Monday, February 26, 2007

The Renunciation of Chen Xiaoxu

The Dhammapada says:

"If by forsaking a limited happiness,
He would realize an abundance of happiness;
The wise man should forsake the limited

for the sake of the abundant."

It is all over the news - Chen Xiaoxu, once famous for playing the female lead Lin Daiyu in the adapted Chinese Classic "Dream of the Red Chamber" on TV in the 1980s, has renounced the world & ordained as a Bhikkuni in the Buddhist Order. From virginal beauty to famous actress to successful business women and finally to Buddhist Nun - the life of this 40 yr old Chinese beauty is nothing less than legendary.
Even at that time, most people thought that Chen awas perfect for the role of Lin Daiyu. As those of you familiar with the Chinese Classics would know, Daiyu is a frail beauty who is deeply sentimental & melancholic in character. Chen's ethereal features & real life character was no different from the role she portrayed in the "Dream of the Red Chamber". It was a role that shot her to instant stardom, but also one that ended her acting career. The portrayal of Lin Daiyu was so deeply ingrained in the hearts & minds of the people that nobody could really accept her as anything else. In fact, Chen herself was so deeply influenced by the character that it became her alter-ego. She only managed to act in another adapted classic before resigning from the acting scene altogether. With the end of her acting career also spelt the end of her first marriage.
Chen subsequently married her current husband, Hao Dan. Together, they ventured into the advertising business, & in a few years grew to become a successful multi-million Yuan company. With the fame & success brought material well-being for her whole family, but in her heart she continued to feel unfufilled in terms of true happiness.
One day in 1999, Chen happened to hear a recording of Ven Chin Kung preaching the Sutra of Amitayus in her friend's car. Ven Chin Kung is a modern day Patriarch of the Pure Land school and his teachings struck a chord in Chen's heart. She was so deeply moved by the Venerable's words that she wanted to meet him immediately. Learning that he had been preaching in Singapore for some time, Chen flew from Beijing to Singapore to look for Ven Chin Kung. She found him at the Amitabha Buddhist Society in Geylang and asked to be given the 3 refuges. Ven Chin Kung was happy to see her newfound faith, & promptly gave her the refuges and the 5 percepts. Chen was also bestowed the Dharma name of Miao Zhen.
From then on she dutifully practiced the Pure Land teachings everyday, reciting the Sutra of Amitayus in the morning & Ksitigarbha Sutra in the evening. After Chen returned to China, she became vegetarian & even set up an altar in her office for her chanting. Her gentle devotion to the Dharma also moved her husband, such that he too became a Buddhist.
But it was not until last year that Chen decided to take a step further. She contracted breast cancer & by the time it was discovered, it was already at an advanced stage. Struck by a life-threatening disease in her middle-age, she finally gained a powerful realization of impermanance; though she had a happy married life and great wealth, yet all the money in the world could not save her from the Lord of Death. So Chen decided to not to fight her cancer but rather put all her energies to purifying her own mind through intensive Amitabha recitation. She made a vow that if she could somehow survive, she would renounce the worldly life and devote herself to propagating the Dharma.
True enough, Chen managed to pull through without any chemo-therapy. She did have treatment by Chinese medicine, but the cancer still gave her a lot of pain. Despite the pain she had gathered enough mental strength to fufill her vow, which was to become a Buddhist Nun. And so on the 6th day of the Chinese New Year, with the support of her husband and her family, she went through with the ordination ceremony at the Xinlong Monastery in Changchun, China. Now she is known as Ven Bhikkuni Miao Zhen. Her faithful husband will also follow in her footsteps and become a monk in Shenzhen after settling all their assets.

The fact that Chen developed a heart of faith immediately after listening to the Dharma for the first time in 1999 shows that she had cultivated good roots for many lifetimes. Like a fertile seed within her mind, it came to fruitition upon meeting the right conditions in this life. Most of the ordinary people will just hear and forget if they were in her situation, like pouring water into a leaking urn. But not Chen, as her karma is already ripe for receiving the Dharma.
Whenever old age or illnesses befall us, foolish people will think how tragic it is to lose their strength, & wallow in self-pity. Only the wise see that these signs of decay are really Devaduta - divine messengers proclaiming the truth of Anicca (Impermanance), Anatta (Not-self) & Dukkha (Suffering) to us. They remind us not to waste time indulging in sensual pleasures anymore; prompt us to seek the Dharma & to reach the doors of the deathless. Will you take heed? Or will you rather be heedless and suffer in the future? That is the challenge they present to us everyday. Just like when Prince Siddharta witnessed the 4 sights, they inspired him to give up his family & kingdom to seek the Truth. In the case of Chen, her cancer was not bad karma as most people might be conditioned to think; it was in fact the catalyst that awakened her true potential. Without it she might not have gained the determination to let go of all her fame, wealth & love; which although provides us with temporary happiness, they are also the things that bind us to the wheel of samsara life after life. As sure as the Sun will rise in the East, Chen will be able to gain liberation in her remaining life & be reborn in Amitabha's Pure Land. Let us rejoice for her.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Many of us seek happiness by seeking to fulfil our desires, not realizing that even after those desires are fulfilled , we can still not found happiness. Happiness is found right here by having a non-seeking mind, by accepting things as they are and being happy as it is , no more or less. By being at this moment and living fully in it. Help other be happy.......and the law of karma will return its energy likewise!