700: I Am Grateful to the Guru for Freeing Me from the Fear of Death

Praise be unto His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, Dharma Protector Achi, the Lineage Gurus of the Drikung Kagyu Order, the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and all sentient beings! I became a disciple when I took refuge on July 20th of 2014; my name is Zheng Peichun, of Group Five, and my Dharma name is Huizeng Drolma. I am grateful for His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s great compassion and awe-inspiring power. Thanks to blessings and assistance from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, as well as the help of all sentient beings, I can share with you during today’s puja an account of how I took refuge and was taught and saved by the compassionate Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s auspicious Dharma teachings.

I was born with muscular dystrophy, which is a sort of illness that causes all of the body’s muscles, including those that are part of internal organs, to slowly develop atrophy until they can no longer move. For this reason, except my mouth and fingers, my entire body was practically paralyzed, and my spine was left with a serious case of scoliosis. In addition, my lung capacity was less than half of a normal person. Unfortunately my younger sister was born with the same disease as I. Originally, my doctors said that I would only live until I was six, but this year I turned twenty-six years old.

For me, Buddhism has been like a bright lamp at the end of a long, dark tunnel, and His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche is the one to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for having lit this lamp and guided me onto the path toward the light. During my sophomore year at university, the week before His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche was to leave for a retreat high up in the snowy mountains, I finally had the causal condition and good fortune to meet this master practitioner, who completely changed my life.

I would like to take this opportunity to repent deeply for having been so extremely disrespectful during my first-ever audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. I was also arrogant, conceited, and self-righteous; I treated the guru as just another person claiming to have “special abilities” like all those others out there. I even thought to myself, “If sentient beings are all equals, then why do I have to kneel down in prostration?” Only later did it gradually dawn on me that His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche does not actually need people to kneel before him, and that the point is not that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are lofty or aloof. Rather, it is to show that sentient beings want to become liberated from life and death and reincarnation; their desire to be free from suffering and obtain happiness is utterly sincere. Not to mention, when it comes to such a master practitioner as this—one who is genuinely able to liberate sentient beings and transmit such precious Dharma—how could mere prostration be enough to express my gratitude and earnest supplications?

Despite being such an obstinate and self-opinionated individual, when I was finally able to appear before His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, I could not help but feel embraced by the guru’s majestic and dignified presence. At first glance, I was in awe to see how truly deep his eyes were, how elegant his hands were in which he held prayer beads, and to hear how his tone of voice carried a certain pleasantness that is difficult to describe. This all caused me to think to myself, “This is no ordinary person at all! This is a very wise and very profound master practitioner.”

Nevertheless, during that first audience, I did not dress my language with any form of polite supplication; I merely, and quite disrespectfully, uttered four simple words: “I am a mess.” After a brief chuckle, His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche began to very compassionately bestow teachings upon me regarding all of the conflict and suffering that had existed within me ever since I was a child. I listened in silence, with my mouth completely shut, but deep down I sensed that the guru was aiming these teachings directly at my mind. This master practitioner could see right through me to my every thought and my every past action, plain as day.

Of the compassionate teachings His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche bestowed upon me that time, a few of the guru’s sentences left me with a particularly profound impression. These words marked the beginning of my aspiration to practice Buddhism, and have spurred me on to this day. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said, “Your fate is not decided by anyone else; it is in your hands alone. You can change your future. How do you go about changing it? By learning the Dharma. The Dharma is like a mirror; through cultivation, it can help you to understand yourself. If you wish to repay the debts of kindness you owe, then practice Buddhism.” As I listened, it felt as though the Five Thunders had shocked me to my very core. Never had I imagined that I would hear such words from a master practitioner of a religion: The idea that my fate was in my own hands, and that I could change it. Moreover, nothing had to be arranged and I did not absolutely have to rely on anything or anyone!

