I am from Atlanta, Georgia. Today I would like to talk about how I came to study the Buddhadharma and how I decided to move to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB).
In 1982 my husband and I immigrated to the United States and lived in Atlanta. The environment there is very similar to Taiwan. The scenery is beautiful. The four seasons are clear. There are no earthquakes, tornados, or floods. Ever since I married, I have lived with my father and mother-in-law. When they found out we were coming to America and were waiting for green cards, they came here first to wait for us. Since my husband and I have no children, we devote ourselves to looking after our parents. That’s why they like living with us.
At first I didn’t want to come because I had no friends and no job, and even language and transportation were a problem. I had to start from the beginning. I began studying Buddhism in Atlanta. Since then, I have met faithful Buddhists and drawn near to good advisors. I am indebted to my husband for bringing me to America and allowing me to support and make offerings to the Triple Jewel. That was how I developed affinities for coming to live at CTTB. My co-worker thought of endless ways to come to America but couldn’t get a passport; I didn’t want to come but very easily immigrated to America. Now, I have no regrets and sincerely hope that my coworker will also be able to walk the Bodhi path.
In 1987 I went back to Taiwan to attend my mother’s funeral. In 1988 I went back again. My friend convinced me to eat vegetarian food and introduced me to the Dharma. She said, “Come! Let’s see what book in this restaurant you have affinities with. It’s the
Earth Treasury Sutra. You have affinities with Earth Treasury Bodhisattva.” “How can that be?” I asked. “Why should I have affinities with Earth Treasury Bodhisattva? I should have affinities with Guanyin Bodhisattva.” She told me that it was best to be strictly vegetarian when I was reciting the
Earth Treasury Sutra. I took her advice. When I came back to America, I began reciting the Earth Treasury Sutra for seven days each month. I rarely went out during those times because it was difficult to remain a pure vegetarian outside.
In 1988 my father-in-law passed away. In 1991, on Earth Treasury Bodhisattva’s birthday I learned that the Atlanta Buddhist Association (ABA) was going to hold a ceremony led by Dharma Masters. I told my husband, “Today is Earth Treasury Bodhisattva’s birthday. You’d better drive me to the Buddhist Association.” That was the first time I joined the ABA.
In 1992 my mother-in-law passed away. That year, I took the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts. Ever since, I have recited the Earth Treasury Sutra daily.
In October 1992, six Dharma Masters, three monks and three nuns, came from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to share the Dharma and host Dharma activities; their chanting was excellent. When we circumambulated the Buddhas or recited the Great Compassion Mantra, my tears kept streaming down. Although the Dharma Masters were all so young, they could gather me in and I felt grateful a thousand times over.
At the end of that year six people from the ABA came to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to attend the intensive Guanyin Session. One person couldn’t stand the bitter cold and left after one day, but the other five stayed. At that time, everyone was required to complete a thousand bows during break time each day. At first, the five couldn’t meet the required number. But towards the end of the session, some were able to make up the bows they missed during the first few days. When they came back, they reported their experiences. One man recalled, “When I started bowing, I couldn’t walk the first few days. I had to hold on to the wall to support myself.” Everyone thought this was very funny. These five Dharma friends had entered a treasure mountain and came back with valuables. They inspired a beginner like me to want to come and try it out.
So in March, 1993, two other people and I came to CTTB to attend a Guanyin Session. For a couple of days, my tears kept falling whenever we circumambulated reciting Guanyin Bodhisattva’s holy name. Someone told us that the Master would be at Gold Mountain Monastery by the end of the session. So after the session we rushed to Gold Mountain for lunch. In the afternoon, during the bowing of the Water Samadhi Repentance, a Dharma Master told us that we could go to the airport if we wanted to meet the Master. Finally we could meet him! We looked at each other with tears in our eyes. I had also prepared a red envelope for him. That evening we followed the Dharma Masters to the International Translation Institute (ITI). We thought to ourselves, “Aren’t we going to the airport?” We went upstairs to listen to the lecture and wait for the Master. Towards the end, I felt very fidgety and kept thinking that we wouldn’t be able to see the Ven. Master. After the lecture, we went downstairs and asked the Dharma Master at the front desk about the Ven. Master. She said that something important had come up at CTTB and the Ven. Master had rushed there to deal with it. When the Ven. Master went to Atlanta to propagate the Dharma, I had not learned Buddhism yet. Now, I had gone from CTTB to Gold Mountain, from Gold Mountain to ITI, and have been to CTTB twice, and still, I had not met the Ven. Master. I sighed thinking that I did not have the blessings to see him. But I couldn’t force it and just kept the red envelope I had prepared for the Master as a souvenir.
In October, 1994, I came to CTTB for the second time to attend the Guanyin Session. In June the next year, I received a phone call from the Association telling me that Master Hsuan Hua had departed. I couldn’t believe my ears – it couldn’t be true! He once said, “When I live to be a hundred, I will burn my body in offering to the Buddhas.” How can he have entered Nirvana? Did he really go and leave everything behind?
In July, my husband and I and three others came to CTTB to attend the Master’s cremation. There were about two thousand people from all over the world. Towards the end of the cremation ceremony, Dharma Master Ming Yang lifted a burning torch high and shouted, “Burn!” As he set the coffin on fire, many disciples cried hard. I couldn’t help but believe in the impermanence of the world – it is ever changing: mountains, rivers, the earth, and everything, how much the more is this the case with human beings? We may cry till our voices turn hoarse and our eyes grow puffy, but we cannot call this loving good knowing advisor back. The next night we respectfully gazed upon the Master’s sharira. The following morning, several Dharma Masters ascended into the sky with the
sharira in a hot air balloon following the Master’s wishes, and scattered his ashes into space. This is another event of my life that I will never forget!
The 1995 Amitabha Session was two weeks long. I told myself, “wonderful!” I had brought a lot of clothing because I knew that it would be very cold in the winter at CTTB. At night I covered myself with four blankets but my nose still felt icy. You can see how unaccustomed I was to this place in the early days. The event I enjoyed most during the sessions that year was the Great Transference. The Dharma Masters who usually appear very serious and solemn, during these moments looked happy with adorned smiles. Each attracted me like images of Guanyin Bodhisattva. Isn’t this what the Western Pure Land looks like? How beautiful! How wonderful!
I have been attending the Sessions for the last three years, and my favorite part is still the Great Transference. My Dharma friends really looked vigorous when they ran until they were nearly out of breath. Once a Dharma Master said, “During the Great Transference, one is supposed to run as if hurrying towards the Land of Ultimate Bliss, instead of walking slowly.” One Dharma Master, who was nearly eighty years old but didn’t want to be left behind, ran very fast too. I feel very blessed to live here with so many good advisors and Dharma friends. I hope everyone will be harmonious and cooperative and support this monastery of the Proper Dharma and realize the Buddha Path together.