. Strangely enough, from the first bowing period in the morning all the way into the afternoon, I experienced no aches whatsoever. Although I was sore by the fifth and sixth periods, the discomfort was not debilitating. By the third day I was sure that I could successfully finish bowing the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance.
Since time without beginning, we have committed limitless and boundless offenses; only repentance can eliminate this offense karma. A short passage in the "Chapter of Universal Worthy's Conduct and Vows" elucidates the practical application of the fourth vow— to repent and reform all karmic obstructions. The sutra states, "I now completely purify the three karmas, and before the assemblies of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, throughout the Dharma Realm in lands as many as fine motes of dust, I sincerely repent of and reform my offenses and vow never to create them again. I will always dwell in the pure precepts." All karmic obstructions will vanish if we earnestly repent. After repenting, we must maintain precepts purely. This is an important point because repenting is like repairing the damage after it has been done. On the other hand, if we understand precepts, then we may anticipate and prevent disasters.
During the Dharma Flower Assembly, Shakyamuni Buddha had already bestowed predictions of Buddhahood upon many who praised the merit and virtue of Buddhas. Thus, lastly, I'd like to share a verse from the Dharma Flower Sutra in the hope that everyone will quickly attain the Buddha Way. The verse says, "One who joyfully sings in praise of the Buddha's virtue, even for one note, is already certain of attaining the Buddha Way." Amitofo!
Upasika Fan Xiumei of Malaysia:
This is my first Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance at the CTTB. Prior to my arrival, I had prayed a lot to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Venerable Master in order to participate in the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance here. I finally received my visa this year. I'm so happy to be able to attend this dharma assembly. To me, it's important to take this opportunity to repent to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for the offenses I've created since time immemorial.
While bowing to the 10,000 Buddhas, I would ask myself, "So many Buddhas have become Buddhas, so why am I still here? Why am I still being fooled by the illusions of this world and revolving in the cycle of birth and death, life after life? Will I nonetheless journey to the hells for ceaseless pain? Will I nonetheless be transformed into an animal or a hungry ghost? Perhaps I will indulge in limited happiness in the heavens? For many reasons, I vow that I truly wish to cultivate to become a Buddha, thus ending birth and death.
Our human bodies are actually hard to come by, as it is said, "The human body is difficult to obtain; I have now obtained it. The Buddhadharma is difficult to hear; I have now heard it." One Dharma Master used this analogy, "Let's say there's a colossal Mount Sumeru. One person stands on the top of the mountain and one at the foot of the mountain. Strong winds are blowing on this mountain. The individual on the mountaintop holds a thin thread while the individual at the foothills holds a slender needle. When the person on the summit drops the thread, the person below has to thread it into his needle." What is the chance of that happening? It's almost impossible. This is a metaphor for the near impossibility of obtaining a human body. Furthermore, only humans can repent, while animals and hungry ghosts cannot. Humans are able to attend Dharma assemblies and repent to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Although we have committed errors in the past, we can still look forward to the future. We should know that we can still change the destiny to come. In the future, we must reform our past wrongdoings. Since we have encountered the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance that is so difficult to experience, we should all the more "be aware of today's positives and not yesterday's negatives."
I dare not say that I've attained any response during this Dharma assembly; I have only bowed to the best of my ability. It's best to repent to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas every day; that way we will gradually learn to admonish ourselves to curtail our faults. The decision in choosing the path of cultivation lies with us; no one else can determine our course of travel. Whether we become Buddhas, fall into the hells, or become hungry ghosts depends on us. Cultivation can be considered difficult yet not difficult, easy yet not easy; it all depends on what we do.
Finally, I offer my most sincere gratitude to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Venerable Master for letting me participate in this Dharma assembly. I'm also grateful for the Dharma Masters' hard work in preparing this repentance session. Of course, I also thank the Dharma-protecting lay people whose support make it possible for us to be free from the concerns of food and lodging, for us to focus on bowing to the Buddhas instead.
To be continued