Tell Him To Come, He'll Get Well
Venerable Master and all fellow cultivators:
Last year (1994) and this year (1995) were two unusual years in my life; last year my father passed away, and this year, the father of my Dharma body [the Venerable Master] passed away But last year when my biological father, Heng Wei Shi, passed on, I was filled with the joy of the Dharma. I think the Venerable Master gave me that joy last year because he helped Heng Wei Shi pass away in a very peaceful and auspicious manner, in fact, there were auspicious signs. At that time, I was in the United States and I received an urgent phone message from my family that my father was about to pass away so I should return home. I stayed very calm and composed. One of my Dharma sisters went to ask the Venerable Master about the matter, and he only spoke one sentence, "It is okay for her to go back." So I did.
On my third day back at home, my father passed away. Prior to his passing, my younger brother spoke to me, "You must tell Heng Wei Shi that when he is preparing to go, if people recite Amitabha's name, it is the same as reciting the Venerable Master's name." He added, "Father has faith only in the Venerable Master." I told Heng Wei Shi, "Reciting Amitabha's name is the same as reciting the Venerable Master's name. If people come to help you recite, they will only recite Amitabha's name and not the Venerable Master's name. But you should think of it as being the same as reciting the Venerable Master's name." He nodded and told me that he had dreamt that he was walking behind the Venerable Master who was wearing a red precept sash.
When my father was in the final stages of his illness, he was very weak yet felt no pain. My mother commented, "It is because your Venerable Master helped him. Otherwise, how could someone so ill feel no pain at all?" The morning that he was to pass away, everything seemed fine. Originally the hospital did not allow us to recite for him. But we spoke with the hospital director, hoping that he would grant us permission to recite for myfather in the hospital According to hospital regulations, after a patient passes away, he or she must be immediately- removed from the sickroom. In this case, the hospital director consented, provided that we move from a double to a single occupancy room. That afternoon, we had an opportunity to move to a suitable single room. The hospital director pretended not to notice and allowed us to recite from five o'clock in the evening, when Heng Wei Shi died, till seven o'clock the next morning when the body was removed from the sick room.
I still remember Heng Wei Shi doing morning recitation that day lying on his bed. At noon, he also did the Meal Offering Ceremony, as he did everyday. This had been his usual practice ever since his second visit to the Qty of Ten Thousand Buddhas in 1989. By this time, he could not hold the Daily Recitation Handbook himself, and so I had to hold it for him. In fact, his yellow Recitation Handbook from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas had turned black from constant use. However, he could not recite, but only glance at it, and after a while he said in a weak voice, "Okay, I've finished the meal offering!" In the afternoon, he passed away very serenely Two or three days afterwards, his body still remained soft especially compared to normal people. In fact, to my surprise mmysharira were found after his cremation. "Why are there so many Sharira" Afterwards, my family told me, "If you had not come back, he would not have gone so peacefully." I deeply believe that this is all due to the Venerable Master's practice of filiality Not only did our teacher practice filial respect personally, he also helps his disciples and other people to practice filial piety. If the Master had not said, "It is okay for her to go back," then I would not have gone back. But the Master knew that if I had not gone back, my father would not have passed away in a peaceful and auspicious manner. With that one sentence, the Master helped me to practice filial piety.
Now I will go back to ten years ago, to the winter of 1985 when Dharma Master Haideng came to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to visit the Venerable Master. Just a few days ago, at the DRBA Main Office, I came across a photograph which moved me very much. It was a picture of the Venerable Master kneeling on the side very respectfully with his palms together while Dharma Master Haideng gave a sutra lecture. The Venerable Master was extremely sincere and reverent.
During Dharma Master Haideng's visit, the Venerable Master was extremely busy, so his hair had grown long. I remember it was during a Chan session, but the Venerable Master took us out of the Qian Hall to the former Gold Mountain Monastery on Fifteenth Street because it was a rare occasion to have Dharma Master Haideng come to visit, so the Master wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to teach us.
I remember hearing a tape of Dharma Master Haideng telling the Venerable Master's disciples, "None of you know who your teacher actually is, but I do." His underlying meaning was that the Venerable Master is certainly not an ordinary person; yet we don't even know enough to cherish him. The Master also told us then, "You should cherish what you have." During Dharma Master Haideng's visit, I was very busy. It was during this time that I received an urgent message from my family saying that my father had cancer. They hoped that I could go back to take care of him. To be honest, I was very scared because my family had not responded favorablyto my coming to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in order to leave home. My mother had not agreed with my decision but my father gave me the money to make the trip here. However, after that, my mother and father were never happy, and my father suffered a lot of blame.My family did not know that I had left the home-life. After some time, my cousin came to visit, and upon seeing me, she said in surprise, "You've left home! Your father would die of high blood pressure if he saw you." I did not know how to face this situation, so I turned to the Venerable Master for help. He let me bring my cousin to K building where he received guests, and he talked to my cousin. Then my cousin asked me, "How long has it been since you left the home-life?" I replied, "Just a short while." In fact, I had left home for quite some time by then, but I dared not say so. I glanced at the Venerable Master, hoping that he would cooperate with me on this lie, but he remained silent. After my cousin left, the Venerable Master said to me, "You cannot lie. Lying really harms your inherent nature." That was a very good lesson for me. We should all realize that we cannot see the traces of a lie; nonetheless, it injures our inherent nature.
