A dharma talk by Rosa Chang & Ana Chang at GBM on November 26, 2017
All Buddhas & Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and Dharma Friends. Amitofo. My name is Rosa and this is my sister Ana.
2017, the year of the Rooster has been a very eventful year for us. We had 2 births, 1 wedding, and 1 rebirth in our family. These are all new beginnings for each individual. However, as per Dharma Master’s suggestion, we will tell you the story of our father.
Our father was born in 1924 in China, Canton, Zhongshan, Zimaling village. He married my mom in 1949. In 1952, he moved to Lima, Peru. In 1970 he immigrated to Vancouver, Canada. Our father built Como Market, our family grocery business. Our father left behind a loving wife, 2 sons, 2 daughters, 2 daughter-in-laws, 6 grand-sons, 3 grand-daughters, 4 grand-daughter-in-laws, 2 grand-son-in-laws, 3 great-grand-sons, and 2 great-grand-daughters. Whenever we have family gatherings, we have 4 generations joined together.
Our father instilled the importance of filiality, family togetherness, generosity, and compassion in us. He enjoyed going on family vacations and having family gatherings. Our father was a very generous and family-oriented person. He remembered where he came from and would go back to China every year to visit family and friends. He would give gifts and treat them to food. Although our father did not eat too much meat, he would let others do all the ordering and they would choose things like live seafood or live animals. Our father always paid for all the food.
After years of going to China and treating people to so much meat and seafood, karma finally caught up with him when he was around 80 years old. That was the start of all his illnesses. He started not feeling well, but he could not explain to the doctors the symptoms. He would often say he was dizzy, but it was not the kind of dizzy where he would fall down. The western doctors did not know how to cure him. In the last 9 years he has been in and out of the hospital 6 times with pneumonia.
Everything does happen for a reason. Yes, his illness is a bad thing. However, it was because of his illness, my sister and I started bringing our father to Gold Buddha Monastery and we became pure vegetarians, which is a good thing. In 2008, our father started attending all dharma assemblies at Gold Buddha Monastery. He became a pure vegetarian and took the 5 precepts. He enjoyed spending time at Gold Buddha Monastery, and have met many Dharma masters and Dharma friends here. He would stay the whole day at GBM from start to finish. Although, he may not understand the sutras, mantras, dharma talks, and repentance texts…we would like to think that everything he has heard has been absorbed into his 8th consciousness.
This year, our father was still able to attend the 1 week 3000 Buddhas Repentance, 3 weeks Avatamsaka Sutra recitation, and 1 week Emperor Lyang’s Repentance. He even attended the celebration of Guan Yin Pu Sa’s Enlightenment at GBM. However, on the actual day of Guan Yin Pu Sa’s Enlightenment, our father got really tired and did not want to get up. He was too tired to eat or drink anything, but he was peaceful. His blood pressure was very good, he did not have a fever, and his breathing was normal. So we knew it was not pneumonia this time. We asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital and he told us “No”. So we respected his wish and made him comfortable at home.
At all times we had the Amitofo chanting machine playing close to our father so he could hear. 3 days prior to his passing, my sister and I started chanting Amitofo ourselves to our father because we wanted to chant from our heart, instead of just using a machine. We also placed a picture of Amitofo on the wall in front of our father. We noticed that sometimes our father would have his palms together praying to Amitofo.
In the last few days of his life, we would constantly remind our father to recite “Amitofo”. We told him if Amitofo comes for him, to go with Amitofo and leave everything here behind. We told him we would take care of our mother. We told him we are all grown up and he doesn’t have to worry about us. We also thanked him for all he has done for us. We told him to go to Amitofo’s Land of Ultimate Bliss first and we will meet him there when it is our time. We told him if he sees Amitofo’s bright gold light, to go with him to Amitofo’s Land of Ultimate Bliss…our father nodded to show he understood us.
Our father passed away peacefully at home on Monday, July 17, 2017 at 3:20pm surrounded by family members at his side. He was 93 years old. After the 8 hours of reciting Amitofo, and all who came to recite have gone home, we went in to say our final good-byes to our father. We notice that it looked like there were sprinkles of gold dust on his face and he looked very peaceful.
