462: Endless Gratitude

My thanks go to His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas. I am He Yuqun from Team 5. My father, He Junjie, met with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and received blessings on September 4 and passed away peacefully at home on September 6. Father was as if he was on an express bullet train going straight to his destination. Although Father’s death was a sudden one, I now recall the smooth process of his funeral. I am grateful that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s compassionate blessing shortened the time that Father had to suffer from his illness. In addition, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche performed the auspicious Phowa for my father so as to allow him to attain rebirth in the Pure Land.

On March 9, 2010, my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. The doctor made it clear that the tumor was inoperable; radiotherapy and chemotherapy were the only alternatives. Not willing to be tortured by further medical treatments, my father didn’t want to go through either radiotherapy or chemotherapy. All our family members supported his decision and he began to take Chinese medicine in order to change the quality of his physical condition. However by the end of April, taking Chinese medicine and undergoing acupuncture therapy had failed to improve my father’s health. He continued to have difficulty of swallowing and was coughing up mucus. As a result, his faith was shaken. With the persuasion of several well-meaning friends and relatives, the thought of trying Western medicine emerged in his mind. For his survival, he was willing to give it a shot. On the 23rd of April, he checked into the hospital to treat his pneumonia. In the meantime, he also was waiting for the chance to undergo radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

On May 15, my colleague and Dharma Brother, Liao, took me to see Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for the first time. I implored Rinpoche’s blessings to reduce my father’s pain during his illness. The second Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche spoke my blindspot was revealed. Rinpoche asked, “Can you take the sole responsibility for your father’s illness?” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked me to go home to hold a family meeting before coming back to see Rinpoche again. Indeed, I was not solely responsible or able to make the decision for accompanying and helping Father in that stage of his life. Thanks to the compassionate Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, the karmic connections were formed. Thereby my family members were granted the opportunity to meet with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and receive his compassionate blessings.

On May 29th, together with my mother and younger sisters, I went to see Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked, “Now, what is your plan?” My mother replied immediately, “We plan to have him undergo radiotherapy and chemotherapy.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche reminded us to obtain detailed information from the doctors about the treatment procedures and results. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche also illustrated his personal example of being a survivor of skin cancer who had not received any radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche further stressed that it was not the case that Rinpoche was against radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but we should obtain enough information before making any decisions. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then compassionately told us, “I can definitely help him not to fall into the three lower realms after passing. If you need the help of the Buddhist teachings from now on, you can come back to me any time.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then pointed to me and said that I was a filial daughter. I felt ashamed of being called a filial daughter for I was not able to share my father’s suffering. I also felt regret that when the alarming signs of my father’s illness became clear, I didn’t care about his health condition at that time. Furthermore, I took advantage of my father’s indulgence towards us children and always was away from home for work. I repented for my selfishness and for not being able to share the family responsibilities and work. Because Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said I was filial and pious, I tried my best to handle every matter while my father was ill and after his death. The words “filial piety” said by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche were truly the blessing to me and supported me while accompanying Father on this last journey in his lifetime. On June 5th, I went to see Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche on my own and implored Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for the opportunity to attend puja. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche knew that there would be problems if I adopted a vegetarian diet and told me to return to my seat and think the matter through first. When I went back to see Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche again, I told Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche that I would come back and ask for attending puja once I had managed to adopt a vegetarian diet.

In mid-May, due to repeated aspiration pneumonia, the inflammation of my father’s lungs did not get better. The doctors suggested we stop giving him any food by mouth. Instead, intravenous injections of nutrition and albumin was used to sustain my father’s physical strength. On June 4, my father underwent a gastrostomy. My father was then fed with low-residue liquid food through a feeding tube that directly led to his stomach. From then on, my father no longer created any evil connections with other sentient beings because of eating meat. After the pneumonia was under control, my father began radiation therapy on June 18. Several days after the therapy started, however, his lung problems became more serious. The results of further check-ups indicated that the esophageal cancer had compressed his bronchi and caused the collapse of his left lung. The doctor recommended a surgical procedure for inserting bronchial stents to maintain the lung’s functions. In the meantime, the doctor also informed us of the risks of such an operation such as extreme bleeding during surgery. On June 26, I invited my mother to beseech Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings to help the surgery go well. After Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked about my father’s name, the animal sign of my father’s birth year, and the date of the scheduled surgery, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began to recite mantras to bestow his blessings upon my father. Meanwhile, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche also mercifully promised my supplication of attending pujas. The surgery went smoothly and my father was sound and well. After staying in the intensive care unit for three days, my father was sent back to the general ward. His recovery also went well.

