As I entered middle age, I gradually realized the unpredictability of life and the impermanence of the world. For the past ten years, my mother-in-law had been stricken with ailments and pain, resulting in frequent trips to the hospital. In the past several years, she suffered from complications and pain caused by long-term use of western medicines, which led her to wish to end her life. She often said, “I absolutely did not expect to end up with this fate in my old age. With this body full of ailments, I can only take one day at a time.” Nevertheless, when I suggested that she become a vegetarian and recite the Buddha’s name, she did not accept my suggestion. I thought this must have been related to my laziness.
My mother-in-law was hospitalized on January 25th of this year, and passed away on February 27th. Previously, I registered to work as a volunteer for the DRBA’s Asian Delegation tour in southern Taiwan; however, I was unable to participate because I had to keep vigil beside the coffin of my mother-in-law. About ten days before she passed away, she became unresponsive and fell into a coma. When I recited the Buddha’s name into her ear (she was hard of hearing), she tried hard to nod her head to the rhythm, and her lips did not stop moving, but she could not utter a single sound. Approximately five days before she passed away, her pupils were dilated and she could not recognize anyone. She could not speak a word and her facial appearance changed and became quite different from before. Her eyes constantly stared upwards making a horrifying facial expression. After she passed away, my family worked through myriad difficulties in order to conduct the funeral according to Buddhist rituals. I was inspired to illustrate my in-law’s case after witnessing the same process involving my brother, father, and mother’s death. Prior to their passing away, they were mentally confused as was my mother-in-law. These events surrounding the passing of my family members, have instilled in me a deep apprehension for the Venerable Master’s words, “Beat your thoughts to death so your Dharma body comes to life.”
Based on my mother-in-law’s condition, I thought that I would probably miss the trip to Malaysia on March 16th with the DRBA Delegation group. Fortunately, the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Venerable Master had made good arrangements for us. My mother-in-law passed away which alleviated her from the worldly torments and bitter days. After the funeral procession, we quickly wrapped up our affairs at hand. Finally, we made it just in time to join the DRBA Delegation tour to Malaysia.
Originally we thought we could take advantage of this five-day journey to relax a bit. We never expected that the Dharma Masters’ daily schedule started early in the morning with recitation at 4:00 am, followed by bowing in repentance, visiting places, and listening to sutras. It was not until 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. that we could return to the hotel to rest. Keeping such a tight schedule without wasting a single minute or second was an extraordinarily strenuous burden for us, as we were already physically and mentally worn out after two and a half months of distress.
Exhausted to the extreme, we occasionally slacked off while others emulated the Dharma Masters’ diligence. We felt so ashamed that we mustered up our concentration to recite the Sutras and bow to the Buddhas. In Malaysia, we saw Dharma Masters, who for more than one decade, followed the Venerable Master’s footsteps in their efforts to break new ground in a country whose official religion is Islam. Enduring pain and toil, they persevered in spreading the Dharma and receiving and guiding living beings. Faithful followers, thus, can return to their pure source and find a refuge for their bodies and minds in this turbid world. The Dharma Masters impart a sense of fearlessness, like beacons in the darkness bringing peace to numerous souls and guiding them to reach the other shore! In the Buddha Hall of Deng Bi An [“Reaching the Other Shore”] Monastery, we saw numberless women, children, old and young people chant with great joy and listen to Dharma Masters’ lectures. Crowds of people came to obtain Sutra copies or bow to the Buddhas. People of many different nationalities sincerely paid respect and bowed to the Buddhas.
Before entering stillness, the Venerable Master spared no efforts in promoting education. In Prajna Guanyin Sagely Monastery, we saw that the bodhi seeds had grown from the bottom to the top and from the top to the bottom. Students five years old to college level were permeated by the Buddhadharma. Dharma Master Tai explained to us that the Youth Class and the Buddhist Studies Class were very small in the beginning. The number of students has increased year by year, and this is the most telling portrayal of the Dharma Masters’ tireless devotion to the Buddha’s work.
The most rewarding experience for me during this Malaysia trip was learning about the Venerable Master’s vigorous spirit in guiding living beings to the other shore. The Dharma Masters embodied the Venerable Master’s proper knowledge and views, courageous diligence, fearless protection of the Buddhadharma, perpetuation of the lineage of orthodox Dharma, and patient and skillful teaching. This is my spiritual nourishment which I constantly ponder, and I am convinced that following in the Venerable Master’s footsteps is the most fruitful harvest throughout my life. Although the Venerable Master’s physical body is no longer present, his teachings are perpetuated by his monastic and lay disciples to every corner of the world. My endless gratitude cannot be fully expressed through these brief words.