My seventy-eight year-old father is now experiencing the inevitable suffering of old age; not to mention his failing eyesight and hearing, and his limping, which is the result of a car accident. In recent years, his facial expression frequently shows signs of emptiness and melancholy, as if he were experiencing some form of inexpressible great misery. Even though my father had in his life obviously been well read, yet, in his old age, all those books which he had read are unable to lift his spirits or support him psychologically.
Both my sister and I were deeply aware that the Buddhadharma would be a wonderful antidote, but we would only succeed if we could get him to willingly accept this belief.
As the saying goes “In one’s lifetime, no matter how extensive one’s experience is and how many books one reads, if one doesn’t understand the Buddhadharma, then all of one’s learning is merely illusory flowers and bubbles.”
To my father who is not religious, this kind of “exhortation” may not have much effect. As “faith is the source of the Way; faith is the mother of merit and virtue,” we can only hope to inspire him to take refuge first and to discuss other issues later.
Regarding the issue of taking refuge, we had spoken to our father before, but maybe the conditions were not ripe yet. Each time we exhorted him, he would gently change the topic, saying, “I have been to church and was almost baptized. Actually, any religion, be it Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam, encourages people to be good, and I am always very respectful. However, I am not ready yet, so I think I will just observe from a distance.” What could I do with this old and stubborn father of mine?
In October this year, my mother called to inform me that my father had to have surgery on a cataract in his right eye, which reminded me of how he had an operation on his left eye four years ago. After the operation, his astigmatism had worsened and his eyesight did not improve. My father had grumbled and complained about his poor luck, saying that he had undergone the operation for nothing. As you can imagine, he would not have much confidence in the operation this time. On the surface, taking refuge and the operation seemed like two separate matters, but just before the operation, my faith soared and I thought that perhaps between the two, there was some kind of mystical connection. Therefore, for the first time in the six years since I had emigrated to Canada, I had this urge to return to Taiwan immediately.
Stepping into the house, still gasping for breath, I hurriedly discussed the topic of taking refuge with my father. He looked lovingly at his daughter who had just returned from a faraway land and felt a little uneasy, yet was reluctant to reject my good intention. So, he just replied softly, “Let’s discuss this later.” At that moment, when I wasn’t sure what to do, the Chinese physician taking care of my ailing mother who was in the house supported me and said, “Just tell your father: You will not suffer any losses by taking refuge. On the contrary, you will be protected by the Dharma Protectors, so why shouldn’t you take refuge?”
The next day, I again mustered my courage and talked to my father. This time, he listened silently until I finished with no indication of resistance. He asked me a few questions and then agreed. At that moment, I felt so relieved that I almost cried.
Three days later, the Dharma Master from Dharma Realm Sagely Monastery in Liu Gui called to say that my father’s Taking Refuge ceremony was scheduled on November 23, 2002. Knowing that father was about to have an eye operation, she compassionately gave him the Dharma name “Qing Ping” and told him “Ping” means safe. After the refuge ceremony, I clearly saw that the wrinkles on my father’s face were softer and gentler due to his being blessed by the Triple Jewel.
Epilogue: As the Dharma Master had predicted, my father’s operation went safely and smoothly. At this moment, his mind is at peace and each day he holds recitation beads and chants ‘Namo Amitabha Buddha,’ without skipping a day.
We have nothing with which to requite the help received from the ten directions, except this Verse of Transference:
May the merit and virtue accrued from this work
Adorn the Buddha’s Pure Land,
Repaying the four kinds of kindness above
And aiding those suffering in the three paths below.
May those who see and hear of this
Bring forth the resolve for Bodhi
And when this life is over,
Be born together in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.