Before I had the causal condition and good fortune to seek an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, I had never known what it feels like to laugh from the heart, because I had always felt heavy with sorrow and pain. After a few audiences with His Eminence Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, however, that oppressive feeling gradually began to ebb away. Although I still have to sit in a wheelchair, and might not seem to have changed much on the surface, I am in fact a completely different person now compared to who I was. Every day I used to feel smothered in a shroud of darkness, but now my days are full of light. My fear of death is disappearing, and day by day I feel more and more at ease.

Although she could only move her mouth and fingers, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s Dharma teachings caused her to grin from ear to ear.

Only now do I realize, after looking back and reexamining those thoughts, that I actually only wanted to use death as a means of avoidance, for I was not willing to accept or face all of the causes, effects, and karmic retribution that had happened to me, much less repay my karmic debt. In high school, clear signs of degeneration began to appear in my body, so I would often take advantage of summer and winter vacation to spend eight or more hours a day doing physical rehabilitation. After keeping this up for a time, I finally felt I had made a tiny bit of progress, but some days my condition would suddenly take a big step backward. For this sort of illness, that causes one’s muscles to deteriorate, to this day no medical cure has yet been discovered. There also is no way of predicting the timing and extent of the disease’s onset in each individual patient, doctors could only help us with a few quality-of-life improvements so that my sister and I would not suffer so much. Nevertheless, each of these medical treatments of so-called “pain relief” was in itself a form of torment. Besides the basic “onslaught of the three tubes” consisting of a urinary catheter, nasogastric tube, and tracheostomy tube, I also had to undergo an operation whereby pins were affixed to my vertebra to prevent my backbone from being further deformed by my contracting muscles. This completely rigidified and immobilized my body. Some people subjected to this procedure even have to return to the hospital every six months to a year to have the screws loosened to accommodate bone development; this continues until they have stopped growing.

There are patients who, in order to allow their practically nonfunctioning lungs to breathe, must rely on machines to pump air in and out, twenty-four hours a day, as well as to perform suctioning of all of the excess phlegm. With all those different types of machines keeping them company all day long, they have to worry about the possibility of a sudden power outage putting their lives in danger. They live in a constant state of fear and unrest due to weather, machine malfunction, and various other unpredictable environmental and external factors. No matter how useless a person’s body might become, medicine always has a heap of different methods to keep it alive. If the doctors don’t hack it apart, they drill a hole; and if that doesn’t work, they rely on machines to keep the body alive. I have seen so many fellow patients who have been forced to live like that ever since they were little.

Right as I thought I had no recourse but to sink into a deep, dark pit of despair till the end of this life, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche bestowed blessings and teachings upon me that opened up a whole new life for me that was completely different to anything I had ever experienced before. It has been about seven years since my first audience with the guru, and in this time, thanks to his continuous blessings and guidance, I have come to realize over and over again the truth in those first compassionate teachings Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche gave me.

Every day, I gain a clearer and clearer understanding of how my life came about. The fear and unrest I have felt when thinking about the future, and my death, have gradually lessened, and I have even begun to feel that my fate really is in my own hands. Everything that happens, and even everything that will happen in the future, is a result of my own actions.

At first my parents worried that I was coming to a bad place, and were afraid that I might get scammed. In addition, ever since I was little, I had been very opinionated and stubborn as an ox. For this reason it took another four years before they finally agreed with me participating in the pujas. Even before I began attending, though, our family’s home had transformed into what people refer to as a “happy and perfect household that everyone admires.” Actually, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has given me and my family more auspicious help than can be counted. These changes have all been apparent within my family. As His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has said, “If you, as a member of your family, are genuinely practicing the Dharma, then the atmosphere at home will grow more and more harmonious, because the sentient beings related to you are also relieved from their suffering.” He continued: “Whether or not you have changed, your parents know the best, because they are watching you every single day.”

Because I had not improved enough, by then my family members still had not approved of my coming here to participate in the pujas. Afraid of causing an argument, I had not spoken any praise in front of my parents regarding His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s auspicious achievements or his precious Dharma teachings. I had merely told them about the guidance Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had given me during each of my audiences with him; besides that, all I did was behave in accordance with what he had said.

