In August of 1967, when I was sixteen years old, I visited my sister and brother-in-law in San Francisco. They were already disciples of the Venerable Master Hua, and they introduced me to Buddhism by taking me to meditate at Gold Mountain Monastery on Waverly Street. I remember that Gold Mountain Monastery was located on the upper floor of the building and we had to go up several flights of stairs to get there.
The temple itself was not large, but it had an open feeling. I sat in meditation in full lotus for a full hour and enjoyed it a lot. I was surprised when others groaned at taking their legs down, as I hadn’t the slightest bit of pain, although my feet had gone to sleep. I guess it was later that I dutifully learned that full lotus hurts. This one experience at the temple left a lasting impression, for even though I had always been introspective, I had never realized there was a method for introspection, and that many others had tried this method. I became very interested in Buddhism, especially Chan meditation.
My earliest memory of Shifu (the Master) himself was at the beginning of 1969, when I was living in the apartment house on 29th Avenue. I was sweeping my room, using short, forceful strokes. The door was standing open and Shifu, passing by, came into the room and showed me how to sweep using long strokes, even all the way across the entire floor. Now I think of those instructions every time I sweep! There is a moral to this story: Don’t do things the hard way unless you absolutely have to!
Shifu also asked me on more than one occasion a very difficult question. He sat me down, held my hand and asked me what it was that I really wanted. This question is not so easy to answer and it frightened me. Nevertheless, I always remembered it, and tried to use it as a guiding light in my life. It’s a basic question, but one that never fails to bring out a more thoughtful, principled decision.
What is it that I really want? I still haven’t narrowed it down completely, but it goes something like this: that we all can find peace together in this tangled world. I also believe we can learn a lot about peace from the principles taught by our wonderful teacher, Venerable Master Hua.