I wanted to submit this recollection of my experience with the Venerable Abbot while I was living at the Monastery in 1973. I feel that all those who are given a chance to read this will enjoy the mysticism and lesson learned. I entered the Monastery in the Fall of 1973. One thing that the Monks and Nuns made absolutely clear was that I should not expect the Venerable Abbot to speak to me directly for some time. He wanted to be sure that I was there for my own cultivation rather than being there for him. That was fine by me, and I went on with my duties and participated in the rigorous daily schedule.
Every evening we would have the Dharma lecture; it was given by the Venerable Abbot in Chinese and immediately translated thereafter. I sat next to Heng Kuan. He was the senior monk at the time, and like a big brother. He would often give me quick translations before the official version came across just so I could keep up.
One evening the Venerable Abbot was lecturing and he asked the Sangha the Ten Powers of the Buddha. Although he had lectured on this about a year before, it was one of those things that the members of the assembly just couldn’t remember. The Venerable Abbot told everyone that he would like them to study up on it again and by the next evening be prepared to answer him. Heng Kuan nudged me and said, “See me after the lecture, I’ve got an idea.” After the lecture, Heng Kuan and I got together and he said, “Look, I know you don’t know any Chinese. Why don’t I teach you the Ten Powers of the Buddha in phonetic Chinese. Then tomorrow night when the Abbot asks, you can raise your hand and answer him. That will give him a big thrill. After all, he knows you don’t know this.” I agreed, and by the next evening I had learned phonetically the Ten Powers of the Buddha. During the lecture I sat diligently waiting for the Venerable Abbot to ask the big question. Of course, he didn’t. He didn’t ask the next night. By the end of two weeks of sitting in lectures I’d completely forgotten about our scheme.
Now, every day after our meal, we had about forty-five minutes to get ready for the Great Compassion Repentance Ceremony. This was when the Monastery was still located in the old “ice box” down in the warehouse section of San Francisco. Every day during this time I would climb up the two flights of stairs to the Library level. From the window located immediately at the top of the stairs, I would quickly lean out, look up, and say "Hello" to the Sun. It was just my way of keeping in touch with the outside world. Of course, before I would ever look out the window, I would make absolutely sure nobody had followed me up the stairs. So one day, having come up the stairs, making sure I was alone, that nobody was behind me on the stairs, and no one was on the floor of the Library, I quickly ducked my head outside. Simultaneously, I heard someone behind me, I whipped around and there standing one foot from me was the Venerable Abbot.
Looking directly at me he said, “Say the Ten Powers of the Buddha.” I was so completely taken aback by the fact that the Venerable Abbot was speaking to me, I didn’t even think about how he could have appeared so immediately and mysteriously next to me. Of course, the first thing out of my mouth was a great mishmash of phonetic Chinese saying absolutely nothing. Having realized my mistake, I quickly regained my composure and said The Ten Powers of the Buddha. Immediately afterwards, the Venerable Abbot said. “Very good. Next time study harder.” I went back downstairs and over to the kitchen area where Heng Kuan and the other Monks and Nuns had gathered for some tea. I walked in and said, “You know, the Venerable Abbot just spoke to me, and asked me The Ten Powers of the Buddha.” Every one just froze in place, and with the utmost seriousness, almost in unison replied, “No he didn’t.”
His nature is basically empty and still;
Inside and out he is completely liberated.
Apart from all false thoughts,
The unequalled Dharma is also like this.
His substance and nature are constantly unmoving,
He is without a self and without a coming or going.
He is able to enlighten the world
So that all its boundless beings are completely subdued.
Flower Adornment Sutra, Chapter Nine, Light Enlightenment