Upasaka Liu Yuling from Taiwan:
English translation by Linda Wang
My Dharma name is Jielin. I should thank the Venerable Master and Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Why? I was finally able to sit in the full lotus meditation posture for the entirety of the last three silent sits. Perhaps people will laugh and wonder why sitting in full lotus is even worth mentioning. To someone who's already over half a century old, who had just started to learn to sit in Chan meditation last year and whose bones have hardened, sitting cross-legged is a painful matter.
I remember the first time that I went to a temple to meditate. I couldn't even pull up one leg at first. That one leg was up so high and I couldn't press it down. It hurt after ten minutes. Later I decided that since I'm studying Buddhism, meditation is necessary, so I used my reading hour to sit cross-legged and train my legs.
I also wish to thank the proctor who smacked me with the incense board during the seven-day meditation session. I cried then—not because he hit me. Why did I cry? This whack made me realize that I was trying to get away with as much comfort as possible in the meditation hall. I only cared to train to sit in half-lotus and switched my legs back and forth whenever I couldn't stand the pain. Just as I was switching my legs, the proctor hit me. Since having been thwacked, I made a commitment to never switch legs and to free my legs only after the bell rings at the end of the sit.
So the fact that I am able to sit during the silent sessions in full lotus can be considered a miracle during my seven-day Earth Store session.
Bhikshuni Heng Nai:
English translation by Linda Wang
I encountered Earth Store Sutra when my Third Aunt said that reciting the Earth Store Sutra is quite good. I didn't know what was meant by "good," but I recited it anyway. When I recited this sutra I saw my grandmother appear in one of my dreams. I've never seen my grandmother since I was born and we don't have her photo in our house.
After reciting for a certain period of time, I don't know how long, my grandmother showed up in my dream. I told my mother, and my mother said that's exactly what my grandmother looked like. Ever since then, I recite the Earth Store Sutra once in its entirety every day. I recited this way for over ten years. Since I planted some good roots, I then encountered the Wonderful Dharma Flower Sutra and the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra. I had the opportunity and affinities to learn Buddhadharma one step at a time.
Each sutra has its advantages and uses, so you don't need to be attached to a particular one. Our Way-place is especially marvelous because we recite the Flower Adornment Sutra every day. Everybody should enthusiastically participate in this recitation.
Not long after I recited the Earth Store Sutra, I heard the Venerable Master personally explain the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva. The Venerable Master explained the Sutra very clearly but due to my heavy offenses from the past, I couldn't understand it at that time. The second time I listened to tapes and understood a little more, such as that Earth Store Bodhisattva used to be a Brahman woman in a past life and stories like that. The third time I listened to the explanation, the content was even more exhilarating, as it related the principles of cause and effect.
I feel that no one needs to worry about listening to Sutra explanations too often—the more you listen, the better. The Master had also said to not take his tapes lightly. When the Venerable Master was younger, he spoke with real power. I really felt it as an audience member. During the times when you experience difficulty, you may listen to the Sutra explanations and feel as if the Venerable Master is speaking to you directly. So we should all listen to the Sutras and Buddhadharma to enhance our wisdom.
I'm very grateful for everything that the Venerable Master has arranged. I had to take care of my father's passing away recently. Originally my relatives and friends all believed in Taoism, so the funeral didn't comply completely with Buddhist ceremonial rites. However, due to the cooperation of Upasikas at Tainan and Kaohsiung's distribution centers, the funeral included a vegetarian meal, bowing to the Buddhas, reciting many sutras including the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva. While reciting Sutras, some Upasikas saw the Venerable Master appear to add his blessings. Consequently, my relatives and friends all strengthened their confidence in Buddhism.
Upasaka Jerzy from Poland:
Chinese translation by Shramanera Chin Feng
My name is Jerzy Miakisz and I come from Poland. It is my first visit and [chance to] study at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. During the past six months here, I have participated in six various sessions, two of which were Guanyin Sessions. All these sessions were quite different from the fifty some Zen meditation sessions that I attended in Poland. Although during these sessions I did not experience blissful or profound states; nevertheless one of them, the Earth Store Bodhisattva Session, I will remember forever. I feel deep connection with Him, so I chose this Great Sage to be my spiritual patron to protect me.
This session was very important for me because by dedicating merit and virtue, I could help relieve my late parents from suffering and help them leave the evil destinies and gain rebirth in the higher realms.