On Dad’s 7th day after passing away, I had a dream. I was walking somewhere and Dad joined me. He look young, happy, and a full of energy. I told him to remember to go to Amitofo’s Land of Ultimate Bliss. He replied “OK”. We hugged and then I woke up.
Most of our family members made the commitment to only eat vegetarian food for 49 days. Ana, our mom, our niece, and I decided to each of us gift at least 100 Earth Store Sutras to our father within the 49 days. Part of our father’s 49 days took place during the 1 month Earth Store Sutra Recitation session, which made it convenient for us to read the Earth Store Sutra many times. In total, just between the 4 of us, we gifted over 560 Earth Store Sutras and transferred the merit and virtue to our father. Also, our whole family came together every Sunday to offer incense to our father at Gold Buddha Monastery.
Our father’s last 7 was on the exact 49th day. That day GBM celebrated Ullambama. We read in Venerable Master’s English commentary of The Shurangama Sutra that “on Ullambama, merit and virtue dervived from making offerings to the Triple Jewel is several million times greater than that derived from offerings made on ordinary days”. We are grateful that our father’s last 7 was completed on such an amazing day.
1 week after all of our father’s 7s were completed, we flew to Calgary to attend the Inauguration Ceremony at Avatamsaka Monastery. While we were there, we had the opportunity to receive the Precepts for the Deceased for our father.
After returning from Calgary, our mom started having dreams of seeing our dad. She said that she saw a big place, like the structure of a big airport. Our father came out and welcomed her in. He looked young and happy. As soon as they sat down, someone brought vegetarian haw gow and sui mai for them. Mom had a haw gow and Dad had a sui mai. Dad told my Mom the sui mai is really good, and Mom told him that the haw gow is really good too. Mom had 2 haw gows and 2 sui mais. After eating, they didn’t have to pay. They walked around and Mom saw Bhikshus everywhere.
Throughout the years, the Buddhas & Bodhisattvas have continuously blessed our father with health, strength, and energy to come to GBM frequently. He was able to come here all the time even when it rained or snowed. Our father treated Gold Buddha Monastery as his 2nd home. While at GBM he would ask us, “When do we go home?” However, at home he would ask us every day “Are we going to Gold Buddha Monastery today?”
Every year, Dad looked forward to attending the GBM Elderly Day. He was very happy to receive a gift for being over 90. He told us being over 90 is a big accomplishment, so he treasured every gift he received. Our father found peace and comfort here at Gold Buddha Monastery.
When our father was a young man, he saw a fortune teller who predicted that he would only live to 56 years old. We are sincerely grateful to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas because we had 37 more years to be with him. It gave our father the extra time to see us grow up. All the times we have spent with our father are precious, and we are thankful for each day. We do miss him, but we know that we did all we can for him, and we can let go with no regrets.
We want to thank the Venerable Master for bringing Buddhism to the west, so people who do not know Chinese like us can understand, learn, and cultivate. We would also like to give sincere thanks to all Dharma Masters and Dharma Friends for your kindness, warmth, compassion, support, and respect to our father throughout the years at Gold Buddha Monastery. A special thank you goes to Dharma Master Jung for always being there for our family and for supporting and helping us through everything. Amitofo.
A dharma talk by Seng Lau at GBM on October 29, 2017
Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Shr Fu, Dharma Masters, all my Mentors – Amitofo!
My name is Seng. Today I would like to share a short story with you from the Jataka Tales. Jataka Tales are stories of Shakyamuni Buddha’s past lives.
Long ago, in the hills of the Himalayas near a lotus pool, the Buddha was once born as a baby elephant. He was a magnificent elephant, pure white with feet and face the color of coral. His trunk gleamed like a silver rope and his ivory tusks curled up in a long arc.
He followed his mother everywhere. She plucked the tenderest leaves and sweetest mangoes from the tall trees and gave them to him. “First you, then me,” she said.
