I was born and raised in Hsin-chu, Taiwan. Since childhood, I have been quiet. I talked very little. Sometimes I would not even utter a word for an entire day, so teachers always considered me “quiet.” I liked to ponder, and one question always stayed on my mind: “Where did I come from? Where will we go after death?” When I grew older, one day I asked my mother, “Where do we go after we die?” She replied, “We are just dead!” Not satisfied with the answer, I asked her further, “Does every girl have to get married and bear children?” “That’s the tradition in our world,” replied my mother. I couldn’t help but sigh to myself: Is that all a woman’s life is about? Who made it a rule that people had to get married? Can’t we avoid marriage? Why did I come to this world? I had all these questions, but the answers eluded me for a long time.
After I graduated and began working, I had some colleagues who believed in a certain teaching and were not married. This gave me an idea: If I don’t get married, I can be a nun. I didn’t really know what leaving home meant, but the sad stories that I heard or read in the newspapers and magazines made me afraid of marriage.
Aside from worshipping Guanyin Bodhisattva at home, I knew little about the Buddhadharma. On October 30, 1989, I visited my uncle in Ban-chiao, and he took me to a temple to worship because of my poor health. On our way home, I caught sight of a poster announcing the Venerable Master Hua’s Dharma Delegation’s visit to Taiwan. There was a Dharma assembly that day at the Chi-li Commercial College in Ban-chiao. Filled with an overwhelming curiosity to see the Venerable Master, I suggested that my uncle attend the ceremony.
When we arrived at the auditorium, the Dharma assembly had already begun. It was so crowded inside that we couldn’t find seats so we watched the TV monitor outside. I thought: “I have come all this way to see the Master; I must see him with my own eyes.” I returned to the auditorium and heard this announcement over the speakers: “People in the back, please come to the front; there are seats available.” The seats reserved for Dharma Masters were not full, and I found a seat in the third row! My first impression of the Master was that he smiled all the time and was extremely kind. My heart was filled with joy. His answers to the audience’s questions were quick and witty, and were surprisingly admirable. I was extremely happy all night. After we got back to my uncle’s place, my cousin, who was a volunteer, gave me an application for taking refuge, and said there would be a refuge ceremony the next day. Without thinking twice, I filled it out. On October 31, I took refuge with the Triple Jewel. Without really catching what was said in the ceremony, I became a Buddhist.
After taking refuge, I felt an unprecedented joy, which lingered for a long time. The Venerable Master said that those who took refuge should bow 10,000 times to become his disciples. I got up early everyday and bowed 100 times in the worship room, and in a little over three months I completed 10,000 bows. Having become a Buddhist, I thought I should become vegetarian. Some of my colleagues were placing orders for vegetarian lunchboxes; I joined them and my family members did not object. Later on, whenever there were parties and even once when there was a trip to Europe, my colleagues and the group leader would kindly arrange vegetarian food for me. Therefore, I believe that being vegetarian is not that inconvenient; it all depends on one’s determination.
The next time the Venerable Master’s delegation came to Taiwan, I took the five precepts. My wish to enroll in the Buddhist Academy and become a nun became stronger and stronger; I felt I might not have a chance to do so if I procrastinated. The second day after I resigned from my job, the colleague whom I had asked about the Buddhist Academy told me, “I’m going to Wonderful Dharma Temple tomorrow and I can take you to the Academy.” I quickly packed my things and was ready to go. Before I left home, my mother said, “Don’t come back again if you can’t take the hardship.” It seemed that she had a hunch I’d leave the home life. After the interview, the Dharma Masters suggested that I try it out first. So I stayed and attended a recitation session. I felt good about it and stayed on. A month later, I decided to move to the temple and went back home to clean up my things. As soon as I stepped in the house, my mother said, “You sure gave up everything just like that, without even making a call!” Originally I had thought she was okay with my decision; I didn’t realize that she was still worried.
Back at the Academy, some Dharma Masters joked, “Maybe the next time the Master comes, you will become a nun.” Before long, there was news that the Venerable Master would come to Taiwan in a few months to speak Dharma and that there would be a leaving home ceremony. During that time, when we listened to his lecture tapes, I often heard the Master say, “If you don’t leave the home life, I’m not going to wait for you any longer. I won’t take disciples anymore.” The policy was that the applicants had to live for two years at the Academy, and I had only been there a little over three months. However, I plucked up the courage to apply, in the hope that I might be approved. That time the Master accepted almost everyone who applied. In January 1993, I became a monastic, which is the only thing I had done right in my life so far. I really feel that the opportunity to study Buddhism and leave the home life is hard to come by. You have to be determined. Only by giving, can one benefit. Make sure to seize the opportunity, or else it will pass you by.