236: Going Home

Neither is this a hearsay, nor a mythical story, but a true account of what a precious Rinpoche had done to liberate the beings with his wondrous powers.

On October 22, 2006, my mother passed away. Her consciousness was then transferred to the Pureland of Amitabha through the practice of the great “Phowa” by the His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. While I was accompanying her body to the morgue, a string of vivid scenes of Rinpoche, granting his blessings, kept appearing before my eyes. Out of an immense gratitude, my tears rolled uncontrollably.

In March, 2006, having heard of Rinpoche’s deeds for the sake of the beings, my mother besought Rinpoche to let her attend the invaluable “Chod” puja. Rinpoche asked, “If you come to the puja, you will get sick. Do you dare to come then?” Mom hesitated for a moment, and then he said, “Go home and think about it. If you dare, you may make a phone call and register for it tomorrow.”

After pondering for one night, Mother decided to go to the “Chod” puja on Friday. After the puja, Mom felt uncomfortable later at night as if the sickness was developing. Just as Mom had expected, she got pancreatitis and was then hospitalized on Sunday. The examination results showed high lipase (1,800 u/L) and amylase (almost 3,000 u/L), both of whose amount shouldn’t exceed 100 u/L. Her abdomen should have ulcerated under such extreme conditions, according to the doctors. She might even have had to be treated by means of tube insertion. Nevertheless, thanks to Rinpoche’s previous blessings and the “Chod” puja, Mom merely felt minor pains. She spent 48 days in a public ward, undergoing a fasting treatment, and then left the hospital.

When she got out, she went to see Rinpoche to show her gratitude, and was then allowed to attend the Sunday pujas. Things had gone well until she missed a “Chod” and a Sunday puja in July. Two weeks after, on July 24, Mom felt an incessant pain in the abdomen and lower back, and had to be hospitalized again in Songshan Armed Forces General Hospital. It was neither pancreatitis nor kidney stones that we had anticipated. On our trip to India for His Holiness’s birthday celebration, Dr. Xie, also a disciple of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and the chief doctor of the hospital, informed me that Mom might have developed a malignant tumor. He suggested that we transfer Mom to Tri-Service General Hospital for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and to further confirm her medical conditions.

Just as what Rinpoche has taught us, cancer is caused by one’s killing. If a cancer patient does not repent and chooses to undergo surgeries and the chemical treatment, he or she will do harm to the beings once again. Upon knowing Mother’s disease, I, apart from being shocked, was also grateful that everything took place after I had sought refuge under Rinpoche. Because of Rinpoche, I managed to stand firmly, being through all without a panic or grief. The only thing that concerned me was the way that my family might choose for Mother. Hence, my wife and I tried to visualize Rinpoche and implored the blessings of Dharma protectors while we were in India, wishing Mom would not have to go through surgical procedures and the chemical treatment.

When we returned to Taiwan, my father, who had never seen Rinpoche, told Mom on August 4: “If it is cancer, you’ve only got two options: one is to listen to the doctors and undergo the chemical treatment or surgeries. However, none of our close friends or relatives have had such experience. The other is to see Rinpoche and do what he says. Your own son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter will not do you harm.” Thus, my parents made the decision to listen to Rinpoche and let Buddhas and Bodhisattvas determine the future to come.

On August 6, the examination results confirmed that Mom indeed had late-stage pancreatic cancer, with a 5-cm tumor. As the cancers of the pancreas and the gallbladder are among the most complicated ones, it would take 16 hours to complete the operation. After we had made inquiries about the disease among people we knew, we learned from a friend whose relative had the kind of cancer that certain medical conditions, such as jaundice, diarrhea, and malignant ascites, would occur along the way. We were also told that the pain would be unbearable. My friend’s husband had to beat his head against the wall, even though he had already had the highest dose of morphine.

On August 7, we made the decision to transfer back to Songshan General Hospital and went to see Rinpoche the day after. Mom told Rinpoche about her medical conditions. Then, Rinpoche explained the importance of repentance and told her to listen to the recordings of his previous teaching on the issue twenty times. In addition, he said, “Don’t be afraid. You have Rinpoche here, as well as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.” What he had said set our minds at ease henceforward.

