For over twenty years I have dreamed of the Master, regardless of time or distance;
with his passing, I know that it will continue for the rest of my life.
In the fullness of time, everyone can look back and link many seemingly unrelated events before actually meeting the Venerable Master.
I believe my earliest memory of the essence of Buddhism took place when I was around three or four years old while taking naps at the family home in Columbus, Ohio. During the nap I would find myself in a beautiful country where everything was golden colored and there was no sorrow. I remember locking myself out of this state by holding my hand over my navel. I was not to understand this dream-state until many years later when I read the Sixth Patriarch Sutra and realized that this was a very small taste of the peace that can be found in sincere practice.
Around the same time, while banging away on our piano, I hit a chord that transported me into a waking state of completeness; it is truly a lost chord that I hope to hear again.
In November 1959, on a eerie Sunday night before Thanksgiving, there was strange weather, a very bright and silent light that tracked across the western sky, burning a knife-edged strip of clear sky through the clouds, followed by an eruption of violent weather of all kinds. At the time, as a fourteen-year-old science fiction fan, I thought, "Wow, I've seen a UFO!" In the last few years I changed my awareness of this event in light of the Venerable Master's biography (second volume) in which is described what happened in Hong Kong when the Venerable Hsu Yun's sharira were presented to the Venerable Master. As near as I can tell, the light that I saw coincided with events in Hong Kong, though what it meant is still a major mystery to me. Only one other person saw it, and my sister's recollection is not clear.
In December 1970 a waking vision of a standing golden-bodied image was the beginning of a long and haphazard search that included two dreams in January and February 1971 of the Venerable Master, where his face, form and compassionate good humor were first seen and were not confirmed until July 1975 when I finally met the Venerable Master face to face. In 1971, I had absolutely no knowledge of the Proper Dharma or of the Venerable Master.
December 1974 found me at Buddha Root Farm helping Bill Breevort maintain his farm. The next seven months were filled with dreams four and five times a week of the Venerable Master, Gold Mountain Monastery, Bodhisattvas, and lectures. After arriving at Gold Mountain in the middle of July,1975, the dreams continued－I found my waking contact of the Master was about the same as my dream contact, so one could say that I couldn't know if I were awake or asleep.
The opportunity to take refuge with the Triple Jewel came just a few days after my arrival at Gold Mountain Monastery, and I jumped at the chance. I was given the Dharma name Kuo Li (fruit of the crystal). I found that it was customary to present a gift upon taking refuge, and for a while, I agonized over what to give for I had a chunk of lapis lazuli and a fire opal. I decided on the lapis and went with a group of people to present it to the Master, who proceeded to tell me that my Dharma name comes from liu li (lapis lazuli). Quite a bit later, the Master told me that if it hadn't been for that piece of lapis, I would have been known as Kuo Meng (fruit of the dream).
For over twenty years I have dreamed of the Master, regardless of time or distance; with his passing, I know that it will continue for the rest of my life and that I will always recognize the Master because a quality of Trueness that I have come to know of the Master, that always occurs in the dreams in which he speaks his Dharma in a simple way. For example, in the fall of 1989, I had a dream in which I found myself at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) where a group of people were gathered around the Master. In the dream, I bowed three times and sat down and listened and understood what he was saying. After a while, I realized that I was waking up so I told the Master, "I have to go now, Shr fu." I bowed three times and he smiled broadly and handed me a yellow rain coat, and I woke up. The following months were extremely difficult but this dream kept me aware that the Master was with me, and telling me two things: "you are safe" and "try your best." It seems that every time I was approaching difficult times internally or externally, I would dream of the Master, and some message in the dream would give me the courage to go on.
Another dream from the time I was in the middle of an agonizing decision whether to remain a monk or return to lay life (November 1977): I found myself moving through a fiery sea colored red with orange and yellow fish swimming around; suddenly the sea parted and I found myself in the presence of the Master in a stairwell at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. I bowed three times and as I did so I saw myself in street clothes. The Master just gently smiled as if to say "Everything's o.k." I withdrew back into the sea that was now colored green with blue and silver fish, and I woke up at my parents' house in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I had the strong sense that I had just told the Master my decision, and shortly after folded my robes and sash and put them
away. In a few weeks, I did return to CTTB and formally told the Master, in public view, of my decision to return to lay life.
