688: Never Let Go

“Praise be unto His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, the Buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas. Honored believers and Dharma brothers, I am Wan Jiazhen of Group Six, and my Dharma name is Huiyong Drolma. My mother is Li Yueyun, also of Group Six, and her Dharma name is Huigong Drolma. I would like to express my gratitude to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for having bestowed this opportunity to share with all of you an account of how my mother and I took refuge in the guru, and of how he saved us both.

“Thanks to an introduction made by a former colleague of mine—Dharma Brother Zou—I participated in the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness held in 2009 and 2010, as well as the Grand Memorial Puja for Lord Jigten Sumgön in 2010. When I went to my first Grand Puja, I got to the entrance and was truly amazed by the sheer number of people waiting to go in. However, volunteers were stationed at each route into the building, guiding us in quite graciously. With smiles on their faces, they calmly assisted all of the participants while checking our tickets for us to get into the venue. As soon as we were inside, we were greeted by another team of volunteers who took us to our seats. The entire process was very efficient, unlike the large-scale events organized by the company at which I was working at the time; those events were typically very raucous and disorderly, with everyone rushing inside to fight over seats, causing chaos and giving the staff a giant headache. I had seen world-class concerts and performances before, too, but never had I witnessed standard operating procedures that went as smoothly as these ones did. I marveled to myself, What sort of magnificent organization is this? For such a complex procedure to have been made so simple and clear, allowing all of the puja participants to feel completely unhurried and at peace, I really wanted to know who this group’s CEO was. After the puja began, the packed audience of believers gazed piously at the mandala. I surreptitiously glanced at the people around me a few times, and realized that hardly any of the young children present were crying, and none of the elderly had nodded off. It truly was remarkable! Little did I know at the time, but a series of unfathomable things were about to unfold before me.

“By the beginning of 2011, my mother, who had begun to suffer mild dementia, was often muttering to herself that she could see her deceased grandfather and grandmother right there in the house. Having recently returned to Taiwan from America, my younger aunt was staying at our house temporarily. It was her strong opinion that we should place my mother in a nursing home, because according to a certain folk saying, if one sees a deceased family member, it means that this person probably will not live much longer. After my aunt told my uncle this, they both were convinced that my mother’s condition would deteriorate very quickly. I was living with my mother at the time, but because I also had to go to work, I was rather unable to care for her. As a result, it seemed I had no choice but to put her in a nursing home. I was unwilling to do this, although I did not know what else to do, so I felt extremely distressed. To this day I still remember clearly that one evening, after nine o’clock or so, I was sitting on the edge of my mother’s bed, when a sudden recollection flashed through my head of Dharma Brother Zou’s several mentions of how his guru had helped suffering sentient beings. I then made the most important phone call of my life, during which I told Dharma Brother Zou of my mother’s situation and asked him to take us to seek an audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Dharma Brother Zou immediately helped us arrange an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, to take place the following Saturday afternoon.

“When we went to seek an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, my mother and I were accompanied by my younger brother, who had returned to Taiwan to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Together we knelt before the guru and reported that our mother had recently seen her deceased grandfather and grandmother. We also expressed our uncertainty of what to do, given the fact that our aunt and uncle had strongly recommended that we place our mother in a nursing home. I then implored His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to allow my mother and me to participate in the pujas. The guru said compassionately, ‘Your mother still has some longevity left. Take heed: During September of this year, you must not allow her to do any activities alone; do not put her at risk to fall. If she can get through the month of September, she will be very well.’ After hearing His eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche say the words ‘ very well,’ the anxiety that had filled my brother and me suddenly drained away, and we no longer felt worried. What did these words mean, though–‘ very well’? Due to my ignorance, it was only after I took refuge that I finally understood that ‘very well’ referred to a treasure that cannot be bought even after exhausting all the worldly riches: The opportunity for my mother to follow His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and listen to the Dharma.

