639: Gratitude to the Guru for Teaching Me the Most Important Thing As a Human

Praise be unto His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, the Lineage Gurus, Dharma Protector Achi and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas!

Greetings, honorable believers and Dharma brothers. I am Hong Jiawen of Group Five. I am grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for bestowing me this opportunity to share with everyone my experiences of seeking audience with and taking refuge in the guru, as well as how he had helped me and my elder sister.

My intention to seek an audience with Rinpoche has its origin in 2011. At the time, some professional, emotional, and family problems had arisen. Although I knew these were not an insurmountable crisis or anything, I still felt rather stressed and confused. I kept thinking to myself, What does it mean that I have come to this world? Where will I go when I die?

I am currently living with two elder sisters; both of them are just a year apart in age. In my first year of middle school, my father suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away three days later. A year later, my mother had discovered that she had stage-two breast cancer, and not long afterward my maternal grandmother found out that she had stage-four cervical cancer. Having to earn enough money to support us three sisters alone, while having cancer and also needing to take care of her own mother who suffered from cancer as well, my mother had been under an enormous amount of pressure at the time, and had been very afraid.

More than twenty years ago we used to live in Kaohsiung. Back then, Kaohsiung did not have any hospitals that had chemotherapy, so my mother had had to take a long-distance bus up to Taipei once every three weeks for treatment, and the next day would return by bus to Kaohsiung. She suffered after each treatment from the side effects, so she had decided to stop the chemotherapy in favor of taking some folk remedies. By then she had felt that the symptoms of her illness seemed to be under control; moreover, there were no signs that the cancer had spread, so she had stopped Western medical treatment altogether. My grandmother, on the other hand, had reached the final phase of her cancer; the cancerous cells had spread throughout her entire body, and she was often in so much pain that she needed morphine shots. She was not able to eat anything, either. In the end, no amount of morphine was able to stop her pain. By the time she passed away, she was all skin and bones. We had all been powerless and unable to do anything for my grandmother; we had had no choice but to watch her suffer as she passed away.

However, three years later my mother’s cancer cells begun to spread. In that final year of the metastasis, I — (a third year high schooler at the time) and my elder sisters had accompanied our mother in and out of the hospital many times. In the end however, the cancer cells had spread to her lungs, and our mother passed away as a result of respiratory failure. During the years that my mother was ill, I had accompanied her to Buddhist monasteries, Taoist shrines, and even to a folk-belief altar in the countryside. As instructed by a master there, we had knelt by the altar all night long, praying that my mother’s condition would improve. My mother had even eaten extremely expensive lingzhi mushrooms and tried golden urine therapy, but nothing was able to keep the cancer cells from spreading. In her final days in the hospital, my mother had accepted the advice from a close friend to become baptized as a Christian. My sisters and I respected her decision. At last, too much liquid had accumulated in our mother’s lungs, sending her into shock, and her blood pressure had gradually dropped until she had passed away.

Ever since early childhood, me and my sisters had quarreled with each other, and this had not changed over the years since we had grown up and became members of society. When things were good between us, we were very good to each other indeed; when things were not however, it was like a cold war. Such periods could be as short as a few months or as long as a year or two. In 2009, my dog bit my middle sister, and as a result she had not spoken a single word to me or our eldest sister for the two years that followed. I am closer with my two sisters than with anyone else in the world; why, then, was our relationship together always so cold and intense? My sisters often became hostile to each other or to me faster than one could turn the pages of a book, and then the atmosphere at home would suddenly feel as icy as the inside of a freezer. At work, my manager told me that he needed to take two weeks off for a physical check-up. To my surprise, half a year later my manager died from stomach cancer.

Later a new manager had replaced her, and I was unable to get used to the new manager because he would snarl at me at times. I have always absolutely hated visiting Taoist shrines to seek advice from the deities, but I did so anyway following a colleague’s suggestion. My problem still had not been solved, however. Being berated and verbally abused at the office had been a frequent occurrence, and my co-workers had all known my predicament. One of them, with whom I got along well, told me that her nephew had taken refuge in a Rinpoche of Tibetan Buddhism who had great powers, and who held a Grand Puja every year. It just so happened that the Grand Memorial Puja for Lord Jigten Sumgon was about to be held, so my co-worker asked me whether I would like to participate. I agreed. At the time, I had gone to participate for no other reason than to seek protection and blessings; I had really been disrespectful, even having fallen asleep several times during the puja.

