At the invitation of the Louisiana Buddhist Association in New Orleans, the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association (DRBA) sent a delegation on November 21 - 23, 2001 (Wednesday- Friday) comprised of three Bhikshunis, Dharma Masters Heng Jen, Heng Jhuang and Heng Bing, as well as the former President of the Louisiana Buddhist Association, Upasika Hu Guo Chi, who now resides in the Sagely City. The Buddhist Society is located by the sea; it has all the amenities of city-living as well as the peace and quiet of the countryside. It was established in 1990 by the local Chinese community for the purpose of studying and practicing the Buddhadharma. In the summer of 1991, the Louisiana Buddhist Association received a box of the Venerable Master's books on Buddhism, thereby gaining the Master's Dharma treasures. Subsequently, every year, people came to the Sagely City to take refuge and took back with them many Buddhist texts. The members circulated the Master's books and listened to his tapes, benefiting greatly in that way.
This time, about 60 to 70 people came to attend the Dharma sessions. Some drove for several hours from Atlanta and Houston while others drove more than ten hours from Georgia. Due to the diverse nationalities in the audience, the Dharma talks were given in English, Chinese and Vietnamese. The previous year (1999), twenty-eight laypeople from Louisiana came to the Sagely City to attend the seven-day Amitabha session. One layman had an improper thought while circumambulating. That night when he was sleeping, a Dharma-protecting spirit hit him with a large wooden board. He was so terrified that he leapt out of the bed. But as soon as he closed his eyes, the huge Dharma-protecting spirit appeared in front of him again. He was so frightened that he dared not breathe a word to anyone nor could he fall asleep again. It was only after he had left the Sagely City that he dared to reveal the incident.
Since most of the local devotees were owners of non-vegetarian restaurants, the Dharma Masters decided to talk about the Five Precepts-no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying, and no taking of intoxicants. The topics included the merit of upholding precepts, cause and effect, and retribution. Although the topics had been preassigned, somehow the discussion dwelled mainly on the precept against killing.
Since there were so many questions from the audience, Dharma Master Heng Jen had no opportunity to relate a true story concerning a person who sold pork for a living. On the last evening, the Dharma session went overtime but nobody wanted to leave. Finally, Dharma Master Heng Jen related the story and the karmic obstructions that confronted the pork seller at the time of his death. On hearing the story, a woman in the audience broke down and wept pitifully. It turned out that her family was in the roast pork business. She had stayed late that night to help with building the Wayplace and happened to hear this story.
Although the devotees had only recently encountered Buddhism, they were overjoyed with the Dharma Masters' visit. They respectfully requested the Dharma and listened sincerely. The people from Atlanta had numerous questions but due to the time constraints, it was agreed that the questions would only be answered the next day. However, on the second day, none of them turned up. They had had an accident at a location about ten minutes' drive from the Wayplace. Their car had collided with a big vehicle and was badly damaged. However, the people in the car were not hurt in the least!
Many of the devotees who operated non-vegetarian restaurants wished to change their occupations after listening to the Dharma, even though they might have to undergo a period of hardship. The devotees looked forward to a life of cultivation and hoped that DRBA would station Dharma Masters there to guide them in cultivation. The devotees had personally made cabinets for the Sutras and bowing cushions. They also made new bowing cushions for the main hall in the Sagely City.
In response to the visit, some people praised the inconceivability of the Buddhadharma and the compassion of the Bodhisattvas. Some hoped that next time, the Dharma delegation would give them early notice so that they could rent a big bus to fetch more people to attend. Besides this, there is another story. The President of the Georgia Buddhist Society told Upasika Hu Guo Chi, "I used to not be able to stand it when people told me that my karmic obstructions were heavy, I'd get very angry." However, after having listened to the Dharma talks, she said, "My karmic obstructions are truly heavy indeed!"