The Causes that led to My
Wanting to Leave the Home Life
By Chin Mu on February 3, 2013
All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, All Dharma Masters and All good Knowing Advisors, Amitabha! My Dharma name is Qin Mu. I’m one of the new trainees and I’ll be the guest speaker tonight. I’ll talk about a tragic experience I had when I was 19, which caused me to want to leave the home life.
The incident happened in East Oakland on July 12, 2011 around 9:30pm. I was mugged by an African American not far from my house. He pointed his gun at my face and shot me within less than 10 feet. The bullet went through and damaged my internal carotid artery. After I was shot, I fell on my knees choking on my blood. I started to spit out a lot of blood and I felt like fainting.
As I was walking home I asked myself, “Have I done something wrong? Why did I have this kind of retribution?”
I felt very confused because I did not know what my life will be like after this. My mind felt blocked. I did not know if I was on the right path because I have already setup all my academic plans, but I had a feeling that this incident will change everything.
As I arrived home I called my mom to tell her what had happened. My mom told me to call the cops, while she called my fifth aunt to come over to check to see if I was okay. I then called the cops and they got an ambulance to come over to my house. After the cops came over, I told them what had happened and they told me to get into the ambulance so they could send me to Highland Hospital.
I told them that I wanted to wait for my aunt to come first so that she can go with me and inform my family where I was going and what was going on. After my aunt came over I went inside the ambulance. The nurse inside the ambulance asked me if I was okay and if I had any pain. I said I felt a lot of pain on my neck and as I felt everything was safe I fainted.
As I arrived at the emergency room the doctors helped me do a full body scan to see what was damaged. In the beginning I seem fine, but a few hours later I began having trouble breathing. I had trouble breathing because I had internal bleeding from the damaged artery; there was too much blood entering into my lungs. The doctor had to give me an emergency tracheotomy.
After they gave me the tracheotomy, they began performing surgery on the damaged artery. The doctors had to cut a 2 inch blood vessel from my left ankle to repair the damaged artery. The operation lasted 6 to 7 hours. After the operation the doctor went to inform my family about my condition. He said I was very lucky because if the bullet had lodged a few centimeters more and hit my spine; then I would have been paralyzed. He also said that my health was very good because most people would have died from losing the amount of blood that I had loss.
He then said to my family that they had repaired the damaged artery, but they will have to see if blood is able to go up to the brain by tomorrow. He said that if the blood isn’t able to go up then there will be a high chance I’ll be in a coma, or even if I do wake up I would not be normal. When my mom heard that she almost fainted.
My mom went to Gold Mountain Monastery and told a nun about my situation hoping that they had an answer to help me. The nun said it is probably my karma and informed my mom to help me recite “Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva.” The nuns also said that they will recite for me. Two of my aunts who are Buddhists were also reciting for me during that time.
On my mother side of the family I have a total of about twenty cousins. All of them had come to visit me. At that time anyone who saw me cried because I looked like a mess. My neck was very swollen; it was as if I had two heads. After they had come to visit me, most of them said they will be a vegetarian for one day for Hamilton. My grandma said she will be a vegetarian for one month and recite the Buddha’s name for me, hoping that I’ll be okay.
The doctors put me on anesthesia for one and a half weeks. During that time I had a state in which I arrived at CTTB; Shakyamuni Buddha suddenly appeared and told me to return in seven days to leave the home life. When I woke up from the anesthesia and saw my mom I told her that I had to return to CTTB and leave the home life. Without even thinking about my health condition I was very determine to leave the hospital.
One of my aunt was worried and decided to call up CTTB to tell them what had happened. The person they informed to tell the Abbot was Chin Gwang Shr. The Abbot told Chin Gwang Shr to inform my family to tell me not to worry so much. He said to take my time to convalesce and after I have fully recovered I can return. He also said that he will tell the men-side to recite for me.
The doctors started giving me food to eat to see if I was able to swallow, but I began aspirating on the food. They didn’t know why I was aspirating because when a patient has a tracheotomy they are only unable to speak, but I wasn’t able to eat, drink, or speak. So during that time I was only able to communicate by writing on paper. The doctors did not give me food because they were not able to find out the cause for my aspiration, so I was only on IV fluids.
The doctors began doing scans on my neck to see if the artery was okay. Everything seemed fine, so they wanted to discharge me from the hospital. All of a sudden one of the doctors suggested that I should do a more detailed scan on my neck. They suddenly found an air bubble inside the artery. They saw that the air bubble was expanding very fast and if the bubble pops I would have a stroke. The doctors said I was very lucky because if they have not done a more detailed scan and just sent me home, then within less than a week I would have had a stroke.