“You need to change yourself so that your future will be changed.” However, ignorant as we were, we didn’t take Rinpoche’s teaching seriously, nor did we repent with sincerity. We were so greedy that we even had a desire for Mom to fully recover from her disease. When Mom had finished listening to the recordings of Rinpoche’s teaching on repentance for the fourth time, she dreamed that bugs were crawling all over a great amount of human beings. Mom couldn’t give a more detailed account of her dream, and all she remembered was the unceasing sounds: “Poh, poh, poh… ” The next day, Mom recalled having killed many insects on the vegetables. Without being sprayed with pesticide, the vegetables, given to her by the neighbors, were usually covered with lots of tiny creatures. Just like what she had heard in the dream, “Poh, poh, poh…” One after another, she pinched each of them to death.

None of us told Dad and Mom about pancreatic cancer pain. Mom merely felt a level of pain similar to that of a stomach ulcer. It was Rinpoche’s blessing and care that enabled Mom to live a normal life and attend the pujas.

For the second time after the discovery of her cancer, Mom went to see Rinpoche. Having expressed her gratitude to him, she complained about insomnia and was thus scolded heavily:
“How greedy you people are! You have lived far better than those with the same disease, and now you’re asking for a perfectly normal life. Having harmed so many beings, don’t you think you should pay them back? Think of yourself as a person in debt being chased down by the creditors. Now that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have served as a mediator between you and the creditors, they have agreed not to collect interest. However, you don’t even want to make the principle payments. Have you ever considered the fact that experiencing insomnia could be an opportunity for you to earn some and pay them back? Since you don’t need to work, just let it be then. Remember this, you are always using your merits whenever you stay in the hospital or receive services and care. Why don’t you take the chance to accumulate some merits?”
Mom kept Rinpoche’s words in mind. She then returned to the hospital for nursing care and continued to attend the pujas on a regular basis.

In early September, Mom developed severe jaundice, an unwelcome symptom which we had been informed. Once again, Mom went to see Rinpoche. She described her previous dream and repented before him. Dad was with her, and Rinpoche told him to attend the pujas as well. In mid-September, Mom suffered from malignant ascites and asked for Rinpoche’s blessings. Rinpoche responded, “Never do you have true faith in me. Besides, you have not shown genuine repentance yet. From now on, you can’t live a single day without listening to the recordings of my teaching on repentance.”

Having left the jewelry store Glorious Jewel, Mom was puzzled and asked, “Exactly what is repentance?” A few days later, she recalled her killing of several chickens for the sake of the unborn child during my wife’s pregnancy. She beat the animals and broke all their bones to make chicken extract. It was extremely ruthless of her to commit such evil deeds.

During the time when Mom was sick, many other disciples told us to implore Rinpoche for “Phowa.” Nevertheless, with limited merits, we didn’t even have the cause to utter the request. Every time when we reminded ourselves of the beings we had harmed, we felt selfish to ask for “Phowa.” Once, Rinpoche spoke of the matter on the Dharma seat and taught us how to compensate what we had done to the sentient beings. I then realized that asking for “Phowa” is not only for Mom, but also for the relatives and enemies from her past lives. Hence, I got brave enough to be able to request.

From the end of September to early October, Mom felt great discomfort due to malignant ascites. Nonetheless, she continued to attend the pujas and merely needed minimal doses of painkiller. Although she had to endure diarrhea when she was in the hospital, her conditions stabilized as long as she entered the puja venue.

On October 3, I gathered my guts to beseech Rinpoche to reduce Mom’s suffering and to take care of her when she passed away. At that time, Rinpoche told my wife and me to do 500 full prostrations every day in order to repent on behalf of my mother and thus accumulate merits for her. On October 7, my elder brother, my wife and I went to see Rinpoche. Rinpoche then asked whether Mom’s conditions had gotten better. Indeed, her pain was relieved a great deal during the week. Though my brother didn’t seek refuge under Rinpoche, Rinpoche told him, “Since you are here, you shall do full prostrations along with them when you return home.” After Mom’s death, Rinpoche revealed the reason why he had asked us to do so. He knew that we were unable to make the great offering, so he told us to do full prostrations so as to accumulate some merits for my mother.

On October 19, Mom fell into a semi-unconscious state and lost her ability to speak. With malignant ascites, she was like a 10-month pregnant woman. Before then, Mom had asked the family to play the recordings of Rinpoche’s teaching on repentance for her every day. We sometimes even saw her eyes water when she listened. I knew very well that Mom’s time was diminishing. It suddenly occurred to me that Mom had registered for the conversion ceremony. Therefore, on October 21, I asked her whether she’d like me to pray Rinpoche to take her, and Mom tried very hard to give a positive response. This time I asked explicitly for “Phowa” before Rinpoche, but Rinpoche answered, “I can’t make the promise at the time being. Call in on Monday, and I’ll go to the hospital to take your mother under my refuge, if time permits.”

