May 13, 1977
The sidewalks of America are clean. Concrete, cement, macadam, gravel and tar. They are uniform, common, straight, and flat. After you put your head down on ten days of sidewalks, they begin to feel soft, responsive cold or hot, but essentially the same.
On top of American sidewalks, Americans deposit the litter and refuse of our disposable, throw-away culture. This is dirt. It proceeds from the human mind. Degrees of greed can be seen on the walks. In Lincoln Heights the merchants sweep their sidewalks. In Chinatown the grime of greed and false thought is caked on until the rough concrete turns slick and shiny. The sidewalks of L.A. City Center are rough, pebbled, and unused. The dirtiest sidewalk yet was outside a Chinatown meat market. There they wash off the meat trays and a layer of grease and gristle and veins covers the walk. This is truly filth. But again, even this could be swept away by conscientious cultivation and effort.
The streets are clean below this thing smudge of refuse. When the thoughts disappear, the mind is clear; when desires reach out, the streets grow dirty. We must bow across every street to purify the garbage-topped walks and to return the nature to its original purity of clean mud and stone. The earth is clean. There is no dirt in nature. Dirt is all man-mind-made. It’s the people who are dirt. When you head touches the pavement there is a bit of honesty, a total submission, a release of pretense, and exhaling. An honesty right down in the dirt.
There’s no one from the top-brass office executives and the fanciest fashion models to the dirtiest panhandler and the slimiest gas station pump jockey who doesn’t feel himself to be superior an better off than the pair of bald-headed robe-wearing monks who bow past them below their feet on the sidewalk. As the monks put their heads on the ground and turn their palms up in total submission and repentance, the hookers, the bums, the bus drivers, the car dealers, all stare and stare, put themselves in the monks’ place, laugh at the impossibility of it and then either ignore them or try to break them down.
May 13, 1977 - My clothes, my body, the sidewalk, the car, the vibes are pretty stinky, but I am happy and light.
When the external scene is tense and threatening it’s on the inside that the work goes on, the balance and the unmoving calm. When the external scene is calm and subdued, it’s on the inside that the work goes on, quelling the noisy, mad mind.
Always on the inside, within. Sometimes, lately, they merge. “I” disappears and there it all still is only it’s nothing: sounds, smells, etc. are without substance and without “me.” Where is “me”?
Demons and Fear: Yesterday all the young toughs – were they demons or Dharma protectors? Just when they lined up behind us to bow in mockery, they caused a lot of laughter among a group of menacing-looking men gathering on a front porch a few houses ahead. Their mockery of us defused the momentum building on the porch. Expedient? Who knows?
Today: Showdown at Taco Corner
Says Heng Sure, “I get weird vibes from the Taco place ahead.”
“”Let’s keep going.”
“Right.” Heng Sure was right. Heavy, but in a different way. Like college football looks flashy, high energy, etc., but compared to pro ball (more seasoned, quietly deadly, no unnecessary frivolities, etc.) so too Taco corner was pro demon.
The nastiest was about 40-45 and really upset about us: jumping, pacing, wild voice and gesturing. Strange physiognomy, winging and whipping a twisted metal strip. Heng Sure, I found out later, sees none of this because he isn’t wearing his glasses. These guys lack even derisive smiles. They are a different cut – kind of crazy, without much in the way of scruples, a bit sociopathic.
Anyway at one point I feel the protection king in –hard to explain—somehow the “I” of me melts into it all. I feel no fear. The butterflies melt. At the same time I visualize the Abbot right behind me smiling. Inside a calm, clean field of bright glowing stillness. Right in the middle of them we bow low. Bowing way down like that feels incredibly safe, true. Their sails slack. What can you do to someone who is in full prostration at your feel?
Whack! The metal whip hits the table. We don’t move. Get up 1-2-3 bow, 1-2-3 bow. The heavy one is obviously befuddled, turned, the whip handing limply at his side. Just looking. Not even a comment.
