002: Father’s Final Moments

On May 1st, 2003, by a confluence of circumstances that came together, my friend Shenzhen who is a disciple of the His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche took me to see Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. We arrived at the Glorious Jewel Jewellery Company around 3 pm. Located right next to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, the company looks more like an antique store, nonetheless, this is actually the place that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche receives and helps sentient beings.

Till half past five all the disciples awaited meticulously and reverently to greet their Guru upon his arrival. When Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche sat on the throne, everyone went forward to prostrate themselves before him. I then placed my hands together in the attitude of prayer and raised them to my forehead, throat, and heart, knelt down on the floor and prostrated myself by bowing my forehead to the floor. I felt an unusual calmness in my heart and found my breathing had become smooth and steady. What power had made my heart so calm? In that moment, some kind of immense reverence filled my every single cell.

I was the first one to step forward and see Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Before I even opened my mouth, tears shed continuously from my eyes and Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked, “What would you like to ask Rinpoche?” I replied, “One year ago, my father was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis. The doctor told us he was dying and suggested us to be prepared for that.” I said all this with a faint voice that got weaker and weaker as I spoke, and all the while tears ran down my face. The compassionate Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked again, “In what way do you hope Rinpoche can help you?” I said, “I hope to alleviate his suffering, not only while he is alive but also during his passing”. While uttering these words, I felt strong emotions in my heart and it seemed I might collapse at any time. Within the next few seconds, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was meditating, and then he said, “It should be around the fifth or sixth month of the lunar calendar.” When I heard that, I couldn’t stop my emotional fluctuation and almost collapsed, tears running freely down my face. Although I was unable to speak, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche seemed to be fully aware of my overwrought emotions as he continued, “Rinpoche will perform a ritual blessing for your father. Tomorrow, you shall come to the Chod puja on behalf of your father” I was very grateful to the compassionate Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for giving me a chance to attend this rare and special puja. I nodded repeatedly and said thank you. As I was just about to take out the red envelope containing the offering of money my friend Shenzhen had thoughtfully prepared for me, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “As you are not my disciple, I would not take it.” Intuitively and quickly, I said thank you many times to Rinpoche for his help.

Maybe it was the cause and condition that put all the pieces of my life together, just like a jigsaw puzzle, one piece at a time forming my future. Or perhaps, it was what I had to face, anyway. Though I had such thoughts in mind, I still couldn’t let go of the thought that my father was going to die. I recalled the face of my father in the mornings; him reading the paper; him telling me to have breakfast. How could I possibly bear and accept his approaching death?

It seemed that we had to hasten a lot of things. I wanted to get engaged with my boyfriend while my father was still alive and cognizant so as to make him feel at peace and be happy and not worry about my future. I wanted to talk with my younger brother and sister, and hoped they could do their best to make the best of the time left for our father; make him comfortable and at peace. Thanks to the grace of the Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, who is no different from Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas, we were notified in advance and thus able to practice “filial piety,” as children ought to do. As for our future to come, we entrusted it to the Guru, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

I am grateful for the blessings of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. His Chod practice was extraordinary, and thereby my father never experienced the suffering typical of a cancer patient’s final stages. If Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had not attained such a supreme accomplishment, he could not have performed such an amazing feat. Therefore, I sought refuge in my guru with overwhelming gratitude in my heart. What Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has done for sentient beings and his disciples could never be repaid even if I were to sacrifice my life. Thus, I hope to be able to leave the cycle of birth and death, and be liberated  from reincarnation so as to repay the immense grace of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

At 6:50 pm on May 16th, 2004, my father passed away.

That morning, I rushed to school to submit my final paper, and afterward, went straight to the hospital to see my father. The nurse’s aide told us that my father’s condition was not “promising.” I then looked at the rhythm of his heartbeat on the screen of the electrocardiogram monitor. It was indeed quite unstable. I asked my younger sister to stay at the hospital while my mother, my husband and I went to attend the afternoon puja. Nevertheless, my mind still lingered in the hospital, and I bid my sister to text-message us at once if anything happened.

It was during this time that His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche had come to Taiwan to inaugurate our puja venue, and so Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche who was extremely busy had become exhausted. Hence, that day Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche ended the puja early at half past four. I had received a text message from my younger sister saying that our father’s condition had become critical and that the doctor had used an EpiPen to treat him. Therefore, we hurried to the hospital as soon as the puja ended, all the while reciting the Mani Mantra in our minds, knowing clearly that our father’s departure was drawing near.

