696: From a Thieving Druggie to a Buddhist

Praise be unto His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, and Dharma Protector Achi! I am Hong Weilian of Group Three, and my English name is William Ott. Today I would like to share an account of my experiences, both past and present, and most importantly of how I met His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, as well as how the guru has helped me to face my causes, effects, and karma.

Born in 1988 in the Erzgebirge Mountains in central Germany, I grew up in a village surrounded by forest. My family and ancestors raised and slaughtered animals to eat such as rabbits, sheep, and geese. We also harmed other sentient beings including horses, pigs, cattle, deer, and many fish. To this day, my father continues to raise animals and kill them for food.

When I was very little I stole from a local store and did things to harm sentient beings such as pulling the legs off of spiders and capturing mice. After getting my first computer and analog modem, I began to engage in many acts of theft and other online crimes. These included stealing credit card information, illegal downloading and hacking, among others. I continued my nefarious ways until the age of high-speed internet, when thievery and cybercrime became an everyday activity.

For youths growing up in rural Germany, it is quite common to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. Even more regrettable is the fact that nowadays the children in those areas tended to try even more dangerous drugs such as methamphetamine, which is commonly known as ‘Prince An’ in Taiwan. I began drinking and smoking from the age of twelve or thirteen, and by the time I was a little older I began to experiment with various drugs, including psychedelic mushrooms, acid, and ecstasy. Moreover, I increased my frequency of use from weekly to daily.

When I was eighteen and studying in America, I began to use marijuana regularly because it was easier to acquire there even than alcoholic beverages. By the time I was nineteen I was smoking pot on a daily basis, and this continued until I was twenty-two and met the woman who would later become my wife. I met her while in university in Germany. Because I was an extremely shy person, especially around girls, if it had not been for my friend taking the initiative to invite her to join our group, I may never have spoken to her. This event later opened up an opportunity for me to meet His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

William Ott in his youth.

In the early days of our courtship she began to tell me stories about His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and the other Dharma brothers. I felt very doubtful, because I had never heard such miraculous tales before. However, this sparked my curiosity, and I decided I wanted to see this elder with my own eyes. At the time I still ate meat, even though she had urged me to go vegetarian and stop drinking so much.

Early in 2011 my wife fell pregnant. However, to our great misfortune, two months later she miscarried. At the time she wrote an email to the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center imploring for His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s assistance. The reason she tried to contact the guru was that her doctors all wanted her to undergo a gynecological curettage so as to prevent harm to the fetus during any future pregnancy. Two doctors in a row advised her to go through with the procedure, and even I agreed. However, after my wife had implored the guru, another doctor told her that she did not actually need to have this operation. A few days later, her uterus discharged the remaining placenta and lochia naturally.

At the time I was still not a believer, and was in favor of my wife having the procedure done. Thanks to His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s help, however, she got through this difficult time without undergoing surgery, an operation which could have done great harm to her body. My wife and I are very grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

Every Saturday afternoon at the Buddhist Center, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche grant help to believers with the Dharma.

In the summer of 2012 my wife decided to return to Taiwan so she could be near His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and her parents. Many people urged her to remain in Germany, but I told my wife that she could do what she wanted and I would not force her to stay.

My wife therefore returned to Taiwan in August of 2012. I flew over with her and stayed there for five weeks. During my visit I sought my first audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. At the time I was still an occasional meat-eater. On the first Saturday after arriving in Taiwan, I went to the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center to seek an audience with the guru. I asked him a question regarding marijuana, because I felt that whenever I smoked it with friends I became very social and talkative. His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche told me that I did not need to rely on drugs, and that I could communicate with people quite well without them. The guru said that if I truly loved my wife, I would quit smoking marijuana. Now I understand, for over the years I have naturally become quite talkative. indeed. In fact, I sometimes do not even notice how so many words spout out of my mouth.

I also asked His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche if I could participate in the general Sunday pujas during my stay in Taiwan. His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche granted me permission to do so, and before I left, the guru bestowed blessings upon me. At the time I did not understand what had happened, but now I know that he gave me an unimaginably precious gift—an opportunity to learn Buddhism. During my time there I participated in the Great Indiscriminate Amitabha Puja for Transferring Consciousness as well as the general pujas held every Sunday. This was the first time I had ever listened to the Dharma. Furthermore, I stopped eating meat, and began to feel nausea whenever I looked at it.

Before I left Taiwan, my wife and I sought another audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. The guru asked me whether or not I had a friend who was a bit stocky. I did indeed have such a friend; before meeting my wife, I would get together with that friend every weekend to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol. The guru told me that if I could endure this trial of temptation and resist that person’s influence, then I would be able to quit smoking pot. During the two years prior to my first audience with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, I secretly still desired to smoke marijuana, despite my continuing courtship with my wife. It was as if it had become a psychological crutch for me, and my wife had absolutely no idea.

Finally I implored His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to bestow a Chinese name upon me, and the guru promised that he would do so the next time I came to Taiwan. In September of 2012 I left Taiwan with Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s book, Happiness and Suffering, in hand. However, I still harbored many doubts, and still did not truly understand how precious the blessings he had bestowed on me were.

