Miss BÍCH LIÊN
A Good Daughter of Buddha
(Journalist: Võ Văn Tường, English Translator: Thích Nữ Giới Hương,
The Renunciation of Miss Võ Bích Liên
On 15 February 2015 at Như Lai Thiền Tự Temple in San Diego, Southern California, USA, under the approvement of Most Venerable Thích Giác Nhiên – the leader of the Buddhist Mendicant Sangha in the world and other venerable monks, Venerable Thích Minh Hồi organized the ceremony of haircuts and prayers for a female Buddhist, Tâm Hoa, whose world name is Võ Elizabeth Bích Liên, and Dharma title is Liên Ngọc. The sangha also appointed her to return Vietnam to attend the official renunciation in Ngọc Vân Mendicant Temple.
On 26 February 2015 (i.e. the 8th of the 1st lunar month, Ất Mùi year), the renouncing ceremony for Miss Bích Liên was held greatly and repespectfully at Ngọc Vân Temple, Bắc Bình province, Bình Thuận county. Most Venerable Thích Giác Hoằng and Most Venerable Thích Nữ Diệu Liên, the abbess of Ngọc Vân Temple, honorly attended to bless for her. After the teaching from Most Venerable Thích Giác Hoằng, Miss Bích Liên now aka Reverend Thích Nữ Liên Ngọc expressed her good reason to be a nun. Her voice was so emotional and sensitive as she reviewed her reasons for renouncing:
“The nature of the world is suffering. It is the greed inside a human being which causes the world misery. The selfish desire without bottom creates the karma so that it pulls human beings to be reborn in samsara. Life is impermanent. All the glories of the world cannot compare to the wonderful Dharma which uniquely brings true happiness in our life.
I am present here in this life. That means I still engage one more step into the cycle of suffering. Previously I did not know about the impermance. I thought wrongly that my presence is magic and I have to enjoy the material world happily for a worthwhile life. From childhood, I always heard people around me who defined the meaning of happiness as having material wealth rather than inner peace.
In my whole life, I have hustled to pursue this so-called “happiness,” but what does happiness mean? It is a delicious food, a beautiful dress, a luxury mansion, fame, and other needs that the impure body has desired. Engaged in the current life and covered by the ignorance, I am squirming on the way to search for happiness. During the journey to find the world happiness, many times I have reached on the highest ladder of fame, but also not few times I encountered the bitterness of failure. Running after the current life and competing with the opponents made me aware of the dangers of greed, hatred, and delusion. Many nights I wondered if I will forever hold my material possession, or if I am only a temporary visitor in life? How can I get rid of the cycle of life? What a waste a time as I have been continuously in this samsara!
Fortunately I came to know the Three Jewels, the Jade Buddha statue for the World Peace, the wonderful Buddha Dharma teachings from sangha and good Buddhist friends. Then I realize that I am as a person who used to live in the darkness, suddenly and happilly grabing the torch to see the road. I know that the truth is here. This is the path to liberation. There is not any supreme happiness more than the stillness of the soul. If we still try to find happiness outside the mind, we will never find it.
I spent a certain period of life having a good chance to know the Buddha Dharma, meet the virtue masters, and Buddhist friends. I realize that it is a right track on which I must travel in the rest of my life and the afterlife. Thanks to the Three Jewels, I have the right view, right thought, and right action. This debt is measureless because the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha guide me how to enter the path of the infinite wisdom, the eternal peace, and getting out of suffering.
I promise to be diligent, support the Three Jewels, and help people to repay my parents. May the Buddhas bless for my beloved deceaseds as well as the alive relatives. May my beloved ones devote and gain merit in Buddhism. May all my relatives support my renunciation because this is for the sake of happiness not only for myself but also for many. There is much other gratitude on my shoulder; I promise to be a virtuous nun to repay worthily.
Renunciation does not escape from life. It is integrated into life to bring Dharma light to sentient beings and help them understandthe cause and effect doctrine and the spiritual teachings to get out of the misery. Life is inherently impermanent, relative, and temporary. The fame, fortunre, and greed attract people in the world illusion. The attachment bonds human beings in suffering without being stopped.
Choosing the nunnery life is the struggle for myself in this life and many next ones; to overcome these challenges on which I can consolidate my will to be a nun. I do not dare to be self-complacent, because I know my ability as a tiny water droplet in the ocean, or a dust in Thái Sơn Mountain. May I always be on the right track, take the Dharma path, and experience the selflessness and compassion nature.”
After expressing her sincerely faithful words, she receives many bunches of fresh flowers as well as Buddhist affection from people at the hot sand and sea breeze city. Next program, the renouncing ceremony starts. All clergy and Buddhist followers recite loudly the ordained scripture while venerable monks shave her hair. Many relatives and Buddhist followers drop their tears as they see each segment of her hair falling down on the ground. How emotional it is! How noble and joyful in the Buddhist relationship it is!