“In answer to my request to participate in the pujas, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche asked me, ‘Can you eat vegetarian for the rest of your life?’ In my wickedness, I actually answered, ‘I will do my best.’ The guru said, ‘Then I, too, will do my best.’ At this, I immediately corrected myself and said out loud, ‘I can eat vegetarian for the rest of my life.’ His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche therefore granted permission for me and my mother to participate in the general pujas held every Sunday, as well as the Chod Pujas. The amazing thing was that after our audience with the guru, my uncle and aunt stopped mentioning the nursing home. Furthermore, beginning the following year, my uncle changed the menu of the big banquet he hosted every Lunar New Year for more than thirty relatives and close friends to include only vegetarian cuisine. I am grateful for the guru’s compassionate deliverance. Had it not been for His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, my mother would have ended up either in a nursing home or on the street, lost and unable to find her way home.

“In February of 2012, after having participated in the pujas for a year, my mother and I again sought an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to implore to take refuge. Compassionately, the guru gave his approval. My mother and I were like little boats that had been lost for a long time on the high seas, and which at any moment could be dashed to pieces and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. I am so grateful to the guru for offering us shelter and giving us a shoulder to lean on. On April 8th of that same year, on the day of the Refuge Ceremony, for some reason my mother found herself stuck fast to her chair as if she were bonded to it with superglue. No matter how hard we pulled, we could not get her up. As a result, I had to participate in the Refuge Ceremony alone that day. A few days later I took my mother to dementia school and found out the reason for what had happened. My mother was taking classes at dementia school one or two days a week. Although I had told the teachers that she was vegetarian, the school fed her food that was only partially vegetarian. As a result, she did not dare stand up to go and participate in the Refuge Ceremony held on April 8th. I thank the Dharma protectors for pulling me to my senses. I would like to repent for not being filial to my mother, and for not caring for her condition often enough. I had thought that having been able to participate in the pujas, my mother would be fine—so I had dumped my problems on the guru.

“After this lesson, I decided to immediately amend my ways. In addition to making prostrations every morning and evening with my mother before the Dharma photo of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, I also double-checked with the dementia school every day she had classes there to find out what she would be eating for lunch and to make sure it would be completely vegetarian. When I first started taking my mother with me to participate in the pujas, I was concerned that she would not be able to sit through them. However, it soon became obvious that I had no need to worry; every week she participated in the puja very smoothly and stably. I am grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s blessings. Finally, on July twentieth of this year (2014), my mother took refuge. She had obtained two once-in-a-lifetime treasures: The Refuge ID card and the red vest worn by disciples at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center. Thanks be unto the guru.

“These past two years my mother’s condition has been very stable. My friends all say they cannot tell that she already has moderate dementia, and are very curious to know why this is. There is only one answer to this question: It is because we have taken refuge in His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. The guru has taken care of us this whole time; our Filipino housekeeper, whom we hired just over a month ago, has even been willing to go vegetarian, and is already able to cook all sorts of delicious vegetarian dishes. It truly is incredible.

After taking refuge, her mother’s condition improved, thus, Wan Jiazhen and her mother were able to travel abroad together several times.

“Last year (2013), after 10:00 one morning in early February, my mother took a spill at home. The plastic frame of the glasses she was wearing cut her in the left eyebrow, and she bled profusely. Miss Wang, who was there looking after her at the time, was petrified at the sight of this; although she had been completely trained in first aid, she was still very nervous. She called to tell me that my mother had fallen down and that her left eyebrow wouldn’t stop bleeding, and that she was going to take her to the emergency room. After I hung up I raced home, made prostrations before the Dharma photo of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and reported my mother’s accident to the guru; then I hurry over to the hospital.

“When I got to the entrance to the ER, I looked through the glass doors and could see my mother and Miss Wang sitting on chairs in the hallway, chatting in a very calm and collected manner. As I approached, I asked how my mother was. Miss Wang said that a surgeon had attended to her immediately after they had arrived, and that her wound had already been sewn up. I could see that over my mother’s left eye was an approximately 10-cm long gash that had been stitched shut. It looked a bit like a caterpillar. Miss Wang told me that the ER surgeon on duty had said, ‘I am so sorry! I am just a resident. I was in too much of a hurry, and did not do an ideal job of stitching her wound.’ Afterward, the three of us went out for afternoon tea, and then went home.

