Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma
Masters and good advisors, Amitabha!
My name is Chen Hsiu-Ching, and tonight I am going
to share with everyone the circumstances of my first visit to the City
of Ten Thousand Buddhas. As early as 1995, when the Venerable Master
entered stillness, I thought of applying for a visa to come to the City.
Later I decided to let my husband come instead so I did not apply.
In 1996, my husband and I decided to bring our
children to the City of the Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB). I thought it
would be easier for my husband to take the three children to apply for
visas. However, my youngest daughter's photograph was lost on the road,
so that day only two of my children got visas. Later I brought my
youngest daughter to apply. Someone later told me, “Three children
together would attract too much attention.” Thank goodness the
photograph was lost on the road. Otherwise, perhaps all the visas would
have been denied.
In March 1996, before the Presidential Election,
China used a military scare tactic against Taiwan. Many foreigners were
worried, and the Japanese government withdrew its presence in Taiwan.
When the Venerable Master was alive, he was concerned about the people
of China and Taiwan. The merit from the work done at CTTB and the
plaques that were erected, was transferred towards world peace. Dharma
Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Society (DRBBDS) encouraged us to
participate in the Dharma assemblies at CTTB, so I decided to bring my
two youngest children to the City on March 22nd. It was my birthday so I
thought, “I'll be able to go on my birthday! How auspicious!” This was
my first trip to America but strangely enough I couldn't finish packing.
On the morning of the 19th when we had to book our air tickets, the
Dharma Master of DRBBDS said that she could not go to America and asked
me to go ahead. At that time, DRBBDS only had two Dharma Masters. I
could not, on seeing that there was so much work to be done, turn my
back and walk away. I decided to stay behind and help out.
Since I had already quit my job, I went to DRBBDS
to volunteer full time, starting a new chapter in my life. I never
thought that that would be the most fulfilling and most meaningful
period of my life. Everyday we drew near to good advisors and I
benefited greatly from their teaching. My husband said, “You have ‘a
fool's luck’. In earlier days when other Dharma sisters were still
around, how could ever have this opportunity?”
That summer, I registered my two children for the
summer camp in the City. My husband took us to the airport, and upon
returning, discovered that the dry flowers in the glass picture frame
above his chair in the office had fallen, and splinters of glass were
scattered all over his table and chair. Had he not taken us to the
airport, he would certainly have been hit on the head by the picture
frame. He had escaped this accident by taking us to the airport.
It is said that “When it's time to use your
knowledge, you regret you did not study more.” I had forgotten all my
English. With two children and an elderly fellow traveler, I boarded the
airplane apprehensively. On the plane, the children were exhilarated,
but I recited the name of Guanyin Bodhisattva nonstop, and wondered what
would happen at American customs. I did not recognize the person who was
to meet us at the airport. After debarking the plane, we saw many people
waiting at the exit carrying various signs with people's names. Our
person quickly located us, so all went well.
Leaving the airport, my spirits lifted, and when I
saw the mountain gate at the City, how familiar it felt! At that time
the “Flower Adornment Dharma Assembly” was in progress at the City, and
a big canopy was erected in front of the Patriarch Hall. The tune of the
Flower Adornment Syllabary left the deepest impression on me. It seemed
to revolve around the entire Wayplace, and I felt as though I was in the
Flower Adornment Sea-vast Assembly. It had such a focusing effect, and
it could be heard in every corner of the City! The Flower Adornment
Syllabary reverberated in my mind all day. Everyday I hummed it, and
when the Dharma assembly ended, we proceeded to celebrate the twentieth
anniversary of CTTB. We distributed the Venerable Master's sharira to
the various branch temples, and organized a book exhibition and a
seven-day Guanyin Dharma assembly. These Dharma activities filled me
with Dharma joy.
To say that CTTB is a children's paradise is not
exaggerating in the least. The children played happily till nightfall,
then dragged their weary bodies to bed. I had raised my own children and
they were seldom out of my sight, but at the City they were constantly
disappearing at the drop of a pin. The place was so big; it was
impossible to know where to go looking for them. But thank goodness for
the peacocks. The children followed them and rabbits everywhere while
they were playing. I only had to listen for the peacocks’ calls to know
that the children were not far behind.
Afraid that the children would run all over the
place, I enforced the City's rule: ‘Males may not enter the female
areas, and females may not enter the male areas.’ So when they played
tag, my daughter would run to the girls’ school and stop there, and her
brother dared not go beyond the boundary markers. She egged him on with
‘Come, come and catch me!’ but her brother was too shy to move an inch
forward. She laughed merrily at her helpless brother. Who would have
thought that the rules of the Sagely City would become a ‘protective
charm’ for her!
Coincidentally, the graduation ceremonies of the
Sangha and Laity Training Program and Dharma Realm Buddhist University
were held that year and the two children told me that they were asked to
dress up and ‘to give prizes’! Inquiring further, I found that they had
been asked to carry the platter of graduation certificates. The other
children were envious, saying, “We have been here so long and never had
the chance to carry the platter. You get to carry it as soon as you
As the summer camp arrived, boy school alumni
returned to the City to volunteer as counselors, mowing the lawns of
people outside the City in exchange for using their cabins at a
campsite. The mothers and grandmothers who accompanied the children also
went along on the camping trip. I remember that the water there was cool
and the sands beautiful. The children did everything from starting the
campfire, to cooking breakfast. At night, the grandmothers and mothers
slept in the cabins, and the teachers and children slept in sleeping
bags outside. At breakfast, we wanted to help, but the children were
very independent and capable, and said they would do everything
themselves. The children of the Sagely City are not only well behaved,
but very capable too! During that trip we all had a great time!
When the summer camp ended, we were asked to stay
behind, but the children were young and our family would be
separated--staying in two different countries. Their father said, “Come
back first and we'll talk about it.” I did not realize then that it
would be a good many years before I would see the City again! But at the
end we did come back!