She bathed him in the cool lotus pool among the fragrant flowers. Drawing the sparkling water up in her trunk, she sprayed him over the top of his head and back until he shone. Then filling his trunk with water, he took careful aim and squirted a perfect geyser right between his mother’s eyes. Without blinking, she squirted him back. And back and forth, they gleefully squirted and splashed each other. Splish! Splash!
Then they rested in the soft muck with their trunks curled together. In the deep shadows of afternoon, the mother elephant rested in the shade of a rose-apple tree and watched her son romp and frolic with the other baby elephants.
The little elephant grew and grew until he was the tallest and strongest young bull in the herd. And while he grew taller and stronger, his mother grew older and older. Her tusks were yellow and broken and in time she became blind. The young elephant plucked the tenderest leaves and sweetest mangoes from the tall trees and gave them to his dear old blind mother. “First you, then me,” he said.
He bathed her in the cool lotus pool among the fragrant flowers. Drawing the sparkling water up in his trunk, he sprayed her over the top of her head and back until she shone. Then they rested in the soft muck with their trunks curled together. In the deep shadows of afternoon, the young elephant guided his mother to the shade of a rose-apple tree. Then he went roaming with the other elephants.
One day a king was hunting and spied the beautiful white elephant. “What a splendid animal! I must have him to ride upon!” So the king captured the elephant and put him in the royal stable. He adorned him with silk and jewels and garlands of lotus flowers. He gave him sweet grass and juicy plums and filled his trough with pure water.
But the young elephant would not eat or drink. He wept and wept, growing thinner each day. “Noble elephant,” said the king, “I adorn you with silk and jewels. I give you the finest food and the purest water, yet you do not eat or drink. What will please you?”
The young elephant said, “Silk and jewels, food and drink do not make me happy. My blind old mother is alone in the forest with no one to care for her. Though I may die, I will take no food or water until I give some to her first.”
The king said, “Never have I seen such kindness, not even among humans. It is not right to keep this young elephant in chains.” Free, the young elephant raced through the hills looking for his mother. He found her by the lotus pool. There she lay in the mud, too weak to move. With tears in his eyes, he filled his trunk with water and sprayed the top of her head and back until she shone. “Is it raining?” she asked. “Or has my son returned to me?” “It is your very own son!” he cried. “The king has set me free!” As he washed her eyes, a miracle happened. Her sight returned. “May the king rejoice today as I rejoice at seeing my son again!” she said.
The young elephant then plucked the tenderest leaves and sweetest mangoes from a tree and gave them to her. “First you, then me.” Amitofo.
A dharma talk by Hean Chiang at GBM on October 22, 2017
All Buddhas and Boddhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters and Buddhist Friends, Amitofo.
For those who do not know my name, I am Hean. And beside me is Cindy. She is a very dear family friend and a god daughter to my mother. Because of my lack of Chinese, Cindy will be translating for me in Mandarin. I will attempt to speak in Cantonese but please forgive me for my ‘broken’ Cantonese.
Although I have been coming to Gold Buddha Monastery (GBM) for a long while, I am ashamed that I am ignorant in Buddha dharma. As such, I have chosen an easy topic to speak today, which is my mother and the life lessons I learned from her. But first of all before I start, my sister and I with our families are truly grateful to all Dharma Masters and our Buddhist friends for your kindness and compassion in chanting for my mother’s well being for the past 7 weeks; as well as for your monetary contributions. We have donated all the monies to GBM on behalf of our mother. When she was alive, our mother was always touched by the care and warmth from everyone whenever she came to GBM. So once again, thank you, Dharma Masters and friends very much for your kindness.
My mother was a strong-minded, cheerful and a very independent lady and the lessons she taught me were full of wisdom and compassion. A long time ago when I was sick from chemotherapy, she was there to support me, physically, mentally and spiritually. She taught me to handle my suffering in a calm and peaceful manner and encouraged me to chant the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva. That was nearly 20 years ago and the lesson I learned or a little enlightenment I had then, was that suffering was uninterrupted day and night, and even though it was only a very small fraction of an eon, it was very unbearable. I cannot imagine how much more suffering there is in the Uninterrupted Hell as described in the sutra. This experience changed my perspective of life and I feel it was a tough but a very worthwhile lesson.
