Translated by Andrew Yang
On February 9, 2020, the International Buddhist Temple held its 8th Ordination Ceremony for two practitioners. The ceremony was permeated with an overwhelming joy of the Dharma.
The ordination took place at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, which made it yet more memorable. To protect public health and security, the temple had earlier closed its doors to visitors and volunteers until further notice. All temple services, however, take place as scheduled with participation limited to its sangha and staff.
By 8:30 am on the morning of the event, a group of well-wishers from the temple had gathered at the Hall of Grace to give the two new sangha members their blessings. With a ceremonial guard of honour, the Dharma bell and drum went off to a special, solemn ceremony under the guidance of the presiding monks, Venerable Guan Cheng and Venerable Yuan Chuan. The process took two hours and a half to complete.
The two novice nuns expressed sincere gratitude to their mentors and fellow practitioners, and hoped to make full use of the ideal setting at the temple for a diligent cultivation of their Bodhicitta with their colleagues and together devote themselves to the cause of Buddhism. Now that they had formally renounced their worldly life for the pursuit of Buddhahood, they want to train their mind and deal with mental afflictions with Buddhas’ prajna. They vowed to use their Buddhist practice for the benefit of all sentient beings and together attain Buddhahood.
In the following, the two novices, in their own words, talked about how they started learning the Buddhist’s dharma and the path to becoming a nun.
The first one is Tsui Man Yi, her Dharma name is Shan Hu.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. Having graduated from university, I joined the judiciary of the Hong Kong government as a court interpreter and since have worked in courts of different levels interpreting between the English and the Chinese languages. When I left the government to pursue my spiritual cultivation, I was a senior court interpreter. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in translation, a Master of Arts degree in intercultural studies and a Bachelor of Laws degree. Having taken refuge in the Three Jewels in 2011, I took the five precepts in 2012 and the bodhisattva precepts for lay people in 2014.
How I started learning the Buddhist’s dharma
My cat was the cause for me to start learning the Buddha’s teachings. In 2007, the cat that I have had for 11 years was found to have cancer. As one can imagine, when she went through surgery and treatments, she was in immense pain and fear. But there was nothing I could do to save her from pain, fear, disease and, not to say, death. I was devastated. I started looking for a way to cease the pain and the fear that I had when facing my beloved one dying. That is how I started learning the Buddhist’s dharma.
A few years into learning the dharma, I have set up a routine schedule of spiritual cultivation. When I chanted sutras or prostrated to the Buddha, my two other cats would join me on the prayer mat or sit quietly next to me. They seemed to enjoy the practice too! Perhaps their daily practice was the reason for they did not suffer when they die.
Why I decided to become a Buddhist nun
From Buddhism, I learnt that life is impermanent and full of sufferings. And I found ways to achieve peace of mind from it. I believe the Buddha’s teachings can bring light to the world. In 2016, I decided I should become a Buddhist nun, hoping that I can bring the Buddha’s teachings to more people so that they can find peace of mind too.
To achieve this goal, I put in a lot of efforts in my spiritual cultivation and dedicated the merits of my practice to it. I also had to make arrangements in various aspects of my life and prepare myself to become a nun. That included convincing my parents. At first, they strongly opposed to it. It took me over a year to make them understand that becoming a nun is not abandoning them. But it is to help more people to achieve peace of mind and transcend death and transmigration. I show my love to them through my actions. And finally, my parents accepted my decision. I am so grateful that I have such great parents.
A good teacher is crucial to one’s practice
I am also very fortunate to have found a great teacher, the Venerable Guan Cheng, who is full of compassion, wisdom, energy and sense of humour. He is not only an inspiring teacher, but also a true practitioner. I am so blessed to have the chance to study under the Venerable and join the Sangha in the International Buddhist Temple. I will strive to learn, practice and contribute myself to the Three Jewels.
The second novice is Cheng Ka Yan, her Dharma name is Shan Le.
I was born in Hong Kong, educated in a Christian high school and graduated in City University of Hong Kong. I had worked in Hong Kong International Airport and in several Japanese banks taking different positions as relationship manager for corporate clients, financial institute, on-line banking as well as strategic partnership planning etc.
How I got in touch with Buddhism…
When I was a kindergarten toddler, I already felt the sufferings and helplessness of being a human in the world. Plenty of questions arises like, why I was born to face all kinds of unhappiness? How can I get rid of the painfulness of living in the Earth? What is the meaning of life cycle from birth to death?
Seeds of depression cultivated in my mind unnoticedly and I tended to think negatively. I even estimated my life mostly will last for 30 years. I tried to seek the way out from Christianity in high school. However, it didn’t work for me for the ultimate solution to life and death after seeing the passing away of my best friend’s Dad.
On top of that, my beloved Mom being tortured by sickness for more than a decade, people on Earth are doing terrible things to harm each other, natural disasters, wars, people around us are dying every day. I lived like a walking dead and didn’t care about the surroundings.
For quite some time, I just ignored these this deadlock and did what other people do. Drinking, partying, work hard and play hard, etc. Needless to say, it didn’t help on any of my trapped mind. Can life be happier? How to get rid of these sufferings? What is the value of continue living until the breath was taken away?
In a pleasure trip to Thailand trip 10 years ago, in my hotel room, I offhandedly picked up a small booklet on Buddhism. It explains how Buddhist look at sufferings from a different perspective. We can withdraw from difficult scenario from an arm’s length, not letting our mind to fool us around nor fall into emotional black hole. Happiness is not generated from how many advantages getting from outside but is how many you can give out. Buddha taught us to explore the precious treasure from within. Then you will reach an ultimate status of easiness you have never experienced, which is called nirvana. People are in pain because of expectation mismatch. Those disappointments tied up with greediness, desires. We take things for granted from other people and we have high expectations of them. Why not seeing Mom’s illness as one of the seniors with a deteriorating body among 7 billion population on Earth? It is nothing special that an old people getting sick. It is the law of nature. All people and living creatures die without exemption. Understanding that is just a biological phenomenon. Life with Dharma theory did change my lousy life. Previously, I magnified all the uneasy situation as a huge issue to ME and endures my spirit dropping into hell every day. Now, I can find a carefree way to live. The key to happiness is always in my hand. Everyone, like me, do have the right to choose to be happy or not.
Sometimes I share the practical view of the Buddhist teachings to people around when they talked about daily life difficulties. A friend said why not becoming a full-time religious practitioner after we chatted how I view mom’s death. Seeds of vow to set free all sentient beings from unhappiness is growing bigger and bigger. As green as I am in the Buddhist’s teachings, I try my best to apply whatever Buddha taught us. I wish everyone cross path with me can notice the joy nurtured from the Buddhist’s teachings. Leading a happier life ahead. That is the reason I am devoting my humble life as a Buddhist nun sharing the benevolence of Buddhism to everyone. I wish everyone can get rid of sufferings and enjoy a happier life with practical Dharma on hand.
Ultimately, to get rid of reincarnation, karma and pave the way to achieve (prajna) wisdom.…. Do give me a big smile when seeing me around in temple. My name is Shan Le, the newborn joyful student nun.