375: Gratitude

During my first audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in October of 2006, I implored for blessings due to my chronic poor health. The guru asked if I’d killed any snakes when I was little, and informed me that my deceased grandfather and father were not in good condition in the other realm. I could not recall incidents about killing snakes since it had been long time ago; I’d been scared of them from an early age, and the mere sight of one would send me running. I grew up in the mountains, where snakes were often-seen denizens; sometimes one could be found killed by the roadside. One evening, a snake had entered our home, and after hearing the chickens clucking in alarm, I’d tried to beat it with a stick. Even though I had missed, this action had still planted an evil cause.

The temple at which I was ordained was in the countryside, and there were a lot of snakes there, too. One would often make its way indoors, so to avoid stepping on it, we would have to chase it back outside. The temple grounds contained rice fields and vegetable gardens, which would be sprayed with herbicide; snakes sometimes went in and got poisoned and died. I once saw a very long, dead snake in one of the rice fields. We had really created some evil karma! Despite being monastics, we were still committing acts of killing.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once said that my lupus erythematosus has to do with harming dragon species. When I was little, in my ignorance I might have harmed some snakes, but I couldn’t remember; either way, I could not escape cause and effect. What was certain was that I had quite a connection with snakes. I have had two outbreaks of a type of herpes blisters (commonly known as “snake skin,” which, if it completely covers one’s body, can result in death). This sort of disease comes from cause and effect, and is unbearably painful, prevents me from lying down, and leads to insomnia. At first, I did not know what was growing on my skin. I was unable to get rid of it, so I asked all over my hometown, and only found a cure after receiving pointers from people. To this day, the places where those herpes blisters appeared sometimes cause me pain. One time it got so bad I had to be hospitalized, and there a doctor diagnosed it as lupus erythematosus. Thus, I had to take steroids for years.

After taking refuge in His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, receiving his blessings, and listening to his teachings, I learned that I must accept my karmic retribution and repent for the evil karma I had created! The sentient beings I have harmed suffer more than I do. I should coexist with the sentient beings in my body, not harm them again in order to cure my ailments.

For more than two years, ever since I took refuge, I have not taken any steroids, nor have I undergone any follow-up examinations. I have recovered my strength quite well; except for when I have a cold, I typically am not drained of energy and in need of a lie-down the way I used to be. This is all thanks to H.E. Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s great, compassionate blessings!

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche blessing ordained disciple Shi Huiyang.

I come from a family of farmers. We tilled some fields and raised some poultry, such as chickens and ducks, as well as pigs and so on. Once they were mature, we would sell them. Sometimes, during Chinese New Year or other festivities, we would slaughter some and eat them ourselves. When my father was in his sixties, he got colorectal cancer. In its final stage, he was unable to eat, and was all skin and bones. Ascites caused his stomach to bloat enormously, and extracting the accumulated fluid was useless; the pain and torment got so bad that he later committed suicide by drinking pesticide.

My eldest brother was a farmer when he was young, too. Later, he moved to Keelung and got a job as a lumper. Like most people, he subscribed to the misconception that only meat contained the nutrients needed to be physically strong for his work. Even though he later became vegetarian, he still had to repay the debt owed to the sentient beings he had eaten, so he ended up with gout. Neither analgesic injections nor painkilling medication helped, but he still needed to work. Eventually, when he was fifty-five years old, he killed himself. My uncle, my father’s brother, was given to another family as an adopted son when he was little, and in his old age he committed suicide, too, because that was the karma accumulated from his ancestors’ acts of killing as well as my uncle’s own past lives. My fifth eldest sister married into a family that lived in central Taiwan, near the ocean, and sometimes she would go fishing or buy live fish and take them home to kill. She also had an abortion once. Later, she got a skin disease on both feet; they blackened and kept peeling like those of Blackfoot disease, and stank horrifically. Even after a long period of treatment, she did not get better. She ended up with a liver tumor, and died at the age of fifty-two.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once said that all incurable illnesses stem from past acts of killing. If one has eaten the flesh of sentient beings, he or she must repay that debt, and this is why all cancer patients must suffer until their last breath. Toward the end, my elder sister was given morphine and pain-relief patches, but those did nothing to alleviate her pain. From her bedside, I watched her struggle until the very end. Before she passed away, she looked so desperate and tormented, yet I could do nothing to help; I was deeply saddened.

After taking refuge in the guru, I kept participating in the pujas, and one day I heard Rinpoche say, “People who commit suicide are bound to fall into the Hell Realm, where they will relive their deaths over and over. They won’t have an opportunity to escape their suffering unless someone helps them; if no one does, then they will suffer in hell for a very long time indeed.” Hearing this disheartened me. A year later, I finally reported to Rinpoche that my father, uncle, and older brother had all committed suicide. So the guru instructed me to register their names for the Chod so that they could be liberated during the puja, and then asked me why I had waited until then to tell him. He also said that it took a year for my deceased loved ones to slowly accumulate some fortune because I’d taken refuge and continuously participated in the pujas; this was what had led me to report their suicides to Rinpoche, thus creating a causal condition to relieve them from suffering in the Hell Realm. I am so grateful to the guru!

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche blessing Shi Huiyang’s elderly mother.

In 2007, less than three months after I had taken refuge in Rinpoche, he went to a sacred place in Nepal to conduct a three-month retreat. After its perfect completion, and upon arriving back in Taipei, Rinpoche went straight to the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center and ascended the Dharma throne to bestow teachings. Once the puja was over, he called together a few of us ordained disciples and, deeply caring, asked whether we had any problems in our practice or in our lives in general. The guru told us to go and have a look at a house he owned on North Zhongshan Road, and gave us permission to live there with Dharma Brother Huilian and others. Rinpoche is always showing great concern for us; he knew that at the time we lived at Exoteric Buddhist temples, we were bound to have trouble at times getting over to the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center to attend pujas on Sundays. Now and then we could not get away, due to events being held at the Exoteric temples; we could not be in two places at once. Back then, I lacked in good fortune and I was over scrupulous, so it had taken me more than a year to finally move to Taipei. In addition, after I was ordained, my mom had lived with me at the Exoteric temple for more than twenty years. She was getting on in years, and had trouble getting around; I also had been afraid that the change of environment might make her be a bother to others. However, living at the Exoteric temple caused us difficulties to attend pujas at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center at times. Every year, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had said that anyone who was not present on Chinese New Year’s Day Puja should not come anymore. Furthermore, it was also difficult for us to attend the July pujas at the Center. Whenever we couldn’t come, I always felt very worried. I thought to myself, “This simply won’t do; I’ve muddled through more than twenty years as an Exoteric monastic, and it’s been hard enough to obtain the causes, conditions, and good fortune to encounter such a meritorious guru as Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche; if I continue staying at the Exoteric temple, then I’ll just be wasting more time. Without Rinpoche’s teachings, I won’t be able to learn the Dharma and become liberated from life and death!”

I therefore sought another audience with the guru, during which I reported that I wished to leave the Exoteric temple where I resided, move to Taipei, and live in the house he owned with Dharma Brother Huilian and others. He compassionately granted me permission to do so, and said, “You have taken refuge in me, and are now my disciples. When it comes to having a place to live, food to eat, and clothing to wear, I will take care of all of your needs.” I said, “But my mom wants to come and live with me, too.” Rinpoche compassionately gave his consent,, and now she and I are both under the guru’s care. We are so grateful for Rinpoche’s great benevolence! He has allowed me to settle down and learn Buddhism in his footsteps. Words cannot describe how thankful I am!

With obeisance,
Ordained Disciple Shi Huiyang
Updated on March 23, 2016

Updated on March 23, 2016