“From the time my mother fell to when she got stitches, not once did she ever feel pain. We only applied some traditional Chinese medicine ointment on the wound; we did not use the salve provided by the hospital. My mother has diabetes, and a few years ago she got cellulitis from an extremely small cut in the side of her toe. This time, however, it was a much larger wound, yet it healed very quickly without getting infected or leaving a scar. We knew that all of this was the result of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s again having saved me and my mother, who had not yet taken refuge at the time. I am grateful to the guru not only for taking care of me, but of my family as well.

“In May of 2013, after obtaining permission from His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche despite the fact that she still had not taken refuge, my mother went with me to Japan to participate in the auspicious Fire Offering Puja held at the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center in Kyoto. In November of the same year, my mother and I again sought an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to implore for her to be allowed to take refuge and participate in the Amitayus Puja to be held in December at the Kyoto Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center. Not only did the guru compassionately agree to these two things, but he also bestowed blessings upon my mother and told me that her kidneys were unhealthy, and that one of them had already failed. As a result, I should not let her eat any cold-essence foods such as radishes, cabbage, melons, and so on. Pickled products should not be consumed, either; the guru said that I should feed her Japanese food, such as Vitality soy milk and the new item soon to be available, ‘seaweed roots.’ I therefore bought some to make a soup with, and now I make seaweed-root soup every week. My mother calls it ‘Rinpoche Soup.’

“One time a friend came over for dinner, and after having some seaweed- root soup, she said over and over how yummy it was. I gave her a packet of the seaweed roots and told her that it was something that my guru, as a result of his compassionate care for his disciples’ health, wanted me to fix for my mother. My friend said, ‘This is from Japan, so it must be very expensive.’ I said that on the contrary, it was very cheap at only NT$315 per packet. Because of my work connections, I once had the opportunity to talk with the manager of a large, famous Taiwanese imported foods supermarket. He told me that importing food items one packet at a time like this was no way to make money; there wasn’t a lot of variety, profit margins were too low, and to ensure freshness they had to be taken off the shelves as soon as they were near expiration date. To shelve these items and then take them off the shelves again took a lot of manpower. The only way to do it would be to supplement with profits made from selling food and beverages. I am grateful to the guru for importing the highest-quality Japanese food products for us disciples, without regard to any loss of profit incurred, all so that we and other sentient beings can enjoy good health and practice Buddhism. The most amazing thing is that this friend of mine served seaweed-root soup to her friends in her home, too, and the following day she excitedly called me to ask where seaweed roots could be bought. The reason she asked was that after having the soup, the chronic constipation she’d suffered for years had suddenly gone away. It really was remarkable.

Wan Jiazhen is grateful to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for his Dharma teachings.

“On July 19th of this year (2014), I sought an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for the fifth time. This time it was because I’d gotten into a big trouble. At 1:00 that morning, after making prostrations before my Dharma photo of the guru, I refilled my butter lamp to full and then returned to my bedroom to sleep. At 6:00 I got up. While opening my bedroom door in preparation to prostrate myself before the mandala, I discovered that the house was completely filled with smoke. With the door closed and the air conditioner on, my mother and I had slept like logs, completely unaware that anything had happened. Only after I approached the mandala did I realize that the butter lamp had burned, and that the guru’s Dharma photo had as well. The butter lamp, originally topped off with oil, had burned all the way down, and the crystal bowl it was in had cracked to pieces from the heat. Because the guru’s photo had covered the butter lamp, so the fire had been extinguished. Part of the mandala’s wooden table was burned to charcoal, and a scorch mark blackened the wall. There were many layers of soot all around the mandala and along the walls of the living room. I dare not imagine how high the flames must have burned; all of the air conditioning vents were black, and so were my and my mother’s nostrils. My neighbors who hurried over to offer their assistance, as well as Mr. Cai who later helped us repaint, all said the same thing: ‘With such a fire as this, it sure is a miracle that you are still alive!’