Two days before the beginning of the session, I made a few vows. I vowed that I will never harbor any doubts about Buddhadharma, that I will never retreat from cultivating the proper Buddhadharma, that I will support and protect the Triple Jewel, that for the sake of all livings I will devote my life, life after life, to the Triple Jewel to relieve [living beings'] suffering and to cross them over to the other shore of Nirvana bliss.
In the last few years, I had a wish to burn incense on my body as an offering to the Buddha, but I did not know how to do it properly, so I didn't do it in Poland. Who would have imagined that the wish I did not fulfill in Poland was fulfilled here in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas? How did it go?
Several days before the Earth Store Session, I offered twelve pieces of incense to the Buddha and then put them piece by piece on my left arm with my sleeve rolled up. I lit them and after a short while twelve dots of scars appeared. Then I transferred the merit to all livings to relieve their suffering. I decided to make another vow, that I would do my utmost best to get rid of all my bad habits, faults and attachments created from my body, mouth and mind. This time I joined the group of people who made the incense burning offering in the Rebirth Hall. The abbot hosted the ceremony and he helped me light three small pieces of incense on my right arm. The burning left a permanent scar on my body, a sign of my devotion to the Triple Jewel and of my vows to cultivate the Buddhadharma; a sign I should always be mindful of, as it reminds me of the vows I should fulfill.
In ten days I will be leaving for Poland. To the people here, who gave me an opportunity to come and who took care of me, I'd like to express my deep gratitude. My visit means a lot to me: I had a chance to know this place—its customs and religious practice; I also have expanded my knowledge of Buddhism and understood what real Buddhism is and how to practice it properly. I felt as if I was the happiest of people everyday. In fact, for the last few weeks, it was like being in a paradise. I will do my best to come back to cultivate here.
Upasika Zhan Guo Yong from China on September 18, after the Earth Store Session
English translation by Linda Wang
Through a rare opportunity, I obtained the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva in 1984. Prior to reading this sutra, I've always considered myself a pretty good person. I'm sincere, passionate and loyal to others. Although I'm impatient, sometimes indulging myself in a temper tantrum or two, I usually forgave myself, claiming, "Who has no temper whatsoever?" Sometimes I even blame others for bringing out my anger.
When I read the Earth Store Sutra, wow! Myhairs stood on end. I had committed many more offenses in the past than Earth Store Bodhisattva's mother. I have killed, spewed insults, aborted, and everything else. I then knew how pathetic I was. I was actually a confused being who committed crimes due to confusion and who endured suffering because of my karma.
For someone covered with muck to participate in this rare and terrific Dharma assembly is to have an opportunity to wash away my filth. Also this session allows a wandering child like me, who has weathered many a storm, to again throw herself into the arms of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It's difficult to articulate this concurrent feeling of shame and gratefulness.
The Venerable Master had instructed, "To participate in a seven day Earth Store Session is to imitate Earth Store Bodhisattva's great spirit to save living beings. Each cultivator should make vows. All Buddhas in the causal ground had made great vows, therefore they became Buddhas. It's okay that we can't fulfill our wishes now, but we must make those vows, and the bigger the better."
During the Dharma session, I was contemplating the Venerable Master's instruction. While circumambulating the Buddhas, a dream that I had when I initially read the Earth Store Sutra appeared in my head. The dream showed me some of my confusion in past lives. I was in a wide and beautiful Buddha Hall. On the two sides were Dharma masters. In the middle stood a tall and statuesque monk wearing a red sash. I was standing in front of him as he was about to shave my head and ordain me. Right at that moment, I raced out to make a phone call outside. Then I woke up. Since my flight, who knows how much longer I have turned in the wheel of birth and death, how much more karma I have committed, and how much more suffering I have undergone. Unfortunately I didn't understand the significance of my dream at the time.
This is a portion of the text from the Chapter of the Praises of the Multitude of King Yamas, "The Bodhisattva uses the power of expedience to uproot elemental karma so that we realize our past lives." Now I truly realize that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have told me how sentimental affinities engender birth and death. Such connections with the Bodhisattvas' compassion bring about an appreciation that leaves me speechless.
As I circled around the Buddhas, I couldn't help but weep. I was afraid to cry out loud, so I opened my mouth. I couldn't tell whether these were tears of repentance or of joy in having the fortune to return to the great compassionate sea of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas' vows.