When I went to see Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, I saw that Rinpoche had told some believers to do full prostrations to help them form connections with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Two days before Father’s surgery, I imitated what I had seen and did prostrations in the ward, praying that my father’s bronchial stents would go well. Although I did them for my father, I actually tried to calm myself down through the prostrations. It wasn’t until I listened to the audio recording of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s previous Dharma talk during a regular puja in July that I realized that I had done the prostrations with the wrong mindset. I changed my attitude and did the prostrations with feelings of repentance and gratitude. I felt grateful to my parents, the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and my guru for their grace and kindness. I am grateful for my father’s kindness in bringing me up. It was his suffering that enabled me to learn Buddhism and have the connection to take refuge under the jewel-like Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. In the meantime, I expressed repentance for my self and my father. I used to unknowingly be full of evil conduct, thinking that I was a person that insisted on life values and would not easily compromise. I regarded myself as an environmentally-friendly product that did not bring any harm to the public. Nevertheless, when I began to attend the regular pujas, I examined my body, speech, and mind and was stunned by my many unbearable mistakes. I failed to see that my mind had already been seriously poisoned by my greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and delusion. Two years ago, I even had an abortion for selfish reasons, killing an innocent life. In retrospect of my various vicious conducts such as killing, eating sentient beings’ flesh, and self-righteously arguing with my parents, I am too ashamed to face the world.

On July 17th, my younger sister and I went to seek an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. She implored Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s consent for her to attend pujas, whereas I wished to, on behalf of my father, make an offering and beseeched Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s to conduct the Phowa ritual for my father. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche did not accept my offering, but casually mentioned, “Phowa is not that kind of Dharma you ask for and obtain. It requires immense merits to receive it.” Stepping out of the venue, I started to regret my unawareness of taking the opportunity to implore for refuge. In fact, even though I had not taken refuge at that time, I already regarded Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche as my guru.

Unexpectedly, at the puja the next day, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche who had originally planned to hold a refuge ritual for a believer who was going back to U.S., changed his mind and decided to hold extended refuge to all the believers who had previously registered. Seeing them line up to take refuge, I hurriedly asked a dharma brother who was helping to pack up dharma texts: “I want to take refuge, but I did not register my name in advance. What should I do?” The dharma brother kindly hinted, “Go to kneel down before the mandala and implore for it!” Before I had a chance to kneel in front of the mandala, I was called up to receive the refuge vows. Thanks to the dharma brother who was going to U.S on July 18th, my wish came true and I became a disciple of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

August 1st, father left the hospital and returned home for a 10-day rest. On August 10th, due to vomiting, dyspnea and fever, he was again hospitalized. During this hospitalization, father was even more out of breath. He was also phlegmatic and felt much weaker. He was feed small amounts of food with a tube and many times per day to avoid vomiting. On August 13th, the doctor discovered a hole under our father’s bronchial stents and told us our father might have to undergo another operation. Whether or not to receive another surgery was a tough decision. When the attending doctor sought the opinions of our family members, my father’ view was, “No operation, no hope. I want to fight.”

On August 21st, my mother and I again went for an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for my father’s sake. After I reported my father’s status and the doctor’s suggestion to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, he immediately recited mantras to bestow blessings onto my father. After Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche finished the recitation and seemed not to have any further words for us, I anxiously and indecisively spoke something further as a sense of grasping filled me. Before I finished my words, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “The operation is to be done for your sake.” After we drew back from the front, dharma brother Tian, seeing our frustration, came to share his experience of how to accumulate merits on behalf of our father. She suggested some methods, such as imploring for opportunities to make great offerings, doing full prostrations, and repenting on behalf of our father. We are thankful for dharma brother Tian’s timely advice.

After the doctors’ discussion on August 23rd, the resident doctor delicately explained to our father that it would not be possible to insert more stents or undergo aggressive procedures such as chemotherapy. Hearing this news, I breathed a sigh of relief. I sincerely thanked Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for their blessings. From the beginning of undergoing medical treatment in April, father had always followed the doctors’ instructions. Stubborn as he was, he had chosen not to increase his internal struggles, but to fully hand himself over to the doctors. Fearing that our father would become hopeless, I tried to comfort him saying that it may have been a good thing not to do chemotherapy as it would cause him various unnecessary pains. I also took the chance to share some stories of how Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had liberated sentient beings. As well, I told father that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche would help him and that as he lay in bed he should often think of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

Hearing the stories shared by dharma brothers about “the quality of making great offerings was far more important than the quantity,” I began to search for the funds to make a great offering. My younger sister and I came to the agreement to try our best to make the offering. As for the rest of our family members, whether or not they could understand and accept the importance of making a great offering was not essential. My younger sister and I decided not to have them worry about it. While hesitating what to ask Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche on behalf of my father, a thought suddenly came to my mind: “Since my knowledge and ability are not sufficient, I’d rather ask for nothing but completely believe in the fact that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will arrange the best for my father!”

