Perhaps because of my dull roots, I did not get to learn about Buddhadharma until after I graduated from college. I was introduced to Buddhism by a Buddhist colleague. Subsequently, in the process of contributing to the printing and distribution of sutras and books, I gradually acquired sutras to read and images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to worship. This went on for seven or eight years. Speaking of my true understanding of Buddhism, I would have to start with when my husband, Guo-Rong, and I took the refuge with the Venerable Master Hua.
At that time, we owned a shoe store, which had been passed down from the previous generation in our family. The business of the store became better and better in our hands. In October 1988, a respected dharma sister who came regularly to collect donations from us told us some news: the Venerable Master Hua from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in the U.S. was coming to propagate the Buddhadharma with his disciples throughout Taiwan. The last Dharma Assembly was to be held at Zhongshan Hall on November 3rd in Taipei. She suggested that we seize this opportunity and participate in this event. (This was the first time I had ever heard of the Master’s name. How ignorant I was!) We promised that we would go. However, on November 2nd, we were extra busy due to a sudden increase of customers. We did not get to close the store until really late that night. We dragged our tired bodies home. As usual, I cooked some noodles in the kitchen as our midnight snack. (At that time, I had been a lacto-vegetarian for two years.) My husband and I were chatting as we were eating our snacks. All of a sudden, I realized something and said, “The first five days of every month are paydays. No wonder our business was extra good today. It would be a pity to give up such good profits in order to participate in the Dharma assembly. Let’s not go to the event tomorrow.” This is a typical sign of getting confused and lost in the craving for money. Right after I said this, both of our stomachs started growling. We had to take turns to use the toilet. At the time, my three-year-old daughter, Kuan-Yi, who also ate the noodles, looked at us oddly and said, “Daddy, Mommy, what happened?” “Who knows?” I said to myself. We went to the bathroom a couple of times and the problem did not get better. Another thought crossed my mind: “Maybe we should go to the assembly tomorrow.” My husband nodded in agreement. Strangely enough, at that moment the diarrhea stopped without any medication. After such a horrible experience, we, greedy and tough in nature, could not do anything but keep our promise and go to the Dharma lecture.
Before I start talking about the first lecture I heard from the Venerable Master, let me tell you about a weird dream I had in the past.
It was about 1978 when I was a freshman in college. I was home for the summer. Due to the extreme hot summer in southern Taiwan, I decided to take a nap on my porch in the afternoon. In my dream, I saw a lofty old man sitting outside of my classroom. His eyebrows and beard were long and white; his eyes were bright and clear. He was reading my classmates’ palms as a fortuneteller. I naturally joined the group that was waiting in line. Soon it was my turn. When I extended my right palm, the elder touched my wrist with his fingertip and threw these words at me: “You are too selfish.” Then he turned around and left. I was so confused by what he said. I was not sure what I had done to offend him. I chased after the fast-walking elder, not daring to slow down a bit. As the elder was walking swiftly away from me, I realized that the feet underneath his flowing robe did not touch the ground. I thought to myself: “I’ll never be able to catch up with him; why don’t I just ask him questions while I am running?” I said, “Mister, I want to correct my shortcomings that you just told me about. But you’ve got to tell me how I should change myself.” Once the elder heard my words, he seemed satisfied and slowed down. As soon as I caught up, he very solemnly took a picture out his pocket. Oh, it was actually a negative, not a picture. It was two by two in size. He slid the negative in front of me and said, “You should learn from him.” I took a close look at the negative as if I was looking at a real picture. I tried to figure out whether I knew this person or not. What does he look like? How old is he? I could not make out anything except for the fact that this person was male and had no hair. Then, I realized that it was getting dark. The elder and I were standing in front of an entrance of a building that appeared to be a theater. The lights were splendid on the stage in front of the audience. I did not know what they were doing. Ever since then, this puzzling dream never faded from my memory. It has been glittering in the far corners of my mind trying to remind me of something or encourage me to do something.
At seven o’clock on November 3rd, I followed the crowd into the lobby of Zhongshan Hall—the building that resembled a theater. I had never been here in the past but felt like I had—a
deja vu experience. The seats were full of people gazing upwards in concentration at someone on the splendidly lit stage. Now, I finally knew what ‘they’ were doing and who ‘he’ was. Right away, although there was quite a bit of distance between the Master and me, my vision blurred at my first sight of the Venerable Master. Like a child who had traveled far away from home, I felt an indescribable sadness and closeness like seeing my parents. Following the assembly, we together took the refuge with the Venerable Master, who gave a Dharma talk: “Your homework assignment today is to bow to the Buddha ten thousand times.” When we were fighting to pay our respect by bowing to the Master, he seemed to ‘see’ what was going on despite the distance between the crowd and him. He said, “You should not push each other in trying to come forward without caring if you block someone behind you or not. You should know that the City of the Ten Thousand Buddhas has Six Great Principles. They are: Do not fight, do not be greedy, do not seek, do not be selfish, do not pursue personal advantage and do not lie.” When I heard these words, I felt great respect in my heart. Aren’t these principles used to counteract our bad habits?
Not long after taking the refuge with the Master, we became pure vegetarians and stopped eating eggs. The following year, my daughter, Kuan-Heng, was born. A year after her birth, we gave up the shoe store business.
Many years later, I finally discovered the selfishness within me from a verse and also realized the direction I should diligently march toward. The verse states the Four Vast Vows of a Bodhisattva:
Beings are limitless in number; I vow to liberate them.
Afflictions are inexhaustible; I vow to cut them off.
Dharma doors are immeasurable, I vow to learn them all.
The Buddha’s path is unsurpassed; I vow to realize it.