This brings up an issue I know affects all of us who have left the home life only to return: please do not rack yourself with guilt now that the Master has left. I feel that being racked with guilt is the hells manifesting, and that the Master never condemned anyone for returning to lay life; and from a personal viewpoint, the Master always welcomed me back, and always told me, "Try your best." To berate yourself for not being good enough is only valuable if you can transform that energy into a genuine remorse and thus into solid reformation, for only the Master knew all the causes and conditions.
In October 1987, while at CTTB, I saw a picture of the Master in a newspaper article from September 1962. The article was about a fast for world peace the Master was carrying out. I had a profound shock followed by an epiphany of awareness of what the Master really meant to the world, by rescuing the world with its billions and billions of living beings from the horrors of total nuclear war. I wrote a poem that was kindly featured in the October 1991 issue of
Vajra Bodhi Sea, that expresses my small understanding and deep gratitude for what the Master did by refusing to eat. Of the many many events and situations that I encountered from the Master, these stand out in my memories the most:
On the day I left the home life, during the incense offering on the crown of my head, the Master blew gently on my head eradicating the possibility of pain from burns; it was then I understood a little bit who the Master was.
The Golden Gate Bridge incident. While coming back from an inspection visit to what would become CTTB in the spring of 1976, I was driving the Master and one other person back. We were running really close to being late for the Sutra Lecture, and my eyes were not the best at night for driving. We were on the bridge and the right lane was clear for a long way and the middle lane was congested and the brake lights flared disorienting me, and except for the steering wheel suddenly going to the right and then left, there would have been a bad accident. As it was we missed only by inches the car in front. The Master sat up grinning and asked, "What happened?" To this day I cannot say exactly what did happen, only what didn't: there was no accident and we were only a couple of minutes late. I can only say that I don't have the driving skills to pull that off, so who was driving at that critical moment?
The Master points out the well site at CTTB. In the summer of 1976, the whole area was in a drought, and rain had not fallen in nearly a year and then not enough to do any good. The Master, a small group of disciples and the well driller followed as the site was shown. As we got closer, dark clouds started forming up overhead and when the Master pointed to the site, a flash of lightning, a boom of thunder and a few raindrops fell. As we walked away the clouds disappeared.
There was a time when there were gatherings in San Francisco to help end the drought, and I was at CTTB all by myself performing all the duties of a novice monk and cooking lunch. Everyone was told by the Master that if it didn't rain we wouldn't eat on the day of praying for rain. Well, I had prepared the lunch and was chanting the meal offering and looking hopefully out the window for rain, when during the middle of the meal offering, it actually started to rain. At that point the offering took on a inspired zest, as I knew I could safely eat and obey the Master!
The Master rescues an accident victim. In May of 1988, while driving down to San Francisco, I passed a really bad accident where the passenger was very obviously dead. It really disturbed me for I had never seen a freshly dead person before. When I returned I told the Master about it, and he wanted to know when and where it happened. When I told him as clearly as I could, I saw his eyes take on a far away look and I had a very strong sense that he was there rescuing that person from the terrible confusion of a sudden death.
Once, a couple of years ago when I was working at the Burlingame office, I was moving furniture in the Master's quarters while he was there. At one point when my back was turned to the Master, who was quietly watching me work and giving directions where things were to go, I felt a tingling warmth in my upper torso. I have a very strong feeling that the Master was helping me in some way that went beyond but included the physical body. Knowing the Master preferred privacy in these matters, I did not make a big thing of it, but I felt grateful for his attention to details without any thought of thanks. Considering his illness at the time, it is just another example of his total selflessness towards all in need, all the time.
With the passing of his flesh body, I will miss the chance of bowing to him and seeing his glow and kind smile; but the dreams will continue, and as always, in a time of need he will manifest with an analogy that will be understood in time.
The Buddha's true golden color
Does not exist and yet pervades all existence.
According to that which living beings like, he makes them happy,
By speaking for them the Dharma of still extinction.
Produce a mind of great compassion
To save and protect all living beings,
And to forever leave the multitudes of people and gods:
This is the karma that should be done.
Flower Adornment Sutra, Chapter Nine, Light Enlightenment