A few months later, the co-worker had again informed me that the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness would soon be held, and asked if I would like to participate to help my deceased parents and relatives to get liberated. However, in my ignorance, I had again gone to participate in this puja with an attitude of only wanting to obtain protection and blessings. By then I had found a new job, and at some point me and my sisters had started speaking to each other again. In addition, the atmosphere at home had improved a great deal. At the time I did not actually know that all of these changes were the result of me having participated in the auspicious Grand Puja and obtained good fortune, which would not have been possible were it not for the great compassionate blessings of Rinpoche. I feel that I truly had been ungrateful.

In 2012, my co-worker had again asked whether I would like to participate in the Great Puja. Without pausing to consider I immediately said that I would. This time I had told myself that I would not fall asleep again, and that I would definitely concentrate on participating in the puja. We just happened to have been sitting in the section of which my co-worker’s nephew, Dharma Brother Mao, was in charge, so after the puja was finished and all the attendees were leaving, my co-worker and her family members had surrounded the Dharma Brother Mao so that they could speak with him. He was praising Rinpoche’s past deeds of helping sentient beings. After hearing this, and seeing what I had seen over the few times I had attended the pujas, I came to believe that this guru was indeed a master practitioner. Dharma Brother Mao went on to tell me that if I had any problems and wished to seek audience with Rinpoche, I could do so at the Buddhist Center on Saturday afternoons.

After participating in this puja, my mood had grown very calm. It was as if a heavy stone had been lifted from my heart. The thought had arisen to seek audience with Rinpoche; however, it seemed to me that I did not have any major problems going on for which I would need advice. Nevertheless, I still very much wanted to continue participating in the pujas presided over by Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. I had felt too embarrassed to ask my co-worker for information about how to seek audience with the guru. At that moment I happened to be eating one of the food offerings I had received during the puja, and on its wrapper the words “Glorious Jewel” were printed. I searched the name on the internet and immediately found the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center’s website. After reading Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s biography and stories of how the guru had helped sentient beings, I became even more determined to seek an audience with the guru to implore to participate in the general Sunday pujas.

Rinpoche is always earnestly and patiently urging everyone to become vegetarians. I know better than anyone how many evil acts I had committed. If I did not give up on meat, then it would be futile to implore Rinpoche to allow me to participate in the general Sunday pujas. Therefore I had begun by eating vegetarian whenever it was convenient to me for two months, and then had scraped together the courage to write Rinpoche a letter. In the letter I expressed gratitude for the guru’s compassionate blessings and for having been allowed the causal condition and good fortune to participate in the Grand Puja. After this Grand Puja my mood had grown very, very calm, and this was something I had never experienced before. The reason I had rather presumptuously written this letter to Rinpoche was that I very much wished to continue participating in the general pujas presided over by the guru every Sunday. Two weeks later I received a reply which included the telephone number I should call to register to seek audience with the guru. I immediately phoned and applied.

I was the last person to apply for an audience that day, and so I saw many believers in front of me who were right in the grips of suffering. Some of them were in wheelchairs; some were brought in on stretchers. I truly felt grateful for being fortunate enough to see Buddha-like Rinpoche before my karmic retribution had even appeared. I thought in advance of many questions which the guru might ask me, but when it was my turn, Rinpoche only asked me one thing: “Are you a vegetarian?” I replied that I only kept to a vegetarian diet whenever it was convenient to me, at which the guru said, “Then how about I teach you the whenever-it-is-convenient Dharma?” I shook my head. The guru again asked, “When can you start being full vegetarian?” I answered that I would that very evening. Compassionately, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche allowed me to register and the next day she had participated in the Chod Puja.

Just like that, I began to participate in the pujas. I am grateful to Rinpoche for having taught me that it is difficult to attain the human form, that it is rare to be able to listen to Dharma, and even rarer to encounter a guru. Given that I had been fortunate enough to listen to the Right Dharma, I vowed to immediately amend the evil habits I had accumulated over lifetime after lifetime so that I could implement the Dharma in my daily life, and thus have the opportunity to be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation.

As my days started to pass more and more smoothly, I thought I grew more respectful toward the guru and the Dharma, and even believed that I understood the impermanence of life better than anyone else. However, I was still living my life while harboring evil thoughts of greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt. Early in the year, thanks to a travel subsidy granted by my company, me and my middle sister had applied to participate in a group tour to Europe (from February 3rd to 12th). I calculated that in this way I would only need to ask for a few days of special leave from work, and would only be missing one puja. I felt that it should not be a problem, and that I arranged things just right.

