Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

May 23rd
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Home Our Founder The Mentor of Master Cheng Yen In Memory of My Master, a Mentor for All Buddhists - A moment of eternity

In Memory of My Master, a Mentor for All Buddhists - A moment of eternity

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In Memory of My Master, a Mentor for All Buddhists
Encountering my master
A moment of eternity
Perpetual peace of mind
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A moment of eternity
On April 20 this year, we happily celebrated the Mentor's 100th birthday in Hualien. Sadly, one month later, on May 20, he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). He had been ailing and feeble for some time, and he spent most of the time in the ICU asleep.

On the night of May 24, the Mentor's breathing became irregular, his blood pressure plunged, and his heart rate dropped to 50 beats per minute. The doctors said his condition was unstable, but the next day, his heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological readings returned to normal.

On June 2, the Mentor was connected to an EEG (brainwave) monitor. The EEG readings indicated that he was in a deep sleep instead of a coma. This meant that there was a chance he might wake up. I was so happy when I heard this news that I said to him, "Master, please try harder. We long to see you smile again!"

At dusk the following day, I was in a meeting at Tzu Chi University. Suddenly, I had a strong impulse to see the Mentor. I excused myself and asked everyone to continue the meeting without me. Although his heart rate and blood pressure were all normal that day, the EEG had become flatter, his pericardial effusion had worsened and he could not urinate.

When I learned of the conditions that the Mentor was enduring, I made up my mind to say out loud what was really in my heart, something which I had never dared to do before: "Master, if your time to go has not yet come, you must remain strong. We will never give up on you. But if your time has come, we will all be with you here."

As soon as I had finished speaking, the doctor pointed to the EEG. He explained that the Mentor's brain wave had suddenly fluctuated with my voice. This meant that he was still conscious. "Grandmaster heard you," the doctor reassured me.

Thinking that the Mentor's condition was quite stable, I attended the volunteers' morning gathering on June 4. At a few minutes past nine, doctors from the hospital called to inform me that the Mentor's condition had drastically deteriorated. I immediately left the Abode and rushed to the hospital. When I arrived, I practically ran into the intensive care unit.

By the time I had arrived, his heartbeat had dropped to 42 beats per minute. I stood beside his bed trying to catch my breath. I bent down and whispered, "Master, please be at peace, we are all here." At that very moment, an indescribable facial expression suddenly appeared on his face, as if he were saying good-bye to me. No sooner had I finished my words than the monitor alarm went off, indicating the Mentor's heart rate had dropped to zero. It had all happened in less than a minute.

When I returned to Hualien from the precept-granting ceremony 42 years ago, I found myself separated from my master by Taiwan's Central Mountain Range. Many times since then, I wondered why I could not have stayed closer to him, given our intimate karmic relationship. And it wasn't just physical distance that separated us, either. Whenever I stood before him, ever mindful of his noble position and erudition, half of me would be filled with respect and half of me filled with awe. I was so eager to ask him questions about the Buddha's teachings, but I was worried that I might offend him by misunderstanding his words (he spoke with a strong Zhejiang accent that I found difficult to understand.) I didn't dare talk to him too much about the difficulties that I encountered in my work for fear that I might disturb his serene and peaceful mind with secular affairs.

And yet, every time I traveled to western Taiwan, I always went to visit him, even if the time we spent together was relatively short. In recent years, the Mentor stayed in Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital for treatment. During this time, I had the blissful opportunity to take care of him.

I had always thought that the unique karmic relationship between the Mentor and me was merely based on a fleeting chance meeting. But a few seconds before the Mentor entered into nirvana, I suddenly realized that our relationship was so close that I had been with him at each and every second since our first encounter over 40 years ago. For the rest of my life, I will always bear that insight, that moment of eternity, in mind.