第三個星期的某個傍晚，和孩子一起作功課，她們正在學英文字母S，課本上有不少以S開頭的圖畫，star(星星)、 sand(沙子)、snow(雪)…，緣緣忽然指著其中的一幅說：「媽媽，書上這個畫錯了，這是小豬豬，pig，不是S開頭的！」我看了看之後，十分肯定地說：「書上沒有錯，這個字是S開頭的！」「為什麼？媽咪！」「因為這裏該填shake(發抖)，妳沒看到這隻小豬豬被放進烤箱裏了嗎？牠馬上就要被燒死了，好怕喲！」「但是，小豬豬好可愛，壞蛋為什麼要殺牠呢？」我馬上回答：「那要問問妳自己啊！妳不是最愛吃 ham(火腿)肉肉嗎？不把小豬豬放進烤箱裏燒死，妳哪有ham可以吃呢？」她一下子愣住了，不一會兒，眼睛裏蓄滿了淚，然後終於哇地一聲哭了出來：「媽咪，緣緣以後再也不要吃ham肉肉了！」我並不想就此放過她，馬上又追問一句：「那雞肉呢？緣緣還愛吃炸雞塊，那也是把小雞放進烤箱裏做出來的！」她一聽，馬上搖頭：「緣緣不吃，緣緣以後再也不要吃肉肉了！」
It’s fairly strange that two children who were vegetarian in the mother’s womb turned out to be meat eaters after birth. My mother-in-law said, “It’s because you abused them while you were pregnant, so you have to pay them back after they were born.” My friends said, “Their mother’s refusal to eat meat during pregnancy caused them to be born prematurely and underdeveloped. Eating meat is the only way they can become normal.” Since the children were cared for by American babysitters, I deeply blame myself for devoting my time to making a living instead of teaching my children good dietary habits.
The biggest obstacle for bringing the children to study at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas was that the diet here was vegetarian. Everyone including my husband opposed the idea. I conferred and compromised again and again. They finally agreed with the following condition: the children must eat meat at least two or three times a week at restaurants outside of the City. Despite this arrangement, my husband still asked, “Besides those two or three meals, how are you going to handle it? If they act like they do at home and refuse to touch anything green, what are you going to do?” My self-esteem was hurt deep down, for these two little ones would not eat anything no matter how I threatened them with punishment or enticed them with rewards. They didn’t give in for the sake of my self-dignity, and I was frustrated. Shrugging my shoulders, I thought they would eventually eat before they starved to death.
As I had expected, they starved for two or three days after moving into the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Then the two stubborn children started accepting bread with butter and rice with soy sauce. Nonetheless, they adamantly refused to eat vegetables and tofu. I compromised by buying cheese, fruits and vitamins as daily supplements and coaxed them to eat their meals. I had heard that the Dharma-protecting spirits are very efficacious and definitely did not dare to bring meat into the temple. At this time, the teachers and kitchen staff began to panic. They were more concerned about my children than I was. What was I to do? Nothing, I supposed. I could only force a smile. I spoke to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva accusingly, “Bodhisattva, people say when you reach a mountain, there’s always a road. I have now reached the foothills of Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Now, it’s up to you what you want me to do.”
One evening during the third week we were here, I was helping the kids with their homework. They were learning vocabulary words starting with the letter S. There were quite a few pictures for words starting with S, such as stars, sand, snow, and so forth. Pointing to one of the pictures, my daughter Yuan-Yuan suddenly said, “Mommy, this is the wrong picture. The picture shows a pig, which does not start with S.”
I took a look at the picture and said with an affirmative tone, “The book is right. This word does begin with S.”
“You should fill in the blank with the word, ‘shake’. Don’t you see that the pig is being placed in an oven. It will soon be burned. Don’t you think it’s scared?”
“But the piglet is so cute. Why do bad guys have to kill them?”
I answered right away, “Well, you have to ask yourself. Isn’t ham your favorite food? If we don’t put pigs in the oven, where does the ham come from?” She was shocked by my words. Soon her eyes filled with tears and she burst out crying, “Mommy, I will never eat ham again!” I did not let her off the hook so easily and followed with such questions as: “What about chicken? You still love fried chicken, which is also prepared by putting chicks in the oven.” As soon as she heard that, she shook her head and replied, “I will not eat chicken, either. I will not eat meat anymore!” Hearing this, I was delighted although I did not take the words of a five-year old seriously. Coming to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the highest expectation I had for them was that they eat some of the vegetables I cooked. After all, everyone knew those two were little cannibals.
Three days later, as part of our routine, I took them to McDonald’s. Without saying much, I asked, “Yuan-Yuan, do you want chicken nuggets or a hamburger today?” To my surprise, she said with disbelief, “Mommy, how can you forget so quickly? I don’t want to eat meat anymore. I am getting French fries and Coke today!” I saw that my other daughter, Guo-Guo, had not voiced any opinion for the past few days. I was sure she would not be willing to become a vegetarian. I asked her, “How about Guo-Guo? Chicken nuggets or a hamburger?” Again, unexpectedly, she said firmly, “I want to be a vegetarian like my sister.” Seeing them eating with great relish and firmly fighting the temptation around them, I felt moved beyond words. Guanyin Bodhisattva, you indeed answer a thousand prayers in a thousand hearts. Your responses are vast, great, and inconceivable. You fulfilled even my little tiny wish!
A week later, I took my daughters to visit their grandmother in San Jose. When the grandmother heard that her little grandchildren had become vegetarians, not only did she scold me harshly, she hugged her dear granddaughters close and sympathized with them. At the dinner table, she impulsively served us dish after dish of meat. The two kids, seeing the delicious, steaming dishes of meat, looked at me with hesitation. I did not dare to make eye contact with them or say anything. They were kids after all. They tasted the meat and could not resist. They gobbled it down quickly. With a happy face, the grandmother said, “Go ahead, go ahead. Eat more. See, how you have made the children suffer.” Right at that moment, the two girls started vomiting madly. Seeing this scene, the grandmother felt even sorrier for the children. She cleaned up after them in a flurry and said quickly, “Alright! Alright! Don’t vomit anymore. I will no longer force you to eat meat. Just forget it. You can eat what you please.”
That night, the kids slept with me on the same bed. Yuan-Yuan suddenly asked me, “Mommy, is Guanyin Bodhisattva mad at me?” “Yes, you promised her that you would not eat meat anymore. Why did you regret and break your promise?” The twins replied in unison, “Mommy, we really will not eat meat anymore!” Upon hearing these words, I was delighted. Homage to Guanyin Bodhisattva of Vast, Great Efficacious Responses! The miracle you created surpassed my original expectation. This time, you even took care of my mother-in-law for me.
To be continued