A Journey from Medical School and Law School to the Monastery : My Resolve after Meeting Master Huijing
By Venerable Jingben
I am Jingben, a Malaysian Chinese. Although Malay is the national language, I have learned Chinese since childhood. I even studied Buddhism through enlightening Dharma lectures given in Chinese by Master Huijing and Master Jingzong. That’s the reason I am able to communicate very well in Chinese.
The yinyuan of becoming a monk in Pure Land Buddhism
This can be traced back to when I was 19 or 20 when I was studying abroad. Thanks to my great performance in high school, I was sent by the Malaysian government in 2009 to attend Kasturba Medical College in Mangalore, India, to be a medical doctor.
One time, I was very sick in college. I thought that it was just a cold, so I didn’t pay attention to it. I simply took some medicine and lay down. Unexpectedly, I slept for three days and hardly ate or drank. On the fourth day, I returned to class, and the professor saw that I couldn’t walk straight. He asked me to see a doctor. When I went to the hospital, the doctor was shocked because my blood pressure was very low. He was curious about how I could have walked to the hospital in this condition. Indeed, it was very difficult. I felt like I was about to pass out at any time.
Am I dying?
Actually, I should have been in an exam when I was in the hospital. So, I asked the doctor if I could go back at that time. When I now recall all of these, I would say that it was a stupid idea. The doctor said that I would have been under emergency treatment if I had come in late. I can’t believe that I was still thinking about the exam. Without a doubt, the doctor refused my request and insisted that I stay in the hospital. So, I was there, with intravenous drips, a lot of medicine, and felt dizzy in the hospital bed. At night, all of a sudden, the memories of my short life flashed through my mind, like a movie, from one frame to another. I was terrified. I thought that I must be dying, as I could see my memories. I was only 20, how could it be possible?...
Salvation from the Buddha’s name
I had started studying Buddhism before then, but was not serious. I had read some sutras, learned some concepts of Buddhism, and talked about abstruse things, such as “Emptiness but non-emptiness, existence yet non-existence.” Something that ordinary people don’t understand. However, at this life-threatening moment, there was nothing about emptiness anymore. All my memories emerged piece by piece. It felt like I was reaching the end of my life. It was frightening.
At that time, I couldn’t remember anything but one name: “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” So, I kept reciting it. As soon as I started reciting, all the images of memories that had flashed in my mind disappeared. I suddenly experienced the miraculous power of this name. Then, I recited again and again, “Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha...”
I kept fighting with death for the whole night. It was probably caused by the gloomy atmosphere in the hospital, and I was so fragile that I saw something like ghosts fluttering around me. However, none of them touched me. I guessed it might be the fact that I was reciting the Buddha’s name.
When a nurse came in, I asked her what time it was, and she told me that it was around 4 am. I realized that I hadn’t slept, but had recited Amitabha Buddha’s name for the whole night. By then, my illness turned out to be better. I remember that I recovered very soon. The next day, I felt that I almost fully recovered, and I was discharged a few days later.
Seeking for the meaning of “Namo Amitabha Buddha”
After that experience, I started studying Buddhism seriously. I tried to investigate what “Namo Amitabha Buddha” is. I was still busy with my studies in medical school. However, no matter how busy I was, even until midnight, I would study the sutras and search for the meaning of “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” I used to look down upon Nianfo (reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name). I thought it was a practice for old ladies or illiterate people. I was a highly educated person; I should study something as profound as sutras. How could I settle on such a simple name?
What I never expected was, no matter how many sutras I had read, no matter how many theories I had recognized, when I was standing in front of death, there was no way they could help me. From then on, I gave up everything because they were just theories. For example, if you work in a bank, you only count others’ money, never yours. It was more realistic to recite Amitabha Buddha’s name since I was saved by him once. Hence, I dared not despise Nianfo anymore. I wanted to understand Amitabha Buddha earnestly.
I spent a lot of time surveying; in the end, I found the lineage of Master Shandao of Pure Land Buddhism. Then I learned that Amitabha Buddha is the most compassionate and the greatest deliverer. All living creatures can be liberated just by reciting his name. No matter who you are, no matter how much you are suffering by your karmic deeds and your vexation, if you recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha” in this lifetime, you can rely on his power to be reborn in his Pure Land after death. You will get rid of the pains of the endless rebirths among the six realms. We are more than lucky to find the Pure Land Path so that we can be delivered by Amitabha Buddha.
