Upon much encouragement and prodding from former Abbess Master Jianding, I took the Lay Bodhisattva Precepts in Chung Tai in October of 2011.
Originally, I was awed and apprehensive. I thought how could a person as old as I was, with many deeply rooted bad habits, dare be a bodhisattva? But Jianding Shifu corrected my thinking. She said that a disciple of Buddha should follow in his footsteps, and learn from his great vow of compassion. She added that after taking the Lay Bodhisattva Precepts, a person will be even more ready to detect the three poisons in his/her mind— greed, anger, and ignorance. After much thought and finally deciding that knowledge and practice have to go hand in hand, I sent my application.
Initially, however, from among the group of applicants from the Philippines, only my application was rejected. Master Jianding advised me to pray and make vows everyday. I was puzzled and bewildered by this turn of events. Did this mean I was not determined enough? Did I still have doubts? But I still followed Shifu’s advice; I prayed before Buddha, and made vows. Finally, my application was accepted. Shifu said I shouldn’t stop, but should still continue to make vows everyday, so that this mind that vowed to support the Dharma, shall never regress.
In Chung Tai, I was so moved when I saw so many foreign and local seekers of Lay Bodhisattva Precepts, who were all truly earnest in wanting to follow in the Buddha’s Path to nirvana. What was most unforgettable was the ceremony when we “offer our flesh/body to Buddha” by letting it be burned with incense. Many people were frightened, as I was. But when the crucial moment came, I was able to conquer my self-attachment and extended my arm wholeheartedly. From the first to the third burning, I literally felt the great vow of compassion of Buddha, he who fed the eagle with his limb. What then is this little pain compared to that!
Lay Bodhisattva preceptees serve as models for others to emulate; we should at all times contemplate the actions of our body, speech, and mind. However, bad habits are difficult to eradicate. But by being mindful of my speech and actions, even when a transgression is committed, I know that I should repent and reform; letting go of self-attachment, I should be humble and gentle. Most important is to be vegetarian, and adapt the “Four Tenets of Chung Tai” in my daily life. Furthermore, I should continue to make great vows, “to seek the Buddha Path, and to liberate all sentient beings.” By practicing the bodhisattva way, I can eventually attain Buddhahood.
In times of adversity, however, I still find it hard to completely let go. Now I know that I must first learn to let go; only after that can I benefit myself while helping others. This is a point that I have to work on.
As for the other trivial irritations in daily life, they have become minor happenings for me. I just have to be tolerant, and look from the other person’s point of view, then I will naturally become relaxed and flexible. But I still have to work on my mind of compassion.
Abbess Master Jianshu often teaches us in class that it is because our mind is filled with the three poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance, plus attachments and bad habits, that we need to take the Lay Bodhisattva Precepts. If we are so perfect, then we might as well be the Buddha! I now know that taking the Lay Bodhisattva Precepts is the true path to take for Buddha’s disciples.
I now have to acknowledge and repay the compassion and kindness of the Three Jewels with diligent practice so that we can uplift ourselves!