“The guru had allowed himself to burn in order to save me and my mother. Also, our DVD of The Great Parna Shabari Puja for Eliminating Diseases presided over by His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang in 2002, which we had left in a drawer of the mandala table, was left untouched by the flames. The acrylic surface of the Dharma photo of Dharma Protector Achi was only slightly warped, and our incense burner, eight-offering cups, and flower vase were all only blackened. We are so grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for saving our lives. Without the guru, my mother and I certainly would have died in the flames, our house would have gone up in flames, and the fire would have spread to the neighbors’ residences as well. The consequences could have been absolutely disastrous. Because I had not done a good job of protecting the guru’s Dharma photo, I knelt before its charred remains for a long time and was unable to stand up. I don’t remember when I finally reported the incident to my group leader, but I thank her for reminding me that I should register to seek an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche as soon as possible so that I could thoroughly repent.

“That Saturday, during my audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, he said, ‘I have followed His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang for so many years, and have never had trouble keeping the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang’s Dharma photo safe. After a mere two years of refuge, you have somehow managed to burn your guru’s Dharma photo to a crisp. Did the photo have a frame? Was it placed securely against a wall? How big is your mandala table?’ I answered all of these questions one by one. The guru said, ‘So how did it still burn?’ After entering Samadhi for a while, the guru told me that I had recently listened to something a friend had said which had shaken my resolve for Buddhist practice. Thus, I deeply repented for not having practiced very diligently, for having been careless and negligent. Because my determination to learn Buddhism from His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had not been steadfast enough, my faith had wavered after just hearing a few words from a friend.

“Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche then turned around and asked an ordained disciple standing next to him how I should be punished. The monastic said, ‘She should be forbidden from participating in the pujas for one year.’ The guru compassionately said, ‘Her fortune has all been burned up. She is already without good fortune; she cannot afford not to participate in the pujas.’ Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche told the monastic to think it over some more. The monastic replied, ‘Then she should make a big offering.’ Next, the guru said, ‘Every Saturday, whenever I am here, you must come and make grand prostrations.’ I had committed such a grave offense, yet His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had nevertheless bestowed this auspicious opportunity upon me to come to the Buddhist Center and make grand prostrations. My heart was filled with gratitude beyond words.

“I thank the guru for having saved me time and time again. I would like to repent for having greedily eaten so many delicacies before I took refuge; I ate the flesh of countless sentient beings. Whenever coworkers or friends were observing postnatal convalescence, I cooked sesame oil chicken for them to eat. This not only had planted evil causes for myself, but had harmed my friends as well. My actions really were deplorable. I also committed plenty of other evil acts, and exhibited no lack of greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt. I was often self-righteous, and held on very tightly to my attachments. Every time something did not go my way, my first reflex was to blame it on someone else, when actually it was always my own problem. While attempting to amend my behavior, I often just thought and talked about it, but did not follow through with action. I was not compassionate; taking advantage of my position at work, I once forced a coworker to quit on the spot, and I was unwilling to spend time communicating further about it. I have a severely discriminating mind that makes very clear distinctions among people, circumstances, and objects that I like and dislike. Those that I like, I frequently get close to; those that I don’t like, I pay very little attention to. I also am often unable to look at things from my bosses’ points of view, and this has caused me to have to change jobs a lot over recent years.

“When my Dharma photo of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche went up in flames, it also burned away what little good fortune I had. Besides repenting deeply, I also must change my evil habits of greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt. I need to do better at adhering to the methods taught by the guru, and diligently apply myself to my practice. I must not have any other thoughts; only in this way can I repay the debt of gratitude I owe the guru. Furthermore, I should strengthen my resolve to follow Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and I cannot let it go lax even for an instant. I must grip the guru’s robe tails tightly and never let go. Finally, I pray that His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche will have good health and keep turning the Dharma wheel, that the Dharma will maintain an eternal presence in the world, and that the Drikung Kagyu Lineage will flourish forever.

Respectfully written by Disciple Wan Jiazhen, Group 6, on September 28th, 2014

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Updated on September 2, 2016