I met the Venerable Master in October 1976 at Gold Mountain Monastery in San Francisco when I was attending college. I had been involved with psychology and philosophy on the campus I was attending, and one day my philosophy instructor gave me a list of spiritual centers in San Francisco. The second place I went to was Gold Mountain.
At the time I went, the Master was lecturing on The Flower Adornment Sutra. I did not understand anything that was going on. However, I knew at that time that the Master was my teacher. The second or third time that I went to Gold Mountain Monastery, I saw the Venerable Master sitting on the Dharma Seat as a five-year-old child.
I was invited to go with the Bhikshunis to take a look at the new Way-place in Talmage, California. There was a group of Korean students who came to visit Gold Mountain Monastery, and so the Venerable Master took them to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
I liked the place immediately, and the Master
also knew this. It was very cold that day, and I
took my heavy coat with me, but I didn’t need
it. Everyone was hovering around the heater in
one of the rooms up at Dragon Tree House, but I
was very warm without the heater. Later, I was
to return to San Francisco in the same car with
the Master, but I stood outside waiting to find
out in what car I was supposed to return. The
Master was already in the car, and asked, “Kuo K’ai,
are you going to stay here?”
During the Winter Semester Break, I attended my first Buddha Recitation Session at Gold Mountain. As I remember, this was my second personal encounter with the Venerable Master. I took refuge with the Triple Jewel during this time, and within two or three days I wanted to leave the home-life. I spoke with one of the nuns at that time, and I was granted an audience with the Master. A Bhikshuni acted as the translator for me. One of the first things the Venerable Master asked me was,
“Do you have a boyfriend?” I expressed my wish to leave the home-life, and the Master replied that he wanted me to finish school, and that he wanted to watch me for a while.
I had only six months left of school, and was planning to continue my studies in psychology by transferring to a major university. After that Buddha Recitation Session, and upon returning to my apartment, I began to mentally and physically make arrangements to leave home after I graduated in June.
Early in the spring of 1977 there was a Dharma gathering at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to pray for the ending of a serious drought in California. At the end of the day, some of us returned to Gold Mountain Monastery. I came face to face with the Master, and he directly said,
“You came back.”
On June 25, 1977, I went to the women’s Way-place with my belongings, and a week later moved to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to help start the first summer school at the City. It was during this summer─one and a half months later─that I left the home-life. I took a bus back to San Francisco, and the event took place at Gold Mountain Monastery on the anniversary of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva’s Enlightenment. Someone told me that I looked like a soldier during that day. After the ceremony, the Venerable Master told me that I couldn’t get angry any more. Two days later, I returned to the City, and the person I was working with asked me,
“Well, how does it feel to leave home?” I immediately replied,
“You know, I don’t feel that I have done anything different.” The next time that the Master came to the City, she told him what I said, and he laughed and said that I had been a cultivator in the past.
Between the winter of 1979 on through to the end of June 1990, I was in a situation which forced me to take a good look at myself, and to learn what I was really supposed to be doing as a left-home person. What was really memorable for me during this time was that I was able to observe the Venerable Master’s all-encompassing virtuous conduct. As I now try to write this, I must admit that there is no real way to express what has happened to me because of such a teacher.
I have been memorizing The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra now for many years, and have observed the Venerable One’s adornments through my memorization. Not only have I been able to
“taste” the wonderful flavor of this Sutra, but my reverence and respect for the Venerable Master has greatly transformed me.
I also learned how important it is to attend the Dharma activities that the Venerable Master has established in the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. I have mentioned to others that,
“In times of difficulty, the safest place to be is in the Buddha Hall.” Often times, I try to repay the Venerable Master’s great kindness and compassion by transferring the merit from work that was difficult for me to do, to the Master. The last time that I did this in the presence of the Master was during the Jeweled Repentance before the Ten Thousand Buddhas in 1990. The Master had come into the Buddha Hall at the end of a day’s session. He stood about four rows of bowing cushions in front of me and looked directly at me with a smile on his face. After the above session took place, I experienced something of such awesome magnitude with regard to the Venerable Master’s great spiritual powers that I cannot present it here. However, during these past eleven and a half years, my faith, reverence, and respect for the Triple Jewel have increased to such a degree that I don’t want anything to prevent me from going forward in my cultivation for the Unsurpassed Way of all Buddhas.
There are verses at the end of Chapter Four of
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra in which the Venerable Mahakashyapa talks about the difficulty in repaying the Buddha’s kindness. I believe that this is also true with a Good Knowing Advisor. Just in these past almost eighteen years, I ask myself how am I going to repay my teacher’s kindness and patience with me for so many years? The debt of kindness only increases day by day.
It is easy to say, “If I had known then, what I know now...” I remember that when the Master first started teaching Americans, someone told him that this is an impossible task. However, I am an American, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although I have made many serious and not so serious mistakes in the past, and will make many more in the future, I can firmly and confidently say that the Venerable Master has taught and transformed me in many ways. He has been my teacher in the past, in the present, and will be my teacher throughout all of future time until I myself embody
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra and the power of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. Only then will I truly be able to help him in his work.