Upon our departure, Ms. Wei, a disciple of Rinpoche, was concerned if my mother would attend the puja held the next day. We had not known that an unconscious person could still attend the puja. She then said that if my mother could come in spite of her severe medical conditions, it would be a great help not only for Mom but also for her relatives and enemies. On our way back to the hospital, I prayed that my family wouldn’t oppose to her trip to the puja. Since Mom weighed nearly 100 kg then due to malignant ascites, it would be difficult enough to move her, not to mention the fact that we had to take her to the puja venue. Rinpoche’s blessings made things go well. After having gained consensus among family members, we were able to attend the puja on October 22.

At the puja, Mom was supplied with oxygen and I checked on her every 3 to 5 minutes. At around 4:45 p.m., Suzhen, a disciple who was helping me take care of Mom, tapped me. She told me that Mom’s pulse had stopped. I was shocked because Mom’s complexion didn’t change at all. It was unbelievable that Mom would have had such merits to pass away in the puja. 5 minutes later, her death was further confirmed, but I didn’t make any announcement, nor did I report the incident. Nonetheless, being a great practitioner, Rinpoche knew already.

The practice of the Dharma protector was conducted much faster than usual. When it had been completed, Rinpoche immediately had the male disciples bring Mom’s bed to the mandala. Most of the attendees, including the disciples and believers, had no idea of her death. After Rinpoche had taken Mom under his refuge, he bade the attending disciples open the window. With Mom’s head pointing to the west, Rinpoche then started to conduct the practice. Kneeling in front of the mandala, we had a feeling that this was the great “Phowa” which we had never witnessed before. Gratitude as well as emotion felt in our hearts.

With great mercy and compassion, Rinpoche let Dr. Xie and us check on Mom’s crown to see if it had become soft and warm. Then we were told to return to the hospital at once. It was around 6 p.m. already when we arrived at the hospital. Mom’s previously open eyes and mouth had closed up. Furthermore, her dim complexion and the frightened look had turned serene, as if she had been only fast asleep. Before 7 p.m., the nurse told us to change Mom’s clothes as soon as possible because the body would stiffen around 1 to 2 hours after one’s death. However, it had been three hours since Mom drew her last breath, but her body parts remained flexible as ever. Even though her face felt cold, the crown of her head was still warm!

All these phenomena were auspicious signs of the perfection of “Phowa,” just as Rinpoche had mentioned before. Most remarkably, malignant ascites, which had made Mom look like a 10-month pregnant woman, disappeared all at once. Since the urine tube had already been pulled out, we examined her body for egestion. Nevertheless, none was found, and her belly had simply flattened out.

After Mom’s consciousness had been transferred through “Phowa,” Rinpoche told us that nobody had had such merits to pass away in the puja and hence reached the Pureland without any suffering. It was because that my mother had shown reverence and great repentance in the last days of her life, and the fact that we had followed Rinpoche’s instruction to do the full prostrations. But we wouldn’t dare to think that we contributed at all. Everything was the manifestation of the mercy of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Being grateful for all, we were fortunate to witness the mightiness of Dharma.

We appreciate Rinpoche for showing us that the path to the Pureland truly exists.

Rinpoche had said that a round opening can be found after cremation in the skull of the person whose consciousness has been transferred through “Phowa.” Besides finding an opening in Mom’s skull, we couldn’t help but notice the pink, light purple and even translucent emerald green colors in her cremated bones. We showed the photos before the doctors and they all considered it impossible. A patient with late-stage cancer spread to other parts of the body is unlikely to have such colorful cremated remains.

While Rinpoche was conducting the practice, the disciples witnessed several times of recording signal disconnection on the display screens, which were showing the simultaneous video recording. Those sitting beside the window even felt a chill passing by. Words will never do justice to the mercy and compassion of Rinpoche, as well as his favor for us. During Mom’s stay in the hospital, she once asked Rinpoche when she would be able to go home. Rinpoche said, “Which home are you returning?” “My own home,” Mom responded. Then Rinpoche spoke to Mom in a fatherly way, “That is not your home. You are to return to the home of Buddha.” She has returned to the home of Buddha indeed. In a time of the decadence of Dharma, it is difficult to follow such a virtuous master who propagates orthodox Buddhism. Just as Rinpoche always reminds us, we should learn and study Buddhism well. It is also my sincere wish that every being could understand the suffering brought by reincarnation and be liberated from the cycle of births and deaths.

Updated on May 13, 2008