In 2010, my mother was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure at the age of 92 years old. It meant her heart was failing, liquid may fill her lungs and feet, and the medications she had to take affected her kidney function. We did not know how long we would have her but are grateful to have the continuous opportunity to care and enjoy her for the next 7 years. After the diagnosis, she still insisted on living her very independent life. It was worrisome for us but we respected her wishes. It was only 3 years ago, at the young age of 96 that she finally agreed to move back with me.
My mom, sister and I spent a beautiful summer last year. We enjoyed simple things in life; such as drinking coffee, enjoying the garden, praying to the Buddhas, chanting, chatting and joking. We had many laughs. One time, I remembered her cheekily telling me in a secretive voice that she had stuffed a lot of money at the top of her shirt. She would then pull out sheets of clean tissue. Was she senile? No, she was not. To her, these tissues were similar to if not more valuable than actual money because she needed them for her convenience to spit lots of sputum. She always thought of ways so that she could take care of herself without bothering others, including her daughters. That’s my mom.
Even though I had personally received several life aging notifications e.g. failing eye sight, slower brain functions, stiff bones in the morning and many more; but nothing prepared me for the deep insights I had on this 2nd type of suffering – old age; until I witnessed my mom’s fast aging process and suffering. I was humbled by my mother’s aging graciousness and diligence. Whenever her energy permitted, she was eager to attend the Great Compassion Repentance session at GBM. Even though it was difficult for her to see the text, she would keenly follow when I sat beside her pointing to each character for her. From all these, I again learned a huge lesson from mom.
There was a time when she was appalled that she had forgotten how to wear her precept sash. For a few days on end, she would practice again and again until one day, she smilingly said that she knows how to wear her precept sash again.
It was sad to helplessly watch as she ages but it also enriches my life watching how she handled herself. She was calm in her nature and took care of herself physically and spiritually. She chanted ‘Amitofo’ or ‘Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa’ whenever she could. She was diligent in exercising even though her bones ache all the time. There was one day when we went for a stroll and I videotaped her when she started exercising; lifting her arms and moving her hips. So for those of you who may be interested in watching a cute short clip of her exercising, please let know during the break and I will show you on my phone.
Karmic retributions caught up with mom in her last few months. She contacted shingles. Shingles is a disease that causes unbearable nerve pain. It was very, very painful and at the very beginning, she would lament why she has to suffer this painful disease at her old age. We would chant Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa’s name together. One day, I asked mom to share her pain with me. Of course, she was like a ferocious lion protecting her cub and said a strong firm ‘No’. She quietly practised endurance and contemplated sickness suffering as a ‘test’ on her. She would constantly remind herself of endurance with a Chinese character ‘Endure’ on her wall.
In her last couple of months, we had assistance from Fraser Health and she had a number of caregivers who were very kind to her. They would bring laughter to her and comforted her. Those were her blessings.
We cared for her daily needs and whenever she could, we would stimulate her mind and motor skills with games. At times, we sat at the front door together and enjoyed the sunshine and garden or after dinner, we would wheel her for a walk around the neighbourhood to see an auspicious statue of Guan Yin Bodhisattva in a neighbour’s garden. Her eyes would especially light up whenever her grandchildren kept her company.
In the morning of September 2, she was feeling unwell and was admitted into Burnaby Hospital. Her heart and kidneys were failing and she was placed in acute care. While she was in hospital, my sister, cousin and I took rotating shifts in looking after her 24 hours a day. On one particular night, she woke up very hungry at midnight. My cousin fed her a big bowl of rice porridge and had a good conversation with her. She was very responsive and coherent in her responses. On another night, she woke up and chanted ‘Amitofo’ loudly. The nurses were worried until my cousin explained that she was only chanting.