By late January when I went to collect my ID pass for attending the next puja, I found out that pujas would be held for two days in a row on the first and second days of the Lunar New Year, and that I would not be back from my trip until the third. The realization hit me like a thunderbolt: I was no longer qualified to participate in the general pujas, and as Rinpoche stated, people without causal condition and good fortune could not participate in such auspicious pujas. When we returned home on the third day of the Lunar Year, my eldest sister told us that while they were overseas she felt a hard lump in her chest and that it was painful. She had gone to the hospital to get it checked, and the doctor confirmed that she had second-phase breast cancer. Like another thunderbolt from the sky, and just as was written in the book Happiness and Suffering, it struck her that good things are followed by the beginning of bad things, just as bad things can be followed by the beginning good things.

On March 6th before my eldest sister went under the knife, I went to the Buddhist Center to implore Rinpoche to allow me to participate again in the general pujas. Obviously Rinpoche did not agree. The guru said, “You just aren’t treating your Buddhist practice as the most important thing in your life. After all your searching, you finally found your way here, yet you still don’t cherish the opportunity.” Rinpoche told me to go home and think long and hard about what mistakes I had made, and that this time the guru would not be granting my request. I went home and told my sisters what Rinpoche had told me, and my middle sister said, “I know where you’re at fault just from listening to you! You think that missing one puja is no big deal!” I was still attached to all worldly pleasures; when it came to making offerings, I would count my pennies, while when it’s about my own pleasures, U had signed up immediately to join the group tour. My actions truly had been both shameful and stupid. I felt that all Rinpoche’s teachings over the previous months had been wasted on me, and that I really did not deserve to be a Buddhist practitioner.

After my eldest sister’s surgery, I returned to the Buddhist Center to seek an audience with Rinpoche again. This time the guru would not speak with me, but instead directly asked an ordained Dharma brother to take me to the back of the venue to explain things to me. I knew that I was at fault in that I had not respected the Dharma, nor did I cherish the precious learning opportunity that the guru had bestowed upon me. I had really been unworthy of Rinpoche. The third time I went to seek audience with him, the guru asked a volunteer Dharma brother standing nearby whether I had always participated in pujas in the past. The volunteer Dharma brother reported that I had attended all of them except for the pujas held on the first and second days of the Lunar New Year. Rinpoche smiled and then asked me, “Where did you go?” I answered, “Overseas.” The guru stated, “You must’ve had that planned far in advance!” I answered, “I was wrong.” After a while, Rinpoche had compassionately said, “Well, I’ll let you participate in tomorrow’s puja just this once, but as for after that, I’ll have to wait and see.” I really was extremely grateful to Rinpoche for being so compassionate and not abandoning any sentient beings, and for having again bestowed upon me an opportunity to participate in the puja.

After recuperating for three weeks, my eldest sister began to undergo chemotherapy. Around that time I went to the Buddhist Center again to implore Rinpoche to allow me to participate in the general pujas. Both the fourth and fifth times I asked, the guru had compassionately agreed to allow me to participate in a single general puja. After seeking audience with the guru for the fifth time, a Dharma brother who had accompanied me to the counter to register said to me, ” Rinpoche is very compassionate to allow you the good fortune every week to come to the Buddhist Center and see him.” I nodded. After going home and thinking about it, I had decided that the following week I would seek a final audience with Rinpoche, during which I would implore the guru to allow her to continue to participate in the pujas and take refuge. If Rinpoche did not agree, then it must be because I had committed too many evil acts and therefore did not deserve to be a Buddhist disciple. I must not be angry at the guru, and I wanted to keep working hard at amending myself; after some time I would come again to seek an audience.

It then occurred to me however, that I had been participating in pujas every week, and yet I still had not been able to correct my evil habits. If I were to wait and then come to seek another audience with the guru, I would slack off, and in the meantime would be getting more and more distant from the Dharma. Furthermore, if I were to leave the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center, I would not want to follow any other guru, because I would not be able to encounter anyone as compassionate as this master practitioner. If I did not take hold of this opportunity to closely follow Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, I feared that I might pass through this lifetime blind and muddleheaded.

The sixth time I visited the Buddhist Center to seek audience with Rinpoche, the guru asked me why I was there. Very firmly, I implored Rinpoche to allow her to participate in the pujas and to take refuge. The guru stared at me wide-eyed, but granted my request and told me to go and apply. After presenting my offering to Rinpoche, the guru asked me, “Have you made a prostration?” Hurriedly, I had made a prostration before the guru, thanking Rinpoche for being willing to take on such an extremely wicked disciple as myself. All of a sudden I felt much more at ease, and it seemed that my mind that had been drifting around aimlessly for years, had finally found someone on which it could rely.