The abbess of Ngọc Vân Temple helps Võ Elizabeth Bích Liên cut her hair
Miss Võ Bích Liên now turns into a nun Thích Nữ Liên Ngọc who is integrated into the monastery life. Each day, she must wake up at 3:30 am to recite, meditate, join temple work, and learn Buddhist precepts and Dharma, and so on.
Reverend Thích Nữ Liên Ngọc with her relatives
Reverend Thích Nữ Liên Ngọc with local Buddhist members
Miss Võ Bích Liên as a precious jewel in life
Miss Võ Bích Liên’s family originated from Quảng Nam but she was born and raised in Phú Quốc Island, Kiên Giang province. She, her brother, and two sisters settled down in the United States in 1980. In the course of 35 years, at the second homeland, she has improved herself by her ability, wisdom, and talent. She became a successful woman, and has made great contributions in society.
In 1986, she won the Miss of Traditional Vietnamese Dress in Kansas, United States. In 1996, at a special program that honors women in Northern California, she won the First Runner. In 2004, in the city of Rosemead, Los Angeles County, she was elected as Miss Lady. In 2006 at the Recreation Center and Hollywood, she won the title of Miss Princess of Asia.
In particular, she has brought the honor to all Vietnamese women when winning the Miss Asia International Competition in 2012. This is the 24th of Virgelia Production, Inc. to honor the beauty, talent, wisdom, and the traditional cultural value of thousands of Asian competitors in 58 countries around the world which is organized annually in the United States. She expresses her feeling after receiving Miss Asia in the World:
“Bích Liên wants to prove the uniqueness of Vietnamese women with the world. Bích Liên is only a woman, just paving bricks in order that the next years, there will be other young Vietnamese women who are more beautiful and talented than Bích Liên, can win the triumph as Bích Liên today. It marks the radiant images of Vietnamese women in the world.”
In 2013, Miss Bích Liên has been involved in recruiting the Miss United States with the role as the main sponsor, the judge, or the chief examiner, such as the contest “Miss & Mrs Vietnam International 2013” held in San Francisco, Miss Global 2013 in Orange County, especially the contest of “Miss Vietnam World” in Long Beach, California, in July 13, 2013 by her chief judge. In 2014, the contest “Miss Vietnam World” invited her as “Beauty Ambassador” cum Chief Judge in Las Vegas in October 31, 2014.
Miss Võ Bích Liên graduated M.A. of Beauty in the United States. She also continued her professional development in the famous Beauty Institutes in France, Italy, Germany, and Japan. She was the General Manager of EV Princess Cosmetics Co., BL Miracle and Herbs EV.
Her Beauty Salon Bích Liên and Cosmetic Pharmaceutical EV Princess are founded by Miss Võ Bích Liên and has been active for more than 20 years. It is a well-known cosmetic production and presents in 15 countries including USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Vietnam, and so forth. She, who is a prestiguous cosmetic specialist in the world, is an instructor in both of the beauty schools (International Beauty College) in Northern and Southern California. She was selected as an Entrepreneur (A Business Woman of the Year) of the United States in 2005 and 2006 respectively. She, who was the only Vietnamese woman, is honored by California Small Business Association in 2010.
Based on the talent and dedication of Miss Bích Liên, the US President George W. Bush honored her as the outstanding woman in the minority people who is bearing American citizenship, invited her to attend a party at the parliament in Washington, DC, in 2006. By July 2012, President Barack Obama also invited her to attend the party in the capital as an honored guest.
In addition, Miss Võ Bích Liên was titled as “Miss Charity” and the “Angel of the Unfortunate,” because in 2006, she founded the Bích Liên Charity Foundation and her position as the chairman. She was willing to participate in funding organization of most Vietnamese people who encountered the difficulties in the United States, Vietnam and other countries. She said: “I have learned the hunger and poverty from life. Today, luckily I have food and money. In recent years, I often help Vietnamese people in the US and especially I often go back to Vietnam to do charity in many places with the aim to ease a part of people’s sufferings.
On the website: www.hovuvovietnam.com by Vũ - Võ Việt Nam clan, there is an article “Elizabeth Võ Bích Liên - Angel of those unfortunate” written: “In 2007, Vĩnh Long, Trà Vinh, and Gò Công Tây, hundreds of the elderly patients who are suffered by cataract, regained happily their vision under the sponsorship of Bích Liên. In Vĩnh Thuận and Tân Thuận, she removed the old wiggling bridge and replaced it with a firm concrete bridge.
In Kiên Giang and Tiền Giang, she built two classrooms for pupils who have the same her Phú Quốc hometown. Also in Kiên Giang, she built dozens of wells in the remote areas where people do not have enough water to use.
At other places, she built housing for unlucky children, orphans, and the lonely and elderly people. She also donated to make the concrete roads to help elementary school pupils avoid muddy roads daily. She sponsored funds for alleviating poverty, funds for children with disabilities, funds for Agent Orange and flood victims.