Upon arriving at the ward, the doctor had already finished his last treatment, and said to us, “I’m afraid this is it. As soon as the oxygen mask is removed, his breathing will stop.” Though I was aware that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had had a tiring day, I forced myself to ask my group leader, Dharma brother Wei, to contact Rinchen Dorjee Rinchen for us, hoping that my father could receive the Phowa Dharma during his final moments and be able to head for the Pure Land. My mother cried bitterly at the other end of the hallway, for she still could not let go of her husband. Nevertheless, I could not console her for I knew well that I had to be strong and remain composed at that very moment, so as to lend strength to my family, otherwise everyone else would lose control. We made our final decision to change our father into clean clothes before he drew his last breath and subsequently sent him to the recitation room. Seeing our father breathing hard and blood continually coming out of his nose, my younger sister, who had always disagreed with our father, carefully kept him clean. On witnessing such tender affection among our family, I felt a bit comforted.

My mother, my husband, my brothers and sister escorted our father to the recitation room while I stayed behind at the hospital to take care of some paperwork. By the time I got to the recitation room, it was 7:20 pm and my father had passed away already. His body lay motionless on the stretcher, and the room was filled with sound of the Mani Mantra being recited by my family, who were praying wholeheartedly that our father could go to the Pure Land. It seemed that time was frozen in the universe. Unaware of the time that had passed, we received a phone call at 8:50 from Dharma brother Wei. “Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche just started to conduct the Phowa for your father.” I continually visualized and prayed to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and the Dharma protector Achi, hoping that my father could follow all the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas to the Pure Land and be liberated from reincarnation. I also prayed that all of our father’s karmic creditors as well as those to whom he may have harmed in any way could also go to the Pure Land through the compassion of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. My brothers, who are both atheists, recited the mantra willingly along with us. Although they had claimed to have been mentally prepared, the elder one still had the trails of wistful tears in the corners of his eyes.

At 9:20, Dharma brother Wei phoned and notified us that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had completed the ritual of Phowa. He asked me to go touch my father’s body at the point of the Crown Chakra and see if it was warm. I hurried over and touched my father’s forehead, which was cool. However when I touched his Crown Chakra, it was not only warm, but slightly sweaty. I finally knew peace in knowing that my father had reached the Pure Land and thereby felt immensely grateful to the compassionate Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for completing the Phowa Dharma perfectly. At that moment, I asked everyone to come and touch for themselves, and they all gasped in amazement. The air conditioning in the recitation room was so powerful that we all had cold hands and feet. However, our father who was merely covered with a thin quilt in such a cold air-conditioned room, his Crown Chakra still felt warm and slightly sweaty. By 9:20, it had been over two hours since my father passed away at 6:50. Normally, the body should have gone cold, yet it turned out to be miraculously warm. Besides this, we noticed our father’s serene facial expression and un-knitted brows, it was as if our father was at peace and seemed to have let go of everything. My sister touched my father’s arm and said to me in amazement, “Dad’s arms are warm as well!” She then touched his calves, which were warm too. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Phowa is truly rare and auspicious! Even at 11 pm, when my mother got to the funeral parlor and took the ring off our father’s finger, she found that the body was still warm, very flexible, and not stiff at all.

At that time, so great was my gratitude to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, that it filled the room.

Thus departed my father. I tell you the truth, to this day I have felt no sadness nor have I dropped a single tear so far because I know that my father has gone to the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. I should be happy for my father. What has happened is simply that the favorable condition between him, my father, and me, his daughter, has ended. The only thing I can do for him now is to learn and study Buddhism well and thus repay the immense grace of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

Father, I feel that it was your worldly suffering that summoned for us the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas and thus showed all of us the sublimity of Buddha Dharma, as well as allowing us to meet with a virtuous Guru who is no different from Buddha.

Had it not been for your illness, I would not have met Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche on May 1st last year, and prayed for him to relieve your suffering.

Had it not been for your illness, I would not have visited the hospital so often and thus come to understand the suffering of sentient beings in birth, in aging, in sickness, and in death.

Had it not been for your illness, I would not have learned the invaluable worth of being born in human form.

Had it not been for your final moments, I would never have experienced the sublimity and rareness of the Phowa firsthand.

Father, thank you. It was the best gift you could have ever bestowed on us.

To Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, who performed such a sublime practice, all of us have immense gratitude towards you in our hearts.

By He Jinyu on October 12, 2004

Updated on November 24, 2009