My daughter left home in the year 2000, and because my wife and I and her godmother missed her, we wanted to visit her and pay respects to the Buddhas. The plan had been brewing for more than a year and we finally decided to attend the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance in April. Perhaps because we were blessed by the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Venerable Master, all the conditions came together. Furthermore, with the encouragement and help of fellow participants and cultivators during the session, everything went smoothly and delightfully for us during our first bowing session. Consequently, we now wish to learn more about Buddhism.
The name, Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance, means that this session involves bowing to the Buddhas and repenting. In reality, though bowing to the Buddhas trains us to become egoless and to eliminate our habitual arrogance. It is also, in modern terms, a form of exercise.
Having stayed at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) for several days, I understand now that being a Buddhist is not about escapism, but about transcendence and living with ease in the here and now. Someone who has seen his nature and understands his mind will gladly accept any adversity that comes his way. For instance, all of our afflictions and misery happen because of greed. Greed is a form of attachment. Now that I am learning more about Buddhism, I will try to let go of attachment and give up my bad habits.
There is a saying, “No one can help us if we don't want to be good. No one can prevent us from being good if that's what we want.” These are some ideas I have learned: Flow with the causes and conditions, whether favorable or adverse, and be grateful.
At CTTB, we were removed from the noise and sense stimulations of the city. We abandoned our anxiety and worry over fame and fortune, schemes and manipulations, and the intense and constant battles. We returned to the embrace of mother nature and moved away from the world's clamor and materialism. Rising early and eating simply, people here lead a pure and quiet life. Although we hadn’t transformed into new people, we really felt light and refreshed. Our bodies and minds seemed to have been cleansed and purified.
During the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance, I wasn't familiar with the daily recitations. Fortunately there was a kind fellow cultivator next to me, helping me so that I didn’t have to worry or be intimidated. I’d like to express my gratitude here. Another thing was that in the first couple of days of bowing, I often knocked over the music stands that hold up the sutras. I had even caused a scene and bumped the head of the person behind me. I also ask for his compassionate forgiveness here.
One day a participant heard me singing “Namo Universal Worthy King Bodhisattva” with a particularly loud and happy voice, so out of curiosity he asked me why I was so happy. I said that every time we sang this Bodhisattva's name, it was either time for a break or time to eat. That’s why I’m happy!
The days at CTTB were simple but full, regulated but not boring. The day of our departure came all too soon. The day before we were leaving (the 27th), it happened to be my daughter's turn to give a Dharma talk after the evening ceremony. She mentioned how her parents immigrated to the United States because of her and her brother. This moved me so much that tears welled up in my eyes. Parents give unconditionally. Do they really hope for any returns from their children? No. They only ask to be understood. A few kind words would be enough—enough to touch us and make the toil worthwhile.
On the morning of our leaving CTTB, I unexpectedly dreamt of the Venerable Master standing in front of a large Buddha statue, nodding and smiling at me, asking with his eyes what questions I had. I simply explained in my mind that my father had been a vegetarian and recited the Buddha's name. He knew Upasakas Lee Bingnan and Zhou Bangdao and had taken our entire family to the Lotus Society (in Taichung, Taiwan) for refuge. I don’t remember the master I took refuge with or my Dharma name, so I asked the Venerable Master if I could have another Dharma name. When I woke up and went to the main hall to bow, I felt most refreshed and comfortable. Before noon, we had already bowed to the 9,900th Buddha. We were extremely happy to have the special conditions to finishing bowing to the 10,000th Buddha. We had planned to leave at 2 p.m. and the first afternoon session ends earlier, so by the time we concluded, we were still seven Buddhas away from the 10,000th Buddha.
When we were saying goodbye, my wife and my daughter's godmother wanted to leave some money for my daughter in case of emergency. My daughter refused with the explanation that she holds the precept of not holding money. I couldn't help but add, “Old pop also holds this precept.” (I have ceded this power to my wife for more than a decade already. I'm holding the precept without even taking it.)
Upon our departure, someone said to me, “Take a bottle and fill it up with air at CTTB, then dump it out when you get back to Seattle. The air at CTTB will not have decreased and the air in Seattle will not have increased.” I saw that he was challenging me with his Chan wit, so I immediately responded, “Chan wit scares me more than anything. What is meant by, ‘There is not a thing to Chan and Chan is that one thing’? For me, it's Amitabha Buddha in the morning and Amitabha Buddha at night.”
As I reflect, the short week at the City was really a total of five days, so why do I feel that I have gained so much? Of course I have to be grateful for the compassion and blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Another thing is that chanting the Buddha's name and bowing to the Buddhas have made me let go of my pompous attitude. With the entire body hitting the ground, I lost a few attachments and habits. Even though this is a small step towards learning Buddhism, it is a major step in my life.