Turned Around And Find the Pure Land in My Mind

Where did I come from? Where do I go thereon? When there are conflicts between the inner self and the external environment, how do I resolve them? Between expectation and reality, success and failure, good and bad, wholesome and evil, life and death, is there a general guideline, which applies to all circumstances, that we can follow when we are confused and lost? As a beginner practicing the Buddha Dharma for less than two years, I came to Dharma Drum Mountain with many questions in mind.

After shaving hairs, putting on monastic clothes, and taking the Eight Precepts, all wandering thoughts slowly quieted down.

With a mind being cleared from morning sitting and moved by the chanting in the service, I welcomed the arrival of every day with much gratitude. Though I am used to simple way of life, I am still surprised at this even simpler living. With simple attire, meals and bedding, we became so close to our inner self at every moment. Putting away old habits, what I experienced and enjoyed here is the freedom and ease of mind that no longer relied on the external environment.

Time passed in the dining hall, dormitory and the Chan hall within a short period of eight days. In the afternoon while we were taking group photograph, the non-stop drizzles and the thick dark clouds suddenly vanished. The bright sunlight shone on us that we almost could not open our eyes. After taking the photo and upon returning to the Chan hall, the sun disappeared and started raining again till the day we returned to our lay life. It might be due to the monastic’s kind heart or our wishes that had touched Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion) who has always been taking care of us.

In order to experience the monastic way of life fully, I reminded myself to relax physically and mentally and be mindful in every moment. However, on the fourth day, a sense of uneasiness spread over, my body became tense. I felt like running away, renouncing the precepts and leaving the monastery. Fortunately, this negative thought went away after I repented to the Buddha. I felt there is a strong force which pulled me back from negative feelings to face the reality in front. I regretted and repented to the Buddha for the unwholesome deeds that I have done in the past and also for the mind that was not committed to practice and easily disturbed by trivia things, even though I had taken the precepts. I prostrated to the Buddha, did sitting meditation during my spare time, and my mind became clear. I looked deeply inward and found my afflictions went away as the sunshine dispelled the misty fog. I found the answer and courage to face the problems.

Thanks to Venerable Guo Chi, who taught us the method of direct contemplation, not to give names, descriptions and comparison to what we saw, while walking in the mountains. This method helped me relax body and mind and became aware. I remembered in the past when I went mountain hiking, I used to set up a time to finish the journey. However, very often a two-hour journey would usually end up doubling the time as I planned because out of wonder I stopped to glance over those flowers and grasses along the way. On the following day I usually would suffer from back and muscle pain and would not feel like going out.

"It is very difficult to be born as a human being; it is also very difficult to hear the Buddhadharma and I have heard it now. If I do not liberate myself in this lifetime, which lifetime will I be able to liberate?"

These four-line phrases struck me like a thunder at one night. Blind turtle has found the floating wood! Will I have the merits and virtues to be born as a human and to hear the Buddhadharma again? And when? How much remaining time do I have in this lifetime to help myself leave this ocean of endless suffering? Bounded by many obligations and responsibilities, will I be determined and persistent in leaving lay life and joining the monastic community that is engaged in busy work while maintaining calmness. I would need to think it over.

During the sharing session in the following night, my questions were answered by the monastic. No doubt that monastic way of life is very profound and it requires great merits. If lack of blessing and support, this path will be quite difficult. If I have not accumulated enough merits in previous lives, I will treasure my present life to foster merits and cultivate wisdom, and plant the seed of wholesome causes that I will become a monastic and practice in future lives. Though difficulties remained, I somehow knew how to deal with them.

On the day when we were renouncing the precepts, my mind was light and at ease. "Practice does not come along with what you wear" (referring to the monastic clothing) Being impressed with these words which I heard from a previous participant in the program, I did not feel particularly sad or unwilling to leave. I bore in mind the work that I have to engage in and the practice that I will continue to pursue diligently.

Before leaving, we said good-bye to the monastic and bad farewell to the Founding Guan Yin (Founding Bodhisattva of Great Compassion). If the causes and conditions of becoming a monastic do not mature in this life, I would still cultivate the Ten Wholesome Deeds with a pure mind, and benefit all sentient beings.

Shady grey clouds flowed silently and slowly in the wind. Without words and sounds the Boddhisattva stood still, graciously gazing down and fulfilling my wish.

(By Chang Hong & Chang Shuen, both were the participants of Dharma Drum Mountain Awakening Camp )

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