On the other side of the street a really interested man starts to ask questions. He is very supportive and interested. “I’ll have to read about Buddhism more.” After the darkest darkness, then light. This is the last of Lincoln Heights – Taco corner. But now it doesn’t matter. Heaven, hell, Lincoln Heights, Beverly Hills – it’s all the same: empty. Everything comes from the mind. Especially gear. We had a lot of “self” scared out of us here, but Lincoln Heights still has a lot of fear. Behind the groupy gangs, the leather Conquistador macho, there is real fear of something. It’s not innate – see the little kids. It’s cultivated. Now we are told Chinatown has Chinese mafia-like gangs. Pretty soon it will be the Beach Boys and commuters. It’s endless when you look outside yourself. The more you look the less you see. The farther you go the less you know. Return the light, look within.
Several upasakas and uapasikas come for lunch in the park. Food, fuel, a stove, a snake bite kit the upasika who gave it wouldn’t even touch because the picture of the rattler on it terrified her. “Here take it quick out of the bag. I can’t stand it!”
She volunteered to sew some pockets for insulated pads in Heng Sure’s pants. His knees are really bothering him. We’ll knock off early today because it’s Friday and everybody will be festive with the weekend spirit; we might scratched.
Two kids from Lincoln Heights (“demons”) walked all the way over to watch us bow. They were more genuine and mellow. Heng Sure gave them a pres release. “Make them feel like they counted. They do.” They liked that. “See you later. Hope you have a good trip. And thanks a lot for this (press release).” We bowed over the bridge in the park. A upasika came by with a letter they put together for the police to lessen hassles. L.A. is a car town.
Although I started out thinking all sorts of other aspects of the trip were for me, I now realize the bowing, the central core, is the most wonderful part. All else is secondary and sometimes distracting.
Friday PM. Another wind: the press.
1) always get a name and a card (weed out phonies).
2) Don’t reveal our dharma method. Principle: we want to be invisible. State with clear understanding what motivated us, the principle behind Three Steps, One Bow. Avoid speaking Dharma, don’t rap. Let silence talk. Don’t teach and transform. Avoid speaking in general; speak to the specific.
3) Keep out of personal history – not important, past.
4) Don’t talk about your trip. Stress the fact that there is a whole group of cultivators and that this trip is just one part of the orthodox Dharma.
5) Just 2 of 10,000. Going home to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
6) Other groups: all tools, some higher than others. Buddhism has 84,000 methods. Hare Krishna confuse money and the spiritual. Moonies split up families. Look on the press as people, not necessarily friends. Use cool eyes, talk less, protect the invisibility of the trip. Erase yourself!! Protect the Dharma and shed light on the Triple Jewel, not on yourself. Turn your light within.
May 14, 1977 - To make peace on earth we must want it. To stop harm and fear in the world we must change our ways. To change our ways we must change our minds, think peaceful thoughts, leave anger behind. To change your mind is the biggest and most powerful commitment to peace you can make.
The world as it now exists, full of hate, pain, inequality, and suffering is a product of what we do.
We made it. Our minds choose what we live in and we can control our worlds within a single thought. The power is ours. Evil and good, selfishness or compassion all come from the mind first. If more people care for other's the world will spontaneously grow brighter.
May 14, 1977 - We are parking at different places each night and trying to avoid contact with people. Last night it was a laundry on Sunset Drive. Tonight we finally find a place, but I hadn’t done standing meditation yet. Where in this crammed, speed-city at 9:30 PM was I going to find an inconspicuous place? I wanted to sleep. Fought it. Got out of the van and right across the street was an empty log, gradated levels protected by a retaining wall in high rear. Ideal!
This a.m. Tai Chi and exercise near L.A.P.D. Academy overlooking Dodger Stadium. Bowing into Chinatown today. L.A.P.D. cam out and photographed us on N. Broadway. No contact.
