In the Footsteps of the Buddha - A Malaysian Bhikshuni's Journey into Nunhood

by Venerable Xian Lee
International Buddhist College

Venerable Xian Lee, a Chinese Mahayana bhikshuni from Malaysia, welcomes your feedback. General contact address is

Ever since l was a child, l had always been curious about life. I thought about the meaning of life and where I was going in my life. Would my life be the same as those people around me: going to school to get an education, and then look for a job after graduation; after that get married and start to manage a family, bring up children and may be grandchildren too? Was this the only choice I had for my future? I was not convinced this was my only choice. I felt apprehensive about this way of life. What other alternatives were there?

Some people seek only money or material wealth. That is their aim in life. But getting rich is not easy. Sometimes a person may do something evil to make money. The person and others will get into trouble as we often see around us. When a person plans to get rich, the person's mind and life will never be free.

Wealth is relative. There never seems to be enough of it. The desire to earn more and more money causes suffering. Some people strive to keep their money safe and maintain their property well after they become rich. Sometimes they may lose their money in business or in natural disasters like fire, floods or wars. They may be robbed. Their children may squander their money. The government may confiscate or tax it. They will feel sad when they lose their money. So I don't want to seek for money and material things as the aim of my life.
In my school days, l joined a meditation camp. I experienced the appeasement of the mind, and getting that peacefulness should be the aim of my life. At the time, the meditation teacher also taught us Buddhist teachings. In this manner, I found the direction of my life, to find and realise the truth of life.

According to Buddhism, our life is suffering or unsatisfactory. The causes of suffering are our greediness, anger and ignorance. Not understanding the truth of impermanence is also a common cause. People do evil deeds because of their greediness, anger and ignorance. Evil action will bring bad effect. Before and after a person does an evil deed, the person is suffering. When the bad effect of an evil deed befalls a person, the person has more suffering, pain, sadness and sorrow. To avoid the suffering, our Buddha taught us the Noble Eightfold Path. That is right understanding, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. Living in accordance with this Nobel Path, we can get happiness and avoid suffering. But we have many bad habits or wrong-understanding which will lead us to wrong action and wrong speech. We will suffer from the bad effect of this wrong action. To overcome all of this, we should practice Buddhist teachings. Having learned this, I decided to renounce to be a Buddhist nun to practice Buddhism.

The meditation teacher also taught us loving-kindness meditation. Through loving-kindness meditation, I learned that loving-kindness can help solve all kinds of human problems. Only loving-kindness can bring the harmony and happiness to human interpersonal relationships.
After the retreat at the meditation camp, I read a lot of Buddhist books to get more understanding of Buddhism and the reality of the world. At the same time, I continued the Samadhi meditation and loving-kindness meditation practice in my common daily life and school life. Day by day, I gradually learned Buddhism more and more. At the same time, I was also attached to the peace of deep meditation. With this experience, the will to become a Buddhist nun also grew stronger.

A year later, I joined the meditation camp for the second time. During this retreat, I found an ideal place to achieve my goal. To achieve my goal, I stayed there without getting permission from anyone of my family members. After I informed my mother, I decided to become a Buddhist nun and started my training by staying in a temple. After a few days, my sister directed me to go back home. Every member of my family advised me to continue and complete my study in the college. But my will to be a Buddhist nun was so strong that nobody could make me change my mind. After a few days, I left home again to stay in that temple. I stayed in the temple for around two years. During this period, I went through the full life of a practicing Buddhist. After that, my master in that temple advised me to study in the Buddhist Institute in Penang.

I studied in the Buddhist institute for about seven years. During those years, I learned a lot from my teachers: Buddhism, practical method, daily life in temple, and others. I appreciated my teachers very much. After studying at the Buddhist institute, I gained a deeper understanding of Buddhism and meditation practice. My will to be a Buddhist nun grew stronger each day. I was fully confident that the renounced life was the life I wanted. I was very sure the common worldly lay life was not suitable for me. A year after completing my studies at the Buddhist institute, I renounced as a Buddhist nun in a Buddhist monastery near the Buddhist institute. After I renounced, l experienced fully the renounced life. I tried to keep away greediness, anger and ignorance of mind, speech and action by practicing Buddhist precepts, Samadhi and loving-kindness meditation. I continued to study Buddhism, and learned everything about the daily life of a monastic in a temple, including what I should know about a nun's life.

I enjoy my renounced life. A nun's life is not always fully satisfactory. Sometimes I have suffering, bitterness, and I make mistakes, and so on. In all events, I try my best to overcome all the challenges and difficulties of my nun's life based on what our Buddha taught. I study and practice hard, and try my best everywhere at all time. Day by day, I experience the deeper peace. Now I study in International Buddhist College. I fully immerse in study and practice here. This is how I have achieved my aim to be a Buddhist nun. I fully appreciate all the factors and conditions that support my monastic life as a nun.

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