I decided to become a bhikkhuni, a Buddhist nun, when I was 26 years old. I made this decision after my grandmother, a Buddhist nun, passed away.
She became a nun when she was more than 60 years old and died of cancer at the age of 78. Her attitude towards such a deadly disease made me admire her. She did not complain when dealing with the pain caused by the cancer.
She just prayed until the last minute. Three days after her death, our family organized a big funeral for her. Many famous and prestigious monks came to her funeral and I hoped my parents could have the same grand funeral when they passed away. The funeral was costly and beyond my family’s financial capability. All expenses were paid from the contributions of many other Buddhist followers.
After her funeral, I asked the chief bhikkhuni of a pagoda to let me become a nun.
However, I felt resistant to the strict vegetarian diet. She told me, “It is just eating, it does not matter.” She was right, I could eat a vegetarian diet the very next day and it didn’t bother me. I admired my chief bhikkhuni a lot. She was a living Buddha to me.
When I became a nun, I was a fourth-year law student and in a relationship. Despite the obstacles from my family I decided to leave these things behind to start my new life. My decision and determination became even stronger when the chief bhikkhuni told me that if there was one family member taking the holy orders, the whole family would enjoy many benefits.
Hardship in the Pagoda
As a Vietnamese proverb goes, “only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.” The life in pagoda was not as easy as I had thought. I saw nuns and monks stuck in lust, hatred, and delusion like normal people. How could we be enlightened in such an environment? I felt like being trapped in a dilemma but didn’t know how to get out. All I could do was to pray to Buddha and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statues day and night.
I persisted in begging the Buddha to let me find a genuine teacher so that I could become enlightened. I felt so lonely and stagnant.
My routine life in the pagoda involved cooking for 250 nuns and monks, and praying day and night, hoping that one day I would meet a genuine teacher. As such, I waited in a hopeless state.
Finding a True Path
One year after officially becoming a nun, I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The cancer had spread to my intestine and womb. Even standing up was very painful. Despite that, I still tried my best to complete my routine duties. When I became too weak, I had to go home for treatment.
I took various treatments as advised by a friend. She was so good and kind to me and sent me medicine regularly. She also accompanied me through the treatment process. In a last attempt, we went to see every doctor and qigong master who had a reputation for treating cancer. But it was all for nothing. My disease become even more serious. I did not fear death, but I was concerned for my parents and how they would suffer if I died so young.
When I became hopeless, my friend recommended a powerful meditation-based self-cultivation practice called Falun Dafa. She told me to go to the park to meet other Falun Dafa practitioners who could teach me the practice.
At first, I was very reluctant, but she was very kind to me and insisted that I should find every path to survive. She told me information about Falun Dafa and the kinds of mental and physical benefits that Falun Dafa practitioners experience when they practice.
Her words of sincerity touched me and I decided to give it a try.
At that time, I still lived in the pagoda, which made it difficult to get out. I had to lie and say that I needed to go out to be treated. I moved into my friend’s house in order to be able to go to the park for practice. I was surprised that after just one month of practicing with others in the park, my pain was reduced and I enjoyed a slow recovery.
I came back to the pagoda, and at night I read “Zhuan Falun,” the main text of Falun Dafa, and practiced the exercises secretly, as I did not want others to know that I was on a new path.
Practicing Cultivation in Everyday Life
One month after I started practicing the exercises and reading the book, I decided to leave the pagoda to begin a new life—a life of practicing cultivation in normal society. Falun Dafa is a way of cultivation in the Buddha school, but it encourages practitioners to practice in everyday society, and improve themselves in this complex environment while maintaining normal jobs and family life. I had to deal with many critics when I made that choice.
The chief bhikkhuni questioned me a lot and finally she agreed to let me go. However, my family was irritated with my decision. They hoped I would become like my aunt who now chairs a pagoda in Binh Duong, and go to India to further my Buddhist studies. In their mind, my “career promotion” was very promising, and was a bigger priority than spiritual development.
But I was so determined that no one could stop me. It was not only because Falun Dafa cultivation helped me overcome my illnesses, but because I knew it was the true cultivation way that I had been looking for. I felt enlightened when I read “Zhuan Falun,” because it was a book of genuine cultivation. Everything I could not understand about life, karma, and cultivation, was all explained in a clear and simple manner in the book, and it resonated very deeply.
When I practiced the first Falun Dafa exercise, I felt a surge of warm energy running through my body which made me feel comfortable and peaceful. This feeling was too wonderful to describe in words. I witnessed a magnificent change in my mind and body. Only six months after starting the new path of practicing Falun Dafa, I recovered from all my diseases.
At present, I am totally healthy and make a living by myself as an English teacher. After each class, my students and I sit together to read “Zhuan Falun.” After hearing that I could recover from cancer thanks to this powerful meditation practice, my students’ parents all wanted their children to practice Falun Dafa.
I recall the first days when I left the pagoda and had to face many problems. I had no money, job, or place to live. Actually, many people were willing to provide me with material support but I refused. Now, living among Falun Dafa practitioners who are warm, sincere and pure makes me happy that I made the right choice. At present, my body and mind are stable and calm for the long road ahead, no matter how difficult and challenging it is.
I believe I can make it because I am on a righteous path.
Eventually, my parents began to support my Falun Dafa cultivation. They are happy when they see me living healthily, peacefully, freely and genuinely. I learned that my aunt who has been a bhikkhuni for 30 years, wanted to take me back to the pagoda. But my previous chief bhikkhuni told her, “Don’t find her. She is now on the right path.” She is the person who understands me the most. And she is deeply aware that the key of Buddhism cultivation is to change the mind and the inner world. In this way, practicing Buddhism in everyday life is the most difficult, but also the most successful way.
I am so grateful that the compassionate Buddha has listened to my prayers and shown me a genuine way of cultivation. Probably only people who return from death and pain caused by terminal disease, can understand how happy I am, and how grateful I feel to have found a practice that gives me a true path to health and enlightenment.
I believe everything happens for a reason and is predestined. If you happen to read my story I hope it will benefit and inspire you as well.