May 6, 1977 - We arrive at the San Francisco International Airport to begin with. We are on the way to Los Angeles. The cart is being taken down by car and Heng Sure and Heng Shun and I accompany Shih Fu (The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua) by plane. At the airport we encounter Quentin Kopp, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
“Where are you going, Venerable Sir?” Kopp asks the Master.
“I am going to ascend to the heavens and order the dragons to make it rain,” was the Master’s reply.
In the air I sit between two people and feel hot and tired (nodding out). Shih Fu walks up from behind and throws his scarf and sash in my lap. I snap up, feel cool all of a sudden and alert, bright. Rain clouds gather was we approach Los Angeles.
It was raining when we arrived in L.A. Good, strong, Dharma protectors came to meet us. Say it just started raining before the plane came in. “Dragon’s birthday present to Shih Fu.”
May 7, 1977 - Shih Fu was at my door this morning. “No sleeping; get up. There’s no such thing as a lazy novice. Go to bed after everyone and get up before anyone.” As a kid I hated getting up early, serving mass, dark cold Wisconsin mornings. I still hate getting up early. I hate bowing. Not really, but the hardest two things in my cultivation are just those. Everyone here for morning recitation; like a family in this small Bodhimanda. I can’t understand or appreciate the scope and energy of this trip. It’s too much to handle. So I am fairly thoughtless and unemotional. But I can feel excitement in the eyes of others. What’s the big deal? A lot of hard work—to make it, I can’t allow myself to false think too far ahead or behind. Must think some, however, or we’ll end up bowing in Tijuana, as Heng Sure takes off his glasses when bowing. Cuts off eye outflows and also vision. Stay on the right Way. Don’t make mistakes. Try your best.
I call on all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten Directions to help and support me, Heng Ch’au, to uphold my vow to protect and aid Heng Sure so he can fulfill his vow to bow once every three steps from Los Angeles to Ukiah, California, to repent and reform of all the suffering, disasters, and wars set in motion by our greed, hatred, and stupidity; to purify our hearts, body, mouth, and inspire others to do the same so that peace and
Heng Sure shows me a picture of Tathagata Monastery. “That’s where we’re going.” Three steps, one bow. If I don’t get my trip together with monk’s clothes it will be three steps, one fall!
After the morning ceremony and Shih Fu’s parting words we’re off, in, on… Well, it ain’t what I thought. Very hard; very wonderful.
Fire trucks hold us up awhile. Bow in place, count them up, move on when the trucks leave. Lots of stares.
I have an overwhelming feeling of oneness with all things. Bow and repent of past karma of mine. Who is “me”? All one substance. All benefit, all suffer from “my” karma. I grasp, understand the inseparability of everything, all beings. I see the empty false mark of self. Self is one huge empty obstruction.
At lunch Shih Fu says to me: “Whenever your stomach is hungry, don’t cry.” What’s that about?
Afternoon: More flack from “cruising” demons. “What a beer? Hey! Want a beer?” says a stumbling, confused guy getting out of a car. The Sangha really is sincere and supportive. Shih Fu said: “The gods, dragons, and eight-fold division of spirits are happy today. They are working too. They didn’t sleep, watching you.”
We Haven’t Finished What We’re Doing Here
“Get off the goddam street.”
May 8, 1977 - Pouring rain. We are instructed to bow inside surrounded by the Sangha who recite the Great Compassion Mantra, as they did all day yesterday while we bowed on the road. “Don’t force it, that’s not proper Dharma. It’s dangerous today. Cars might hit you; they can’t see well. When rain stops continue where the equivalent of what you bowed yesterday would be.”
State while bowing: I understand deeply all the countless beings within Shih Fu being crossed over. Be a container to carry living beings, to repent, to take on suffering for living beings, because you can. You can because countless others have for you. Filial piety. We are all one; keep the string connected. Give ceaselessly. Both days while bowing I was on the verge of tears throughout. Inconceivable.
Advice: Don’t fight with anyone. Yield!!! Use your wisdom, your kindness, compassion, joy, and giving.
