Becoming Buddha’s Disciple

We invite you to read this beautiful article by Sr Linh Di (Emyo Wang), our newest Australian monastic, who was ordained by Thay at Plum Village this Summer, together with her brothers and sisters in the Oriental Cypress Ordination Family.

2014 cypress ordination ceremony at plum village

Dear ones,

I will be asked to release personal email, laptop, phone soon. So please forgive me for the group format for now.

Ordination was moving. Perhaps like weddings, with less stress. The New Hamlet sisters gave us a few days to rest, walk, breathe, while they busily prepared for Summer Opening. On both the eve of the formal request and the ordination (July 2), there were magnificent rainbows. We were happy to receive this blessing of light.

Thuja_occidentalis-1Thay invited us for tea after our formal request for ordination. We each shared a little about ourselves (five brothers and four sisters). We are the “Thuya Orientalis” family, a type of cypress. Thay was in Nice and while walking, he saw four such trees, next to an ancient well. Thay had the sense that we are all moving in an orbit, some faster than others. When we encounter the slower objects again, we feel the familiarity.

Thay expressed the wish that we contribute to the Sangha energy by practising diligently, and at the same time benefit from the Sangha energy. As we grow, we can share the practice with those of our cultures (Australian/Chinese, German/Ukrainian, Swiss/Vietnamese, Singaporean/Chinese, Malaysian/Chinese, Vietnamese, English). Thay also reminded us that we are likely to come up against the conservative wing of Buddhism that still regards Buddha as God, and not to be surprised. “But once in a while in history, a teacher comes along who teaches us that Buddha was a human who also suffered. Like Master Linji.”

It was very precious to have my blood family with me for the ordination. Mum, Dad, June all cried and cried… and every time I saw their tears, I started crying, too. Then I’d see a smiling sister or friend and I’d start smiling.

Right from the start of the ceremony when the Sangha started chanting Avalokitshvara in Vietnamese, I saw the suffering of all my family and friends and tears streamed down. Doan (Sister Linh Tue) was next to me, and behind her husband who also ordained at the same time! She sobbed even harder and with us, many sisters and brothers started crying.

Thay “blessed” the water that represents the nectar of compassion, and sprinkled it on our head with a rose. I felt the coolness, and thought, “luckily we are ordaining in Summer”. Then I felt the warmth of Thay’s hand on my head, and followed Thay, line by line, to express this aspiration three times:

“Shedding my hair today, I vow to transform all my afflictions, and bring happiness to the world.”

I love this simple and powerful vow!

After the ten novice precepts, the moment all the brothers and sisters looked forward to was our new names!

All four sisters have the character “Linh” (灵, “Ling”, sacred) in our name. We have Linh Man (sacred & intelligent), Linh Di ( “Ling Yi” 灵异。That’s me. As Thay introduced the name: “sacred and rare, unique, never before seen”. In Vietnamese, pronounced “Ling Yee” or “Ling Zi” for Northern Vietnamese. Like “Lyndsay”!), Linh Tue (sacred wisdom), Linh Cac (sacred space).

The five brothers all have the character “Dai” (大, great) in their names. They are Dai Nghia (Great Cause), Dai Dao (Great Way), Dai Tong (Great Togetherness), Dai Dong (Great Service), Dai Luong (Great Capacity).

Within the nine, Brother Dai Nghia was ordained first, then Sister Linh Man, then I. It was very cute that right after the ceremony, all the other brothers started calling us “Su Chi” (in Vietnamese, “older sister”), even though one of them is 11 years older than me!

Then we went outside to actually shed our hair. Thay only cut a small tuft during the ceremony.

The Sangha started chanting Avalokitshvara again. My folks started crying again! I saw that Dad hid behind his camera and sobbed…

I knew Mum, my mentor, Sister Chan Khong, Sister Uu Bat, Lyndsay, Earleen worked on my head. All the other sisters who shaved me remained silent. Only afterwards when I saw some pictures that I realised what a collective effort it was! Looking around, I saw many familiar faces smiling or crying. I was serene, happy, sad, grateful… all mixed up.

We were snatched away to quickly shower, and change into our novice robes (with 15 old-style buttons!!! There is a gatha for putting on the robe, “Putting on a nun’s robe, my heart is at peace. Living a life of freedom, I bring happiness to the world.” I can recite it FOUR times before I finish all the buttons).

We met Thay as his newest disciples. He gave us each a hug! Brother Dai Dao (Dominic from England) who is about 190cm crouched down to hug Thay 🙂

The whole Sangha sat in circles to have lunch together.

My folks were sitting at the back on chairs. I felt a little sad. For my Dad, this is the “wedding” that he’d always hoped to attend. Instead of being the proud father of the bride, here, I am quickly absorbed into a large family and he does not seem to have a key role to play.

All the new novices were invited to share.

I thanked Thay, Sister Chan Khong, and the Sangha for welcoming me into this family. For the first time, when I practise the four gratitudes: teachers, parents, friends, and all beings are actually together in this moment. How precious it is!

“I am especially grateful for my family who came a long way to be here today. This is not how they expected their continuation body to be, but they are supporting me out of love. As a family, we have gone through difficult times. I know that my parents still wonder if they have done something wrong in the past that have led me here today.

It is not that they have done something wrong. They have done so many things right. They have always watered the seeds of love in me. Since childhood, they have taught me to love and care for others, to be a useful member of society, to live a meaningful life.

I am grateful that even in the darkest moments, they never gave up on me, and were always there for me, even when they had to drop everything to be with me.

It is their love and support that allowed me to find this community of love and understanding.”

I sang “In Gratitude” in Chinese and the Sangha sang with me in English.

Two days after, I said goodbye to my family in the rain. Dad said, “Even though I still find it difficult emotionally to accept, I am happy that you are here and you are happy.” I told him I’ll probably be sent somewhere Chinese speaking soon. He said, “No, it is better that you are here with a big Sangha. It is not as difficult as a small centre.”

I wrote these lines for them (trans. from Chinese):

Today’s rain was yesterday’s tears.

How many comings, goings, joys, and pains?

Tears of life after life fill the four oceans.

Today’s tears are tomorrow’s rain.

Penetrating the mountains and rivers

to nourish all life on earth.

Parting with loved ones in the rain,

your tears and mine are not separate.

Sending an only daughter on the Noble Path.

What vast, open hearts!

To have encountered you in this life,

I live each moment in gratitude.

Your teachings of kindness since young

watered the seeds of love in me.

Now it is time to return

the sapling to the forest.

Along with brothers and sisters,

we will grow, flower, and offer fruits.

The sun shines through the rain,

amidst tears, I smile.

Immersed among my sisters,

we joyfully cook for the Sangha.

Today is the first day of Summer Opening.

Friends from the four oceans have arrived.

Thanks to the virtues of my loved ones,

I am now a student of the Awakened One.

May you often think of your beloved daughter,

may we awaken our buddha nature.

Across time and space we walk together,

to offer what is true, good, and beautiful.

The Hair Comes Off - ordination head shaving

I say goodbye now as Emyo (and soon goodbye to personal email account, phone, laptop).

And I say hello as Sister Linh Di, and enter a life of listening to birds, hanging underwear in discreet ways, chanting “Namo” with tears, enjoying 15 buttons several times a day, cooking hummus for 300, breathing with sobbing friends in Dharma Sharing, bowing to little children who stop running to bow to the nuns, being reminded by the robe to put my heart into each step I take…

With love and gratitude,

Sister Linh Di

Sister Linh Di on her ordination day with Thay

Just a simple monk!

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