父親為增強其信心，與堅定其毅力，常為她講解「念佛法門」的殊勝，教導她如何堅定念佛，將身體的病痛減到最低點。父親並抄寫一段某位大德的嘉句鼓勵她：「為人多病未足羞，一生無病是堪憂！」非真用功者，不知此語之妙也！ 並勸導她：「苦與樂只是人生的表象，終不久留，所以無須往心裡去的，要把它當垃圾丟掉！現今最重要的是，要如何念佛得力，在這一生就能了脫生死！」 母親在父親的悉心呵護與鼓勵下，逐漸的放下心中的牽掛與煩憂，不理會身體的痛楚，專心誠敬的念佛及念經，與觀相念佛。
The friendship of my parents which spanned life and death
My parents attended schools during the period of time when China was in a state of chaos caused by war. After the Sino-Japanese War ended, they met, got married and established a family. They were married for 55 years.
When my parents were young, my father was often absent due to his work. My mother shouldered the responsibility of raising and educating her children, without any complaints or regrets. In her mind, my father was unique and irreplaceable. She always told us, “At home, your father is forever number one! Without him, you and I would not be who we are today!” My mother not only took care of my father in every possible way, but also undertook all matters in the family. In this way, my father did not have any extra worries and could devote himself to serving the country wholeheartedly.
From our perspective, our parents seldom quarreled. My father felt grateful to my mother for painstakingly taking care of him and their children all her life. Accordingly, whenever my mother was not feeling well, he would always comfort her, give her guidance, and melt away the worries in her mind. He became her spiritual support. My father often told the five of us, my siblings and myself, “Your mother suffered great hardships to raise and educate you. She dedicated all her life to our family. You definitely have to be filial to her!”
When they slipped into their autumn years, they came to America to settle down. Fortunately enough, they met the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua and were exposed to the Buddhadharma. Both of them gradually walked the path of spiritual cultivation. Serious and taciturn, my father enjoyed solitude. In contrast, as a more outgoing person, my mother loved to make friends and attend Dharma assemblies or other activities. Even though my parents had different personalities, my father coordinated with her as much as possible, attending various Dharma assemblies with her. Sometimes he would also share with her what he had learned from studying the Buddhist sutras and taught her various ways to reduce her worries. Reciprocally, my mother tried her best to support his aspiration to dedicate himself to spiritual cultivation. My mother once told me, “Since your father is so keen on spiritual cultivation, we should not obstruct him!”
The years from 1989 to 1995 were the most joyous times for my parents throughout their entire lives. Frequently, they would pay a visit to the Venerable Master Hua in San Francisco or participate in the Dharma assemblies at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas together. Occasionally, they would also attend a gathering or join an outing with their Buddhist friends. During this period of time, both my parents were physically healthy and mentally joyful. Having cast out all the stress and affliction accumulated in the past, they spent all their energy on studying and practicing the Buddhadharma.
By the end of 1998, my mother’s health gradually went downhill. Consequently, she would easily slip into a depressed mood. Whenever she felt depressed or irritable, my father was all ears as she poured out her emotions. He became her psychotherapist as well as her fellow practitioner and Dharma companion. My father often instructed her how to be mindful of the Buddha and how to properly contemplate the Buddha. He frequently told her, “Only by putting down everything in your mind and concentrating on mindfulness of the Buddha would one be able to resonate with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and receive a response.” My mother accepted his advice humbly. To the best of her ability, she wholeheartedly practiced mindfulness of the Buddha and sutra recitation.
In 1999, my parents stipulated that they must center their daily conversations on the Buddhadharma, avoiding secular topics as much as possible; if they accidentally touched upon worldly concerns or worries, they must immediately remind and correct each other. Every evening, they would recite the Buddha’s name together for an hour. After their practice, my father would massage her for ten or twenty minutes and give her a few words of comfort before they went to bed.
In March, 2000, my father realized that my mother’s health problems were rather serious. Yet, he remained calm and collected. He simply assisted and cared for her and tried his best to cheer her up. At that time, my mother was getting feebler, but my father still insisted on practicing Buddha recitation with her for an hour every evening. Holding her hand carefully and gently, my father would lead my mother into the small Buddha hall to recite the Buddha’s name. After they concluded the practice, he would again hold my mother by her arms, slowly lead her back to her room, arrange her quilt, assist her to lie down and rest, and give her a few words of comfort. During this period of time the quality of her sleep at night was deteriorating. When it came to the time when she was unable to sleep late at night, she could not help but ask my father to accompany her. No matter how tired he was, he would invariably fulfill her wish. He would sit next to her bed to accompany her and talk to her, giving her a sense of security. In the early morning when my mother finally fall asleep, my father would return to his room to sit in meditation and recite the Buddha’s name. The times during which he got up late at night to accompany my mother through the endless night lasted for approximately half a year.
