All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and Dharma Friends. Amitofo! My name is Qiu Ruilian. I am from the City of Zibo, Shandong Province of China, and I am 68 years old. On March 16th of this year, I came to my daughter’s home to spend time with my family and attend my granddaughter’s high school graduation at Developing Virtue Girls School. I would like to share a few experiences that happened to me upon arriving in the sacred city.
Having heard about Ukiah from my daughter, a place with the largest Buddhist monastery in the United States, I became curious. In late April, I decided to visit the monastery to see it for myself. It was the first time I ventured out alone. I headed straight for the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas riding on a small electric scooter. However, at a sharp turn, I fell down. My left arm took the impact, and a sharp pain surged through me as if struck by electricity. I found myself lying on the ground, and my left shoulder was also in pain. My elbow immediately swelled up. After a few minutes, I attempted to stand up. My legs were fine when I moved them, and after shaking my arm, it seemed okay too. My bones were unharmed, and my mind was clear. So, I decided to continue my journey towards the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
I proceeded directly to the Buddha Hall. As I entered, the sound of the bell resonated through the hall, signaling the beginning of the ceremony. I found a seat nearby and sat down. I checked my swollen elbow with my hand. The feeling was a sensation similar to holding a thick, puffy slice of bread. The swelling was quite pronounced. At that moment, I was feeling somewhat frustrated. Gradually, as I observed the respectful gestures of the Sangha and lay devotees and listened to the gentle recitation of sutras, a sense of calmness began to wash over my heart.
A few minutes later, I attempted to follow the actions of those ahead of me and began to bow. It was extremely difficult, and I managed to perform just over ten bows before my legs couldn’t handle it anymore. I am approaching seventy years of age, and three years ago, I also developed the common joint issues that many elderly people face. My left knee joint, in particular, was so sensitive that I couldn’t even bear to have it touch a soft memory foam mattress. I couldn’t descend the stairs normally and had to go down the stairs backwards.
After enduring only a few minutes, I reluctantly returned to the chair beside me and sat down for the rest of the session of the Great Compassion Repentance. Upon leaving the main hall, my hand instinctively went to touch my elbow. To my amazement, the swelling had disappeared. I couldn’t quite believe it, so I touched it a few times more, confirming that the swelling was completely gone. Only a lingering soreness remained. It was truly miraculous-how did the swelling vanish like that? Once I returned home, I discussed this experience with my daughter and friends. They attributed it to the power of the Great Compassion Repentance. I also felt that Guanyin Bodhisattva might have helped alleviate my suffering.
Driven by this curiosity, I made the decision to participate in Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance in May. My initial thought was that since I had come all this way and didn’t have much to do at home, I might as well pass some time. Once again, I rode my electric scooter and headed to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. How strange? I had fallen again! This time it was quite severe. My jeans had a large tear, my left knee was bloody and bruised, and my hands were scraped. I remained lying on the ground for a while, uncertain how to get up. It seemed as though no one was around on the road in America; I had no choice but to rely on myself to get up. After dusting off the dirt from my legs, I patted them to ensure they were alright. I shook my arm for a second time， and after kicking my leg, I realized that nothing was seriously injured. My mind was still clear. With determination, I got on my scooter again and continued on towards the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Upon getting to the Buddha hall, I began to bow the first incense. Something was different this time; my sensations were not the same as usual. My vision grew blurry, and tears began to flow down my cheeks unconsciously. It wasn’t that I wanted to cry; the tears just flowed involuntarily. The hour-long session was no easy feat; it felt as if I had been crying from the beginning to the end. When I returned home, my eyes remained moist, and I found myself using tissues to wipe away tears until I fell asleep. This feeling persisted for several days.
As for bowing, initially, during the first incense, I had to pause two or three times. I started with around ten to twenty bows, then sat down for a brief rest afterward. The number of bows gradually increased to thirty, forty, seventy, and even eighty as the days went by. Over the course of two weeks, I built up my stamina, and I could now endure for over an hour, completing the entire incense without taking a break. Furthermore, I participated in the last incense of transferring the merit at the Rebirth Hall, extending my practice to nearly two hours. I was amazed that I could stand and bow with resilience. This transformation was beyond my imagination just three years ago.
Before I came here, I could only walk for a maximum of half an hour, and then I had to hurry back home to lie down and rest. Walking itself became a challenge, not to mention running. After my daughter learned about the improvement in my leg condition, she encouraged me to try walking to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. After some thought, I decided to give it a try.
The first time, I walked from my daughter’s home to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the whole journey took 50 minutes with a five-minute rest along the way. On the second and third day. I still neededto rest midway. However, by the fourth day, I had unknowingly reached the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas without needing to rest. Since then, I walked to participate in the repentance ceremony every day and my daughter would pick me up to take me home.
As the last day of the ceremony approached, my leg pain had also greatly diminished. What’s even more delightful is that I could actually jog a little. I would tell everyone about the changes in my legs and even demonstrate my ability to jog. This was something I couldn’t even dare to imagine before. Isn’t it quite miraculous?
Now, as long as there are no special circumstances. I go to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas every day to participate in the Great Compassion Repentance or to attend the evening ceremony; these are the things I must do every day. If I don’t go, it feels like something is missing today. Despite the weather in July and August reaching temperatures of 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit. I still walk to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas with enthusiasm.
Last month, my friend Ms. Wang and I decided to come to CTTB to do volunteer work. We cleaned up pine branches and dry leaves in front of the main hall. Then proceeded to sweep leaves and pine needles by the gate, as well as tidy up the trash. We spent approximately two and a half hours each time we came.
During this time, through a stroke of serendipity, we had the chance to meet an esteemed senior Dharma Master. With a compassionate heart, the Dharma master shared dharma with us, which left a significant impact on me. The Dharma Master taught us to recite GuanYin Bodhisattva and gifted us with Five – Color Braided Cords, also imparting a few methods for fostering physical well-being. She speaks rapidly, her words laced with humor, but her thoughts clear. Even in her 80s, her mental acuity remains sharp. I hold a deep fondness and admiration for her. I was looking forward to meeting her every day.
Being able to contribute a bit to CTTB everyday at my age brings me a sense of genuine happiness. Friends back in China are delighted to know about my presence in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. We frequently keep in touch, and they send me Buddhist materials to read. I also often share updates about the happenings at CTTB with them. On July 30th, I took the three refuges.
I deeply admire the six great principles of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas: do not fight, do not be greedy, do not seek, do not be selfish, do not pursue personal advantage, and do not lie. Gradually, I’ve developed a liking for this place and the people within it. All of you exhibit respect and humility, possessing firm aspirations and kindness. Everyone carries a heart of compassion, believing that all beings possess the Buddha nature. The atmosphere is one of equality and harmony. Nowadays, when I come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, it’s not to pass time, but to delve into understanding the teachings of Buddhism, and to continually learn the dharma.
Thank you all for listening. Gratitude to Ms.Yee for providing translation assistance. Amituofo.