Amitabha Buddha! I’m Heng Jen. Every year during the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance ceremony, I tell the same story to encourage myself. I moved into the Sagely City in 1985 before the start of the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance. There were a lot fewer participants in the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance than there are now. And during that time, I also bowed to the Great Compassion Repentance every day together with another Shramanerika. I was then still a layperson, and as there was no cantor at that time, we did the repentance with the aid of a tape recording.
I had just arrived in the Sagely City, and there was lots of work to do. I needed to go to the kitchen to prepare the vegetables, cook rice, wash dishes, and mop the floor...and then I hurriedly rushed to bow the Great Compassion Repentance. We carried on in this manner every single day.
At that time there were only six people bowing the Ten Thousand Buddhas Repentance. One struck the wooden fish, another acted as cantor, and then there were two laymen, another Dharma Master and myself. I was the only laywoman. Sometimes, the Dharma Master was not around, and we just had one or two laypeople bowing. In the evening, during lecture time, people in the city would come listen to the Sutra with their family members. The Dharma Masters had to teach in the school during the day and could not bow the Great Compassion Repentance; however they would attend the Sutra lecture in the evenings. There were no more than twenty people in the entire Buddha Hall, but I could sense that everyone was very sincere. One evening, in the middle of the Sutra lecture, the Venerable Master walked in and said to us, “Today an inauspicious star appeared in the sky; therefore you must all be sincere.” Deep in my heart I was thinking, we were only about 20 people; the strength might not be sufficient even if we were sincere.
The Venerable Master said, “If everybody is sincere, this disaster will be averted.” Not long after we finished bowing the Ten Thousand Buddhas Repentance, we learned that there was a tornado in northern Canada and it was blowing down many houses, but nobody was injured. I discussed this matter with the Venerable Master: “Master, you said there would be a big disaster. It still happened in the end.” The Venerable Master said, “Yes! This disaster is over. However I was not referring to this incident; there was another big disaster.” I said, “How do you explain the disaster in northern Canada?” The Venerable Master said, “That was a very small incident!” I recall that a layperson once told me, when we were at other branch temples doing transference of merit, the Venerable Master often said, “Do not say that you do not have any cultivation; regardless of what you have done, merit and virtue is generated. Even though it might be very little merit and virtue, I will gather all these small amounts of merit and virtue and transfer them together with my own merit and virtue.” The Venerable Master did not specify to what he was transferring them.
Now as we listen to Chapter 25 of the Avatamsaka Sutra, “The Ten Transferences,” I always remember the Venerable Master’s words. No matter what we do, if our intent is to benefit living beings, even though our cultivation and strength are limited, I firmly believe the Venerable Master will still use his merit and virtue and all our small amounts of merit and virtue to do a final great transference.
In what we do everyday, we should use a straightforward and ordinary mind. An ordinary mind means we should not contend or compete. We should not think about whether we have performed well or poorly. We should just make sure we are upright in whatever we do. When confronted with difficulties, we should regard them as helping us reduce our karmic offenses. They give us the opportunity to understand ourselves more deeply and also to understand other people. An old saying goes like this: “The task of untying a knot should fall to the one who tied it.” During the repentance, we should understand ourselves better so that we will recognize our mistakes.
This time, nine students from the Girls School represented the school in a Chinese Culture Contest. The teacher kept reminding everyone, “It doesn’t matter whether or not you win. Just participate in the contest with an ordinary mind; apply whatever knowledge you have without any fixed expectations.” Every year the atmosphere is very tense, similar to that of taking college entrance exams in Taiwan. There were many Chinese parents from other schools, all dressed up for the occasion. However, the most lively group was from Developing Virtue Secondary School and Instilling Goodness Elementary School at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Our boys ran around the premises playing tag, while the girls joked and chatted. I also told them not to treat this as a big deal. The day before the test, everyone gathered together very matter of factly without any particular anxiety. I reminded the girls participating in the speech contest to treat it like any other public speech. I told them, “You all must remember that this is not the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, so don’t begin with the phrase, ‘All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Dharma Masters’ and don’t end by saying, ‘Amitabha Buddha.’” All the girls took it easy and participated in a most normal and ordinary manner. Whether or not we won an award was not our primary concern. It did not matter. Each person must use their own wisdom to gauge the end results.