During that unforgettable period of time when I was around the Venerable Master, I did something so dumb that it was beyond repair. Every time I think about this incident, I can’t help but shake my head and want to dig a hole and hide in it.
What happened was that a couple of kindhearted elders had encouraged me to come to the Sagely City. I always had so many different concerns. Although Guo-Hao Hu had resolved all the concerns that I articulated, I still couldn’t decide. One day, Guo-Ying and Guo-Hao again encouraged me while we were in front of the Venerable Master. I was too embarrassed to express myself before the Venerable Master, but I was thinking, “If only the Venerable Master would tell me not to go for now, then that would be great. I would have a way out.” Just as I thought that, the Venerable Master said, “Why don’t you stay here for now.” What a coincidence! I had a way out. How could I have known that the Venerable Master knew my every thought clearly. As someone who has eyes but is blind and who is laden with karmic obstructions, I had wanted to make use of the sage and his words to distance myself from the Sagely City. I had played a little mind game. I had a way out indeed. I didn’t reach the Sagely City until five or six years later because of that excursion.
The Venerable Master was compassionate and did not give up on me. Not only did he ask Elder Upasika Guo-Jin to tell me to cultivate the Dharma well, but spoke wordless Dharma for me in my dreams, including resolving my many worries before I came to the Sagely City. I also received encouragement from the three Dharma Masters and Pureland friends at the Avatamsaka Hermitage. As a result, I came to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in April of 1997 to participate in the Ten Thousand Buddhas Repentance. When I stepped into this great hall adorned with ten thousand Buddhas and when I saw the Buddha images and the vigor of the Dharma Masters and good advisors, I was filled with reverence and the joy of Dharma. They are all models for me. This is where I had always longed to be, though I arrived much too late.
Once, I went to bow to the image of the Venerable Master in the Patriarchs’ Hall during the Dharma Assembly. When my head was just about to touch the ground, a thought emerged from the bottom of my heart. The thought was faint, but very clear, very different from the typical false thought. There was something solid about it. “You’re the lifelong teacher that I’ve been searching for all these years!” I raised my head suddenly and looked at the Venerable Master, thinking, “Who are you? My lifelong teacher is Amitabha Buddha!” In other words, “How could you be my teacher for life?” I stopped bowing and walked out. I wanted to know who the Venerable Master really is. I am very ashamed to say that, although I took refuge with the Venerable Master, I had the mentality that I was taking refuge with an ordinary Sanghan.
I saw a book that included illustrations at the bookstore. The book talked about how, prior to giving birth to the Venerable Master, his mother had dreamt about Amitabha Buddha emitting a brilliant light. I was guessing that, “Could the Venerable Master be Amitabha Buddha?” I could hardly believe that I had met Amitabha Buddha on his revisit. I rushed around to find the Venerable Master’s eighteen great vows. After reading them, I thought they were no different than Amitabha Buddha’s 48 vows. I thought, “Is it really possible that the Venerable Master is Amitabha Buddha come again?”
The Venerable Master addressed my concern specifically. Finally, I heard the Venerable Master’s taped instructions in which he said, “I’ll tell you one thing from the bottom of my heart. I enjoy reciting the Buddha name the most; I enjoy reciting Namo Amitabha Buddha’s name the most. I am mindful of Amitabha Buddha whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. When I am mindful of the Buddha, Amitabha is before me, behind me, to the left and right of me, above and below me. Amitabha Buddha fills all of space. Finally, Amitabha Buddha and I become one.” Who else but Amitabha Buddha could have become one with Amitabha Buddha?
When I was certain that I had encountered Amitabha Buddha in the evil world of the five turbidities and had taken refuge with the one that I prayed would receive me, I was both shocked and glad. I had a feeling of peace and security mixed with an indescribable shame all of a sudden. Indeed, I had vowed to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, and yet when I saw the person with whom I had wished to take refuge, not only had I not recognized him, but I had wanted him to speak for me. Isn’t that equivalent to wanting Amitabha Buddha to say that I don’t need to go to the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss? Venerable Master, Amitabha Buddha, please forgive me, take pity on my stupidity and delusions.
I went to the Patriarchs’ Hall to kneel before the statue of the Venerable Master. Looking at the Venerable Master, I said, “Venerable Master, you have gone and I have come. I was dizzy and lost while you were in the world. I had eyes but could not see; I didn’t recognize that you were Amitabha Buddha. I was deluded while you clearly understood. Why didn’t you knock me on the head with a stick to wake me up?”
One day, I told Upasika Jiang about this episode. She didn’t make a sound. The next day, she said to me, “Some people are really shameless. Their own karmic obstruction is tremendous, and yet they blame the Venerable Master for it!” Terrific! Right to the heart of the matter. She articulated the self-blame, regret, and shame in my heart. She articulated the tremendous admiration and esteem that I have toward the Dharma Masters and greatly virtuous ones at the Sagely City. I hope that this sound will resonate and remain in space and the Dharma Realm. I hope that the Venerable Master knows that a good advisor has woken me up, clearing away all of the delusions forever.
From this, I received a profound lesson. The patriarchs say, “Do not believe in your thoughts. Your thoughts cannot be believed.” Life is short—it is truly difficult to encounter a good advisor with clear vision. It’s even more difficult to cultivate at a temple with Proper Dharma. Don’t miss this opportunity. It’s my great fortune to have encountered the Venerable Master. I only know to value it now. The Venerable Master’s teachings are truly unique and fascinating. From those lessons, I have sensed that, I am the entire Dharma Realm. To have false thoughts and be dishonest is really to torture myself.
I don’t know what drove me to pursue endlessly the identity of the Venerable Master. A Sutra states, “The Tathagatha can manifest a wondrous physical body that all beings can behold, according to their kind.” He appears to be the one that one is thinking about. My attachment at the time was laughable. When I understood, I gave up my pursuit. Ah, I understood all of a sudden. Isn’t the Pureland of Ultimate Bliss right here and now? Isn’t this the going from seeking to no seeking? I could only understand this theoretically in the past; I had never felt the true wonder of the Venerable Master’s guidance!
Most importantly, the Venerable Master had said, “I became one with the Buddha while being mindful of the Buddha.” This is a simple and clear set of instructions that is straightforward and to the point. Inconceivably, he simultaneously modeled for us and revealed the following unsurpassed great dharmas: cause and effect, the mind is what the mind
does, realization in this lifetime, and accomplishment here and now. You become a Buddha when you are mindful of the Buddha. I believe in this fully— this is the final end to which the Venerable Master has been guiding us.
How can I express my limitless gratitude for the Venerable Master’s great kindness and compassion? All I can say is, “Master, I miss you so!”