I want to talk about a person who was an eloquent speaker, Shramanerika Jin Bai Shi. From the Venerable Master’s instructional talks, we know that there are two methods of speaking the Dharma. One is with the body and the other is with the mouth. If you are able to speak Dharma with great eloquence so that heavenly flowers will fall from the sky, then the listeners may get temporary benefits. If you only speak and do not practice what you say, no one will have faith in you. However, if you speak Dharma with your body, you will serve as a model for others. They will believe what you say and will admire you. By merely observing your actions, they will bring forth the Bodhi mind and correct their past mistakes and cultivate in the future. One’s teaching and transforming power becomes greater when one lives what one says. Jin Bai Shi seldom went on stage to speak Dharma, but as the Venerable Master taught us, she did the same at all times. She spoke Dharma with her body, not with her mouth. In my opinion, she is one of the most eloquent speakers of Dharma. What did she say?
The Venerable Master said, “In cultivation, we should not be so clever in a worldly sense, but learn to be simpleminded, like a fool. Being simpleminded is not that easy, even if we want to be. Whenever a state comes, it tells us that we are not a fool at all, but quite sharp. There is a saying: ‘One should develop great stupidity, then one will become ingenious.’ To cultivate the Way, we need to develop stupidity—the more stupid we are, the better. If we are stupid and don’t know anything, we won’t have any false thinking. If we insist on being intelligent, then our false thoughts will increase. We will be like archaeologists, who study the past to satisfy our present curiosity or we will be simply tending to someone else’s business. It’s the same as reading the newspapers to find out news about someone else. All these things obstruct our cultivation. In cultivating the Way, we should not make excuses for ourselves and not be arrogant, talking about the good and bad points of others.” In all the years I knew Jin Bai Shi, I observed that she truly developed this kind of stupidity which the Venerable Master spoke of. In doing so, she became outstanding in a kind of silent eloquence, rising above the mundane affairs of others.
We consider her everyday actions as a representative of her honesty which everyone could see. In fulfillment of her responsibilities at the City of the Dharma Realm, she took on the difficult task of driving long distances and maintaining the monastery grounds and water system. No matter how busy she was, she never refused to help someone in need. Looking at her, one would not think of her as being well-educated. However, in Malaysia, where she grew up, she graduated from pre-college Form Six.
When she was growing up, her family knew hard times, eking their living out of a small grocery store. As soon as Jin Bai Shi was old enough, she helped in the store part time, while attending school. Later she worked six or seven years as a salesperson for a life insurance company. There are many stories of her going beyond the call of duty to care for the needs of her customers. For example, she once spent several nights in a hospital, tending to a customer who was sick. Needless to say, she was immensely appreciated by her customers and the company she worked for. It is hard to imagine her selling insurance before she left the home-life, because salespeople usually speak fast and flowery words to persuade others to buy their products. Jin Bai Shi, on the other hand, spoke in a soft, gentle manner. She never showed a trace of arrogance. Many people received their B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees and held high management positions in companies or served as government officials, and after they left home, they put themselves above others. For them to subdue their arrogance was indeed difficult.
When Jin Bai Shi announced to her family her intentions to leave everything to come to the United States and enter the monastic order to become a nun, her father hid her passport so she could not apply for a visa. Facing the test, she did not complain at all. Instead, she went to the branch temple near her home and requested a Dharma Master there to burn with incense these seven characters on both her arms: Na Mwo Di Zang Wang Pu Sa (Homage to Earth Store King Bodhisattva) Afterwards, she bowed and repented of her karmic obstacles to the Bodhisattva. Returning home, she fasted for seven days. Her father, who was moved by her devotion and determination, gave his approval for her to leave home. Before embarking on her journey, she withdrew all her savings from the bank and gave them to her father. Her house, she gave to her brother; and her car to her sister. With an empty purse, she boarded the plane for America to cultivate. Most people would have kept some money for travel, medicine, or for personal use. Jin Bai Shi surpassed others in that she “saw through it all and put it down.”
Those who knew Jin Bai Shi hold an image of her smiling sincerely and remaining calm. The Venerable Master told us, “If you strictly hold the precepts, you won’t lose your temper. How does one know if you have skill in cultivation? How can people tell if you have perfect cultivation? It is that no matter what state you meet, good or bad, you will maintain your peace and be at ease.” This really applied to Jin Bai Shi. I remember once, when I was at the City of Dharma Realm, she and two Bhikshunis took on the arduous task of installing a sewage system in the dry, desolate heat of September and October. During that time, we didn’t see her in class or in the Buddha Hall except for the morning ceremony at 4:00 a.m. Many unexpected difficulties occurred. In times when others’ tempers would easily flare, Jin Bai Shi never complained but did her best to do her work. Several months had passed; she missed her chances for classes and ceremonies in the Buddha Hall.
No one worried about her because her sense of responsibility for getting the job done well overrode her concern for rest. After driving to the airport to send someone off at midnight, or to a meeting far away, no matter how late she arrived home, she always got up at 3:30 a.m. and attended the 4 a.m. ceremony the next day and worked with others during the daytime. No matter how exhausted she was, she also practiced sleeping in a sitting position at night, a practice that few left-home people do. Even at night, she was constantly vigorous.
We are conducting the Three-Platform Ordination this summer. Last year someone recommended that if Jin Bai Shr recovered from her illness, she should serve as leader of the Shramanerikas in the precept transmission. Dharma Master Gwei said, “Of all the Shramanerikas I have taught over the years, none compare with Jin Bai Shi in showing respect, humility and unselfishness, not only to me but to everyone. She is number one among the Shramanerikas.”
After her passing away in November, many
sharira were found in her ashes. Among them were three teeth-sharira, which was not surprising. This is because she did not gossip or talk about others’ faults, and she didn’t listen to others gossip, either. She singlemindedly cultivated the Way.
When Jin Bai Shi passed away, her family was grief-stricken. Her sister asked, “Why did she have to die so young? She was only 39 years old. If she could have lived longer, she would have influenced many more people.” Dharma Master Gwei explained to her, “In the eyes of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, a 100 years or 100,000 years is only a moment in time. From a different standpoint, whether one’s life is long or short does not matter, it’s what they do with it. Jin Bai Shi was always careful to finish her work, leaving nothing undone. With her work in this world done, it was fitting for her to go.” Her family understood and said that they were proud of her accomplishments, that she had brought happiness and joy into the lives of many people. Now all her family members have become vegetarians.
Some of us personally received the Venerable Master’s teaching and transforming, but many never saw him. No matter whether one saw him or not, he left us all with the Dharma treasure which is limitless and boundless. Jin Bai Shi was one of those who did not see the Venerable Master, yet she put his instructions into practice. From her I saw a living example of the Six Guiding Principles of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas—no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuit of self-benefit and no lying. She was a role model not only for monastics, but for all cultivators.