Dr LeMai, Deakin University, Melbourne
(To my dear friend, who asked me ―What is Happi-ness?‖)
As said in many ancient myths, there were three realms of Ghosts and Monsters, Buddha and Fair-ies, and the Mankind. If it were true, then only those from the second realm, who could reach enlighten-ment, would understand the meaning of Happiness. Lost in reverie, I was thinking of an elder sister who had become a Buddhist follower of Kuang Ming pa-goda.
After the Vietnam war, my sister put an end to her studies at the Saigon University of Law and im-mersed herself in the stream of hard life during the post-war period in the country. One day, she swam in the sea over hundreds of metres to get on a for-eign ship. She was holding a dream to find a Land of Promise. (She was a Christian.)
I wouldn‘t know how long her maritime journey took, neither how long she spent her days as a refugee in various refugee camps. At last, she landed on a sol-emn island called Australia. With the beauty and en-ergy of her youth, she was eager to build a golden dream and began her search for Happiness. After an apprenticeship course and so much hard work, she opened a small hair salon. She met and fell in love with a young student at Faculty of Law at a Uni-versity. Their wedding ceremony was held at a church in Melbourne. The ceremony was as marvel-lous as in her golden dream. After graduation, her husband opened a small law firm. They built a new house and moved her hair salon there. Their daugh-ter was born. Day by day, their life became happier and happier.
Happiness, however, was too fragile! One quiet au-tumn afternoon, they were sitting in a café. ―Don‘t say anything. After this cup of coffee, make a choice, please, with me, or not with me.‖ Said my sister to her husband. And she drank those drops of salty tears running down on her face and dissolving into the bitter coffee. Their ways departed forever. On her own, she brought up her daughter. She had crossed the vast of the Pacific Ocean, yet she could not cross over the Sea of Suffering! ―Love is like a rope binding people to the Karma debt driving the Wheel of Dharma.
Man Giac, a Zen poet wrote: ―Spring comes, hun-dreds of flowers bloom. Spring goes, hundreds of flowers wither…‖ No one remembered how many springs passed since that unhappy day in my elder sister‘s life. Her hair salon remained the same site where day by day she greeted the sunrise and said good-bye to the sunset. She remarried, and yet hap-piness she still could not find. She was advised by the doctor not to have children due to an illness. Fol-lowing the death of her mother, her eldest sister passed a way after a serious and sudden illness.
That young girl of many years ago, of the city of Sai-gon with green trees along Duy Tan street, of the blue sky over looking down lovely parks, had crossed the Pacific Ocean in search for Happiness, then realised how weak and how small she was in the immense Sea of Suffering. She undertook her studies of Buddhism and became a Buddhist prac-ticing Three Refuges and Five Precepts at home.
Occasionally, I drove past her house. They told me that she often closed her hair salon to work at Kuang Ming pagoda as a volunteer. From time to time, she would go to India or Vietnam as a Bud-dhist pilgrim to learn and practice Buddhism in mountains. ―Wishing you, my elder sister, a peaceful and tranquil life. A journey to become a Buddha is the true path to Happiness!‖
The night fragrance was cooling down my study room. I walked to the window and listened to the au-tumn sound, contemplating the leaves falling down from the Robinia trees, also known as Chinese Scholar trees. Autumn night breeze was gentle and fresh. The leaves were gathering and scattering on the pavement. Hoe An Cac (Robinia of Peace man-sion) was located in the south of three Robinia trees.
―Am I like Chun Yu Fen of Tang Dynasty having a Nanke dream and experiencing the impermanence of Life, the Universe, and the Wheel of Dharma? Birth, Prosperity, Weakness, and Destruction are alternating and taking their turn in a constant state of flux. Am I having a Nanke dream…?
Translated by Tương Mai Cư Sĩ (A Scholar of Tuong Mai)
―Spring comes, hundreds of flowers bloom
Spring goes, hundreds of flowers wither‖
– an extract from Man Giac Thien Su, a Zen monk.
―Duy Tan street with tall trees and nice shadows, with lovely parks and the blue clouds in the after-noon‖ – an extract from a song by Pham Duy
―Autumn breeze was pure.
The leaves were gathering and scattering‖ – an ex-tract from a poem by Ly Bach (Lǐ Bái), a Tang poet.
A Nanke dream – A Dream Under the Southern Bough – Chun Yu Fen of Tang Dynasty fell asleep under a bough of a Robinia tree and had a dream. In that dream, he lived a whole life of successes and losses.