In order to strengthen her faith and perseverance, my father regularly explained to her the remarkable wonders of the Buddha recitation practice and guided her to recite the Buddha’s name resolutely in order to minimize her physical pain. Additionally, my father transcribed a fine quote by a greatly virtuous one to encourage her: “To be sickly as a human is not shameful; to be free of illness for one’s entire life is worrisome!” One who is not practicing seriously would not be able to appreciate the subtle wonder of this saying! My father further encouraged her, “Suffering and happiness are just the phenomena of human life; they do not linger long. Thus pay them no mind, simply discard them as if they were trash. Right now, the most important thing is to recite the Buddha’s name effectively, so that in this very life, you will be able to end birth and death!” With his utmost care, support and encouragement, my mother gradually put down the worries and afflictions in her mind and disregarded her physical pain. With sincerity, respect and single-minded devotion, she recited the Buddha’s name and sutras and practiced mindfulness of the Buddha using the contemplation method.
At the end of October, 2000, after her operation, my mother professed to my father that she wished to go, requesting my father to help her. In order to settle her mind, my father told her calmly, “I can recite the Buddha’s name a hundred thousand times and dedicate the merit to you. But to be reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, you have to rely on your own faith and vows. Other things are merely conditions that can support you! If you are willing to put down everything, you definitely will be able to go there!” His determination and sincerity comforted her and set her mind at ease.
After that, she often told us, “Henceforth, do not call me ‘mom’! Your father, I and all of you should call one another fellow practitioners!” In addition, she told my younger sister to convey the message to my father, saying, “He walks on his spiritual path, and I walk on mine; he and I are fellow practitioners without any husband-and-wife relationship!”
During the period of time when my mother was bedridden, besides the set time during which my father sat in meditation and recited the Buddha’s name, his remaining time was dedicated to accompanying her as much as possible. Each time he would always hold her hands and comfort her gently, thereby giving her strength. Seven days before my mother passed away, she saw with her own eyes Amitabha Buddha and a lotus flower. After that, she gradually became less dependent on my father.
Afterwards, my father recollected, “After your mother saw Amitabha Buddha, when I held her hands, I felt she no longer needed any external support! At that time, the pressure in my heart was significantly relieved, as I knew she had the assurance to be reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss!” At noon on November 11 of that same year, my mother peacefully passed away. At that time our family members immediately gathered in her room to recite the Buddha’s name. As I saw my father sitting upright in full-lotus position, reciting the Buddha’s name wholeheartedly and not being affected by the passing of his spouse, I genuinely admired him. I also had less worry for him in my heart.
My father felt deeply gratified and relieved that my mother knew in advance the time of her departure and eventually passed away peacefully. On the seventh day after my mother passed away, he told us, “When I realized that your mother’s health was out of sorts, I started to plan how to help her to let go of the myriad worldly concerns, in order to strengthen her faith and vow to be reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. At that time I did not have full confidence that she could do it. Little did I know that she would actually make it! I could finally put down the burden in my heart!” My father kept his promise. On the forty-ninth day after my mother’s departure, he finished reciting the Buddha’s name a hundred thousand times and dedicated the merit to her.
Being my mother’s bosom friend and cherishing her, my father walked my mother to the end of her life journey. His equanimity, stability, as well as his compassion and sincerity enabled my mother to decisively cut off family affections and worldly affairs. Calmly and confidently, she was able to face impermanence and the great matter of life and death, to recite the Buddha’s name wholeheartedly and eventually, to be reborn in the Western Pure Land. My father elevated the conjugal affection between him and my mother to a more sublime sense of responsibility and commitment. As her fellow practitioner and Dharma companion, he supported her and helped her to accomplish her spiritual cultivation. I was deeply moved in my heart and genuinely admired him. He enabled me to grasp the true implication of “sublimating the selfish desire for petty, sensual love to practice the great compassion of the Bodhisattva path”.
The image of my father holding and supporting my mother to practice Buddha recitation is like a drawing that can never be erased. It is deeply etched in my heart and for the rest of my life will never be forgotten!
To be continued