This is a story of hope, one that provides insight into the life of a businesswoman who later became a nun in her arduous quest for the true meaning of life.
Meet Shi Zhengtong. Born into a farmer’s family in a rural area of southern Taiwan, Shi (pronounced “Shrr”) grew up on the bare necessities of life.
Her kindhearted family believe very much in serving others. Growing up, Shi’s family was not financially well off but nevertheless always went out of their way to help neighbors and the people around them.
Despite hardly having enough food for themselves, Shi’s parents encouraged their children to share food with needy locals in the community so nobody would starve.
“It really wasn’t even easy to have three meals a day,” Shi tells NTD show host Yu Xin.
Shi explains that when she was a young girl, she was often sick. Her family had little money to spare on medical expenses. Their money mainly went toward food, shelter, and transportation.
Later in life, she established a business with her brothers, importing Buddhist items.
Each day when she was at the office, and when she had spare time after having completed her work, she’d take out her Buddhist scriptures to read and sit in the lotus position, a seated-meditation position where both legs are folded atop one another.
Shi did not feel any meaning to her work; she did not enjoy it. Life itself became depressing. She had no interest in the business, nor secular life, not to mention her own family. Her heart just wasn’t in it.
She wanted to become a nun from as young as 6 or 7, but never could, as she felt a responsibility to her family.
There came a point, however, when secular life became too much, and she seriously considered giving it all up to become a nun.
For two years before she finally became a nun, she cried a lot and felt great hardship internally at the thought of leaving her family.
Taking Up the Robe
The time came when she could not ignore her heart’s desire any longer, so she gave up everything and took up the robe to became a Buddhist nun sometime in her 40s.
For several years, Shi remained in a temple to cultivate herself.
She realized, however, that the scriptures she studied could no longer guide her any higher in her cultivation.
“It’s agonizing for a cultivator who wants to upgrade oneself, but does not have the Way to do so,” explains Shi.
That’s when Shi resolutely decided to leave the temple and go off on her own. In addition to the robe she wore, her only possessions included a cloth bag, an umbrella, and a sleeping bag.
Alone, she roamed barefoot on the streets, day in and day out under the baking sun of southern Taiwan.
“The soles of my feet were worn out,” she said, adding the hot asphalt road was excruciating to walk on.
Begging for alms was how she survived.
She walked and walked like this, from county to county, in search of a master who could help her return to her home in heaven, “to the origin,” she explained.
She would sleep outside, under trees, sometimes even in cemeteries.
All this roaming around was torturous, but such is the ascetic life of the monastics.
Host Yu Xin asked how she kept going despite all the hardship.
To that, Shi explained that because it was for a greater purpose, she did not feel bitter inside.
She adds that whenever she saw a kindhearted person smile at her, such a simple act, it would truly lift her spirits. Though the person may not realize it, it encouraged her to keep going.
A Turning Point
Shi’s health when she was a young girl was not so good, as she was afflicted with numerous ailments, and life as a wandering nun exacerbated her condition, taking a huge toll on her health.
She was faced with the reality that her life as a nun could not go on.
Then one day in 1998, there came a turning point.
As there are a number of free services made available for monks and nuns in Taiwan, Shi used to be treated at a health care clinic, where she became acquainted with a doctor. He was well aware of her deteriorating condition and knew that medical treatment could not help her.
Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) is an advanced spiritual discipline of the Buddha school and is based on the principles of “Truthfulness-Benevolence-Forbearance.”
According to Dr. Margaret Trey, “One of the reasons for Falun Gong’s popularity is its remarkable healing effect,” per her PhD research outlined in the book, The Mindful Practice of Falun Gong: Meditation for Health, Wellness, and Beyond.
Shi’s doctor friend knew of the practice’s health benefits and recommended she try it.
After being handed a copy of the main text, Shi found a place to sit down quietly and read.
She respectfully lifted the book above her head before flipping open the first page. When she laid eyes upon a picture of Master Li Hongzhi, the founder of the practice—“my tears fell instantly,” she recalled.
She felt a profound familiarity with this teacher, as though she had met him before. In her heart, she knew she had finally found her teacher.
“I felt like a lost child who had returned home,” she said, sharing her deepest feelings. “During that time, I would cry when I read the book. My tears would keep flowing.”
Reading Zhuan Falun, it was as though she had found her parents, that she had found home.
“The inner meanings of this book … I just knew it’s the mighty Buddha Fa manifesting once again in the human world.”
Shi was so touched that the tears would also flow when she practiced the meditative exercises.
Health Restored, Hope Renewed
It’s rare for a nun like Shi Zhengtong to step onto another path, but she felt it only right with Falun Gong, especially given her poor health, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
After taking up the spiritual system, she noticed a considerable improvement to her overall mental and physical health.
Her ailments, which had tortured her for so long, seemed to disappear. She now has a healthy appearance and is not afflicted with illnesses. She’s even able to walk up stairs with ease.
“Very soon my health recovered,” says Shi. She also went on to explain that all those who practice these meditative exercises gain better “mental and physical health.”
Falun Gong is not a religion, so there are no places of worship, and its practitioners are encouraged to conform to the norms of society as upstanding, law-abiding citizens. As Shi had already been a nun for many years, she chose to remain a nun and not return to secular life.
The robe she wears today is the same robe she has worn since around 1988. As new as it looks, she says the hems inside are all frayed, though one cannot see this from the outside.
Shi says she has learned how to sincerely look within her heart to improve herself, which is an integral part of her self-cultivation.
She says that in traditional Buddhism, lay Buddhists treat monks and nuns with such respect that the latter become comfortable and complacent. They thus fail to look within and strictly cultivate their hearts.
At the end of the day, “cultivation,” or self-improvement, is what’s fundamental for a cultivator of any discipline.
In this cultivation, “xinxing,” or heart-nature, is stressed. Cultivators are taught to look within, as opposed to looking externally, and be good people wherever and whoever they are, be it a student, worker, husband, wife, son, or daughter.
Touched by the very real improvements she has experienced through the practice, Shi turns to the camera to say—“I urge the people of the world to practice Falun Dafa.”
We’re happy that Shi Zhengtong is happy and well, and that today she lives her days with meaning and in great health.
For an introduction to the practice, see the video below:
Falun Dafa is a cultivation practice of mind and body that teaches “Truthfulness-Benevolence-Forbearance” as a way to improve health and moral character and attain spiritual wisdom. For more information about the practice, visit www.FalunDafa.org. All books, exercise music, resources, and instructions are available free of charge. To find your local practice site, click here.