Highland Hospital did not have any specialist that specialized in this kind of operation, and so they had to transfer me to another hospital that specialized in it. The doctors rushed to find the nearest hospital that offered this sort of operation because the air bubble was more severe than the damaged artery. They said that the air bubble was more severe because they did not know how much time they have; it can pop at any moment.
The nearest hospital they found was “San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH).” On that day I was lucky that they were able to book a spot for me, and so I was able to be transferred to that hospital around 3 a.m. that night. It’s been nearly two and a half weeks since I have eaten and after I arrived at SFGH, I felt very weak and hungry. They immediately send me out to do another scan as soon as I arrived at SFGH and they saw that the air bubble was even bigger than before.
They checked the schedule to see if the doctors had any available slots. If they did, then I could be set up for surgery; the doctors wanted me to have the operation as soon as possible. Luckily, the doctor was able to find a free slot. He decided to schedule my operation on the following day during the afternoon.
The next day the doctor briefly explained to me the surgical procedures. He said that there were two methods, one of them was permanent and the other one was temporary. The permanent procedure was to inflate a balloon to close that artery in order to block that air bubble from popping. But if half of my body becomes paralyzed when the balloon was being inflated, it would mean that this surgical process does not work and they would have to use the temporary approach.
The temporary surgical technique is to stem the air bubble to prevent it from popping, but after four to five years I will still have a stroke. I had to be awake during the operation. As they slowly inflated the balloon the doctor told me to move my fingers and wiggle my toes to make sure that the other half of my body was not paralyzed. The risk involved in this operation was if the doctor accidentally touched the air bubble or if the air bubble popped during the surgery, I would have a stroke. Luckily the permanent method worked and I was okay.
After that operation the doctors began searching for my earlier medical records to try and figure out why I was not able to consume food or liquids. They then sent me to the Eyes, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT) to see if they could find out what was the cause for this problem. During my appointment with my (ENT) doctor, they discovered that my vocal cords were not moving. They said I had paralysis of the vocal cord.
They were not sure how it got damaged, but they speculated that the damage occurred when the emergency tracheotomy was performed. The doctors were not sure if this injury was temporary or permanent, but they wanted me to eat so I could get my nutrition. They scheduled me for surgery to insert a feeding tube in my stomach.
The doctors told me that this was a simple operation and most patients who have had this operation are able to resume their regular lives the next day. Although the operation sounds simple I did not know why I had a bad feeling about it. I decided to do the operation, because the doctors said if I had a feeding tube I can be discharged from the hospital.
After my operation for inserting the feeding tube; I felt so much pain in my stomach. The doctors said it was normal because they had to poke a needle through my stomach, but since I was in a lot of pain, they began putting me on pain medications. I was in pain for about one week. During that week many social workers came to visit and wanted me to be discharged from the hospital.
Finally, the next morning when the doctors were doing their rounds, one of them checked my stomach and saw a lot of redness on the side. She said I had an infection and that I wasn’t going anywhere. That night they scheduled me for an operation to clean out the bacteria. After the operation my stomach did not hurt anymore, but I had to be on antibiotics. I was on antibiotics for about two weeks. After that I was finally discharged from the hospital.
I was hospitalized for about 2 months. For more than half a year I was not able to eat, drink or speak. During those 7 months of recuperation I stayed home most of the time. I only went out to visit the (ENT) clinic for check-ups. Luckily I did not have to go through more operations because my vocal cords were able to heal by its self.
The spiritual experience I had when I was at the hospital made me realize the correct path that I should take. For years I was confused and lost. I always thought that martial arts was the most important thing, but the moment I saw my scars in the mirror I knew that my body was impermanent.
This was also one of the reasons why I did not do plastic surgery even though my insurance covers it. Some of my family members scolded me saying that I was stupid for not choosing surgery because it was free. Most of them could not accept the fact that I’m going to leave the home life. They were hoping that I would opt for surgery and resume my normal life, but I could not ignore all the suffering I had undergone.
Experiencing suffering has altered my way of thinking. I used to think that everything was under my control, but I realized that I was wrong. I do not have control over anything. Being hospitalized was the most dreadful experience in my life. I underwent operations repeatedly. But having gone through that had also compelled me to cultivate. I realized that the most important thing in life is to cultivate and to end birth and death.