Venerable Master, all Dharma masters, and all good advisers:
For this occasion of leaving the home life, I did not sign up beforehand, because my eldest child is still in college, and I had agreed that I would wait until after he graduated from college to leave the home life.
In the middle of November last year (2000), I found out that on December 10th there would be a ceremony for leaving the home life. Jyun Kang had three volunteers preparing to leave home. I discussed with Upasika Guofan who was the supervisor. "What are we going to do? Three of them are leaving, and our jobs are so overwhelming." At the time, I really wanted to go to Gold Summit Monastery in Seattle to attend the Jeweled Repentance of the Emperor of Liang, so she said, "You should go while they are still working here! Otherwise it would be hard for you to go."
After hearing what she said, I went. When I read the text of the repentance and performed the repentance, I felt that living beings enduring misery are truly too great in number and much too pathetic. I was quite touched, and I felt that leaving the home life is a very good thing. When I returned to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, someone said, "The morning interviews were for those who would leave the home life this year. The interviews later on in the afternoon will be for those leaving the home life next year." Guofan said, "Sign Guochin up!" and my name was thus written on the list. I said, "What am I going to say when I go there? I did not say I was going to leave the home life; what am I going to talk about?" "No problem, it is for next year." "Okay, okay." I then went to the interview. During the interview they said, "Guochin, is it for real?" Without knowing how, out of my mouth came the reply,
"Yes, yes, it's for real."
"Are you certain?"
"How many years have you been here?"
"In four months, it will be eight years."
"You sure know how to procrastinate! You haven't left the home life up to now."
One said, "I think we should shave Guochin's head this Sunday.”
I said, "Not yet, not yet; I haven't told my son yet. Since the ceremony is on Sunday, I will decide on Thursday and then report back to you, ok?" On Thursday I said to my eldest child, "Before you graduate, I most likely will leave the home life. What do you think?"
"You should be able to handle things, right?"
"I can. It is you who will be shaving your head, not me. I want to be a protector."
"Great, it is best that you take the role of protecting the Dharma."
"Not protecting the Dharma. I want to protect my hair." He was joking with me.
After my head was shaved, I was assigned to Gold Sage Monastery for training. The Dharma Masters very earnestly taught us about the precepts and the Dharma instruments. However, because my memory is poor, I made lots of mistakes when I played the Dharma instruments. When we listened to the Sutras, we had to repeat the lecture, one time in Chinese and one time in English. Everyone was able to, except for me. I was particularly incapable of speaking English.
"Can I temporarily not speak in English? I am so old, can't I get by with simply chanting, 'Amitabha?'" The Dharma Master replied, "Even at your age, you must practice English." I think I'd better do my best to learn.
Lastly, I want to say: for those who wish to leave the home life, may you fulfill your aspiration; for those who have not made up their mind, may you gather up courage. Leaving the home life is very good, for it allows us to learn about life and death. I hope that everyone will not hide in fear and will charge ahead bravely. Amitabha!