His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche once berated me for not being a dutiful daughter. The guru said that I did not even smile toward my parents, nor had I changed my temper. As soon as I got home, I apologized tearfully to them for having lacked filial piety and for always throwing them dirty looks. From then onward, I began to smile at my parents often—even when they scolded me to the point of tears—and I reflected constantly on where exactly I had failed to be a dutiful daughter. His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has also said that I should listen daily to the two CDs entitled “Repentance” and “Impermanence” that the guru compassionately bestowed upon me the first time I came to seek an audience. Over the past few years, therefore, I have been learning how to be a dutiful daughter, and how to change my temper by listening to these Dharma CDs and putting the lessons into practice.

And for me, the most wondrous thing, and the part that makes me appreciate the guru’s auspicious teachings the most, as well as the greatness of the Dharma, is the transformation that has occurred in my mom.

When I first started working, my parents were almost sixty years old, and therefore not quite as robust as they had been. My dad was suffering from severe bone spurs, and my mom had diabetes. My mom was very busy; she would get up at 6:00 in the morning to help me and my sister with our grooming. She had to help me go to the toilet a few times, and she also had to take the public bus (a ride of about fifteen minutes each way) to my sister’s workplace to help her go to the toilet, too, both morning and afternoon. In the evening our mother would help us bathe, and on top of it all, she took care of all the household chores, did the grocery shopping, cooking, and so on. She was so busy until we went to bed – around 12:00 midnight; then she would turn us over in our beds three or four times throughout the night. She had practically no time to rest. Back when all she had to do was look after us at home, she had seemed constantly exhausted. One time when my mom was nearly finished with the floor and just about to leave to catch a bus over to my sister’s place of work to help her go to the toilet, I actually heard my mom humming a tune while she mopped. I was sitting in my room, and the carefree sound caused me to burst into tears and sob uncontrollably. I could feel how happy my mother was; even though she was so busy that she had no time to rest, I could tell that she was putting her heart into everything she did, cheerfully and energetically. In that moment I felt truly grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for imparting such precious Buddhist teachings. I gained a profound sense of just how magnificent and exquisite the Dharma is, and how it really could transform a person’s mind to the point that she felt carefree and happy even in the midst of so much suffering. I had always taken for granted the idea that if a person became very rich, then joy would certainly follow, but I was completely blown away by this discovery that a poor person could find happiness! Moreover, I now had a deep appreciation for how truly rare it was to find a master practitioner able to transmit such auspicious Dharma!

Problems at home had always tied me into the worst kind of knots, ever since I was little. The grief- and sorrow-filled atmosphere had often made us feel like the only way we would be able to breathe easy would be to go to sleep, or leave home. There was very little interaction among family members, and it always felt like everyone was utterly exhausted just from trying to cope with life. However, starting with my very first audience with the guru, my family began to show obvious signs of change. It was like all of my family members had been replaced with newer versions of themselves, and the atmosphere at home even changed to one of harmony and happiness. My obstinate godmother, who refused to listen to anyone, even hopped up and said that she wished to seek an audience with the guru when all I had said were the words, “Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche has helped our family a great deal.” My godmother said that this was because the changes in my parents had been so drastic that they seemed like new people altogether; previously, no matter how much she had tried to help them and ease their anxiety, it had not done any good.

When I first started saying I wanted to eat vegetarian, my parents’ reaction was very negative; they even said they would disown me if I did. The next day, however, after seeing how determined I was, they went out to buy a new pot, and said that from then on, meat dishes and vegetarian dishes would be cooked separately. They would not even buy steamed vegetable buns at the same shops that sold meat-filled ones for fear that they might have gotten mixed up in the steamers.

At first, when I was still unable to participate in the pujas, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche told me, “Your parents will come around, but it will take some time.” At the time I thought the guru meant that it would be very difficult to persuade them, but later I slowly came to realize persuading my parents was not it; rather, changing myself was what would take some time. One time, also before I was able to begin participating in the pujas, during an interaction with my dad I was astonished to discover how despicable I was. This caused me to involuntarily curl up into a ball and cry. At the time I sensed very clearly that my despicableness was the very reason I had been unable to get my parents’ consent to my participation in the pujas. A few days later, as it turned out, my dad said of his own volition that he would allow me to attend the pujas.