The six times I had sought audience with Rinpoche in a period of more than two months, happened to have coincided with my eldest sister’s surgery and chemotherapy. Apart from her hair falling out, my sister had not experienced any other side effects. I knew that all of this was thanks to the greatly compassionate help and blessings Rinpoche had bestowed. My eldest sister was an atheist. Every morning before she went to the hospital for a chemotherapy session, I would tell her, “If you would like, you can make a prostration before Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Dharma photo and implore the guru to help you.” I knew I could not force my sister, but one day I spotted her making a prostration with her palms together in front of the guru’s Dharma photo before leaving for the hospital. Upon seeing this, I again felt extremely grateful for Rinpoche’s compassionate blessings which had allowed my sister too, to have the good fortune to accept help from the guru.

My eldest sister had had four chemotherapy sessions in total, and the last one was set for June 3rd. However, the Grand Memorial Puja for Lord Jigten Sumgon was being held on that day. I hoped wholeheartedly that my sister would also have an opportunity to see the compassionate Rinpoche with her own eyes. I told my sister, “It’s a shame that you won’t be able to participate in this puja.” On May 29th, my sister had returned to the hospital for a follow-up, where her doctor told her that she had to go overseas on June 3rd for a meeting, so had to reschedule the last chemotherapy session for June 10th. As soon as my sister had returned home she immediately told me the news, and I said, “That really is wonderful. Truly, so long as you have the intention to participate in the puja, the Dharma protectors will do what they can to help you and allow you to have the causal condition and good fortune to be able to participate in the Grand Puja.”

Thus, my eldest sister and I had participated in this auspicious Grand Memorial Puja together, as well as the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness held on September 15th. I really was very grateful to the compassionate Rinpoche for allowing me and my sister, as well as the sentient beings with whom we had affinities, to participate in this auspicious puja. During the time that my sister had been ill, there had not been melancholy, unlike twenty years ago when our mother got cancer; rather, this time we just calmly accepted it. This was because, as Rinpoche taught before, all of the phenomena we encounter are the result of causes planted in our past. If we only pursue happiness while rejecting suffering, it means we are not willing to repay the debt we owe to sentient beings we have harmed; as such, not only do we have no will to repent, but we also cannot possibly give rise to compassion.

Before I took refuge I was very attached to my emotions. I would always lament that I could not find a good husband, but now I know that nothing escapes the law of cause and effect. I know I must live my life by adapting to each rising condition and keep calm no matter what happened; I must be content to live within the Dharma. In other words, I must never again become attached to anything. I was already quite fortunate to be able-bodied and have the opportunity to listen to Rinpoche’s Dharma teachings. Moreover, my manager and co-workers took very good care of me; while my eldest sister was ill, some had even taken over my work shifts for me so that I could have the peace of mind to look after my sister. If it had not been for Rinpoche’s blessings and help, I really would not know how I would have faced these things. I feel grateful beyond measure to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

I wish to repent for the countless sentient beings I had harmed. In the past, I had eaten the flesh of many sentient beings. Because of all of the various pressures I felt during the later stages of my mother’s illness, I had not been able to look after my mother with a pleasant countenance, and although it had been twenty years since then, I still feel a great degree of regret: I really had been extremely unfilial. I repent for having had two abortions before, thus committing a severe act of killing. I repent for having cursed whenever something had not gone my way or whenever I encountered someone who annoyed me. Though I had not actually picked up a knife and killed anyone, I had still created enough evil karma for me to be sent down into the Three Evil Realms. I repent for all of the various evil acts I have committed, and vow to never make the same mistakes again!

I am grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having again given me the opportunity to listen to the Right Dharma and for having allowed me to take refuge on June 2nd. I will work hard to amend my ways and follow the guru. Only by amending ourselves can we integrate the Dharma in our daily lives, and allow the sentient beings with whom we have affinities to also obtain help from Rinpoche and the Dharma, become liberated from reincarnation, abandon suffering, and obtain happiness. Finally, I pray that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche will have good health, that the Dharma wheel will keep turning, and Dharma can be spread far and wide so that all sentient beings in the Six Realms can be liberated from the suffering of reincarnation soon.

Respectfully written by Disciple Hong Jiawen, Group 5, on November 10, 2013

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Updated on April 7, 2020