Enlightenment in mortuaries and dissection rooms
After I recovered, I started thinking about what the purpose of life was and what the most meaningful thing in life was. In medical school, I had to be in a dissection room or a mortuary to dissect cadavers nearly every day. Because the bodies desiccated after death, I couldn’t even distinguish their genders. As I thought about it, I deeply felt that there was nothing left at the end of life. No matter how outstanding you had been, you would end up being a dead body. Not to mention the kind of body in front of me, leaving nothing after dissection. Then, what was the most meaningful thing in life?
I was in school studying western medicine. There were a lot of courses to take; hence, I was very busy. I could only sleep four hours a day, from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. or from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. If there was an exam, I would only sleep for two hours. Some of my classmates wouldn’t sleep at all. We were swamped. However, when I was lying on the hospital bed, what I learned from medical school did not help. If I were a doctor, I would be busy my whole life helping people. Doctors can treat physical problems, but they can’t make dead people come alive again. They can heal the disease of the body, but can they cure the disease of the mind?
Especially about the pains of life, such as birth, age, illness, and death, and the endless birth and death cycles, these are things for which a doctor can do nothing. Since time immemorial, I have been through samsaric transmigrations countless times; am I to continue it indefinitely? In my previous lives, I must have been a doctor, someone big and prominent, or someone small and insignificant. I must have been to the three evil realms as well. Where is “the end”? Since it is hard to be born in the human realm, and since I know now the best path is “Pure Land Buddhism,” I was thinking of taking the tonsure and becoming a monk.
Where should I go?
It is due to these reasons that drove me to give up the medical school. Many people didn’t understand and said that I was naïve. Why? Because I got full funding for this program, I didn’t have to pay anything to finish my degree, and my job was guaranteed, and the rest of my life could be stable. It was a rare scholarship opportunity in Malaysia. For this reason, when I said that I would give it up and be a monk, it was natural that people put the blame on me. However, it was just like the ancient proverb says: “How can a slight sparrow know the lofty aspiration of a stately swan?” Ha!
Even though I had an aspiration to be a monk, the timing was not there yet. I didn’t have any direct connection with any Pure Land school, and there was no local Pure Land Buddhist temple in Malaysia. I didn’t know where to go and what to do at the moment to be a monk.
If you find no way to go, the best thing is to pray to Amitabha Buddha. I thought: “Since I have Amitabha Buddha’s salvation, and I have decided to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, it doesn’t matter what will happen in this life. Everything in this world is like a dream, a bubble, a shadow, which is not worth attaching to and for which it is not worth committing more sins and karma. I will let Amitabha Buddha take care of my destiny. Master Jingzong said that if we could be reborn in the Pure Land, even if we sleep under the bridge, we would be awoken by laughing.” Depending on this faith, I felt stronger again. “Do good deeds; Ask not what may lie in the future”. …
Every twist and turn in life is arranged by Amitabha Buddha
There was an unexpected twist of fate in that, a couple of months after I had come back from India, I met a local Buddhist group and also got an offer from the Law School of the University of London in Lumpur, Malaysia. The Buddhist group recognized my aspiration in Buddhism; the law school appreciated my good grades, and decided to grant me a full scholarship including living costs. They hoped that I could use my capability to support Buddhism in the future. It was a special yinyuan that not only gave me a transitional period but also allowed me to devote my time to Buddhism. I lived very close to the Dharma site, so I could go to the place to practice Buddhism after school. I thought that it was the yuan that Amitabha Buddha had arranged for me, so I accepted it. I thus became a law student after quitting medical school.
Some people might wonder if I ever had any difficulty transitioning from medical science to law. For me, studying or working in this world are only a means for benefiting this life. In my mind, I belong to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. I didn’t have any preference for mundane work; especially, as it was just for passing the time and making a living. I just did what I should do and learned what I should learn. Even when I was in law school, I got high grades as usual. However, deep in my heart, I hoped that someday I could become a monk.
I felt more strongly about the renunciation. After staying in the Buddhist group for a while, I found that there wasn’t any Pure Land Buddhist group or association in the city, and I had not met any local master who propagated Pure Land Dharma either. Monks here were mostly foreigners. I thought: “Since I have the faith, I should be responsible for this. That’s right! If the one who believes in Amitabha Buddha is not responsible for propagating the Dharma, who would be responsible for it?” Waiting for the yuan to take place is not as good as creating the yuan myself.
