Venerable Master's Promise

A Talk given by Jin An Shi on July 3, 2018

All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters and Dharma friends, Amitabha. Tonight it’s Jin An’s turn to tie Dharma affinities.

Many years ago before leaving the home life, a Dharma Master told me that the Venerable Master used to instruct his disciples not to worry about their parents after becoming a monastic, because they would be taken care of in the future. Since my head was shaved, I have been free of this worry, especially after I heard the Master repeat this commitment in one of his lectures on tape.

In September 2016, my sister in China left me a message regarding my mother’s critical illness. She was in the ICU. My sister was afraid that she would have very little chance of making it out of the hospital this time. My mother was diagnosed with terminal liver cirrhosis 10 years ago, but completed a series of treatment, and lived for another 10 years beyond the doctor’s prediction.

I never had an opportunity to take care of my mother during those years, but every time I visited home, I would constantly share some Buddhadharma with her. She always said that she liked Amitabha Buddha the most although she didn’t consider herself a faithful Buddhist. The year 2015 was the first and only time I was able to visit with her as a novice nun, but it was also the last time that I saw her in her final year. I took the Venerable Master’s photo with me and set up an altar in the living room for my family to worship.

I tried to convince my mother to bow to the Buddha. At first, she said that she was too tired to do it. I knew she was unhappy about the fact that I became a nun, but she was not able to find a way to persuade me to change my mind at that time. Plus, we lived on different sides of the world, so she didn’t have an objection to my request for leave home. Therefore, I understood why she was reluctant to initially practice when she actually saw me in person. I thought it would not work if I kept trying to convince her. A few days later, a story came to my mind and lit up my heart. It was about an interesting experience that DM Sure had during his three-steps-one-bow pilgrimage. So on a beautiful afternoon, I pretended to casually chat with my mother in order to tell her the story. Here I will briefly paraphrase the story from memory.

One day, Dharma Master Sure was happily bowing along the road to meet the Venerable Master very soon at Gold Wheel monastery which was only a few steps ahead. However, two motorcyclists suddenly appeared, wearing leather jackets; these two big guys seemed a little drunk and angry. They stood right at the gate of the monastery. One of them was even holding an iron chain in his hand and asked the other one: “Hey, look at them! Who are these two people? What are they doing? So strange! We should give them a lesson!” It seemed that they were ready to attack (the bowing monks).

Dharma Master Sure was a little nervous. He was bowing, and definitely wouldn’t fight , so he gathered his body and mind within, and prayed to Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva. Right at that moment, the monastery’s front door opened, there came the Master! He was standing behind the two men and tapped on their shoulders. While they were about to turn around, the Master just led those big guys into the monastery. DM Sure struggled in his mind, “Oh, what should I do? Should I go protect Shrfu? How will he defend himself against these two big men? Or should I just concentrate on bowing instead of having so many false thoughts? Well, even if I go, I probably wouldn’t be able to help much…”

While Dharma Master Sure hesitated, after a while the door of Gold Wheel Monastery opened again, and the two motorcyclists came out. Surprisingly, like two innocent school boys, they looked completely different. With red cheeks and silly smiles on their faces, each of them holding a strand of recitation beads in one hand and a bag of vegetarian buns (baozi) in another hand—they were filled with joy. A few minutes later, they seemed to wake up from that state, looking at each other and the temple behind them, and they likely wondered to themselves: Who was that man?

My mother was very delighted after hearing this story, her eyes lit up, and inspired a greater trust in the Venerable Master. I quickly suggested she pray for his support, so she bowed without hesitation. Since then, she often went to bow to the Master sincerely. After that, my mother completely accepted me as a Buddhist nun, and warmly told me that I looked just like a nun. A little story had completely changed my mother. If the Venerable Master didn’t help me, there would have been no way to influence my mother, and till the end of my life there would have been an inextricable knot in my heart and deep regret.