After returning to Germany, I resolved to move to Taiwan after finishing my studies. This was because of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and my wife. That year in Germany I felt very calm and was not overly worried about a lot of things. Many people had urged me to stay in Germany and not go back to Taiwan until I had gotten a master’s degree and worked for a year or two. Although my family members all said the same thing, their advice went in one ear and out the other, because I had already made my decision.

In November of 2012, however, I did something extremely stupid. One day after working my shift at a part-time job, I suddenly had an intensely strong desire to smoke pot, so went to the apartment of the friend the guru had told me to stay away from. There I smoked a joint. After a while I went to the bathroom, where I suddenly saw a very clear vision of His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche standing in front of me, as well as of my wife’s face. In that moment I abruptly felt very disappointed in myself, and thought, Damn! What have I done?! How can I just throw away this opportunity to learn and listen to the Dharma, all over a stupid drug? And practicing Buddhism is the opportunity to change my life that I’ve been looking for all along! I have never touched marijuana since.

William Ott (seated in front of the window), his wife, and their child, at a get-together with family and friends during their return visit to Germany.

In September of 2013 I finally graduated and returned to Taiwan. After arriving, I was granted the name promised me by His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, as well as the opportunity to resume participation in the general Sunday pujas. Now I know how auspicious it is to have a name bestowed by His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, and for this reason I cherish my new name. Likewise rare and precious is the opportunity to participate in the general Sunday pujas. We should all refrain from taking this weekly opportunity for granted.

Listening to the Dharma every Sunday helped me develop faith in His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and give rise to a more profound attitude of respect. During one of the pujas the guru said that we should neither hesitate nor wait when it comes to practicing Buddhism. However, I asked myself, why did I want to practice?

I had never encountered anyone like His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Every Saturday he received believers and helped them with indiscriminating patience and compassion. After observing such exemplary behavior, I thought, If more people were like the guru, the world would be a better place. There is so much suffering in this world, and it just keeps getting worse and worse. As the guru has taught us, if we want to help others, then we should start by practicing Buddhism so that we can learn how to liberate ourselves from reincarnation.

In November of 2013, I supplicated for the opportunity to take refuge in His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. On July 20th of this year I was granted it, and for this I am extremely grateful to the guru.

His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has helped me to understand my past wrongdoings. Even if we are poor we should not commit theft, and entertainment activities are a waste of precious time which can hinder our Buddhist practice. He has also taught me to begin facing the causes and effects I have sown; that is, the karma my evil acts have created and which I will have to face in the future. These nefarious deeds have consisted of theft, including illegal downloading, internet credit card theft, hacking, and other financial crimes, as well as helping others to commit these crimes; the harming of sentient beings, such as shooting snails with a BB gun, pulling the legs off of spiders, and catching mice; and the use of various types of drugs over the years which have harmed my body. I also uploaded pornographic videos to the internet, thereby evoking sexual desires in others.

Because of all of this I must redouble my efforts in my Buddhist practice and repay the debt I owe my karmic creditors. I must also think about the next generation of children, and do my best to prevent them from being influenced by my erroneous ways and the evil karma I have created. At the same time, I must be even more vigilant when it comes to my thoughts; I must constantly remember not to give rise to any notions or behavior that would violate any of the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas. Finally, I wish to say that whenever I have any selfish or lazy thoughts, I will keep reminding myself of impermanence and Emptiness and that nothing is more important than practicing Buddhism.

William Ott, his wife, and their daughter have all taken refuge in Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to practice Buddhism.

Finally, I wish to thank His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for helping my wife and our unborn child. My wife was once a disciple, but broke the precepts. His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche still gave her the opportunity to gather the signatures and opinions of Dharma brothers who were in her group, and she is now allowed to come to the Buddhist Center again. In the past she was forbidden, a punishment which lasted until April of this year when we received a phone call from a Dharma brother informing us that from then on she could come upstairs and participate in the puja while remaining outside the door. At the time we very much wanted to know the reason why, because my wife had made a great many mistakes. Two weeks later we discovered that she was pregnant. Apart from being surprised, we also felt grateful to His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. During an audience with the guru, he had bestowed blessings upon my wife and granted her permission to enter the Buddhist Center and participate in the pujas. We are extremely grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche.

In addition, I have recently begun to dream again. For years I have not been very prone to having dreams, but lately have had a couple of extremely vivid ones. They terrified me, causing me to cry out in my sleep until my wife shook me awake. I have never had such dreams before. One of them was about spiders, which I dreamed the night before a Chod Puja. I thought it must have been because I harmed spiders when I was little, so I went to participate in the Chod Puja firmly resolved to help them. During the puja, my legs began to hurt very intensely. However, while visualizing these spiders, I told myself that what I had done to them in the past was even more painful, and now I must experience that same agony without moving a single inch. During that moment I concentrated on the sound of His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s voice, visualized the spiders in front of me, and remained completely still. After the guru had finished performing the Dharma, the pain in my legs gradually began to subside. I deeply believe that were it not for His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche I would be just like those spiders, and might forever be out of reach of help. My wife and I are both extremely thankful for the benevolence His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has bestowed upon us.

Respectfully written by Disciple William Ott, Group 3, on December 7th, 2014
Updated on April 28, 2017

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Updated on April 28, 2017