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)