Furthermore, being a monk would be the best way to propagate the Dharma and encourage people to recite Amitabha Buddha’s name. Lay Buddhists have to spend a lot of time making a living. Taking myself as an example: I spent so much time studying medicine and law; how could I have any spare time or energy for Buddhism? Even if I did, it would be very little. I wanted to put all my energy into Buddhism (Having a scientific background, I know how to be precise and accurate). But, the yuan of being a monk hadn’t ripened yet. I still hadn’t met any master from a Pure Land school who could ordain me as a Buddhist monk. Hence, I could only maintain the status quo.
However, Amitabha Buddha seemed to start making the arrangement. In 2014, I received information that Master Huijing was coming to Malaysia to give lectures on the Pure Land Dharma!
Master Huijing comes to Malaysia
Originally, I didn’t plan to go because the place Master Huijing was going to was far away from where I lived. It was on another island in Malaysia. I would have to fly over there. As a student, I didn’t have spare money to buy a plane ticket. It was also approaching the final exam. Therefore, I couldn’t go. However, there was a very kind Lotus fellow, and I don’t know why, who insisted that I should go to meet Master Huijing. He said that he would pay for the trip, and I only had to go. Hence, I went there. What I had not expected was this was the turning point of my life.
You should join our monastery
The next morning, after I had arrived at the Dharma-site, I woke up early planning to wait for Master Huijing at his room door so that I could talk to him about the current situation in Malaysia. I had never met or contacted Master Huijing before, so he definitely would not have known me.
Unexpectedly, as soon as Master Huijing saw me, he said: “You have been studying Buddhism at such a young age and have been saved by Amitabha Buddha. You should come forward and do something for Pure Land Buddhism. You are so young; it would be good to propagate Dharma as a monk.” To be honest, I was surprised when I heard this. The first words Master Huijing said were asking me to take the tonsure.
On the other hand, I thought: “It is probably that the proper yuan finally comes.” I had been preparing for a while to be a monk, and I had gotten used to a simple life like a monk. There was no decoration in my place. I didn’t participate in any entertaining activities, nor did I make any relationship on purpose. My college friends were dating, but I cut off any possibility of it. After school work, I read sutras, recited Amitabha, and worked voluntarily in the Buddhist chapel. For me, studying in school was like a part-time job; studying Buddhism was my full-time job, ha! Inside my heart, there was nothing more delightful than reciting Amitabha Buddha and encouraging people to do so. Like Master Jingzong said: “Only Amitabha Buddha can give us true happiness.”
It appeared that fate had created the yuan for me to be a monk. I thought it would be after college, even after my retirement. I didn’t expect that it would come so soon. I remembered that Master Huijing told me: “We don’t lack doctors, we don’t lack lawyers, but we do lack Dharma masters to disseminate Dharma for the Pure Land School. It will be too late if you wait for decades. You can consider coming to Taiwan now (after all, there wasn’t a local group here).” During Master Huijing’s stay, he encouraged me to become a monk several times in front of everyone, even during meals. He asked so many times in such a short period that it made me feel, “it is the time…”
You have my word
At last, we accompanied Master Huijing to the airport. Before leaving for Singapore, he gave me his prayer beads. I didn’t know the reason; I thought it might be a keepsake. Master told me: “Please remember your promise!” I was so touched and almost cried. I felt the love and protection from Master Huijing. At that moment, I got on my knees and told him: “I give you my word: I will be in Taiwan.”
A life-changing decision
The day after seeing Master Huijing off at the airport, I happened to be home alone. I thought: “It’s time.” In the Saha world, in this lifetime, if I missed this rare yinyuan of becoming a monk, I would never be able to do it. I couldn’t wait any longer, so I bought a plane ticket to Taiwan online. I would be leaving in a few hours. I brought nothing, not even a suitcase, just a backpack. Off I went to the airport and flew to Taiwan.
I was planning to arrive at the airport before Master Huijing had returned to Taiwan from Singapore. Since I would ask him to be my master, I should be at the gate, waiting for him. However, when I was at the airport, I found that I was way too early; I had arrived several days before Master Huijing was to arrive. It was my first trip in Taiwan, and I had never been to his Dharma site before. Moreover, I didn’t bring many things, and I didn’t have much money. Luckily, I had the magazine of Pure Land Buddhism in my bag, which had the address of the association. I didn’t know anybody, so I used all my money to take a taxi to the association. It was very far from the airport. I was not sure if I had enough money. I was thinking that if I didn’t have enough, I would have to get out of the taxi halfway and walk to the association. Luckily, I got the blessing from Amitabha Buddha; it was just enough to get there, though I had no money left.
