Letters to the Venerable Abbot Hua:

May 11, 1977

Dear Shih Fu (Master),

Homage to the Venerable Master,
May he lend his compassion to all beings!

This work is very much like a Ch’an session.  Constant mindfulness is hard work and we are making slow and steady progress.  Three steps, one bow.

Heng Ch’au is a good protector.  He has already saved us from one nasty situation, which he will tell about below.  Leonora Chiang, Phuong Kuo Wu, Alice Wong, and the Woos have protected us and show us great care.  I am not talking very much at all.  This is a wonderful chance to practice my vow to speak only words in service to the Triple Jewel.  I am forever grateful for the opportunity to cultivate the Way.

Disciple Guo Chen (Heng Sure)
Bows in respect

Saturday, May 14

Dear Shih Fu,

            We continue to bow about one and a half miles a day, averaging five hours of bowing and one and a half hours of 20-minute rest periods in between each hour.  We rise at 4:00 for morning recitation and finish by 6:00 PM to wash up and recite evening recitation as always.  They day also includes a t’ai chi ch’uan lesson from Kuo T’ing (Heng Ch’au) in the morning and a short reading and translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra at night before we recite the first lines of the Shurangama Mantra 49 times and then pass out.  We are living in one of the upasaka’s old Falcon van, sleeping out on the streets of L.A. and washing in the park.  Our lunch comes from several Dharma protecting upasikas.  The upasakas and upasikas are watching over us with some care.  They are really working to make our trip go smoothly--getting letters from the police giving us coins for parking meters, etc.  The other morning when it rained we bowed in one of their garages and ate lunch there. We bowed through a tough neighborhood called Lincoln Heights. We reached the front of Lincoln High School just as class finished. We were immediately surrounded by forty or fifty jeering, shouting, swearing rowdies. When they saw their words couldn’t move us, they started to laugh and before long they began to bow along behind us, until we had fourteen boys in line bowing to the Avatamsaka Sutra…

Disciple Guo Chen (Heng Sure)
Bows in respect

May 18, 8:00 AM

Dear Shih Fu Shang Ren,

We appreciate the wonderful weather that the dragons are sending Los Angeles.  It’s not too hot and not too cold.

We are very tired in body, but very happy in mind.  Every joint, muscle, and limb is speaking its own pain dharma but this will gradually disappear as the work progresses and our bodies adjust.  We fall asleep every night after mantra, totally exhausted but the next morning wakes up at 4:00 feeling energized and ready to work again.  We have increased the bowing time gradually each day:  yesterday was six and three quarters hours.  The problem in the city is trying to find a parking place for our Bodhimanda/Van and then walking back to the bowing site.  It really eats up the rest periods.

Although we are tired, it helps keep us mindful.  It is a small problem and it feels good to be working.

Yesterday we received lunch offerings from the L.A. lay disciples and each time it is a humbling experience.  We have no merit and virtue of our won.  We are simply borrowing the Venerable Abbot’s merit to receive the treatment we get.  Truly if it were not for the faith these lay people have in the Venerable Abbot, this trip would be impossible.  We would have starved already, or been robbed and eaten each night we stop to rest.

By returning the light this way it makes clear the responsibility for us to be left-home people at all times--to learn how to behave correctly with lay people, with other left-home people, with Americans, with all people.  It is time for us to learn how to stand up for Buddhism on our own, to take responsibility for the teaching we have received and to do it correctly.

Proper conduct is hard work, just as hard as bowing and we are happy for the chance to learn it.

Disciples Heng Sure & Heng Ch’au
Bow in Respect

Tuesday, May 24

Dear Shih Fu,

We are just  about to pass through Beverly Hills.  We are making slow but steady progress.

Although we could not be with the Master on Buddha’s birthday, Heng Chau and I wish to bow nine times to the Master on this occasion and to be mindful again of how grateful we are to have met the proper Dharma here in the West.

Thanks to the Master’s great compassion we have this chance to use our effort to bring good medicine to this ailing land; our lives have a useful purpose and a positive direction to travel.  This is a priceless treasure!

As we bow we recite the repentance verse and hope to take on to ourselves and then purge out via the repentance, some of the negative energy and hateful vibes that we encounter as we crawl from block to block.  When we are sincere, the results are immediately visible--anger disappears from faces--the tension dissolves from street-corner groups that gather to stare at us, and even the heat in the air seems to cool slightly.  If we are false thinking or have any anger or fear in our own minds, then nothing happens as we bow into a crowded area or worse, the tension builds up and people get hot or uptight, anger and fear from the crowd.  The pressure makes a rare chance to cultivate.

The Dharma Protectors make it possible and the pressure makes it real, good, hard work.  There is a lot of magic on this trip and the Master’s presence is always close by.

Disciple Guo Chen (Heng Sure)
Bows in Respect

Wednesday, May 25

Dear Shih Fu,

This experience is rich in learning, tests, and exposure to all kinds of people and situations.  Heng Chau and I talk about the states we encounter and apply the principles we have learned to solve our problems.  Each time we trace a problem back to a flaw in our own perception of reality, to a hang-up, an affliction, or an attachment, we know we have found the source of the problem and then the state almost immediately resolves itself.

The mindfulness of a cultivator is not easy to maintain all the time--especially these three:  patience with all states, compassion for all beings, even the demons who come to provoke us, and also a sense of shame--keeping my faults and short-comings in front of me at all times, in all places.

When these three mindfulness stations are before my mind, a kind of vajra resolve takes over and people look right past me and see the Avatamsaka and the Triple Jewel.  This is what I’m working for and I have to make it clean and pure like this all the time.  It’s time to learn how to behave properly as a Bhikshu.  This trip will be not wasted!

Disciple Guo Chen (Heng Sure)
Bows in Respect

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