Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, good advisors:
My name is Chin Long. First, I would like to thank the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and our Venerable Master for silently helping me to come all the way from China to participate in this Dharma Assembly at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Since I may go back to China, I would like to share my thoughts with you after my one-year stay here.
The first point I would like to bring up is that the Proper Dharma is difficult to come by. My faith in the Buddha started more than a decade ago. For seven or eight years, I would recite the name of Guanyin Bodhisattva whenever I was in a difficult situation, imploring Guanyin Bodhisattva to bail me out of trouble. I only prayed to the Buddhas in times of emergency. During ordinary times, I was not mindful of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, casual about the precepts, and nonchalant in my cultivation. Looking at the people around me, I saw that we were pretty much the same way.
It was not until I encountered the instructional talks of our Venerable Master that I began to understand what Buddhism truly is. The ideal in Buddhism is to find one’s true self, one’s true nature, and not be a victim of one’s own six sense faculties–eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind. This was my first discernment. Having come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, I practice sitting meditation a lot. I feel that learning Buddhism involves not only understanding the principles but putting them into practice and eventually realizing their truth. That is why I am very blessed to have encountered our Venerable Master’s teaching, and also to have come to the City to practice.
To find such Proper Dharma in present day China is extremely difficult. When the Proper Dharma is not being practiced, then deviant dharma appears. I have many friends who strayed down the wrong path. I myself run into a lot of danger while learning Buddhism; I nearly went astray, too. I am deeply grateful to our Venerable Master and his lectures on the Shurangama Sutra, which has been very helpful to me.
The second point I would like to share is my perception of the suffering of life. I became acutely aware of this a week before I came to the United States. I have an uncle (my father’s elder brother) who used to enjoy good health. He had a glowing complexion and high energy. One day, he felt his energy waning. Not getting attention from his family, he took it upon himself to take medicine to boost his energy, not knowing that it would cause adverse side effects. When he finally went to the hospital for a check up, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was almost beyond cure. Being a farmer, he did not have money and thus requested to be discharged from the hospital. He went home to wait for his final hour. After the diagnosis, his condition worsened rapidly. He lived quite a distance from my family. When my father visited him, he was close to death. When he saw my father, his tears flowed. Although he could not speak at that time, he knew deep down in his heart what his situation was. When my father left, his tears flowed again. I had previously given my uncle an audiotape of Amitabha Buddha Recitation. Probably because he had never studied Buddhism in the past, after listening to the recitation tape, he commented, “What is this for? When I see this, I feel ill at ease.” From this, it is clear that we should not wait until we are old to study Buddhism. By then, it may be too late. Hence, we should all cherish the precious time we have.
Another incident occurred prior to my coming to the United States. My father was sick for a period of half-a-year to a year. He was in bed the whole time. My mother was not home. When she occasionally traveled from afar to visit him, she commiserated in his agony. My father himself claimed that it was painful to bear. Then, my mother went to my grandmother’s gravesite. After making her bows, she said, “Please take your son away.” Three days later, my father passed away. When my mother was changing my deceased father’s clothing, she discovered that there was not a piece of intact skin left on his entire body. The caretaker hired to look after him had probably scalded him with a hot sponge bath. The pathetic part is that since he could not speak at that point, he could only shed tears of misery.
These two incidents were enough to motivate me to participate in last year’s Guanyin Session. This is now my second time to particpate in a Guanyin Session. I do feel that I have improved from the last time. Before doing these sessions, I had never practiced sitting meditation. I did not know how.
I would recite sutras occasionally. Basically, I could not sit still. My legs were very stiff. After some training, I can now sit still for one hour. The most important factor is patience. This is what I learned. Since I am aware of the benefits of Chan meditation, I chose to live very near the Institute for World Religions (Berkeley), where I join their hour-long Chan meditation every morning at 6 o’clock.
The leg pain you experience in Chan meditation is anguish. You can hardly sit still. On the other hand, the benefit of aching legs is you cannot doze off since you are in pain. When I go to Berkeley Monastery before dawn, I feel sleepy. When I leave after sitting meditation, my energy level is high and I feel great. This is my own observation. Aching legs do serve a purpose.
Lastly, I have a very sincere wish. I wish that should the chance arise in the future, I beseech that our Dharma Masters will go to China to propagate the Buddhadharma taught by our Venerable Master. This would enable more people starving for Buddhadharma in China to hear the Proper Dharma and help them retrieve what they have lost. This is my most earnest wish.