(Continued from issue #265)
Speaking of this topic brings back to mind my father who had passed away twenty years ago. There was no foreboding whatsoever at the time of his passing. He was very healthy and always in good spirits. Before his passing, he only had very mild symptoms of a cold. One day he went out and started feeling unwell while walking down a street. A store owner noticed and offered him a chair to sit down in, asking " Sir, are you okay?" In less than ten minutes after my father sat down, he passed away. An ambulance sped him to the hospital, but to no avail.
After the funeral, I personally went to look at the place where my father died. A person's birth and death are predestined. At the time my father was feeling dizzy, there were two medical clinics two or three steps ahead, one on the ground floor and one on the second floor. Doctors and nurses came immediately, but there was no way they could save my father. I talked to the people who had witnessed the event. They said nothing happened to my father on the street at the time. He was just not feeling well. The storeowner was very nice to pull out a wicker chair for my father to sit down in. In less than fifteen minutes, my father passed away. Family members did not see it coming at all. When the hospital called to inform of my father's passing, my older sister was startled. How could it be? Just moments ago, she was on the phone with him. Hence, whether a person lives a long or short life, is rich or poor, is all predetermined.
A few years ago (though it's been twenty years since my father passed away), my mother told me one day, "Everyone really has his/her own fate. When your father was a child, your grandfather brought him to a fortune teller, who predicted that your father would die in the streets." I said, "Oh my! Why are you telling me this just now?" All these years, I had been really worried, thinking that it was not good to die in the streets.
What I'm trying to say is that íV whether we're discussing matters as great as national affairs or matters as small as personal ones íV everything is predetermined. How much we eat, how much we wear, where and how we die and so forth, are all the consequences of our own doing. Everything goes according to the script that we have written for ourselves. Therefore, we have to make the most of every opportunity íV especially while our karmic obstacles are still amenable to changes and have not yet fully matured íV to revise our script so that it's closer to perfection and accounts for where we'd like to be rebirthed in. We should not spend so much time and energy drudging away as our children and grandchildren's workhorses. Children and grandchildren have their own blessings. We may think that we are taking paramount measures to provide them the best arrangements for a bright and secure future. However, whether they have a bright and secure future very much depends on their own blessings. Do not be too chivalrous in sacrificing our time and energy. We should channel our time and energy into nurturing our dharma body and wisdom. This is very, very important.
There is one more incense session. We should apply all our energy cherishing this opportunity. Each time you bow to a Buddha, you gain merit and virtue. Each time you recite a line from the Sutra, you obtain benefit. I hope everyone will vigorously treasure the next incense session and truly repent. Repentance is not to be done only during our annual Jeweled Repentance of Emperor Liang. On a daily basis, we should reflect on our actions and introspect whether we have upheld purity in our body, mouth, and mind. If we have created offenses, then we should reform. If we have not created offenses, we should encourage ourselves to keep up the good work. I hope we can cherish our lives we have in this lifetime because we are all very, very lucky. Why? We have encountered the proper dharma and a clear-eyed, good knowing advisor who has given us clear instructions regarding the path we should take. However, we living beings are headstrong and won't change our ways. Truly, we are tiring out the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Recently I had a discussion with my fellow cultivator on Water-Mirror Turning Back the Tide of Destiny. I looked back at the national events during the beginning period of the Republic. Then I looked back at the chronicle of Venerable Master Xuyun's life. Venerable Master Xuyun truly underwent a lot of suffering on behalf of us living beings. His entire life represents the recent history of China. Born during the reign of Emperor Daoguang of the Qing dynasty, he lived until 1959, after the establishment of the People's Republic of China.
Without the mighty vows of the Bodhisattvas, the suffering we living beings endure would be more harrowing and unimaginable. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are kind and compassionate; they cannot bear to see living beings suffer. One by one, the Greatly Virtuous Sanghans come to this world as if in a relay race, such as Venerable Master Xuyun and Venerable Master Hua. They come because they cannot bear to see living beings suffer. They have to let us know about the Buddha's compassion and great vows. They want us to know that birth-and-death is life's greatest matter. They want us to be reminded that birth-and-death is life's biggest problem. "Fame and gain are trivial matters, yet loved by all; birth and death are great matters, yet not paid attention to." We should not tire out the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas so much. We should take our own responsibility, cherish our good roots, sincerely repent, make great vows, and walk the great path.
There are many people here who are parents and grandparents who do not agree with what I just said. They are very much into playing their roles. Nothing can be done about that íV we have to be responsible for our own lives. I remember the time in Europe when a layperson asked the Venerable Master, " How can we get rid of greed, anger, and delusion? What's the best way to go about it?" Shr-Fu answered, "Left-home people work on getting rid of greed, anger, and delusion every single day. If you won't even leave the home life, how can you get rid of them?" The Venerable Master continued, "Start with dumping all your wealth and possessions into the river. Learn from Upasaka Pang and throw all your treasures and gems into the ocean." The layperson said, "If I am single, I can do it. But with a family, how can I?" The Venerable Master said, "Do you doubt that Upasaka Pang had been certified to the Way? You think you are smarter than Upasaka Pang? Upasaka Pang was very stupid, so he accomplished the Way. You are smart so you are not able to accomplish the Way." (Upasaka Pang had a family with children). Amitofo.
(The End of the Article)