Over the next few days after her admission, her doctors were amazed and encouraged that she had improved. She recognized all of us. She even pulled a joke on my sister. Out of a sudden, she said there’s a rat and my sister was shocked and said ‘where?’ She then laughed and said ‘I am only pulling your leg.’ However, the doctors were still cautious because the heart organ is unpredictable and so they were not able to provide a life span prognosis. They basically prepared us that we will be supported by a palliative home care team when we bring mom home when she was stabilized.
On Sept. 7 morning, after the nurse aide gave her a body wash, I asked if she wanted some rice porridge. She nodded and less than an hour after I fed her a small bowl, she showed some signs of discomfort. I called for help and the nurse and doctor came immediately. It then happened…. so peacefully and quickly….. my mother passed away, at about 11:50 am.
There were many deep lessons I learned in the past few years, and there is also much to be thankful for. My mother is no longer suffering the awful nerve pains from shingles. I no longer need to worry about her inevitable forthcoming toothache from a couple of decaying deep roots embedded in her gums. I am very thankful that my mother’s passing was quick and peaceful.
It was amazing to watch her face slowly transformed and relaxed into a smile as we chanted ‘Amitofo’ for the first 8 hours. Toward the end of the chanting session, after Dharma Masters arrived, I am comforted that one of our family members saw mom in her robes, waving her hand with a smile on her face. Today is my mother’s last 7th day ceremony at GBM and I, on behalf of our whole family would like to express, once again our deep gratitude to all Dharma Masters and friends for your compassion in chanting for my mother’s well being. Amitofo.
Audio recordings & power point slides from the Ebb and Flow of Life Lecture Series ｜ Photos
John Vu, Professor 武親道教授
Issues with college admission, career planning and work life balance | PDF
Issues with parent – children relationship | PDF
Ullambana is Sanskrit. It means “rescuing those who are hanging upside down.” It’s very painful to be hanging upside down, and so now we are going to rescue those who are that way. Rescue whom! We are going to rescue our parents and other ancestors from previous lives. We don’t know whether our past relatives created merit, in which case they may have been reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, or in the heavens, or among people as presidents or emperors; or whether they created offenses in which case they may have fallen into the hells, into the realm of hungry ghosts, or into the animal realm.
The fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month is the anniversary of the day when the Venerable Mahamaudgalyayana saved his mother from the hells. When his mother was alive, she didn’t believe in the Triple Jewel. She killed many fish, turtles, shrimp and crabs and she was stingy and unwilling to give to those in need. Because of these offenses she fell into a hell of hungry ghosts. The Venerable Mahamaudgalyayana quickly sent her a bowl of food. She shielded the bowl with her left hand and used her right hand to take the food. However, once in her mouth, the food turned into burning coals which were impossible to eat. The Venerable One went to seek the Buddhas’s help, and the Buddha told him to make offerings to the Sangha of the ten directions during the Pravarana (the last day of the summer retreat when Sangha members repent of their offenses before the assembly). Because of the Sangha’s great virtue and awesome spiritual power, if one makes offerings to the Sangha, his parents and close kin in this life and seven lives past, will escape the three evil paths.
If you feel you have a big temper and too much “fire of ignorance,” it is because your parents and other relatives from the past have not left suffering and attained bliss. Every day they help you get angry, and encourage you to commit offenses so that you can hurry up and join them. If you feel that this may be the case, you should take advantage of this opportunity to do merit and virtue to cross them over. That will cause all those in difficulty to leave worry and suffering and to eradicate obstacles from offenses. Moreover, on this day the merit and virtue derived from making offerings to the Triple Jewel is several million times greater than that on ordinary days.
In the West, there has rarely been a Way-place which held this kind of celebration. Every one of us should act as a filial descendant for our parents and ancestors of former lives.
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua,
Vajra Bodhi Sea, 1994
*** See the Buddha Speaks the Ullambana Sutra text here
Talk by Bhishuni Heng Yi at Gold Buddha Monastery, Vancouver on Feb. 11th 2013
First of all, I wish everyone here a Happy New Year. It is customary that people will give some good tidings in celebrating Chinese New Year such as: I wish you good health, lots of good luck and make lots of money.
