Penny Huang was born in Canton in 1951 and her parents emigrated to Hong Kong in 1958. When describing her religious background, Penny could never be clear: her parents prayed to Sangharama Bodhisattva and her mother prayed to spirits at Great Immortal Huang’s in Hong Kong because there was an image of Sangharama Bodhisattva there. She had befriended a group of “grandmas who worshipped gods” and often recited the
Sangharama Sutra and the Heart Sutra. Although she couldn’t say why, the phrases in the
Heart Sutra that her mother often recited, “Form does not differ from emptiness;emptiness does not differ from form; form is just emptiness, emptiness is just form” left impressions with her.
She emigrated to Canada at the age of eighteen and lived in Vancouver. One day her mother heard that the Venerable Master was coming to Gold Buddha Monastery, so she wanted to go and take refuge out of admiration. Her mother told her not to take refuge because “It’s not time for you yet.” She therefore missed the chance to take refuge with the Venerable Master. Penny regrets this every time she remembers it.
She moved to Calgary after marrying. Although her mother told her not to take refuge at that time, she did tell her to go and draw near the Buddhadharma in the temple. After several attempts, she found the old Avatamsaka Monastery in 1991. She had only wanted to go and check it out at first but once she saw the Buddha images inside, she felt an indescribable sense of relief. She then became sad as she thought about her husband, a kind Canadian man affected by modern trends and addicted to drinking and drugs. Penny was unhappy and frustrated, so although she had found an orthodox temple, she rarely went to cultivate.
Her marriage finally ended in 1993. One day she saw on television that Bhikshu Heng Tso was at a dragon boat race sprinkling pure water with a willow branch as he recited the Great Compassion Mantra. She remembered Avatamsaka Monastery and decided to pay a visit, but did not do so until her father passed away in the year 2000 and she arranged for a 49-day recitation of the
Earth Store Sutra at the Monastery to help with his rebirth. She went to the Monastery on weekends during this period. She was full of joy after those seven weeks. Incidentally the Jeweled Repentance of the Emperor of Liang was taking place, so she took time off of work to participate. For some inexplicable reason, she was extremely sad and cried nonstop during the first three days. People next to her had to pass her tissue paper on numerous occasions and constantly comforted her, saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay. This happens often.”
After the Jeweled Repentance, Penny felt as if she had become a whole new person and her spirits were uplifted. She took refuge and received the Dharma name Chin Xi (Drawing Near Joy). From then on, every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and sometimes Wednesday, she would go to Avatamsaka Monastery to listen to the Sutras, meditate, staff the reception desk, and be a volunteer. Avatamsaka Monastery has become her second home!
Penny is very diligent. She has just finished memorizing the first section of the Shurangama Mantra. She comes to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to bow the Ten Thousand Buddhas Repentance every year. After completing the Ten Thousand Buddhas Repentance this year (2002), she received the Five Precepts on Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday. Now she is waiting for her youngest child to finish college. When she finishes paying back the “debt” she owes her children, she plans to apply to leave the householder’s life and concentrate on practicing the Way.