Written by Venerable XianAn, Wei Mountain Temple
I remember when I first started seeing Juan at Lu Mountain Temple about 2 years ago. Back then I was so busy, I wasn’t able to talk with him much, but I remember that he always worked around the temple even during lunchtime while everyone else was enjoying the food. One day I asked him, “Why don’t you come and join the lunch with everyone?” He said, “I don’t want to spend my blessings. I want to work and help the temple.”
Unlike me, Juan always worked hard at the temple and then quietly went back home. He did that regularly, maybe once or twice a week. He politely refused to have lunch and continued to work.
Today I saw him sitting in full lotus during Master YongHua’s sutra lecture. He didn’t move or make any sound for the entire 2 hours, and his face looked peaceful. I wanted to find out how cultivation has changed his life, so I invited him to have a conversation.
Juan was born in 1981 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and his family moved to the U.S. when he was only 8 years old. He is a vocational nurse, has been married for 11 years, and has no children. He grew up in a typical Mexican family going to Catholic church. Until he turned 17 years old, he went to church every weekend with his family.
However, he had been very self-destructive in his 20’s. He wore his hair long like a rock musician, with large tattoos on his body, and he often drank alcohol and smoked. He spent his time hanging out with friends at music concerts. Like a lot of young adults in the U.S., he did various kinds of drugs too.
He had no direction in his life but didn’t want to return to the Catholic church. He felt that the church didn’t provide any realistic solutions for his problems. There were also parts of the sermon with which he did not agree. Therefore, he decided to try Buddhist temples.
He did some internet research and found a Japanese Buddhist church. He went to this church every week for a year, but he didn’t experience any realistic or practical changes in his life. There were no actual monks or meditation class. The church members were not observing precepts. They were eating meat, and they smoke and drank. He decided to stop going because he wanted to find a place that practiced more principles. About a year later, he learned about Lu Mountain Temple, saw some photos, and liked what he saw.
When Juan first visited Lu Mountain Temple, he was nervous. It was during the Chan Qi meditation retreat. He saw people were sitting in full lotus in the Buddha hall, so he naturally sat in full lotus too. He experienced intense pain but was able to sit for about 30 minutes that day. When he learned that Master Yonghua gave a daily Dharma talk in the evening, he decided to stay for the talk. He felt a strong connection with Master YongHua’s Dharma, and it made a strong impression on him when Master said that we can all become Buddha, regardless of who we are or where we come from.
He decided to help out around Lu Mountain Temple to generate more blessings as he had learned during the Dharma talk. His hope was that these blessings could help him transcend beyond worldly life.
Juan has meditated daily ever since, and within 3 months, he was able to sit for more than one hour. His life has drastically changed due to this daily meditation. He naturally stopped drinking, and the anger arising in his mind has significantly reduced. Just a few months of meditation and volunteering at the temple has brought him peace of mind! He has become a better son and brother.
Within 6 months, he officially became a Buddhist, took refuge under Master YongHua, and received the Five Precepts. Following this, his life changed even more. One of the biggest changes was that he started taking his cultivation seriously. Juan started sitting in full lotus for at least 2 hours every day. He was more aware of his environment and the people around him. He became a better nurse by having more patience while listening to his patients, by helping them be more comfortable and happy. His life had become more meaningful...but there was a drawback. Since he began caring for his patients with sincerity and a more open heart, his health had begun to decline. As a nurse, he had been engaging in meddling—interfering with the karmic debts of the sick people he was treating.
He sought the counsel of Venerable Xian Jie and was told about the Medicine Master Dharma. Juan learned that he could improve his health, career, and cultivation by creating more Medicine blessings, so he requested a Medicine Master plaque. Amazingly, he didn’t feel sick quite as often, and his physical health significantly improved immediately. He also noticed that he was more mentally stable at his work.
Juan has even thought of leaving the home life. He is very grateful to Venerable Xian Jie for helping with his cultivation. Juan is just another example of how our temple community is very international, with a great mix of cultures. My hope is that he would attain fruition in his cultivation in the near future.