Now that my father was sick, I dared not go back because I was really scared. Even though the Venerable Master had said, "She can go back if she wants to," I said, "No! I would only cry if I went back I'd be of no use at all. I cannot go back." The Venerable Master said, "Okay! Then you can stay. You must recite Guanyin Bodhisattva's name." Even though it was the middle of a Chan session, I recited Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, and also the Great Compassionate Mantra. I do not know if it had any effect because I was very worried and under a great deal of pressure. Why? Because my father had suffered a lot of hardship over the fact that I had left home at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. I felt very guilty. If my father passed away, I would be indebted to my family; furthermore, my family would not be able to accept it. I recited Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, but my mind was still confused.
After Dharma Master Haideng left, one day I was working in the kitchen in what is now Daoyuan Hall. The Venerable Master was on his inspection round. He paused and sat down to talk to me, "Do you know something? You have to let go of the mind. You are going to go crazy You should not be attached to the affairs of the world." The Venerable Master instructed me to tell my family to also recite Guanyin Bodhisattva's name.
While my father was ill, I often spoke with him on the phone. One time, he told me over the phone, "Do you know something? Your Master came to see me in a dream, and I knelt before him and cried." I said, "You have never met my Master; how do you know it was him?" He replied, "It was the same person I saw in the books." I told the Venerable Master of this, and he replied, "Ask him what I said to him in the dream." But when I asked my father, he could not remember.
Afterwards, the Venerable Master added, "Tell your father to come. Once he's here, he will get well" The following year, on the the Buddha's birthday, my father, who was having trouble walking, came with the help of a cane. We first came to Gold Mountain Sagely Monastery, where a Dharma Assembly was taking place. At lunch time, according to Buddhist tradition, the left-home people take lunch before the laypeople. My father had not left the home life yet, and I pondered whether or not to help him get food since he had trouble moving about; but I dared not do it and instead went ahead to take my share. At that moment, the Venerable Master said very sternly in a loud voice, "Help your father get his food!" I was totally ashamed at that moment. I was really not filial at all; I didn't know how to skillfully apply the Buddhadharma, but just followed the rules rigidly without versatility. The Venerable Master, with his perfect unobstructed wisdom, taught us how to actively apply the Buddhadharma to our daily lives. This left a very deep impression on me.
Once my father came to America, the Venerable Master went out ofhis way to care for him, which I had never xpected. I never thought that things could turn out so perfectly. Since my father was ill, the Venerable Master allowed him to live by himself and also instructed me to spend the night there to take care of him along with my family.
Once, when I went to visit to my father, my elder sister told me, "You know what? The Venerable Master suddenly came to see us. He encouraged us and gave us some instructions." After that, the Venerable Master paid several more visits. I still remember very clearly the day that my father and sister were getting ready to return to Taiwan. We were at Gold Mountain Monastery in Chinatown, and my father was leaning on the counter writing something. I saw the Venerable Master standing behind him with his two fingers in a blessing nudra, blessing my father's spine because the cancer was in that area. He did this silently without my father's awareness. That was how the Venerable Master helped people without their knowing. He even helped my father down the stairs when he was preparing to leave. The Venerable Master forgot about himself for the sake of saving living beings.
Originally, I did not understand why the Venerable Master told me, "Tell him to come; he will get well." But after my father went home, he gradually got better. He lived for another ten years or so. In the end, he passed away, but I was comforted by that fact that the Venerable Master had given him a new beginning in life. When my father took refuge, the Venerable Master gave him the Dharma name Guo Xin, "Fruit of New Beginning." He spent the last ten years of his life studying the Buddhadharma. In January of 1993, in the midst of his illness, when my father could no longer move his lower body, the Venerable Master shaved his head at the Dharma Realm Buddhist Book Distribution Society in Taiwan, thus fulfilling his wish of leaving I will mention another incident in which the Venerable Master skillfully chose the right time and right place to teach living beings. In 1989, my father again came to the Qtyof Ten Thousand Buddhas for a short stay This time, his physcial condition had improved greatly so the Venerable Master allowed him to live at Tathagata Monastery and cultivate with the assembly. At first, he was perhaps not used to the lifestyle here, so he wanted to leave after a while. I told the Venerable Master about this, and he said, "Tell him to stay a while longer, then he can go back." So my father stayed on. But after a while, he wanted to leave once again, and the Venerable Master told him to stay on again. So he stayed on for three months. The last time, when he said he wanted to go home, the Venerable Master answered, "Okay, this time he can go home!" But when I told my father that the Venerable Master said he could go, his reply surprised me: "I don't want to return anymore! You know, living here I have regained the inspiration I had as a young man. I can once again pick up a brush to compose poetry. This has not happened in over forty years."
Even though my father could not completely let go of everything and returned to Taiwan in the end, he had lay a foundation for his cultivation during his stay at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. That was all because the Venerable Master knew the right timing in teaching living beings. After my father passed away, I had the chance to take a look at the poetry he composed while he was living at the City. It was written in Japanese, but rendered into Chinese, one poem says:
At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
In the deep stillness of the night,
The cool, pristine moon appears in the sky.
This refreshing clarity is also my mind
Filled with the nature of the spirit...
Why was Heng Wei Shi able to get well? I now understand that the Master wanted my father's karmic obstacles to follow the Master. The fifth assembly of the Shurangama Mantra consists of names of ghosts of disease. When the Master explained that mantra line by line in the 1980s, he said there were ghosts of colds, ghosts of diarrhea, ghosts of arthritis, and ghosts of every kind of disease. Cancer was a grave disease that had a very powerful ghost. The Master wanted my father to come so that the ghost making him ill would follow him to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the Master would be able to liberate it. That's why, after my father returned to Taiwan, his condition improved steadily.
Vajra Bodhi Sea issue 393 Febuary, 2003 (p. 46 - 49) and 394 March 2003 (p. p42 - 43)