166: The Sort of Guru I Have Encountered

While on his deathbed, my husband’s eyes never rolled up into his head, nor did he struggle for breath; he passed away very peacefully. The night before, he had even eaten half a bowl of rice!

From when he had been confirmed to have lung cancer, to his earnest supplication to take refuge, to his eventual death, only a little more than two months had passed. In that time, he did not suffer from edema or hemoptysis, nor did he howl terribly in pain. Compared to most lung cancer patients, my husband really was lucky, and his experience quite mystifying. Even more fortunate was the fact that he had a guru, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, to perform the Phowa immediately after his death.

Actually, having taken refuge for only a little more than two months, I still had no clue what the Phowa was; my faith in the guru only began to develop after I’d participated in the Chod Puja on Fridays and gone home each time to find that my husband was feeling more and more comfortable. I felt that we had found the savior, Avalokiteshvara; the power of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings was truly incredible.

My husband was liberated by the auspicious Phowa performed by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Upon inspection of his post-cremation remains, what stood out were the “multicolored” bone fragments. One piece of rib, about three centimeters long, was apple-green in color, and another, coin-sized piece was as yellow as a lemon. A few other fragments, roughly the size of a fingernail, had hues of pink, purple, tan, and dark brown. Why were they not simply a pile of white bones? This truly was eye-opening to me. Later, I learned from Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche that these small fragments were “sariras,” auspicious signs that the Phowa had successfully liberated the deceased.

A photograph of Tan Huizhong and her husband when they were young

A friend and I had started a barbecue shop together, but the guru, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, told me, “You must stop running that shop; as soon as you get your investment capital back, you should dissolve your partnership. You must not even use your partner’s money.” This was the command the guru gave me. However, making a living was a reality I had to face; I had no pension saved up. How could I survive on my own?

The guru said, “If you dedicate yourself to practicing Buddhism, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will not leave you without a place to live, food to eat, or clothing to wear. You have already taken refuge, so what else do you have to worry about? What are you still afraid of? You should ‘live by adapting to each rising condition, and keep calm no matter what happens’; this means to let go.”

This sudden wake-up call made me realize with a start where I had gone wrong. Could someone who had shoved even the first of the Five Precepts and Ten Meritorious Acts to the back of her mind be called a disciple of the Buddha? If I did not implement the lessons learned from my guru’s admonition into my daily life, could I say I was practicing Buddhism? I really had not had complete faith in the guru, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas; all of their teachings had been for my own benefit.

After Tan Huizhong’s companion dog died, it was compassionately liberated by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche

Half a year after my husband passed away, our little dog—my only companion—came down with a serious illness, and was on the verge of death. With a heavy heart, I sought an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

The first thing the guru said was, “You absolutely must not euthanize that little dog. It would resent you. Even though the act of killing would be done by the veterinarian, it still would be done under your orders! Regardless of how many more days your dog can hold on, you should first register for it to participate in the Chod Puja. Go home and feed it three nectar pills; you can just place them into its mouth. Do you have any nectar pills? If you do this, it will have a good place to go after it dies—and will be guaranteed not to fall back into the Three Evil Realms.”

Could a lowly little dog be bestowed such precious nectar pills? Could it also participate in the Chod Pujas, like me? I felt ecstatic: Gratified that my little dog would be liberated, and happy at having received guidance myself. This was precisely what the guru had taught his disciples all along: If you teach by example, and put theory into practice, then how can you fail to convince the doubtful? The guru seemed to be saying, “Foolish disciple! This is what it means to have an ‘indiscriminate mind;’ this is what the ‘compassion of Emptiness’ is. This is what it means to aspire to and practice bodhicitta.”

Were it not for the guru’s profound intuitiveness and ability to stop me from doing the wrong thing, affinity that had formed in this lifetime between me and my pet dog would most certainly not have ended happily.

To my great surprise, my dog did not die until the morning after it attended the Chod Puja. It really seemed to have understood how to ‘cherish causal condition’ and ‘appreciate good fortune’! I am grateful to the guru for compassionately liberating and bestowing such benevolence upon all sentient beings in the Six Realms.

One night, while I was making a routine outing to buy the evening newspaper, for some reason I found myself walking in the wrong direction. No sooner had I turned a corner than I inadvertently glanced at a black car parked in front of a convenience store.
“Dharma brother!” Someone was sticking her head out of the car window, hollering and waving at me. Aha! It was Dharma Brother Wei. “The guru is here in the car.”

I covered my mouth with one hand and said, “Really?”

“Do you not believe me? Have a look yourself.” I naturally glanced at the back seat of the car.

Before I had time to turn around, I heard the guru’s voice “How’s life been for you?” I answered, “It’s been hard. Soon I’m going to come and implore you for help.”

“When will you come?”
“How about in July!” I knew the guru would be leading more than ten Dharma brothers on a trip to Qinghai, so I would have to wait until his return.

“When the time comes, you must be sure to come and see me! Don’t forget.” Was this the guru’s voice? Why was its tone so soft? Where was the solemn tone in which he’d spoken while on the Dharma throne? The guru’s concerned instructions, delivered so compassionately and tenderly, were something that I, having lost my parents at a young age, had never been able to even hope for my entire life. I hurriedly bowed my head and put my palms together, and then quickly looked away; I was suddenly so choked up that I did not dare to watch as the car drove off!

How did the guru know about my predicament? I was just one old woman among a great many disciples. Moreover, why did I unconsciously walk over in that direction that evening? Was it because of the guru’s Dharma power of subduing, placating, increasing, and vanquishing?

“Dharma brother! Why did you call me over that evening?” Several days later, I finally had an opportunity to ask this of Dharma Brother Wei.

“We saw you walking down the street, and the guru said to me, ‘This person is experiencing difficulty in her life; call her over.’ Otherwise, why would I have shouted out to you?”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche sees his disciples as precious treasures, caring compassionately for them and giving tender guidance like a kind parent.

During my next audience with the guru, I knelt nervously before him.

“What’s going on with your apartment?” The guru asked.

“I don’t own; I pay rent—NT $18,000 a month.”

“Well then you should move into the dormitory I own. I won’t charge you rent; you can just put that money toward paying for your living expenses.”

“I wouldn’t want to impose.”

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “You don’t need to think that way. You are one of my disciples; if any of my disciples is having a hard time, then as long as I am still able, I will do what I can to help. Go ahead and move into the dormitory. There is an empty room at the moment; if someone else moves in, you’ll lose this spot. From now on, I won’t accept any offerings from you because of your financial situation.”

I answered, “Thank you, Rinpoche, for your good intentions. In that case, I will go ahead and move into the dormitory. However, until things get absolutely desperate for me, might I implore you to continue accepting my offerings?” The guru gazed at me for several seconds before gently nodding. Heavens! Those few seconds felt longer than a century; I was so anxious.

I then reported, “For a disciple, dormitory life is no less rigorous a test than cultivating the third Paramita! It is not easy!” The guru chuckled. I am so grateful to the guru; besides providing me with a residence sheltered from the driving wind and rain, he even paid for my living expenses by way of a monthly stipend! This continued until my borough chief helped me apply to be qualified as a low-income household (and actually, I should have qualified as a zero income household). Only then did I respectfully stop accepting the guru’s assistance of money.

Tan Huizhong still lives in the dormitory provided by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

From a Buddhist viewpoint, my grandfather must still be suffering in the Three Evil Realms. My only regret in life had been not able to show my gratitude to him for his hard work for the family; what should I do? What could I do? Luckily, my grandfather finally received ‘deliverance’ in 2005 when the guru held the first Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness at National Taiwan University Sports Center.

We have a puja every Sunday. One day I was entering the Buddhist Center as usual, when H.E. Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche called me over. When I was a step in front of the guru’s throne, I knelt with palms clasped. When I glanced up at the guru, I suddenly froze. How had the guru turned into a ‘glowing body of light’? I immediately thought of a section of a sutra in which it was written that the Buddha’s body had emitted a white light. If I had not seen this light with my own eyes, I would never have even been able to imagine it. Who was I, to unexpectedly have such good fortune to witness someone who was no longer just an ordinary person? A wave of intense reverence swept through my brain, and I suddenly felt how wonderful it would be to simply remain there, kneeling forever, never to stand up again. Could his completion of the three months’ life-or-death retreat really cause him to be reborn? Should I still need to doubt whether master practitioners and Mahasiddhas still exist in this evil time of the Five Turbidities?

Rinpoche said to me, “You are unwell. Tomorrow, go visit the Glorious Jewel Chinese Medicine Clinic and see a doctor. If you are in poor health, you won’t be able to practice no matter how much you might want to. I won’t charge you for any medicine prescribed.” And just like that, Rinpoche helped me; I was made to take traditional Chinese medicine for an entire year to nurse me back to health. I am grateful to the guru for being so conscientious and caring toward an old woman like me.

Tan Huizhong is grateful to the guru for looking after her for so many years and allowing her the peace of mind to learn the Dharma from him

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche cares for his disciples meticulously; his benevolence is as vast as the ocean is deep. How can I possibly repay this gargantuan debt of kindness I owe with the mere utterance of a few thanks? My guru is an enormously compassionate Rinpoche who is constantly, tirelessly helping sentient beings.

This is exactly the sort of guru I have encountered.

Respectfully written by Disciple Tan Huizhong (Group 6) on January 7, 2009.
Updated on March 8, 2017.

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Updated on September 1, 2018