“You have many heavy offenses!” The Venerable Master told me these words during his visit to Malaysia in 1983. I did not accept those words well – after all, I hadn’t committed any crimes – why would I have heavy offenses?
At that time, I had co-founded a direct-selling business. The market was hot and extremely competitive. I was busy meeting other businessmen and guests in order to stand out from the crowd. The places of merriment almost became my office. Our company’s sales were increasing day by day, as if we had a hen laying golden eggs. But every gain brings a loss, and though the success of our company brought in wealth, my own energy was sapped.
I traveled to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) for the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance in 1988. When I got to the Mountain Gate, I was suddenly very reluctant to go in. Inside, part me was screaming, “Let’s go back! Let’s go back!” After wrestling with my thoughts for a while, I forced myself to go in so as to not disappoint my wife.
During the ceremony, all the things that I had done before flashed before my eyes like a movie. Tears began flowing from my eyes as I saw this appalling vision, and I finally understood why the Venerable Master had said that I had heavy offenses. I began reflecting upon my own deeds and saw that I was committing bad karma everyday by leading a dissipated life and pursuing selfish benefit, taking this to be my goal in life.
Also during this time, I noticed that the students in the school at CTTB were very well-behaved and followed the rules. In fact, all the children living in this Pure Land were very happy and joyful. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What do I want to give to my children? Do I want them to walk down the same path as me?” And thus, I gave rise to the thought of moving to the City to live.
However, I went back to my old ways upon my return to Malaysia. It was like riding a tiger – it’s very hard to get off once you’re on. I was at the crossroads between my old habits and a new, beneficial road for my children. After wavering back and forth for six years, I finally put down everything and our entire family moved to CTTB.
I began a new lifestyle and became a volunteer worker in the City. I also started studying the Buddhadharma to give myself an opportunity to cultivate blessings and develop wisdom. My wife took care of the family and also began volunteering in the Boys’ School. At this time, my daughter Xiao Hui was only six years old, and my son Qin Zhi was only four. They attended Instilling Goodness Elementary School and received their full elementary and secondary education at CTTB.
In reality, in the United States there are many unwholesome temptations. However, living in the City lessened our worries about this matter. Apart those students who are not used to the environment here and leave, students will not degenerate at the City. The environment here is a good one, and there’s an atmosphere of peace and serenity as well that will influence everyone to be good.
Everyone is probably familiar with the story of Mencius’s mother moving three times. However, the world is a much scarier place today than it was 2,500 years ago. The Venerable Master Hua foresaw the present situation and founded the schools. That way, we could send our children off to school without any worries. It is not the case that all the alumni of the schools are infallible saints – they are not. They are still regular people and will still make mistakes. However, they will not commit the same mistakes twice and live a regretful life.
School and family are the two most important elements in the education of children. In order to set an example and to distance ourselves from the violence and sexual depravity, we don’t watch TV in our house. My son would follow me to the Buddha Hall for the sutra lectures and do his homework there, while my daughter stayed home with her mother. Over the years, my children have learned to be independent and study hard. Knowing how hard their parents work, they help out with chores and housework regularly.
During the last two years, my daughter has gone off to college while my son is going to be graduating from high school soon. Our family began feeling some financial pressure. Luckily, we received our green card around this time, and my wife found a job delivering newspapers. My children also helped out with the job on weekends and vacations. I myself tried to get a job to earn more money so that my children could go to college, but I dropped this later on.
On December 1, my son received notification from Princeton University that he had been accepted with a full scholarship for all four years of study, and we were able to rest easy. The fact that my son was able to get in to a good university is not really something to become arrogant about. I just hope he can remember that as a Buddhist, he carries the mission of a Buddhist as well, and should act as a good example outside and use his moral education from the City to influence others to walk towards a better path.
The Venerable Master often said: “The purpose of an education is to understand principles – not to get wealthy or famous.” We hope that our children will walk this path. I have already wasted an entire half of my life, and I hope my children will not walk in my footsteps and repeat my mistakes. I feel very happy that I made the right choice in 1994. I believe that because of our faith in the Venerable Master Hua, everything will be fine in the end.