I once heard of a story that happened near Master Zhen-Ru’s house.

There was a large grapevine by the apple tree. Its vines were so intricately intertwined that it not only seemed to be suffocating the tree, the grapevine itself had withered from lack of air. Seeking the help of an expert agronomist, the monks were told that between the apple tree and the grapevine, they could only keep one or the other. Faced with this dilemma, the monks went to Master Zhen-Ru, who courageously said, “No matter what, I wish for both to live.” Through the monks’ hard work and perseverance, both the apple tree and grape vine eventually lived. Looking at the grapevine that had almost withered, Master Zhen-Ru said, “This reminds me of practitioners. Never underestimate them based on their current state. They will excel and create miracles in extremely difficult situations.”

Last winter, the monks trimmed off some dead branches and asked us if we wanted to give it a try; perhaps grapes will grow from it. We happily agreed, eager to see another miracle happen from the grapevine rescued by Master Zhen-Ru.

Enid, one of our support laity, returned with five dead branches, and sought help from neighbours who were experienced grape-growers on how to take care of them. The neighbour had suggested soaking them in water; Enid carefully followed her advice and encouraged the vines to grow, with hopes of offering grapes to the monastics next summer.

Despite her everyday care, dead branches were still dead branches. I called Enid one day to see how she was doing. To be quite honest, I had very little hope, yet Enid refused to give up. Together with Kay, they took on this mundane task without a word of complain. Under their constant care, I received a text from Enid one day, “The dead branches have begun to sprout! Look at the photos! They’ve grown tall and strong! And full of life! What a surprise!”

Amazed, we once again witnessed what Master Zhen-Ru had said: Even the dying branches of a grapevine can sprout new leaves if those taking care of it refuses to give in. Through all kinds of mishaps in life, although the situation may seem impossible at first, as long as we persevere in the right direction, we’ll eventually see a new sprout of hope!