My memories of
In 1989, my parents bought a small house in Little Saigon,
One day, my father, with a witty smirk, waved me into the living room. He drew the window curtain to expose two birdcages, one hung one each side of the small window, with two lovebirds in each cage. He pulled gently the strings of each cage. The male and female birds drilled and wobbled joyfully and melodiously. He cast a tender glance towards my mother and said: “Your mom bought them.”
My father passed away almost two years ago.
Today, I am sitting alone in this quiet living room, with a feeling of immense loss and a constant nostalgia. I look at the small square desk at the corner of the room, where my father placed a small notebook with his last words written for all of his children. To me, these words are the family's heritage that my father bequeathed to us.
Then he felt very sick and had to stay in the hospital. By the end of November, 1989, every time I brought soup into his room, he always reminded me: “Remember to read my notes that I placed on the desk in the living room, next to the telephone.”
I said yes, yes, but I was too busy taking care of him, so I just read the notes hastily. Shortly after my father's death, I read them again and recognized that these last words are precious gems. They guide me to continue my journey with great faith and confidence.
My father talked about the difficulties of a Hoa Hao Buddhist who practiced the religion with other members of the family and who need to be concerned about the country and the people as well. He wrote:
“The believer of Hoa Hao Buddhism should know the religious principles in his or her human soul; this means Studying Buddhism. In daily life, he or she should practice self-sacrifice to serve life and the nation. One should exercise religious spirit while serving life and building the nation; this is Practicing Humanism. The ultimate purpose of Studying Buddhism and Practicing Humanism is deliverance.
“If the believer of Hoa Hao Buddhism only loves everyday life and has no moral foundation, this would be a great danger for himself or herself and for society. He or she would not only be unable to reach for self-deliverance, but would also create more negative karma. If he or she does not have the strength to contribute to build the nation, then he or she just has to devote himself or herself to religious practice and assist the ones who work for the country, as a way to practice humanism. The ones who lack moral foundation should not be given important duties in society or in fighting. The lay followers who are not involved in building the nation are considered less sinful than the believers of Hoa Hao Buddhism who are involved in the nation's works but do not obey moral ethics.”
My father drew a clear conclusion:
“Therefore, one should struggle in life and struggle to build a religious foundation. One should never give up advancing on the path of Discipline, Absorption, and Wisdom, so that one would be able to guide all everyday works with religious principles, so as patiently to prepare one’s mind to follow moral ethics until the awakening: attainment of both Absorption and Wisdom.
Two years after my father passed away, every time I come to visit my mother and reread the teachings of my father, sitting by that same small desk in the living room, near my father's altar, I look pensively at the two birdcages over the window, all still and quiet.