In the morning of August 28th, the date to make great offering, I flipped through the book “Happiness and Suffering,” and a paragraph on page 90 jumped out at me. The last paragraph read “…when we need the help of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and our guru, don’t look forward to what we wish will happen. We only need to thoroughly believe that the actions of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and the guru can only be of benefit to us. That it is enough.” Reading these words, my faith became unwavering.
On the evening of August 28th, my younger sister and I went to seek an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche compassionately received our offering, and mercifully bestowed us with a nectar pill for father. In addition, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche consented to my request to do full prostrations on behalf of my father. After we returned hospital, we immediately took out the nectar pill for father to take. After father took it, the tube feeding went very smooth and he stopped vomiting. As well, the pain he had in the chest caused by his frequent coughing was also relieved. On August 30th, a dharma brother who worked in the same hospital came to visit father. He shared stories of how Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche liberated sentient beings and his personal experiences of how Rinpoche had helped him. After the visit, I inquired father’s willingness to seek an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. This time, father nodded his assent!

On September 4th, our father went to the Buddhist center by ambulance and implored Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for a blessing. After Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche bestowed blessings on our father, I beseeched the Phowa Dharma. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche compassionately agreed to perform the Phowa ritual for our father, yet stressed that whether or not the dharma would be carried out depended on coming causes and conditions. At around 3 PM on September 5th, out father fell in deep coma while I was attending the regular puja. After the puja was finished, my younger sister and I rushed back to the hospital. My sister held the dharma photo of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in front of our father and continuously reminded him to think of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. At 10 pm, a dharma brother brought some nectar pills. At 11 pm, father regained his consciousness, but he was still very weak and couldn’t speak.

“What are the things that we should do for father, that we can do for father, but we have not yet done?” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once gave the following answer: “You should donate your money to those who can’t afford to see doctors or to study in schools. Don’t be lazy. You should personally deliver your regards to patients in hospitals.” My sister and I knew the importance of making offerings and doing charity work. We, however, always simply used the most convenient ways to donate our money, which was simply wiring donations to medical foundations. I repented for my laziness. I also repented that I was not able to follow the teachings of the Buddha Dharma in time, only doing what was taught when there was an emergency. At 8 AM on September 6th, I sought the nursing staff’s help to contact social workers at the hospital who would help me locate patients who couldn’t afford medical fees. The social workers found such patients and I handed over my donations to these patients willingly. Around 10 o’clock, the attending doctor came to see my father and said, “According to your father’s breathing pattern, he might die at any time today.” Because of the doctor’s words, we decided to bring our father home. We started to pack things, apply for father’s discharge from the hospital, and prepared to take him home. When I contacted dharma brother Tian to tell her of my father’s condition, she gave me some critical suggestions again. I contacted dharma brother Lai to implore Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to allow me to make a large offering and to bring my sisters to repent and perform full-body prostrations in the Buddhist center on behalf of my father. Later, dharma brother Lai answered that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had agreed to allow me to bring my sisters to perform full-body prostrations at the Buddhist center during the evening practice; however, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had not agreed to accept my large offering.

At around 2:30 PM September 6th, we arrived at home. At around 4:10 PM, my father insisted on not using the oxygen mask. Then, I and my sisters knelt down in front of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s dharma photo hanging on the wall behind the father and began to make full-body prostrations to pray to Rinpoche to lead our father on his last journey . At 4:40, when my sisters and I were preparing to go to the Buddhist center for full-body prostrations, my aunt stopped us and said, “From your father’s appearance, it looks like he will pass away soon.” We then knelt down at our father’s side, reciting mantras. My father’s breathing gradually slowed down and finally after a few slight coughs he stopped breathing. I immediately called the Glorious Jewel Antique Company to report this situation. Following my sisters and I prepared to go to the Buddhist center to perform full-body prostrations. We were grateful to Buddhas’, Bodhisattvas’, and Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s compassionate blessings and help so that we could accompany our father in his last moments without any regret.