Returning to where this story began in 2016, I received a message from the administrative office that my mother was in critical condition. However, I still daydreamed that she would miraculously get better. That night I had a brief conversation with her, and right after I hung up the phone, my immediate instinct told me that she would be leaving very soon. Standing inside JGH office, I looked up at the stars in the sky, and the Venerable Master’s words flew in to my mind: Since limitless eons, our beloved relatives have passed away, life after life. If we piled up their bones, the pile would be as high as Mount Sumeru. The tears we have shed for them are equal to the water in the four great oceans.

I don’t know how these sentences came up, but they kept resounding in my mind and rubbing my consciousness. I thought perhaps the Venerable Master wanted to comfort me so that I would put aside my emotions and not be so sad. Unfortunately, my cultivation still falls short of the Master’s expectations. The next morning when I received the sad news of my mother’s passing, I couldn’t help but pour another half bucket of tears into the four great oceans.

When someone is about to pass away, his or her immediate dependents very often have to face contradictory decisions. The doctors in the hospital will always try their best to save a life. On the other hand, if a faithful Buddhist knows that his or her life will end very soon, the best thing to do is to leave the world peacefully instead of receiving an intense emergency treatment. I asked my sister for all the details of my mother’s passing. Like all the other patients in the ICU, my mother was connected with all kinds of equipment all over her body. But unlike other patients, she didn’t expect another miracle to happen. She was shouting that they should disconnect all of the equipment. Of course the doctors didn’t agree because that would hasten her death, although they were all very clear that there was no way to save her life.

Finally, the doctors and my sister agreed to disconnect all my mother’s equipment because she kept shouting and strongly demanded to pull out all the wires. When my mother’s body was all free of them, she dramatically calmed down from her agitation. The only sound in the room was coming from the recitation box that I had brought back for her. It was chanting in a very soft tone. My mother stayed very calm until her last peaceful breath. I believe that the Venerable Master quietly supported her till the end.

After that, all I cared about was wondering where she went. As all the Buddhists do, I set up a plaque right away, did all the practices as possible, transferred merit to her all the time, but I was still not quite confident. So before going back to China, I came to the silent Buddha Hall to pray and asked the Master, “How do I know where my mother is? How will I know?” I repeated the question again and again.

All of a sudden, an answer popped up. The Earth Store Sutra indicates, “If one would like to know where his deceased relative went, he may sincerely recite the Earth Store Bodisattva’s name for ten thousand times, and he will be able to know it in his dream.” This answer relieved me. I was so stupid. Before I left home, I used to recite Earth Store Sutra once a day for several years, and now I have completely forgotten. So I said “thank you” to the Master and planned to finish this task on the airplane back to China.

During the ten-hour flight, I didn’t dare slack off, but held the recitation bead the whole time. When I was awake, I recited; when I was half awake, I kept reciting; when I was asleep, I would also try to recite. I thought that I could easily finish this job, but I almost wasn’t able to complete the full ten thousand times. Once I arrived in China, I also tried to recite different sutras and every night I hoped to have a dream in response. On the seventh day after my mother’s passing, I finally did have a dream.

In the dream, I clearly saw myself standing on a pathway in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas; the blue sky and the green trees are just like what we see today. A bhikshuni is walking toward me, and I can clearly see her beige robe and brown sash. I wonder who she might be. As she comes closer, I realize that it is my mother! There is no hair on her head, and she looks really wonderful with a beautiful smile on her face. After I woke up, I spoke to my mother: “Well, you opposed me becoming a nun, but now you have run even faster than I. I am still a novice, but you have already been ordained!”

I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Venerable Master for saving my mother, and also to Earth Store Bodhisattva’s great vows. The Venerable Master used to say that he never left us. As part of the next generation who have never met the Master before, how do we give rise to a solid trust in him? How do we truly understand his selfless spirit and great compassion? Those who have never met the Venerable Master or received his teachings might consider this founding patriarch to be like a spiritual idol. But, when we have to face life-or-death moments, a genuine wise teacher will be very close to us. His compassionate support is like a great aura shining upon all of us even though sometimes we think that we don’t feel anything at all.

At last, I’d like to thank my English teacher for correcting this English translation. Amitabha.


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