We do 379 steps per hour which equals 126 bows per hour or about one bow sequence every 30 seconds. Did this calculation allowing for bridges, delays, detours, etc.
Lunch: Picnic with laypeople. Lots of food, lots of change for meters, phone, etc. Where are we in the group with all their rituals, protocol, and unabashed candor? In Chinatown an old Mandarin couple see us and exclaim, “Why, they’re foreigners!” No, you just forgot to bring Buddhism with you when you came…
Heng Sure’s padded pants are back. Wow! Bright Hawaiian flora – nightclub circus hobo. Thank god for the long robe. The kids in Lincoln Heights would have eaten us up if we went through with those on. Steering the Middle Way regarding offerings is not always easy. When you get junk you fix it; when you get fold, you tarnish it. I think we’ll dye the pants…
Layperson: “Well, I think you are going to be out of L.A. in a month.”
Layperson: “Yes. The hardest part is passed (Lincoln Heights). Chinatown is not so rough. Beverly Hills is easy.”
Monk: “The hardest part is inside.”
Layperson: “Oh.: (smile of recognition.)
All the laypeople are talking about rejoining at the end near the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. One upasika says she will walk ten blocks. Another says if that one can walk, ten, she can bow ten, etc. Such fine people. It shows in their kids – bright, sharp, well-behaved, spontaneous.
Bowing: Sometimes after countless coming and going on the cement there is simply nothing. Sounds, conversations, smells from restaurants, cigarette butts – not problem. Every now and then my “self” gets unimportant, lost, blended into it all and yet untouched and separate. Patience and humility come easy when I’m bumping noses with ants in between lumps of welded bubble gum and broken wine bottles. It’s just fine. Just the place to be now. Cleaning house inside out.
1) Least Buddhist of all. Animals being slaughtered openly…
2) On main corner comes together all at once, a funeral parade send off, the band playing a dirge “Will We Not See You Again?” motorcycle cops, crowds, circus peanut grinder scene on right, strawberry cake on a chair in front of us, a Chinese TV newsman. Heng Sure and I bow right under and through. Maybe a handful notice.
3) Bowing two feet from fish in window tank at market waiting to be killed. Blubbering with their mouths, watching Heng Sure and I bowing in our tank.
4) Crazy lady who has been following us cackling, sneaks up behind and kicks me right in the acupuncture point in the groin. Keep bowing…
5) Drove around the corner, passing through an intersection and pulled over the curb space to park. Screech! Bang! Big accident in that same intersection.; we just missed it by seconds. A Chinese street gang swaggers by…
May 15, 1977 - Our pace is slow in the 3 PM post-lunch afternoon. False thoughts drift in and out. How glad I am that the first protector who volunteered did not come along. He was someone people disliked out of the blue, so negative were his affinities with people.
We get our share of potential fights, but they fizzle out even though it’s close each time. I start to get uptight fantasizing a kick in the head or someone pulling up in a car and a gun going off or hordes of Christian shouters giving us a hard time, teasing and yelling, “Do you believe in Jesus?” into the air. Then a suited, briefcase-carrying businessman passes by and says, “Peace be with you, brother,” and he meant it. I had been tugging on my robe, getting annoyed with it and irritated at the wind and the heat when his words came and totally penetrated my mood. I realized how unpeaceful I had been. My head opened like a window. Yes, just be at peace with all of it, the cars, the fear, the wind, the crushed ants, the lunch situation, the work. Thanks, mister. If you had stood still I would have bowed to you. Are you by chance a transformation body of the Abbot?
May 15, 1977 - Sleep next to a Coalition Church in Chinatown last night. Heng Sure and I had a good conversation about early a.m. being like the original nature--still, pure, blissful, genuine. The zero opens and from the one comes two and so forth, myriads of things, movement, karma, etc. Each day a chance to try again, each second the same. In every move, thought, contemplate thus.
