Sangha Expressions: Knowing our Call of this Incarnation by Franklin Chen

By Franklin Chen, Zen River Sangha member, excerpted from the October 2018 ZRS newsletter


There are two important days in our lives.
The day we are born, and
the day we know why we are born.
—Mark Twain

Back in 2008 when I was in Taiwan for sabbatical leave, I read a newspaper story of a dumpling lady in Taiwan. She sold the best dumpling in a small village in southern Taiwan. She was in the news for two reasons. The first reason was that her dumpling was the best at the time in Ping-tong, a small village in southern Taiwan where she lived. The second reason was that she had a stage-3 ovarian cancer and was told only had 3 years to live. Despite that, every morning, she got up at 3:30 AM and began to work, making dumpling. No one helped her because she was a widow, and her children were working outside of Ping-Tong. Reporters were puzzled why she was working so hard and did not take rest.

“Taking a rest? “, she said, “Did I just sit there and waiting to die?”

“When I make the best dumpling and my happy customers complimented and smiled at me, that is my best medicine.” She said.

The day she was interviewed by the reporter, she had already outlived the dreadful pronouncement of death by two years. I do not know if she is still alive today. Either way, she is a good role model for us because she knew her purpose of life. She knew why she was born.

There is another example. I met an old time friend (a Kimberly-Clark colleague) at a concert in July of 2018. He was an engineer, and got laid off in 2003. I asked him what he is doing now. He said that he is building

organ. Building organ requires engineering skills, metal and wood crafting, and music ears. He had learned the craft as an apprentice from a master 25 years ago before he worked for Kimberly-Clark. After working at Kimberly-Clark, he made good money as an engineer in a corporation, but was never be happy. Once he got laid off, he knew his calling was to continue to build organs for churches. My old friend knows his calling and is very happy for his life.

The dharma teachers in our Sangha ask us to be joyful even at unlikely circumstances. Many studies have shown that if we know why we are here and know why we are given this life to experience our impermanent body, and emotions, we can be joyful at most of the circumstances.