My name is Julia Liang. My family came from Shandong Province. I was born in Taiwan and currently reside in England. As a child, I was baptized as a Christian and resolved to become a nun. After growing up, I had doubts when I saw the many Christians who were Christians on Sunday only, and so I started to approach Buddhism. However, seeing the ambiguity between Buddhism and Taoism in Taiwan, I became confused and did not know what to believe.
In 1988, seeing an announcement that the Venerable Master Hua was speaking Dharma in Taiwan, I went to attend the Dharma assembly. It was so crowded that I had to stand the whole time. The sight of the Venerable Master on stage was both overwhelming and familiar. That day, the Venerable Master transmitted the Three Refuges, but I felt that with such a great teacher, I had to go to the United States and practice “three steps, one bow” to request refuge. I didn’t want to take refuge in that noisy crowd. Due to that wrong thought, I missed the chance to take refuge with the Venerable Master. Seven years later, I came to the U.S. but the Venerable Master was in the hospital. When I saw him again, he had already entered nirvana.
One time in a bad dream, out of nowhere, I cried out “Guanyin Bodhisattva, save me!” and instantly escaped the difficulty. Later, a friend told me that I have an affinity with Guanyin Bodhisattva. Subsequently, I took refuge with three masters because I had heard people say that the more teachers, the better. I didn’t know any better than to follow other people’s advice.
One time I dreamed that I was in a restaurant. The chef was cutting up a chicken. He chopped off the head and a human head appeared; he chopped off the leg and a human leg appeared. I was so scared that I became a vegetarian from then on.
In 1994, I accompanied my son to England to study. The following year I borrowed several Buddhist books from a temple. One of them was the
Dharma Flower Sutra. When I was reading Chapter Three, suddenly I dropped to my knees and sobbed piteously. I finished chanting the sutra while crying. For the next two days while I chanted the sutra, I also cried from beginning to end. It was not until the fourth day that I stopped crying. I flew to Taiwan especially to get a copy of this sutra. Since then, no matter where I go, I bring this sutra with me.On that trip to Taiwan, my mother bought all kinds of cooking utensils to fix vegetarian food for me. Who would have guessed that after dinner, I had diarrhea for several days. I had an insight and decided not to eat after noontime. Sure enough, the diarrhea stopped. At first, I feared I wouldn’t have enough nutrition and afraid of being hungry at night, I forced myself to eat and got a stomachache. Finally, I realized that it was time to practice eating one meal a day! Since I began practicing this, I have been healthier and have even gained weight!
In trying to find a Shurangama Mantra chanting tape, I heard about the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas again. Thinking of the Venerable Master, I went to Long Beach Monastery, but the Master had already been hospitalized and later passed away. On his birthday, his left-home disciple held a refuge ceremony on his behalf. During the bowing before the ceremony, I cried bitterly, lamenting my slim blessings and my shallow affinities with the Master. I had wasted seven years without seeing him in the end.
In reflecting upon my study of Buddhism, it seems that the Bodhisattvas have guided me bit by bit along the path. However, because of my heavy karma, I have always been one step behind. Yet this suits my temperament—I only cherish what is difficult to come by. I am determined to propagate vegetarian food first and if I am able, I wish to establish a Way-place in Europe, so that the sagely teaching will be brought to Europe.