When I arrived at the Dharma site, it was already after 11 pm. I thought that if there was no one in the association, I would have to spend the night in a convenience store since I had no money. Fortunately, the head-master was waiting there. That was when I learned that Master Huijing had called them in the morning and said that they should expect a young lay-Buddhist coming from abroad. Ah! So compassionate of them. They had already arranged everything for me.
Several days after Master Huijing returned, on Sakyamuni Buddha’s birthday, May 6, 2014, I was tonsured to become a monk of the monastery.
Having faith and teaching others to have faith; Forging ahead with your responsibilities
My ordination was also the first time I officially took refuge in the Three Jewels. I had never done this before since there wasn’t any temple or Dharma master nearby who could bestow the refuge ceremony. Therefore, the first time I took the refuge was the day I became a monk. So Master Huijing is not only my tonsure master but also my refuge master.
I remember the day I was tonsured, Master Huijing instructed me to “Uphold the faith and teach others to have faith. Forge ahead with your responsibilities.” It was Buddha’s birthday, so Master Huijing said: “Sakyamuni was born in the Saha World twenty-five hundred years ago. Twenty-five hundred years later, we have here another renunciate disciple. Life is transmigrating, impermanent, filthy; however, when you choose to be a monk, your life becomes pure. The day of taking the tonsure could be the most meaningful day in your life. Since you are a monk in the Pure Land school, you should uphold your faith and teach others to have faith. Forge ahead with your responsibilities.” The ceremony was simple, but I will always remember these enlightening words from Master Huijing. Indeed, his word is the most meaningful thing before rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Since then, I have become the youngest disciple of Master Huijing.
Afterwards, I encouraged my older brother to take the tonsure as well. And he did. He is “Venerable Jingxian.” He was in his twenties at that time and was also one of the youngest disciples of Master Huijing. We started building up recitation groups in Malaysia and Singapore, and propagating the pristine Pure Land Dharma in 2016. There are seven Dharma centers around the two countries now, allowing more people to take faith in Amitabha Buddha’s deliverance and recite his name with ease in a group effort. More local lay-Buddhists also joined the monastery. Hence, we now have six more monastics: Venerables Jingyuan, Jingcheng, Jingming, Jingfan, Jingfu, and Jingru; They are leading the recitation groups in the local associations now. This is something I am really delighted to see. It wasn’t like this before: Even though I was inspired to be a monk, I had to wait passively until the yinyuan arrived because we had not had a local pristine Pure Land Buddhist Association. Now that we have the local centers, we are able to help those who have the aspiration to become Pure Land Buddhist monks. This is totally due to the blessing of the compassionate father Amitabha Buddha, the guidance of Master Huijing and Master Jingzong, the assistance of the Pure Land Buddhist Association, and the support of the local people. That’s why we can have such a remarkable accomplishment today.
Recalling the enlightening instructions of Master Huijing:
Devote my lifetime to Buddhism.
Let Amitabha Buddha be my Master Guardian.
Undertake the Tathagata’s Dharma work; carry on the flourishing of Buddha seeds.
Make the Pure Land path prosper; deliver universally all sentient beings.
The obsession of the mundane life has been abandoned; the hindrance of pursuing Buddhism has been cleared.
I have entered the gate of Dharma.
I vow to propagate the deliverance of Amitabha Buddha, and
Lead multitudes of sentient beings to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Wishing that more and more sentient beings:
Have faith in, and accept Amitabha Buddha’s deliverance,
Recite Amitabha Buddha’s name exclusively, and
Aspire to rebirth in Amitabha's Pure Land.
Namo Amitabha Buddha
(Translated by Chih-Yi Gabriela Lin; edited by the Pure Land School Translation Team)
 Yinyuan in Chinese pinyin: It is a key doctrine of Buddhism which states that all dharmas (phenomena) arise in dependence upon other dharmas. The direct causal condition is “yin,” and the secondary and dependent conditions are “yuan”. Yin-yuan is the conditioning causes that gather all factors and produce the phenomena of the dharma world. Phenomena are sustained only so long as their sustaining elements remain
- Recitation of Amitabha’s name, relying on his Fundamental Vow (the 18th)
- Rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards
- Rebirth assured in the present lifetime
- Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime
The 18th Vow of Amitabha Buddha
If, when I achieve Buddhahood, sentient beings of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, wish to be reborn in my land and recite my name, even ten times, should fail to be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excepted are those who commit the five gravest transgressions or slander the correct Dharma.
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings