201: Reaching Wherever A Bird Can Fly – In Japan, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche Performed the Phowa for My Father, Who Passed Away Across the Ocean in America

I am Huang Yingjun. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to report about how Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche performed the Phowa for my dad. I am extremely grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

My dad passed away on November 23rd, 2007, shortly after his ninety-third birthday. Actually, he had trouble walking ever since his seventies, because he’d suffered a stroke and intracranial hemorrhaging. In his old age, therefore, he grew less and less mobile, and by the end, his cerebellum had atrophy and he could not walk at all. In addition, fifteen years previously, he’d undergone neck surgery. The operation had been very successful, but while in the recovery room, he had removed his intubation by himself. This action had injured his pharyngeal cartilage and made it hard for him to swallow after that. Generally, when we swallow food, it will enter our stomachs, but his went into his lungs, causing pneumonia.

My dad passed away on November 23rd, 2007, shortly after his ninety-third birthday. Actually, he had trouble walking ever since his seventies, because he’d suffered a stroke and intracranial hemorrhaging. In his old age, therefore, he grew less and less mobile, and by the end, his cerebellum had atrophy and he could not walk at all. In addition, fifteen years previously, he’d undergone neck surgery. The operation had been very successful, but while in the recovery room, he had removed his intubation by himself. This action had injured his pharyngeal cartilage and made it hard for him to swallow after that. Generally, when we swallow food, it will enter our stomachs, but his went into his lungs, causing pneumonia.

Cleaning him posed another problem. If we were not careful after he’d had a largish bowel movement, then like a child, his bottom would turn red and swollen. On the other hand, wiping him too many times would result in broken skin, and it always took several days before it healed. Whenever I was with him, therefore, I always tried to get him to take traditional Chinese medicine. If his bowel movements were too large, I’d think of a way to get them to be smaller; if they were too soft, I would feed him things to solidify them a bit; if they came too often, I’d look for medicine that could reduce their frequency. This entire process took a great deal of meticulous attention, and every time I left home, I was an emotional mess.

I remember one year, while in Lumbini, Nepal, I reported my father’s situation to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and he bopped me on the head and asked, “Do you know why I hit you? It’s because you do not believe in your guru; you have no faith in the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.” I thought I understood, because causes and conditions affect each other mutually; if I did not act according to the guru’s teachings, then I could not possibly obtain anything I implored for. As such, there was no need for me to ask for anything; I was better off just practicing in accordance with what Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had taught me. From then on, therefore, I never again asked him anything regarding my father’s situation. Instead, after that, Rinpoche began bringing the subject of my dad up from time to time.

Around the middle of 2006, Rinpoche bestowed upon me a precious Dharma method of accumulating good fortune. He told me to pray to Dharma Protector Achi daily so that my father could receive the Phowa from him, so I started doing that constantly from that day on.

Disciple Huang Yingjun is sincerely grateful to H.E. Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for his blessings and protection bestowed upon his elderly father!

One day in 2007, prior to going into retreat, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche told me that in December there would be a concert in Japan, and suggested that I take my wife to it. I thought that that would be impossible, because my wife had to take care of my dad. Later, Dharma Brother Tian told me that if Rinpoche said we could go, then we could go. Looking back on it, I think perhaps Rinpoche was hinting to me that my dad would likely be gone by then. After his retreat, the guru informed me that my dad would pass away in October, by the lunar calendar. I figured that would be around November by the Gregorian calendar. In September I saw Rinpoche again, and he told me that when I went back to America this time, my dad would pass. Therefore, at the end of September, after learning that our dad had been hospitalized for pneumonia, my younger sister and I went to seek an audience with Rinpoche, during which we implored him to perform the Phowa for our father. Rinpoche compassionately said that he would, so we returned to America in very good spirits.