Also talked about how many institutions, etc., are necessary because the family doesn’t do its job. Military, psychs, scouts, clubs, police, etc. Ultimately one must start at the source to eliminate the widespread, begin with the small, at home. We see this in Three Steps, One Bow and all around us.
Story of Garuda (Great Golden Winged Peng Bird) ties to exercise #15 of t’ai chi. The garudas flapped their wings over the waters of the oceans and parted them revealing the dragons on the ocean beds. The action was so deft that the dragons didn’t have time to disappear and were subsequently sucked up by the garuda like we down a plate of noodles. Fearing extinction, the dragons went to the Buddha and asked for his compassionate protection. The Buddha consented and called the garuda in, ordering it not to eat any more dragons. The garuda countered that the Buddha’s decree was unfair because without dragons to eat the garuda would starve and in turn become extinct. The Buddha reassured the garuda that it would be provided for and then told all his disciples to place a bit of food outside before each meal as an offering to the garuda. With so many disciples in the world, the garuda would be able to eat its fill. The Buddhadharma is unique in that even ghosts and spirits, etc. are treated with compassion and acceptance. Yet there is clearly evil in the mind. The way to stop evil is to eliminate your own greed, hatred, and stupidity. All things come from the one and return to the one.
Bowing along, an Old Chinese lady offers $2. Background music is early Diana Ross and the Supremes.
Offerings: My understanding of offerings has been: how do the leaves thank the root for the water, or the sun for the light? How does the root repay the leaf for nourishment, the mulch? No giving or taking. Who receives; who gives? Cultivate the Way; end the self.
Fear, Speed and Looking Outside: The last few days in response to danger of neighborhoods, fast traffic, hassles, etc. we have unconsciously speeded up. Bowing and rushing like everything around us. It’s very difficult not to be moved (literally) by it all and yet not to block it out so you’re unaware. Today we slowed and ‘constanted’ our pace--much better.
Everything in turn looks and feels different. It’s not gone or blotted out, it just doesn’t turn and toss us. At one point this a.m. I experienced the unlimited, undifferentiated Buddha-nature through and within all the cement, traffic, roses, honking horns, dressed-up church-goers, and bowing monks. Feeling very warm and peaceful. Everything’s ok.
Alice Wong came with her two children to inform us of road hazards ahead and see if we needed anything. I think she is opening up, partly because she’s so close to kids and comes out to express that and shares in the Three Steps, One Bow. She always bows three times saying, “You are bowing 700 miles, the least I can do is three.” Her face shines genuine and clean. Her smallest, still in red pajamas, bowed in the wrong direction, got up, turned around, and shines us a grin I’ll never forget.
Change our schedule: We stick to it. If we start late, we finish on time. Then evaluate why we were late. If for cultivation or necessary talk, ok. If not, then don’t do it again.
Winds, limitless winds: This AM bowing right on and then what? Blew it at the meal offering. Inundated with offerings, bows, good “birthday” food in park a la picnic, etc. Meant well, joy of giving, but 1) we don’t deserve it 2) to enjoy is to end blessings and we have nothing to transfer, 3) it’s an outflow. Afterwards the momentum, ch’i, shot. Bloated saturated with family vibes of sex, laughter, flatteries, mama’s tending and fussing over us, etc.
More Hawaiian pants and a carpeted van full of bananas, donuts, bottled drinking water, nuts, new pens, bread, lantern…”could you use” “take this” Very important not to project and see laypeople as a problem or as trying to bring us down. It’s us, our carelessness, desire, and laziness.
Solution: No more park picnics. Eat on the road. Take less, not all, especially sweets. Talk less, hold eyes down, listen to less.
Offerings: tons of food, two gal, drinking water, pen and paper folders.
Call upasika and tell her that tomorrow we are eating leftovers in the van enroute, not in the park. We can’t waste food. Heng Sure can’t bow when full and can’t say no to all the good food. The enjoyment of blessings ends them.