The first time I read the Venerable Master Hua’s lectures was in the year 2003. That was the first time I knew that there was a place called CTTB. The Venerable Master said that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas was still following the rules that the Buddha set for cultivators. For example, they uphold their precepts very seriously, never take off their kashaya (precepts) sashes, and turn the Dharma wheel every day. They also eat one meal a day and don’t lie down to sleep. It is very impressive, but since I had never been there before, I could only read about CTTB and imagine it in my mind. I really wanted to come to such a place and experience life there. I had heard that CTTB was formerly a convalescent home for the mentally ill. But later on the Venerable Master bought it and turned it into a way-place. What a big change. As I was filled with curiosity and a desire to see it, I told myself, “I must visit CTTB at least once in this life.”
In 2005, I had a chance to come to America, and I was planning to visit CTTB on the way. But conditions did not allow it; I wasn’t able to come, and I returned to Taiwan feeling rather sad. So, I planned another trip to go to CTTB in June of 2006. Some say that not everyone who wants to go to CTTB will be able to get there. Anyone who wants to go must be diligent in their Buddhist practice. For this reason I started to recite the Earth Store Sutra. Three months before the trip, I was very busy with my job and I wasn’t reciting sutras on a regular basis. One day, I was helping a coworker and accidentally broke my leg. The first thing that came to my mind was that I wouldn’t be able to go to CTTB. At the emergency room, I asked the doctor if my leg could heal in three months. The doctor said, “Your injury is not serious, there shouldn’t be a problem.” It was a great relief. The accident gave me more time to recite the sutra, and to count the days before the cast could be taken off and I could move freely.
I comforted myself, thinking: getting injured will make me do my recitations better, and it can reduce my bad karma. I have to have faith in the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and be strong in my resolve to go to CTTB. No matter what, I have to recuperate within three months and make the trip.
Together with my mom, I finally made it to CTTB on schedule. When we stepped into the Patriarch’s Hall and saw the statue of Venerable Master and his compassionate face, the tears came running down my face. I felt that I had finally returned home. The Venerable Master was like someone who had been waiting for me all this time. He looked so peaceful and calm. I was really touched.
During the time I spent at CTTB, I discovered that everything looks quite normal on the surface, but on later reflection, many things happened so subtly and wonderfully. For example, when I had a question in my mind, I would find the answer where I least expected it, and the benefits were enormous.
I remember in 2006 my mom and I participated in the Avatamsaka Dharma assembly for a couple of days. After we returned to Taiwan, my mom told me she wanted a set of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Since then, she recited the Avatamsaka Sutra once a year. I was very surprised and happy.
As I think back, before I knew the Venerable Master, there were a few times when I thought about taking the Bodhisattva precepts in Taiwan, but I was never able to. It turned out that my affinity with the Bodhisattva precepts was at CTTB. In 2007 I went to CTTB to take the Bodhisattva precepts. One of the Dharma Masters knew that I am a clinical psychologist, so she told me that patients always listen to their doctors’ advice. You should use the Buddhadharma to influence your patients and help them find the right path. I didn’t really take her suggestion to heart at the time. During the classes for the Bodhisattva precepts, the Dharma Master was lecturing on the topic of “The Precept Against Sexual Misconduct” and she recommended a book called The Book of Longevity and Health. Some time later, I found it in the DRBY library of Dharma Realm in Taipei. It was a really good book, and I learned many things about physical and mental health that this generation of young people does not know. Subsequently, I had a patient who had an extra-marital relationship problem. He and his spouse both had affairs. Although many of his friends and relatives supported his extra-marital affair, he still felt guilty about it. I recommended The Book of Longevity and Health to him. On his following visit, he told me that he and his partner had both read this book and decided to end their relationship and return to their own marriages. This is a very difficult yet encouraging decision. I understand it was not easy to end their relationship, but in return they were able to adhere to their morals and integrity, keep their family together, and learn to get along with their spouses with an open heart and mind.
For many years, my lack of energy was my greatest obstruction. I get tired easily, so I could never work as hard as I wanted to. Every time I had a physical checkup, the doctor always said, “You’re not sick!” I tried exercising on a regular basis, but there wasn’t much improvement. In 2008, when I came to partake of the Earth Store Bodhisattva recitation session, I was still troubling over this problem. During the seven days, I met an old laywoman. One day, she teased me, saying, “You’re young, but when we are meditating you always fall asleep. I have been practicing Chinese martial arts for more than ten years, I’m more than sixty years old, and I never fall asleep during meditation. And I get up at 2 a.m. every morning...” Wow, I really admired her energy! If she has been practicing martial arts for ten years, then she must have begun when she was fifty-some years old. I am not at her age yet, so I still have a lot of time to catch up. Coincidentally a Dharma Master had also suggested to me that I should learn tai chi. When I went back to Taiwan I started taking tai chi classes. Although I am still on the basics, I have already felt that my stamina is slowly improving.
The daily schedule in CTTB includes a variety of cultivation methods for everyone to do. I look forward to the evening lectures the most. Although sometimes I am really tired and fall asleep, the interesting thing is, when I hear something that I can relate to, I will suddenly wake up. Questions that I have in my mind are often answered at that moment; or I will become aware of my bad habits, and discover a direction and goals for changing myself. Sometimes I feel as if the Venerable Master’s tone is patiently reminding me, and other times it feels like he is admonishing me. No matter which one it is, they are all very convincing and I totally agree with what he said. I am very fortunate that I was able to encounter such a learning opportunity and hear the Buddhadharma spoken by the Venerable Master.
In the Buddha Hall there are ten thousand Buddhas, and every one of them is the color of gold. They are everywhere, from the walls to the ceiling. The Venerable Master sculpted every single one himself. Every time I see them, I make a promise to myself that I will work hard in investigating the Buddhadharma. I must cherish the Dharma affinity I have with the Venerable Master. No matter what, I will never retreat, so that one day I will become one of the Buddhas too.
The sky, the flowers, the grass, the trees, and the animals in CTTB are all so beautiful and enjoyable. The people are all so sincere and admirable. You don’t feel like leaving at all. One time, when I was drying clothes outside, I looked up and saw a doe and her fawn looking at me. I don’t know how long they had been observing me, but I was very happy to have met them.
In the past, I enjoyed traveling, and I would plan trips every year. Now, even Switzerland’s beautiful scenery and Greece’s laidback Aegean Sea do not interest me anymore. There is nowhere else that makes me feel more longing than CTTB. To me, CTTB may look very ordinary, but it has given me unforgettable memories.