What I Experienced During an Earth Store Bodhisattva Session
A Talk With Translation Given By ZhaoHui Qiu on August 30, 2003 In The Buddha Hall Of The City Of Ten Thousand Buddhas
I started to recite the Earth Store Bodhisattvn Sutra since 1998. I have experienced many inconceivable responses. During the same time, countless miracles have occurred in my family. Therefore, I am very grateful to Earth Store Bodhisattva. Although I cannot possibly share them all with you today, I would like to talk about what motivated me to come to this seven-day session.
Simply put, I came because I was scared. Why was I so scared? Recently, I have witnessed a lot of deaths around me, and the people who died were my friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. In most cases, death came totally unexpectedly and took them away when they were still young or in their prime. After feeling shocked like others around them, I found myself anxious and wanted to know what this was all about. Who is next? When is it going to happen?
Life and death can switch in a split second. An ordinary person has no way to be prepared for it. As such a person, I have fears for several reasons. First, I have no clue when death is coming. Second, I do not know where I will go after this life is over. In an attempt to address these questions, I asked my husband to allow me to stay in the temple by myself and attend a full seven-day session so that I could concentrate on cultivation without having to run back and forth between the temple and home. Additionally, I was fully aware of my lack of samadhi. By staying in the temple, I could save myself from getting impatient and losing my temper with my husband or children at least for seven days. Thus, I registered for the session and moved to the Tower of Blessings at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB).
Before the session started, I told my children to avoid talking to me if they saw me in the temple during the next seven days. They were very good at obeying this rule. When they saw me, they would run over, give me a smile, and run away.
Two days later, the school asked my husband to report to the Dharma assembly about the latest progress of a school project, and I was asked to do part of the translation. Because of this, I started to talk to my family I told my two daugliters, "Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the actual day of Earth Store Bodhisattva's Birthday. I hope both of you can come and participate." One of my daughters replied, "I want to come for the whole day, starting early in the morning." My husband told them it would be too early for him to send them from home. Then my daughter requested that they stay with me for the night in the Tower of Blessings. I replied, "If you can follow tomorrow's session for the whole day from 4:00 a.m. until the end without missing anything, then you can staywith me." To my surprise, both daughters agreed.
Originally, I asked my children not to talk to me during the session so that I wouldn't lose my temper with them. Sure enough, on Wednesday, I lost mytemper with them due to something insignificant that they did. As soon as that happened, I realized that I had made a mistake. A karmic obstacle of mine manifested on the actual dayof Earth Store Bodhisattva's Birthday? Afterthe evening ceremony, I took one of my daughters out of the Buddha Hall and asked her, '"What did I do wrong today?"
She said, "Why do you ask me to tell you? Don't you know what you did?"
I replied, "I just want to hear what you have to say."
My daughter said, "Mommy, when you told us several days ago that you would be going to the session, keep silent, and not talk to us, I was very happy."
"Why?" I asked.
"Well, if I don't talk, we won't get scolded." This is one thing that I experienced during the session.
I would also like to share with you that I could not sleep very well the last couple of nights. The first night of the session, I heard some very loud noises coming from underneath the ground. It went Bang! Bang! Bang! I thought there must be something wrong with the old pipes. But the noise was so loud that I could not sleep for hours.
Finally, I was worn out and got a little sleep. The second night, I woke up to the same noise except this time the noise was even louder.
I also heard footsteps in the hallway. I sat up thinking it must be time for morning ceremony and I didn't want to be late. I turned on the light. It was two o'clock in the morning and everyone else was still sound asleep. I turned off the light and lay down again. The noise from underneath the ground was loud and clear, as if something were pounding on metal. I thought to myself those pipes underneath the ground really need fixing. I was also wondering how my roommates could still sleep with all that noise. I tried to cover my ears up, but that did not help. It went on like this for about an hour. Then I heard many footsteps going towards the direction of the door (facing south) in the hall. I was wondering what was happening outside but did not have the courage to open the door and looL At the same time, that sound of something pounding on metal underground continued. Then I heard a woman saying, "Hurry up! Hurry up!" I was really scared and started to recite Earth Store Bodhisattva's name until I fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning before four o'clock, I asked my roommates, "Did you hear any noise last night? It was very loud." They told me they did not hear anything.
The next day, I ran into a Dharma Master and asked her, "Is it normal to hear a pounding noise for hours every night? How can you all sleep like this in this building?" She replied, "Is that so? It could be that Earth Store Bodhisattva is pounding the doors of the hells with his golden cane to open them." When I heard that, it all made sense. It is true that the pounding came from the southerly direction, and it did sound like metal pounding on metal.
On the third night, I was woken up by the same pounding sound. This time, I looked at my clock. It was 1:30 a.m. The sound started from the south and gradually moved towards the direction of the Buddha Hall. Then, the pounding sound moved toward the Rebirth Hall. I was quite sure that the sound came from close by. It was very dark outside. Though curious, I was still afraid to go out.
I kept on reciting Earth Store Bodhisattva's name vigorously while the pounding was practically 15-20 meters away. As I listened to the sound, memories of my past mistakes, my half-hearted cultivation practice, as well as many things I normally don't think about all swept over me. I felt such remorse and shame. In comparison to Earth Store Bodhisattva's great vows, I was just one of those living beings who repeatedly makes mistakes and does not benefit others much.
At the time, I also made a silent vow to follow the Venerable Master and Earth Store Bodhisattva in life after life and learn from their deep vows until I could save myself and then save others.
The fourth night started with the pounding sound at around the same time. Then it changed to a rattling of iron links as if some door was about to open but not quite yet.
When I woke up the next morning, I told my daughters, "Please work hard at reciting Earth Store Bodhisattva's name to help the Bodhisattva. If you all work hard, the door to the hells will open faster."
That is my story about not being able to sleep for the last few nights. It is a wonder that I could finish the whole session with all of you. I could not have done it without the help of Earth Store Bodhisattva.
Apart from what I experienced above, I also realized during the session that birth and death are truly important matters. Last night, we watched how the Sixth Patriarch hid among the hunters and daily faced the impermanence of birth and death. This situation is no different than what we face today Dharma Master Lyu told us a few days ago, "Before we end birth and death, we will constantly suffer through the process of the turning wheel, just like changing our clothes. We don't know what we will wear the next time around and in which realm we will be born."
I feel it is time for me to take cultivation more seriously. If I do not wake up now and start to apply some effort, it will be hard to say whether or not I will end up in the hells sometime in the future.