At around 5:50 PM, we arrived at the Buddhist center to perform full-body prostrations. At the same time, I also got the news that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had completed the conduction of the Phowa ritual for our father. The dharma brother who informed me asked, “Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was asking if your father had practiced Taoism in his lifetime?” Indeed, my mother confirmed that she had heard from my grandmother that when my father was a child, he was adopted as a son by Lu Tung-Pin. I relayed the information back to dharma brother Lai. Later dharma brother Lai told me that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said it was Lu Tung-Pin who had led my father by the hand to find Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Even Lu Tung-Pin knew to bring my father to see Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s ability is really admirable! While in the Buddhist venue, I called my mother and asked her to touch my father’s crown of the head as well as forehead. Via the phone, my mother told me his forehead felt cold, whereas the crown of his head felt warm. At around 8:00 pm, my younger sisters and I arrived home. We started to take turns to recite the Buddha’s name at father’s side. We also kept in mind that father’s body should not be touched by anyone within 8 hours after death. Later we found out that after Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche completed the conduction of Phowa ritual, our father’s consciousness had already transferred to the Pure Land. Thereafter, touching his crown of the head would not have any effect on our father. I felt silly for asking the people present to not touch my father on the crown of his head and, therefore, not giving them a chance to personally feel the auspiciousness of Phowa. What a big mistake! After 8 hours of recitation of the Buddha’s name, father’s mouth gradually closed. He was smiling, with the corners of his mouth turned up slightly and the uneven complexion of his face gradually became uniform. When I lifted up the quilt to move my father’s body, I saw father’s hands crossed on his abdomen, and his right leg breezily bent, the posture was exactly the same as when he was alive. Under Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings, father peacefully and quietly proceeded to the Pure Land.

October 6 is the day when my father’s friends and family saw him off for his last journey. After the completion of my father’s cremation, upon stepping into the retrieval room for the cremated remains, my younger sister gasped in admiration, “Wow! How beautiful the colors are!” The cremated bones were pink and light green in color. We also easily found a clear round hole in the crown of the head. All of these were the auspicious signs of the completion of the Phowa ritual conducted by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. I have immense gratitude for the favor and grace of Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

Reviewing and Examining My Own Body, Speech, and Mind

I first sought an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in May. I began to attend Sunday’s regular pujas in June and took refuge in July. My father passed away in September. When I review this process, I feel that each change was a time that I  examined my mind.

First, I repented that due to being short-sighted and clinging, I was not aware that I should prepare for father’s death in advance, but instead greedily prayed for his recovery. By so doing, I wasted much money and energy to take care of father’s dilapidated body, and delayed the many chances to accumulate merit for my father.

Second, I wanted to repent for being badly unfilial! I did not listen to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s instruction question the doctor carefully, which made my father experience more unnecessary suffering in taking radiotherapy. Moreover, although I knew that undergoing chemotherapy could do nothing but increase my father’s suffering, with iron will, I just thought, “Since my father wants to undergo chemotherapy, let him brave it out.” My father’s will to survive let me unashamedly rationalize my greedy thoughts. Fortunately, my father’s inflammation and pneumonia stopped him from taking chemotherapy. If my father had undergone chemotherapy, I would have had no way to compensate for it even by falling into the eighteenth hell!

Third, the day after my father passed away, dharma brother Lai called me and said, “Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked you to bring your offerings to Glorious Jewel Antique Company!” To my surprise, the evil thought of “Is this true?” arose in me. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s kindness was great and unforgettable. Dharma brothers as well also reminded and helped me tirelessly. All of these helped my father undergo his last journey smoothly. The fact that I had such heinous and evil thoughts in my mind really means that I should fall into hell. This also made me realize how terrible it is to let evil karma from this and past generations of lives obscure the original pure, clean and unpolluted mind.

Fourth, while I was dealing with my father’s dangerous moment of being critically ill, I dared to have thoughts of anger towards our elders and their benevolent help and reminders. When the elders raised some suggestions that differed from mine the evil thought of, “They are manifesting as the karmic creditors and I have to get rid of them” arose in me. Luckily I perceived the deviated thoughts right away. So instead, I took a thankful deep bow to the elders before I spoke in reply to the elders’ opinions, so that I did not make a gross, irreparable error due to my anger and attachment.

In fact, as early as prior to seeking an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for my father’s illness, a thought had once flashed through my mind: I desired to follow a person who was able to directly point out my faults. (Of course, this person should be one that I can totally believe in.) Surprisingly, the compassionate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas kindly bestowed me with an opportunity to follow the rare and precious jeweled Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in Buddhist cultivation. I have yielded in my speech and mind to the His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, just like the meaning of the Chinese character “服” in my dharma name “慧服卓瑪”. I wish to follow Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche in Buddhist practices and cultivation life after life, without retreating or ever turning back!

Disciple He Yu-Qun, respectfully written on 2010/10/10

Updated on November 16, 2010