155- Dr. Guo Hui Zhen
Dr. Guo Hui Zhen was an oncologist. She was very motivated, enthusiastic, and wholehearted in her work. Her compassion and sincerity not only encouraged the sick but also wakened the healthy ones, causing them to study Buddha Dharma (referred to Buddhism) and to recite the Buddha’s name.
Ven. Dao Zheng was born on February 27, 1957 into a family having a traditional Chinese medicine lineage in Tainan, Taiwan. Her family name was Guo and given name was Hui Zhen. She was the second child of the family, with two brothers and a younger sister.
Since Ven. Dao Zheng was very young, her father, Dr. Guo Rui-Fu, had been very strict with her upbringing and education. In her article Gratitude and Repentance in Memory of My Loving Father, she remembered him as a loving and compassionate person. His compassion towards his children manifested in unusual ways. Ven. Dao Zheng recalled how she benefited from her father’s strict teaching and how he made her experience the taste of poverty even though their family was well-to-do. When she was a student in the Chinese Institute of Medicine, her father stopped supporting her financially to train her to be independent. She accepted it fully with no complaint. In order to support herself, she studied very diligently and became eligible for a scholarship. She also worked as a tutor and babysitter.
In 1982, Ven. Dao Zheng graduated from medical school and took the board examinations for both Western and Chinese medicine. At that time, she had already been exposed to Buddhism. She participated in the activities of the Society of Medicine King, a Buddhist society founded by the renowned lay teacher elderly master Li Bing-Nan. Between 1983 and 1985, she worked as an internalist in Kaohsiung’s Ruan Zhong He Hospital. In 1985, she resigned from her job and went on a pilgrimage trip in India. After returning from India, she took up a position as a tumor specialist in Taichung’s Shun Tian Hospital. In Taichung, she started to practice formally with elderly master Li Bing-Nan at the Taichung Lotus Society. Later on, she told fellow Pure Land practitioners that the teaching she received at the Taichung Lotus Society was paramount in establishing her faith in Pure Land practice.
In Gratitude and Repentance in Memory of My Loving Father, Ven. Dao Zheng recalled his words of encouragement: “Everyone’s life is like a blank sheet of canvas, and they all are worth the same two quarters. But people paint them in starkly different ways. Whether one paints one’s life into a piece of garbage or an invaluable piece of art depend on how one dedicates one’s heart and mind.” Inspired by this, Ven. Dao Zheng determined to paint a Buddha with the canvas [of her life] by dedicating her life towards the attainment of Buddhahood. Regardless of whether this can be completed or not, she vowed to just walk on with unshakable determination.
As a tumor specialist, she constantly witnessed the suffering in the struggles of life and death. At that time, she started to give a series of lectures entitled Learning Medicine and Learning from the Buddha at the Chinese Institute of Medicine. The lectures were published as a series on Ming Lun Magazine from March 1987. Based on her experience as a doctor, and her compassion as a Dharma practitioner, she talked of the pain, suffering, and confusion of sentient beings. Flowing forth from the depth of her heart, her words were sincere and heart wrenching. Many people were deeply moved by the spirit that she shared: “As a medical practitioner, I give my best as a doctor; as a Dharma practitioner, I do my best to learn from the Buddha.” Her series of articles were widely disseminated and published into a book by Mr. Cai Rong-Kun, a lay Buddhist practitioner from the US. Her other works such as Listening to the Songs of the Ganges River with Your Heart and Pilgrimage, were subsequently published in Ming Lun Magazine and then in books. They were all very well received by Pure Land practitioners in Taiwan and abroad.
Before becoming a nun, Ven. Dao Zheng practiced with elderly master Ven. Chan Yun and lay elderly master Li Bing-Nan. The renowned Ven. Guang Qin once suggested that she not wait to become a monastic for there was a “menacing adversary” that would soon stir trouble in her life. However, her mother did not understand Buddhism enough to support her choice and she decided to wait. As it turned out, she was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was told that she had less than six months to live. She gratefully received the news as a message from Amitabha Buddha to seek rebirth in his Pure Land. In 1987, on the 8th day of the fourth lunar month (Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday in the Chinese tradition), she left home to become a nun, under Ven. Guang Qin’s disciple, Ven. Chuan Jing of Guang Lun Vihara.
