My name is Victor Wong and I live in Calgary, Canada. I am a Chinese physician practicing traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. My father and elder brother are also Chinese physicians. I have been going to the Avatamsaka Monastery for about ten years and it was only recently that I started to help my father in giving free medical services at the monastery every Sunday. I would like to relate how I encountered the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's teaching.
In the early 1980's, when I was studying at the university, a friend told me that a student from Hong Kong had a collection of Buddhist books, and that she also practiced meditation. Since my secondary school days, I had been interested in Buddhism and meditation but I did not have the chance to learn them. Finally, one day, I had the opportunity to visit that Hong Kong student together with my friends.
As I was browsing through her books, someone asked, "Three Steps One Bow! What do you think of it?" Turning around, I saw Chu, a senior student, holding a book. The host, Cardi, said, "I am not sure. I heard that that was their second Three Steps One Bow in the USA." Then someone said, "I heard that this group of people is rather strange. Looks like they belong to the Small Vehicle." Chu said, "Tu Lun is known for his strange behavior anyway, for when he was in Hong Kong, he was also like that."
When I heard this, I decided not to read the book. Who would want to learn the Buddhadharma from a strange person? Little did I know that I would take the wrong path although I did not wish to! Due to my scant good roots, I lost the chance to learn from the Venerable Master. I had to wait for more than ten years before I had the chance to take refuge with the Venerable Master. It was only then that I realised that one needs sincerity and strength to go against the flow.
When I emigrated to Calgary, Canada in the early 1990's, I worked out of town and came home only during weekends. One day, I met a new friend and told him how difficult it was to learn Buddhism. Then he told me that there was a Buddhist temple in Calgary, but it was difficult to find for you needed someone to show you the way.
One afternoon, this friend drove me to the temple. It was an old red-brick building that used to be a warehouse. The reception area was quite dark. On the wall, one could vaguely make out the characters " 華嚴寺" (Avatamsaka Monastery) handwritten on a horizontal board. The writer was the Monk Without Conditions.
From the moment we entered the monastery until we finished bowing to the Buddha, we did not see anyone. Therefore, we decided to take a look around the place ourselves. We discovered that there was a dining hall in the basement and so we made our way down. At the foot of the stairs was a verse on the wall:
Truly recognize your own faults.
Don't discuss the faults of others.
Others' faults are just your own.
Being one with everyone is called Great Compassion.
The verse reverberated like thunder in my ears, hitting the nail on its head. I thought that if only I could learn Buddhadharma from the writer of that verse, how wonderful it would be. However, the writer's name was not written on the wall. "Who was this greatly virtuous one?" I wondered.
As I had to rush to another place for work, we did not have much time to look around further and so we left in a hurry. It was only after boarding the plane that it occurred to me that I had not written down the address, nor did I know its location on the map. I smugly thought I could rely on my memory to find the place again, but I was wrong.
Weeks later, I drove around a few times to try and look for Avatamsaka Monastery, but I couldn't find it. It was just as difficult as my search for the proper Dharma. Two months later I met that friend, and he kindly brought me to the monastery again. This time, I remembered to copy down the address and I also noted its location on the map.
Ten years had elapsed from the time I became interested in the Buddhadharma until I met the Venerable Master's teaching. Still, I consider myself very fortunate to finally have heard the proper Dharma, which is really difficult to encounter.