For the fellows on Phú Quốc Island, she offered gifts and food for the poor people and built four grateful houses for families of Bùi Văn Hùng, Nguyễn Văn Khương, Trần Ngọc Thanh, and Nguyễn Khắc Cảnh.
Regards to the social and life, she sponsored two bronze statues of the scholar Lê Quý Đôn and the hero Nguyễn Trung Trực at Bến Tre and Kiên Giang provinces. She also bought the 1,500m land to build the worship house for Vũ - Võ Việt Nam clan in Phú Quốc.
On the website: www.nhatbaovanhoa.com (Vietnamese American Artists & Media Association Inc.) in the United States, there is an article: “The Activities of Miss Bích Liên, General Manager of EV Princess Cosmetics Co at the first 13 years of the 21st century” which write about on the prominent woman who excel in the marketplace. She is considered as a generous benefactor for community activities in many fields of culture, politics, society, religion, and so forth.
On May 12, 2012, the Charity Foundation at Phổ Minh Pagoda, Rạch Giá city inaugurated Nam Tiến 5 Bridge in Vĩnh Thuận district, Kiên Giang County. The bridge, which was built completely with a total budget of more than 100 million đồng (Vietnamese currency) was sponsored by Miss Bích Liên.
On August 8, 2012, Miss Bích Liên attended the inauguration ceremony and handing the charity crematorium over to the authority of Thôn Dôn temple, Binh An zone, Rạch Giá city, Kiên Giang county. The total cost of the project of one billion Vietnamese đồng, was donated by Miss Bích Liên. Her good will helped the poor people have a free funeral ceremony when they die. After that, their ash remains can transfer to worship at Phổ Minh Pagoda (for Kinh and Chinese ethnicity) or Thôn Dôn Temple (for Khmer people).
In 2012, on the Vu Lan occasion, at Phổ Minh Pagoda, Rạch Giá city, Miss Bích Liên donated 130 million Vietnam đồng for 200 disabled people and 200 scholarships for middle school pupils who had overcame difficulties, to study well, and have good behavior.
In the morning of July 5, 2013, Miss Bích Liên attened the anniversary program of one year established Lạc Long Quân Theater in Saigon with the theme: “Heart for Love”. She donated 100 million Vietnam đồng to support the shelters for orphans and disability people in Saigon and the Mekong Delta provinces.
Information from Bích Liên Charity Foundation reveals the money range for her annual charitable is from $ 100,000 to $ 150,000. The main donations includes of building temple, helping 500 eye surgeries for cataract patients, giving good conditions for poor children with disabilities; constructing 10 bridges, nursing home, crematoria, and wells in the remote areas.
Many of the articles praised and compared the compassion of Miss Bích Liên as the heart of the sea. Her body and heart are as beautiful as the great of Phú Quốc Island. More than two decades, she caught people’s hearts by her generous charity work. At the present, her younger sister Võ Thu Nga with her musican husband Lê Minh Hiền (two main members of Tuệ Đăng Zen music group) who take incharge the entire business of EV Princess Cosmetics Co., BL Miracle and Herbs EV. In many years, Tuệ Đăng Zen music group often has sung to serve the community in the Buddhist monasteries and charitable organizations in the United States. May singer Võ Thu Nga enormously develop Miss Bích Liên’s business and participate in charity also enormously as espected his respectful sister.
Reverend Thích Nữ Liên Ngọc (aka Miss Bích Liên) and her successors (Võ Thu Nga and Lê Minh Hiền)
In Vietnam, most venerable Thích Nữ Diệu Không, most venerable Thích Nữ Trí Hải, and many other nuns came from notable families and they gave it up to enter to the monastery life. They are the role model for Buddhist women, are worthy to be the good daughter of Buddha.
In the United States, there has also a famous nun - most venerable Karuna Dharma whose world name is Adele Pettingill Joyce. In 1940, she was born in a devout Protestant family, living in Wisconsin. In 1969, she met a Buddhist master who is a Vietnamese monk – most venerable Doctorate Thích Thiên Ân. She helped him to found the International Buddhist Monastery in Los Angeles in 1970 and she became the Director of this Monastery in 1980 respectively. In 1976, she, who was the first woman to become a nun in the Buddhist Sangha in the United States, is the good daughter of Buddha.
Buddhist lady Tâm Hoa -Võ Bích Liên possesses the heavenly beauty, the rare talent, courage, and the vast compassion which is recognized by her emotional words in the renouncing ceremony: “Life is impermanent. All the glories of the world cannot compare to the wonderful Dharma which uniquely brings the true happiness in our life.” She is aware the value of detachment and drops all illusional material behind to be a nun who follows the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha. Miss Võ Bích Liên – Reverend Thích Nữ Liên Ngọc is a good daughter of Buddha.