Hard work, patience, be straight (sincere). No desire. Be humble, not arrogant like an emperor. Forget about states. Chase any demons, and transfer merit constantly. Don’t float off into samadhi. You’re the Dharma Protector. But don’t be moved. Accord with conditions and don’t change; don’t change and accord with conditions. Forget yourself; no self means no mistakes which in turn means no retribution. Then you are in a position to be of some help.
May 9, 1977 - My 23rd vow is not to speak unless the words are in service to the Triple Jewel. This is my chance to fulfill the vow at last. No phones to answer or interviews to give; no one to rap with or shoot the breeze. Silence but for the necessary words to Ch’au. To be effective this must be firm. Any kind of busy-bodiness or expression of self will not work. If I want all the energy to go up the right channels I have got to do every minute as I would do in a Ch’an session. A year-long two-man Ch’an session. Do it that way. No excess. The Middle Road.
May 9, 1977 - Still pouring through night and this morning. Thunder. Bowed inside again. Waiting for final instructions from Shih Fu. We will leave when Shih Fu leaves.
Bowing: Again the image of the body--one large body—all of us. If one part of the body is sick the rest doesn’t split and ignore it; it works together or breaks down together. There is no self that is immune, that can hide or be private. What goes around comes around. Yu must heal yourself and share strength and light. Sick parts resist treatment; it hurts at first to be touched.
7:00 PM: Whew! That was the toughest day I can remember. Saw Shih Fu off at the airport. Alone, we are on our own. Heng Sure is trying not to talk. Pouring, pouring rain. Huge threatening clouds. We go back to Gold Wheel Temple, get our gear, and head off in the 1958 Plymouth wagon to solo. Where do we begin? In a tough, rundown main drag of a Mexican American neighborhood where there are drunks, and macho-looking tough kids. Oh, this is really tough. It takes all the courage I can muster. Two scared kids pretending it’s no big deal. Before we even start the groups are forming to check this weird number out. The second bow I am tapped on the shoulder from behind. A drunken, huge main says, “Hey, what you makin’ with dis?” I feebly try to explain. He’s about seven inches from my face. He slowly pulls out his wallet. Ah, our first donation? No. An oversentimentalized picture of Jesus with long wavy hair. He keeps shaking it in front of my nose, nodding and waiting. “A really holy person,” says I, “excuse me now, I’ve got to keep up with my friend.”
A car whizzes by, souped up and packed, full of men. “You got till sundown to be out of our neighborhood.”
Oh, Shih Fu, only three minutes out and already. We plug on, even though more groups are forming ahead as the word spread. “You’ll never get anywhere that way.” “Hey, Joe, they’re blessing your gas station.” Some walk by like we were old Popsicle sticks—no notice. As we get closer to each group they split, go inside, make an opening, watching cautiously. I notice it’s stopped raining just as we started bowing. But we are covered with mud and grim and water from the sidewalks “Hey, kick ‘em in the ass when they bend over! Ha! Ha!” One tough runs up and brushes between us. We keep bowing. (Typist’s note: 4 lines are missing from the book at the end of page 6 – Volume 1). spread apart. One runs up and pats us on the heads. The other say, “Hey, man, let ‘em be; they ain’t doin’ nothin’.” Through we go. Soon the two toughest are stalking from behind. How hard to keep my back to them and go on reciting. Finally the monster comes along side. “Hey, sir, can I ask what you’re doin’?” I nod and finish bowing. I explain we’re Buddhist monks and this is one of the ways we pray—it’s a pilgrimage to bring some peace to ourselves and the world.
“All the way to Ukiah? How long will that take?”
“About a year.”
“Wow! That’s somethin’. Don’t he talk?”
“No, he’s concentrating, praying. I carry the gear, cook, talk to folks, drive, etc.”
“You got the hard job.” They are moved. Something soft and genuine is coming out.
“Well gotta go, we have to get some rest.”
“Peace to you.” He says and crosses us with his blessing. “Take care.”
I can feel the protection around. Heng Sure’s silence is powerful. If we can keep sincere and careful we’ll have a much better chance to deal with things.