In America, I asked my dad’s attending physician to allow him to leave the hospital, because in his final months he had often been crying. I once had asked Rinpoche, “What does it mean when my dad cries?” He had replied, “First of all, he is crying because he feels like he’s a burden on you kids. Another reason is that he wants his life to end already. You shouldn’t subject him to any further torture at the hospital.” For this reason, I begged the doctor to let him go home. The doctor said he would allow it, and that he would have a nurse visit him at home to give him his injections for ten days. When I asked what the difference would be between getting those shots and not getting them, the doctor said, “If he undergoes a ten-day regimen, then he’ll probably be able to hold out for another half a year! I’ll do a tracheostomy for him!” I replied that that was absolutely not on the cards, and asked what would happen if he didn’t get the injections. The doctor answered that he would likely die within three weeks. I asked, “So, what sort of meaning do you think his life will have if he lives another six months like this?” He answered, “None at all, actually.” I exclaimed, “Exactly! That’s why I don’t think we should make him suffer any longer. I’d like to go ahead and check him out of the hospital.”

After bringing my dad home from the hospital, we gave him very good care, so after three weeks, he felt as though he were getting better and better. I thought to myself, “Oh no! Perhaps, because I haven’t acted in accordance with the guru’s teachings, Dad is going to have to continue suffering even longer!” As it turned out, though, on an evening eleven days before he passed away, he suddenly threw up. When I saw this, it was very clear to me that he had actually swallowed most of the vomit down into his lungs. It occurred to me that if I did nothing, then he would probably pass away within a few days. My wife, however, due to having cared for him for so long, was extremely reluctant to let him go, so she telephoned his doctor. The doctor arranged for a nurse to come the following day and administer injections for four days in a row. I then saw the situation getting worse and worse; my dad’s heartbeat and blood pressure continued to drop. One evening, a few days before he died, he had a very black, sticky bowel movement, which I assumed was probably a stool that had accumulated in his bowel. When this happened three days in a row, I knew he was close to the end. I therefore immediately told the nurse to stop giving him injections, and we abandoned all medical treatment.

At 3:30 in the morning on November 23rd, my dad passed away! As soon as he died, I made a phone call to Dharma Brother Lai, my eyes on the clock (and thinking that 3:30 in that part of America was probably around 7:30 p.m. in Taiwan). Dharma Brother Lai had been waiting for my call, and said that she would get in touch with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche immediately. She asked me to wait for a moment. Not long after, she called back to tell me that the guru would perform the Phowa my dad three minutes later.

Before the Phowa was performed, I felt my dad’s forehead and the back of his head. His forehead was icy cold, and the back of his head was cold, too. Half an hour later, when the Phowa was finished, I again touched him. The front of his head was still cold, but behind it was very warm, and the warmth continued down and included his pillow. In addition, his face looked better; his mouth, which had been wide open (because his nose was blocked, so he’d had to breathe through his mouth), had slowly closed until it was only slightly open. He looked so much better that way, as if he were merely asleep. In the end, after half an hour of helping him into some clothes there at home, his body became completely supple, too. We chanted the Buddha’s name for eight hours, and then moved him to the funeral home. The people from the funeral home told us they needed to wash him again. As they did, his mouth immediately closed. They told me that they were very happy to see him in this condition, because his entire body was soft.

Throughout this entire process, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche helped us so many times, including assistance with my health and with my mom. The day my dad died was October 14th (by the lunar calendar), the very month the guru had predicted he would pass. As a matter of fact, Rinpoche had never met my dad, nor seen his photograph, nor even heard his voice. What the guru had accomplished was absolutely amazing! Therefore, I again would like to express my deep gratitude for all Rinpoche did for us. Meanwhile, I also want to thank Dharma Brother Lai for not getting a good night’s sleep for a few days in order to wait for my phone call. I also am grateful to Dharma Brother Tian, because while I was in America, I had to rely on her to handle so many things for me. Thank you, everyone!

Respectfully written by Disciple Huang Yingjun on December 29, 2008
Updated on December 2, 2016

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