The last three years living with my father
In February of 2003, after my father caught a cold, his health condition gradually deteriorated. Yet, he still kept up with his regular practice as usual. He even extended his sitting meditation period. Whenever he recalled his relatives or friends who had already passed away, he would sit up to recite the Buddha’s name, and dedicate the merit to them. Many times, I accidentally saw my father sitting up reciting the Buddha’s name. His solemn and concentrated expression inspired in me utmost faith in the practice of mindfulness of the Buddha.
In June of the same year, he had a lengthy conversation with his family doctor. With a tranquil tone, my father discussed his funeral affairs with the doctor, and signed an agreement stipulating that no emergency treatments were to be given under any critical circumstances. Both the family doctor and I who was attending my father by his side genuinely admired him for his composure and rationality. In July of the same year, my father gathered five of us, my siblings and I, to bring up the subject regarding his funeral affairs. He hoped that he could leave the world peacefully without troubling others; so long as his children could recite the Buddha’s name by his side, it would be sufficient.
When I heard my father’s statement to us, I was grief-stricken; my tears were about to trickle down. I tried to conceal my emotion, but my father saw it through. He immediately comforted me, saying, “Even if one lives to be a hundred, there will still be a time when he has to go. You must be strong and calm when dealing with all matters. Exercise your body, and you will be able to cultivate the spiritual path. After I reach the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, I definitely will be able to help you! All my relatives and friends—whether they believe in the Buddha—I definitely will help them!”
At that time, one of his Buddhist friends was hospitalized and underwent an operation due to an illness. After she left the hospital she endured her pain to make a phone call to my father, pouring out all her physical and mental agonies and worries. My father comforted her, and motivated her to recite the Buddha’s name wholeheartedly. He encouraged her to ignore her illness and physical pain, to let go of the afflictions in her mind, and to practice holding the Buddha’s name perseveringly. In this way, when the last moment came, she would not be affected. After my father hung up, he sighed, saying, “Given the situation, she might not be able to endure the winter this year! I urged her to recite the Buddha’s name with all her might!” As predicted by my father, she passed away approximately two weeks earlier than my father!
At the beginning of August in 2003, my father wrote down a poem on “Conducting Oneself and Handling Matters” to motivate his fellow Buddhist practitioners in the Buddha Recitation Society:
To rely on the mountain—the mountain might collapse;
To rely on a person—the person will grow old.
If one is able to learn something one must learn it well;
If one is able to do something one must do it to completion.
Being self-reliant and constantly improving oneself is the ideal;
Helping oneself and helping others is the most wonderful.
On the Mid-autumn Day of 2003, my father dictated his repentance and vows to me, and requested me to write them down:
“I, Kezheng Wei, wish that all beings in whom I have incurred enmity and my creditors from the accumulated past, would forgive all the mistakes I’ve made in the past, whether intentionally or unintentionally. I earnestly beseech you to not obstruct my spiritual cultivation at this present stage, to allow me to be reborn in the Western Pure Land and attain the “patience of non-production of dharmas” as I wish. Subsequently, I will immediately return to the Saha World, and first take you across to the Other Shore, so that you will leave suffering and attain bliss. I also vow to take across all the numberless living beings in order to fulfill my great Bodhi vow and repay the kindness of the Buddhas and my teachers!”
My father placed this piece of writing on the Buddhist altar, bowed to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and asked me to burn it.
From September 19, 2003 to January 23 of the following year, my father was confined to his bed at all times, and needed someone to take care of his needs in the daily life. Three of my siblings and I divided ourselves into two groups, and took turns to look after him day and night with all our might. We were trying to repay one ten-thousandth of the deep kindness of our father, who had been constantly caring for and protecting us for the past few decades.
In the first three months when he was laid up, he insisted to sit up to meditate. He asked us to support him to go to the Buddha Hall, to offer incense and make obeisance to the Buddha. He also hung on the wall of his room an image of Amitabha Buddha that he regularly contemplated. Whenever he had time he would recite the Buddha’s name or practice mindfulness of the Buddha by contemplation. So long as his physical strength allowed, my younger sister and I would accompany and chat with him. He always remained calm, indifferent to his physical pain. I had never heard him complain about his pain.
He recited the Buddha’s name every morning, and dedicated the merit to all his relatives and friends. Afternoons and evenings were the time when he vigorously practiced. He told me, “I always pray to Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva, beseeching him to enable me to, in this very life, end all my karmic obstructions accumulated from all the past kalpas since time immemorial. Even though I have illnesses and pain, I am willing to accept them. So long as I am able to be reborn in the Western Pure Land, I would have no regrets in this life!”
While attending to him in his room, sometimes I would try to find some light topics to cheer him up. But he seemed to be turning a deaf ear to those topics. Sometimes I asked him, “Dad! Haven’t you always taught us to live happily? Are you feeling not well or unhappy about something?” He replied, “I don’t even fear death, let alone discomfort! It is not the matter of whether I am happy, but whether I could concentrate!” So it turned out that he was actually reciting the Buddha’s name wholeheartedly.
Sometimes when he was in better spirits, I would take the opportunity to discuss with him some theories and methods in the practice of mindfulness of the Buddha. I once consulted him on the method of mindfulness of the Buddha by contemplation. He told me in great details the order and method in contemplation. He said, “You only have to single-mindedly contemplate the white brow in between the eyebrows of Amitabha Buddha. After your skill is mature, you would naturally be able to contemplate the entire body of Amitabha Buddha. Of course this requires the skill of Dhyana.”
Occasionally he would gaze into the distance, smiling. Then he would appear solemn, reverent and sincere, as if he had entered a realm that no one could comprehend or intrude. At this time, I would leave the room quietly and not disturb him.
November 11 was the 3rd anniversary of my mother’s departure. On that day, all of us evaded the subject regarding her passing so that our father would not feel grief. At noon of that day, he wanted us to support him to go to the Buddha Hall to bow to the Buddhas. Afterwards, he told us, choking with sobs, that he prayed to our deceased mother to bless and protect us so that all of us would be safe and well. There were times when his emotions fluctuated; but within at most five minutes, he would again pick up his practice, and single-mindedly recite the Buddha’s name.
To be continued