All good advisors, Amitofo! Earlier we heard about the Buddha's Ten Indestructible Practices, one of which is that the Buddha blesses all beings impartially; it's just a matter of time. Faithful beings are blessed sooner, and those with insufficient or late-developing faith are blessed later.
I don't know how much faith you all have in the Buddhadharma. We have an Upasika Jiang in South Africa, a place where Buddhist temples are few and far between. There was only one newly opened temple there, a branch of a monastery in Taiwan. Being very devout, Upasika Jiang quietly and with great sincerity did the ceremonies that we do at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
One year her son tutored a high school student. During the summer, that student's parents arrived from Taiwan to visit him and also to see the sights. The trip should have been a happy one.
After they had visited their son, the couple rented a car and drove out to see the natural scenery. While driving on a cliff, they were in an accident. The husband said later that the accident was very bizarre: a very strong force had dragged the car over the cliff. His wife had died in the crash. He himself sustained heavy injuries and was sent to the emergency room, but was still able to report what happened. His wife's body was taken to the funeral home.
Upasika Jiang thought, "This was the mother of my son's student. Poor woman, she died in a foreign country and there is no time to send her body back to Taiwan. She is all alone in the funeral home, with no one to give her a bouquet of flowers or to mourn for her."
Upasika Jiang did not know the woman, but out of pity she went to the funeral home, lit a stick of incense before the woman's photograph, and made a bow. Then she went home and took a shower. Something strange happened then. While in the shower, she saw a huge photograph of the deceased woman appear in her bathroom window. Anyone would have been scared out of their wits. She rushed out of the bathroom, put on her Shurangama Mantra pendant, and recited the Buddha's name nonstop. Once dressed, she bowed to the Buddhas, praying that the Buddhas would protect her. When no more visions appeared, she calmed down.
That night, however, something else happened. She dreamed that a woman was talking from very, very far away behind the mountains. She couldn't see the woman, but knew that the voice came from a very distant place. The voice repeated the same phrase over and over: "Recite Sutras and transfer the merit. Recite Sutras and transfer the merit."
The very next day, she went to the hospital to see the husband in the emergency room. The man was gravely hurt, but still conscious and able to speak. Upasika Jiang related the events of the day before and asked him, "What's going on?" The man, sad yet hopeful, told her, "My wife wants you to save her." Upasika Jiang said, "Didn't you already have the local temple conduct ceremonies to rescue her soul?" "Yes, but my wife has faith in you. Please help her," replied the man.
Upasika Jiang thought about how Buddhism had just begun in South Africa. She herself had great faith in the Buddhadharma. That woman had died in a foreign land and had no one to help her. Since Upasika Jiang regularly practiced the Dharma with diligence, the deceased woman's soul knew that the strength of the Upasika's faith could help her leave suffering, so she appeared to her in a dream.
That Upasika had such tremendous faith in the Buddhadharma. Do we also have such faith? I know that my late mother had faith in the Buddhadharma, especially in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
I went home to attend my mother's funeral, intending to bring her ashes back to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas with the Venerable Master's permission. However, one of my uncles opposed my plan, saying, "Your mom is from the Chinese province of Hunan. The Chinese say, 'Fallen leaves return to the roots.' I'm willing to take her ashes back to Hunan, her old home. Your mother has never been to America. If you take her there, she won't know anyone. She'll be a lonely soul, poor thing! If she goes to her old home, she'll have relatives and friends to keep her company." He thought I was being stubborn and hoped I would change my mind.
Forty-nine days after my mother's passing, the day before I was to fly back to the United States, my uncle visited me again. I wondered what exhortations he had now. Instead, he told me that two weeks earlier he had dreamed of my mother. My mother had spoken only one sentence and then walked off. She said, "I don't want to go to Hunan with you. I'm going to America." That's why I said my mother has a lot of faith in the Buddhadharma and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Although she had already died, her soul wished to come to the City so she could cultivate together with everyone.
Some laypeople have commented that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas seems to have a magnetic pull that makes them want to fly here without knowing why. They say they have to come at least once a year or else they won't feel at ease. Last year I met two young Singaporean women who flew in and went to the International Translation Institute. These two women said they had planned not to come this year, since they came every other year and they thought it wouldn't matter if they missed one year. They wanted to visit other temples and take a look. It so happened that an elderly lady had wanted to come to the City for a long time but didn't know how to get here. She heard that these two young women were familiar with the City and asked them to show her how to get here. They told her, "Sorry, but we're not going this year." The elderly lady was of course quite disappointed. That night, the two young women dreamed of the Venerable Master, who said, "Why is it that when I tell you to go east, you go west? Why do you always do the opposite of what I ask?"
The very next day, those two young women called the elderly lady up and told her, "We've changed our minds. We're going to the City after all, and you can come with us." The old lady was delighted and came with them.
There was a similar case in the summer camp this year. One mother had planned not to come this year, having been here before. The day she decided not to come, she went home from work and set her alarm to wake up the next morning. Before it was time to wake up, however, she heard a voice saying, "Get up! Get up! It's time to get up!" She thought, "My husband is out of town, and there's only my little boy in the house. Why is there a man's voice?" The voice kept prodding her to get up, so she opened one eye reluctantly, and was shocked—she was at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas already, and was climbing the stairs!
"Oh no, this can't be! I can't be here, I haven't even taken the plane. I need to go to work, I can't come." But her feet were already walking on the grounds of the City. After she woke up, she decided she'd better come this year. Even the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas were taking roll and wanted her to come to the City.
As for the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the Master once said, "Everything is made from the mind. If you have good thoughts, then even what is not good will become good." The Master also said, "In our Way-place, the monks are worth a million, and so are the laypeople. Everyone is important here. Don't look down on yourself." We must have firm faith, and then we won't have so many afflictions. Amitofo.