I’m someone behind the times. When I stepped into the Sagely City, the Venerable Master was still in the world. Only when he entered Nirvana did I regret: “Why was I so stupid” Though it has been four years, every scene at the Ten Thousand Buddha Hall’s head shaving ceremony flashes before me. I write the following to commemorate my fortuitousness for entering Sangha order and receiving the complete great precepts after two years.
People strive upward while water flows downward. According to the worldly convention, I am at the age of 30, where I should already be established. I am standing at a crossroad.
From behind, my parents are looking at me, hoping that their son may return. They had always thought that I would sample the monastic life for two and three years and then perhaps regret and retreat, missing the enchantment of the world: “Son, after the novelty wears off, you’ll get tired of it.” Although I have the heart to take care of my parents, my resolve to transcend the world will never waver. “My heart will not die until I reach the Yellow River. My aspiration will not rest until I leave the coffin behind.” At one time, I fancied and clung to the joys of a recluse, cultivating while teaching, without so many precepts to tie me up. I could just curl up in a corner and read some novels and amuse myself (what a shame). I called the kind of lifestyle “playing” the simple lute and reading the
Vajra Sutra,” taking advantage of both.
However, time waits for no one; How can I vainly wait until old age? Although I haven’t been as muddled as to just sit and wait for the next meal, I am still among the multitudes of mortals, living and dying. My parents’ hair is gradually graying while my forehead is beginning to wrinkle. Yet I can’t even save those greedy goblins in my stomach. Isn’t it a joke to talk about repaying my parents’ kindness?
Ahead, the Venerable Master is looking at me patiently as if waiting for the return of a prodigal son. After so many years of being nourished by his Dharma, I have not returned a bit of his grace. Not to mention my past, I have already worn him out in this life time. Am I going to make him wait for one, two, or three more lifetimes? Although we say we have to repay our teacher’s grace, still I never quite it. Even when I was a Shramanera (novice), food and from remained powerful temptations and pitfalls for me. I could only
handle thirty percent of the suffering—I couldn’t even handle fifty or sixty percent, not to mention seventy or eighty percent of what others handle. For instance, I didn’t complain when a Dharma brother assigned me to cut grass. But when he told me to continue in the afternoon, the look on my face changed immediately: “Don’t you see the blazing sun at midday?” I hid and rested in a shady area inside the Tathagata Monastery. When I glanced out the windows and saw him sweeping the road in the scorching sun without even a straw hat, I was dumbfounded.
However, I actually made it. It was all due to my good Dharma brothers who led the way ahead of me and who watched me from behind. For someone who cares about not losing face, I actually didn’t get lost because of them. It was all due to this pure and wonderful cultivation ground at the Sagely City. Once a false thought occurs, retribution immediately ensues, constantly leaving me wide-eyed and speechless:
"Gee, I angered the dragons and gods again; they’re raising up a storm to knock me down.” It was a good thing that we Venerable Master always did this: “The Buddha expounds Dharma with one sound.” Without too many or too few words, they simply tap you yet really hit your core being, leaving you some face still.
Can I still hesitate, caught halfway up the mountain? “ A dozen people turn back; half a dozen keep climbing.” Have you forgotten the stench that nearly knocked you over when you opened the garbage bag with the dead wolf as you were burying it in the pine forest next to the Sagely City’s water tank five years ago? Have you forgotten how you felt when you took a Dharma brother his last meal three years ago? Have you forgotten the feeling of electricity coursing through your body when you saw those terminally ill patients who were practically walking corpses? Aren’t all those lessons from the Bodhisattvas?
Such a dilemma—stuck halfway up the mountain, do I still look back? I’ll fall and die if I look any more. I will definitely die if I retreat. If I advance, I am quite in favor of my ultimate destiny. How many millennia are there in the universe? How many centries are there in a lifetime? In order to bring about the realization of this Great Ordination, how many people had to toil and sweat? How many supporting conditions had to aggregate and ripen? How much blessing did I have to cultivate in the past? May a few words of mine serve as encouragement for my fellow cultivators.