The reason that people wants those things is because they think those things can bring happiness. Hence, one single phrase of “Happy New Year” covers all auspicious words we say.
What is “happiness”? I remember when we were in old Gold Buddha Monastery, we had a chance to go a women’s correctional facility to talk to inmates there. We sometimes recited Buddha’s name together, and sometimes we just had a chat with them. Usually they would like to know more about our daily life. They were surprised that we got up at 3:30 in the morning and ate only one meal a day. Furthermore, when we mentioned about our living conditions such as not having a large personal space and not watching TV or any entertainment, they immediately thought that we lived a hard life. Then we visited their areas living and recreational activities. The place was just like a five-star hotel compared to our place. Every room was a suite equipped with a bathroom and a TV. When it’s the time for meals, they could just go to canteen and have their meals. Although their living conditions were far better than ours, they were not happy at all. They wanted to leave that place at any given moment.
Thus, we know when we are not happy in a place, that place becomes our prison. Therefore, if one feels unhappy at home or in some place, he or she will want to leave the scene and is under the belief that he or she can be liberated and happy once he or she leaves that place. Consequently, we constantly hear people say: “I want to shake off the yoke of home. My husband, my wife, or my children make me so angry.” Or “I want to leave this company because my boss or colleague treats me like … so, I cannot continue to work in this company.”
Little do people know that happiness does not come from an external environment. I have a friend who knows a loving couple of which the wife always has a big smile whenever people see her. One time, they went to a party, my friend pulled that happy wife aside and asked her:” It seems to me that you are always happy, is it because your husband treats you very well?” She replied:” No! My happiness has nothing to do with my husband.
Why is that people think my happiness has to be given to me by others? I can make myself be happy. But I sometimes try to make him happy when I found him depressed.” So anyone who can stand on his or her own and yet be considerate of others is certainly a happy person.
Last year, the tumor in my right lung got so big that it pressured my heart and caused pulmonary edema. My body was lack in oxygen and the carbon dioxide level was also too high. As a result, I went into a coma and
was rushed to a hospital. In the hospital, I had to put on an oxygen mask at all times except meal times. The mask strongly forced the oxygen into my lungs through my nostrils and it was fitted onto my face really tightly so that the air couldn’t leak. It made me feel extremely uncomfortable. Whenever it’s time for me to put on the oxygen mask, I felt that I was being tortured and was suffering a lot. On top of that, the mask was so uncomfortable that it made it difficult for me to fall asleep. In many occasions as soon as I managed to start falling asleep, I was called to wake up to take medicine, draw blood, take an injection, measure blood glucose and etc. I felt that due to this sickness, I had undergone all the sufferings there was. At that time, I wanted to leave the hospital badly because I felt I could not take the situation any longer.
But it was not up to me when I can be discharged from the hospital. In this extreme situation that I thought I couldn’t bear, I suddenly calmed down. I realized since I could not change the external conditions, I’d better change the state of my mind. Only when I cooperate with the doctors could I get well and be discharged. Therefore, when the medical staff put the oxygen mask on me again, I would think: “This is good for me. I am eradicating my karmic obstacles now. And it is a higher form of eradicating my karma since the medical staff had to serve me.” When I could not sleep at night I would think: “I am very grateful since now I have more time to recite mantras and cultivate.” Everyday I would brain wash myself like this. Gradually I could take the bitter as if it were sweet. When I fell into a coma for the second time and had to go to hospital, I decided to have the operation. Although it was a serious and a major operation, I cooperated fully and was grateful for everything. The doctor was very satisfied with my recovery from the surgery. So, it is exact proof of what the Buddha said, “Everything is made from the mind alone.”
The former Prime Minister of Great Britain – Margaret Thatcher said, “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” Hence, people at different times and different places have similar interpretation about how our thinking will result in consequences.
(Published in the March 2013 issue of Vajra Bodhi Sea http://www.drbachinese.org/vbs/publish/514/vbs514p028.pdf)