After becoming a nun, she lived a solitary and reclusive life of practice, cutting off all worldly entanglements. She did not inform even her father of her whereabouts or her health condition. Her father learned of her condition through her fellow practitioners. Upon hearing about his daughter’s illness, he sent her a card, encouraging her to carry on her Pure Land practice. He wrote: “How does a caterpillar transform herself into a butterfly? Who helps her? Who teaches her to fly? How does she transform herself from an ugly and slow moving caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly that flies freely?”
Having personally realized the preciousness of the practice of Buddha recollection (nian fo) during her illness, Ven. Dao Zheng continued to share her experience with fellow practitioners. Her talks included topics such as The Supreme Bliss and Peace of Buddhadharma, Buddha Recollection in Illness, Faith, Vow, and Buddha Recollection. Her works that came into wide circulations include Fragrance of Pure Lotus, How the Painting of the Buddha Came about, Short Stories of Lotus Voice.
In 1999, her father passed away. To express her gratitude for his loving care and teaching, especially his words of encouragement in his note “How Does a Caterpillar Transform Herself into a Butterfly,” she wrote and recorded a series of books and CDs with the same name.
More recently, her works included The Practice of Prostration to the Buddha and the Science of Medicine, Generating the Bodhi Mind, A Brief Review of the Bodhisattva Precepts – A Mirror of Introspection in Daily Life for Pure Land Practitioners. All these works aimed at urging fellow Pure Land practitioners to generate the Bodhi Mind and to practice the method of Buddha recollection faithfully and steadfastly.
Ven. Dao Zheng was the narrator of a book called The Miracles and Responses of the Practice of Freeing Lives, published by the Lotus Pond Merit Society in 2002. The audio version was presented to the leader of the merit society, elderly master Ven. Yuan Yin, who then asked Ven. Dao Zheng to succeed him as the leader of the group when he had passed away. Though ill, Ven. Dao Zheng did not hesitate to accept that responsibility. This is an example of the bodhisattva practice of alleviating sentient beings’ suffering without caring for one’s own peace and joy.
Before she passed away, Ven. Dao Zheng lived in the deep mountains of Zhong Pu, in Taiwan’s Jia Yi district. She lived and practiced in a shrine located in the fruit orchard of a fellow Pure Land practitioner. Inside the shrine hung an enlarged copy of her painting of Amitabha Buddha. The painting hung from ceiling to floor and was accompanied by the following verses on the sides: Faithfully and steadfastly “hold” the name of the Buddha (chi ming), Gathering the virtues of the Buddha, Making them one’s own virtues. With profound faith and vows, It is sure that one will be reborn in the Pure Land, Realizing the [truth of] non-arising.
During that period, Ven. Dao Zheng made little if any contact with the outside world. Only a few people lived and practiced with her. She was very strict with the precepts. She had only one meal a day (at noon) and did not handle money. Each day, she rose at 1am. Her daily routine consisted of 1000 prostrations and the practice of Buddha recollection to seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. She was indeed an exemplary model for all practitioners.
On May 4, 2003, Ven. Dao Zheng gave a talk entitled The Ten Supreme Great Vows. She said goodbye to those who attended the talk, telling them that she may not be back again. Three days before the 19th day of the sixth lunar month (July 18, 2003), on which Guan Yin (Avalokitesvara) Bodhisattva’s attainment of enlightenment were to be celebrated, Ven. Dao Zheng saw Amitabha Buddha in her dream. On July 18, 2003, Ven. Dao Zheng related her insight regarding the practice of Buddha recollection to the attending nun, Ven. Dao Xi. An hour later, she started reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name. On the fourth recitation, she passed away for the Western Pure Land, in the auspicious declining posture of Nirvana. At that moment, flowers bloomed all over the surrounding hills. Her facial expression was that of peace and tranquility. It was 2:40am. She was forty-eight years old.(Huệ Hương ST)