Amitofo! Today it is my turn to speak. Please correct me if I say something wrong..
Often times, the events we read in the newspaper don’t really make an impression on us unless we experience them ourselves. Once something happens to us, we say, “If I only knew ahead of time!” However, by then it may be too late! For instance, I feel pity for the thousands of people killed in earthquakes or those killed in the war, as reported by the news media. But since I am not directly involved in those incidents, with time I will gradually forget about them. I am not deeply touched by them, unless they involve people close to me. For example, yesterday a Dharma Master said we should transfer the merit of the Great Compassion Repentance to Dharma Master Jin Bai at the Rebirth Hall. Only then did I realize that Impermanence strikes quickly and Birth and Death are great matters. We should ponder how to utilize our limited time.
We have faced numberless tests in school or in other matters during our lives. Which test do you worry about the most?
I faced my biggest test during the summer. Can anyone of you guess my grade? Of course I failed this test being the kind of living being I am. Fortunately, with encouragement from many people around me, this test became a trial which allowed me the opportunity to study more to attain better results when the next test comes along.
What kind of test did I face? A small part of my body was infected, but I thought the nausea and loss of appetite were caused by a cold. I only saw a Chinese doctor. After one week, I was sent to the emergency room due to the great pain and vomiting. The nurse asked me to describe the intensity of the pain using the numbers 1 to 10: 1 meant the least painful and 10 the most. It was a very simple question, but I had to think about it for a while before saying 10. I wanted to say 20, but did not want her to think that I was deranged.
I was transferred from the emergency room to a patient room. In addition to the pain, I was vomiting and had diarrhea. I did not know that the nurse was changing my sheets and when she laid the cover, which was folded in a square, on my body, I screamed loudly, scaring her. She asked me what was wrong. The reality was at that time I would scream out with pain if even a Kleenex landed on me.
The moment I was in the ambulance, my elder sister asked me to recite the name of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva. But all I knew was the pain, nothing else. My sister had to remind me again before I remembered that Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva existed. I was given shots for pain every four or six hours, but they did not work. I was told to push the button for morphine which was right by my bed, but I was not willing to do so. Since the pain killers did not work, would morphine be effective? Even though it was so painful that I could not speak, I did not want my consciousness drugged. I wished to be conscious. The doctor treated me with three kinds of antibiotics without success. Finally, he decided on surgery. Before the operation, for five days, I kept throwing up whatever I ate or drank, along with bitter and sour fluids from my body. I could not sleep well. During the long nights, I thought of what Venerable Master wrote about how he could barely breathe after throwing up upon his encounter with the water demon during his boat trip in China when he was a young monk. I was probably in the same way. The Venerable Master survived; how about me? The infected part was taken out during the surgery, but all the intestines stuck together and the doctor had to clean them with one gallon of medicinal solution before putting them back in my body. It was probably the same feeling as stated in the
Earth Store Sutra, “…their guts are pulled out, sawed and chopped apart.” For me, at that time the hospital was really like a miniature hell! After the surgery, I was very weak and did not even have the strength to sit up. My head felt so heavy, it was hard for me to hold it up. I was in bed for almost one month.
At that time, I thought I would die very soon. My husband, children, elder sister and brother-in-law were by my side, but they could not help me with my pain. The
Earth Store Sutra also states, “Father and sons have the closest relationship, but their roads diverge and each goes his own way. Even if they should meet, neither would consent to undergo suffering in the other’s place.” The Sutra text of “Universal Worthy’s Conduct and Vows” also states, “the last
kshana-instant before one’s death, all the organs become scattered and deteriorate; all your family members and relatives are to be left behind; all the power and prestige will go away; and the prime minister, high-ranking officials, elephants and horse carriages, jewels and treasures will not accompany the deceased.” I know only the name of “Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva” can accompany me.
I did not pray to Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva or the Venerable Master to lengthen my life. My only thought was it was too bad I learned and practiced the Buddhadharma so late and so slowly. I did not do a good job in faith, understanding, practice, and realization and will continue to flow in the cycle of karma, having wasted this lifetime.
After I studied the Buddhadharma, I often heard about the power of Amitabha Buddha’s vow, whereby one who can recite his name singlemindedly ten times can be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. I used to think it was not difficult at all since we could always recite his names ten times in a single breath. My recent illness made me realize that one who is in severe pain or critically ill can lack the willpower to do even that. The thought of the pain will overwhelm everything else. The pain weakened and prevented me from reciting the Buddha’s name even once. How can we recite the Buddha’s name continuously while suffering and dying from excruciating pain? If we don’t cultivate all the time, and instead let ourselves be turned by the states, we won’t know where we will be reborn.
I also wondered where Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva was when the pain occurred. Later I remembered the following verse in the Universal Door Chapter:
In thought after thought have no doubt:
Guan Shi Yin is pure and sagely.
In times of suffering, agony, danger, and death,
He is our refuge and protector.
And I also recalled:
One holds this Bodhisattva’s name not in vain,
For he can extinguish the suffering of all realms of existence.
Only then could I recite Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva’s name without cease.
After returning to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, I slowly regained my strength and realized that while I was sick, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva had skillfully made arrangements for my elder sister to provide me such thorough care; for my brother-in-law to constantly check on my well-being; for my two children to take turns reciting the Universal Door Chapter every morning and afternoon; for our visa applications to be approved; for my friends to send get-well cards, flowers and reminders to recite Buddha’s name and realize that illness was a way to make progress in cultivation… and other words of encouragement; and well wishes for a full recovery. Later on, I also realized that some people even liberated lives, recited Sutras and the Buddha’s name on my behalf, or transferred the merit from attending the session to celebrate Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s Enlightenment… I think all of these are the main reasons for this test to become a trial test. Besides, many good advisors brought food, brewed Chinese herbal medicines for me, and advised me on how to care for myself, etc. I am very happy to be together with these kind people. I am thankful for what you all have done for me and for giving me an opportunity to study Buddhadharma. In the journey of reaching the Land of Amitabha Buddha, I wish we all can encourage each other, study and make progress together, and be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Amitofo.