When I later implored to take refuge, His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche said that I would need the approval of both of my parents. Originally, my dad would not give his consent no matter what. This continued until I had participated in the pujas for two years and was told that I would have to stop because I still had not taken refuge. As soon as I got home, I begged my dad to allow me to take refuge, imploring so desperately that tears were streaming down my face. At this, my dad’s attitude softened, and he said, “You’re an adult now, so the issue is out of my hands.” However, remembering His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s directive that I absolutely had to obtain consent from my parents, I felt that I needed to get my dad to agree. I therefore asked my mom to push my wheelchair over next to the door to my dad’s room, where I waited for three days. Finally, my dad gave his joyful consent.

Later, when I went to implore His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for permission to take refuge, my mom and my sister both accompanied me to seek an audience. My dad, who ordinarily was in so much pain from his bone spurs that he would not set foot outside the door, went out of his way, riding his scooter, to send me off.

Finally, I would like to share with you all an account of how His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche saved sister. One time she caught a cold that turned into pneumonia; because of the danger of it turning into sepsis, she was admitted to the intensive care unit at the hospital. We had already received a notice of critical condition, and my sister had been unconscious for a while.

Believing that all of this was a manifestation of my sister’s causes, effects, and karmic retribution, and due to the facts that she did not eat vegetarian nor believed in the Buddha, I did not voice any supplications for His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to save her; instead, I merely implored to make an offering on my sister’s behalf. At the time I was still just a believer, so rather than accepting my offering, the guru simply asked why my sister was in the, and then chanted mantras and blessed her. After that, he said if she did not have a fever after three days, then she would be fine. Just as the guru stated, three days later my sister was actually released from the ICU and allowed to leave the hospital later that week. My physical condition has always been better than that of my sister, but before being lucky enough to be granted an audience with His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, I, too, had once caught pneumonia. My case was not as severe as my sister’s, but I had to be hospitalized for a month.

His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche truly is a Mahasiddha of great compassion and awe-inspiring power, and is really quite remarkable. I also have a friend whose brain tumors shrank and disappeared after he received blessings from Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. My godmother’s back used to be in so much pain that she could not sit up straight, but after just being glanced at and blessed briefly by the guru, the following day her pain was completely gone. There are many such auspicious stories of the guru’s miraculous prowess. When I reflect on my own situation, however, I can see that even if the suffering I feel from my illness had ended, there would soon have been a new bout of pain, a new affliction to deal with, and this would have continued on and on forever. Had I not begun to practice Buddhism and remained unable to be freed from life and death and reincarnation, then my life would not have had any meaning, even if I were cured of my disease and living in comfort.

Zheng Peichun is grateful to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for freeing her family from misery and bestowing upon her a brand new life!

To have such a rare master practitioner in my life, such a compassionate Mahasiddha who spares no effort to use profound yet understandable methods to teach the Dharma and relieve sentient beings of their fear of death and help them to transcend from the suffering sea of reincarnation, a guru who is able to transmit such precious Dharmas, is the most unfathomable and amazing thing in the world! I am grateful to His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche for being so compassionate and so willing to take me on as his disciple, heavy on the karma and light on the fortune though I am, thereby granting me this opportunity to learn Buddhism from him. It is not easy to listen to the Dharma and it is difficult to encounter a guru. I call upon all of my Dharma brothers and all of honorable believers present to firm up your resolve and do your very best to cherish this auspicious affinity. Finally, I sincerely and respectfully pray that His Eminence Vajra Guru Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche will have good health, that his Dharma activities will be spread far and wide, and that the Drikung Kagyu Lineage will flourish forever.

Respectfully written by Disciple Zheng Peichun, Group 5, on January 25th, 2015

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Updated on October 16, 2016