The Venerable Master wrote to me in 1993 asking me and Wang Muchun to come to the United States. He even sent some money to cover the travelling expenses. But Wang Muchun didn't want to come. Later on, her older sister told her to come, but she couldn't get a visa.
I went to my cousin's house after I left Dharma Flower Temple. My cousin's wife arranged a marriage for me. The man was a landlord— a rather shady character who did not have a good background. He also smoked opium and was lazy, and so our life after the marriage goes without saying.
Many landlords in Manchuria were descendants of slaves from the South who had become wealthy after coming to Manchuria. Since Manchuria was vast and sparsely populated, people who were willing to farm during the Qing Dynasty could receive free land and free oxen from the government. Since slaves knew how to work, they were able to make a living after they ran away. They became rich after a few years and eventually turned into landlords.
There were some inquisitions (literally "struggles") every year at that time. Each time when there was a movement, I would be subject to an inquisition. Since I had been a Buddhist nun and a vegetarian, they regarded me as a superstitious person. They would demand to know Filial Son Bai's whereabouts during the inquisition since he was my teacher.
One day, a group of people carrying guns came to my house and dragged me off, saying they had some questions to ask me. After they had gathered a number of people by hitting the gong and drum, they asked me to confess how I had slandered the Communists. Someone told me afterward that my mother-in-law had reported me for slandering the Communists. I won't say how sad I felt, but I never said another word to my mother-in-law after that. I must have created bad karma in my previous life. Several times I thought of committing suicide by throwing myself into a well.
Once, they stripped me of my outermost clothing and left me standing in the cold in my shirt and pants. A while later they allowed me to go in, but I stubbornly refused. In the end, they were afraid that I might commit suicide, so they forced me in with their guns.
One day when I was 63 years old, I suddenly could not eat. My stomach hurt whenever I ate. However, I refused to let my children take me to the hospital. They took me to the hospital only after I passed out that night. Before that, I could not eat and would get a stomachache if I did, but I didn't see a doctor. Only people who lived in the cities and work in the government or in factories had insurance. There was no insurance in a farm village, and we had to pay for ourselves.
The doctor examined me and diagnosed esophageal cancer. I couldn't even swallow water, let alone eat. They fed me intravenously. I didn't drink a drop of water for 21 days. I lay in bed with my eyes closed and didn't move. Everyone thought I was unconscious, but actually I was awake. It was just that I had no strength at all and couldn't even open my eyes, much less talk. I didn't want to die; I still wanted to cultivate the Way. I wanted to find my teacher. I didn't know where he was and whether he was alive or not. I was not willing to go yet. I said to myself, "Teacher, teacher, please save me." I repeated this over and over in my mind all day, and my mind was clear.
One day during the daytime, with my eyes closed, I suddenly saw the Venerable Master enter my room. He sat on the edge of my bed and used his whisk to brush my body a few times. I felt instant relief in my chest. I knew the Venerable Master had cured me, and I was able to open my eyes. When I did so, the Venerable Master was gone, but I had the energy to talk. I said to my daughter, "I'm well. My teacher has healed me and I want to go home."
The doctor said, "Don't listen to her, she's just talking nonsense." They wouldn't let me go home and said, "Stay for a couple more days. If your condition worsens at home, it would be difficult to take emergency measures." I knew my illness was over, so I insisted on going home. I kept pestering my family until they couldn't take it any longer, so they hired a taxi. My son carried me to the car. It was eleven o'clock when we arrived home. I vomited two cupfuls of pus and blood when I got back. It was quite smelly! After the vomiting I immediately felt hungry and ate some thin rice gruel before I went to sleep.
I felt better day by day. When I went back for a check-up over ten days later, the cancer was gone. The doctors were all puzzled and said, "You were lucky, your illness should have been fatal."
After Mao Zedong had passed away, the Religion Policy was passed in
the second year of Deng Xiaoping's regime (1979). Buddhist monasteries and temples were restored, and people were allowed to pay homage to the Buddha. One day, my distant cousin Li Yingjie, whose father Li Shengxi was a distant brother of my mother, told me, "Sister, Ultimate Bliss Temple has been rebuilt. You may stay at my house and go take a look" Ultimate Bliss Temple was in Harbin, where he lived at the time. After I went to Ultimate Bliss Temple, I stayed there to help wash dishes and learned how to read. That was where I learned how to recite the Earth Store Sutra.
When Li Yingjie was young, his mother had tried to commit suicide by drinking lye. He was the one who went to my house to ask the Venerable Master to save his mother. He was only eight or nine years old then. The Master spoke of this incident before.
One day, Dharma Master Zongguang of Ultimate Bliss Temple asked me whether I wanted to take refuge with him. I told him that I already had a teacher. He asked who my teacher was, and I told him it was Venerable An Tze.
"Do you know where your teacher is?"
"No, I don't."
"He is in the United States and has a huge monastery, I've been there." That was how I found out that the Venerable Master was still alive.
We had all waited for the Venerable Master to return to China, but he never did. It was not until I came to the United States on June 1, 1993, that I saw him. I had left home at Three Conditions Monastery around the age of twenty. When I saw the Venerable Master again at the age of 69, almost half of a century had gone by. It was as if we were in another world. I had never dreamed of such a day! On September 5th of the same year, the Venerable Master permitted me to leave the home life again. While shaving my head, the Venerable Master told me I would encounter more hardships in the future, and that I should endure them patiently.
I wonder what causes and conditions have determined this path I must walk as a nun.