Susan Anderson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on August 11, 1948. Her family life was wrought with difficulties even to a struggle for mere existence during the Depression and aftermath of war. Dark years in the guts of the city did not snuff out Susan's innate optimism, however, which was reinforced by regular attendance at Sunday School and Church at her older sister's insistence. Summers in the country with relatives provided another frame of reference, and for almost 20 years Susan was

"happy" despite the suffering she saw and experienced. Always a quest for the spiritual prevailed and a sense of hope marred only by an untraceable but sometimes phobic fear.

      At nineteen, she found herself still living with her parents, attending school, working, and getting involved with drugs. The fear manifested in dreams and finally motivated her to seek a change. Swept along the pendulum of new experiences, she went from self-indulgence to self-discipline and back again several times over. Bitter reality and spiritual disillusionment collaborated and she willed herself to transcend the ensuing despair. Trying out every religion available in MassachusettsóCatholic and Protestant was all--she went one night to a revival meeting and repented. At once she experienced a profound peace of mind for the first time in her life and, in her word, "felt cheated." "It was clear" she explains, "that this peace was not a gift, but was something you had to work for. Yet no one was teaching me how and I couldn't find the method in the Bible." Yet imperceptibly but unmistakenly there was a guide, a strong presence, close by all through those years.

      Moving to Berkeley put an entire continent between what she had been and what she could become. For five years she chose the conservative stability of an 8-5 job, money coming in, and a regular pattern to life. During this time she read about Buddhism. At first sight of the word "Bodhisattva," she brought forth the resolve for Bodhi. The concept of "compassion" with its impact of purity revealed for her the defilements of desire and emotion-bound love. Little by little she chose the path of renunciation: first cigarettes, then lust, and then meat. Simultaneously, she took up T'ai Chi and began to gain some self-composure and mental poise.

Having heard Gold Mountain both praised and defamed, she was determined to see for herself. It was beautiful. The monks and nuns silent in their brown and black robes--suddenly she remembered a dream she had had the night before in which she was in a room filled with pure light. In the dream she was given some clothing to put on--black and brown in color--and one piece was particularly soft to the touch. That first night at Gold Mountain she resolved to leave the home-life. Later when the Abbot entered the hall, she was overwhelmed by his virtue.

Susan attended the Amitabha Buddha Session at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in August 1977. She came expecting little and left with a vast measure of faith. Greed, hatred, and stupidity tried their old tricks on her, but she waited them out and took refuge with the Triple Jewel, receiving the Dharma name, Kuo Shan, "Fruit of Goodness."

In April, 1,978, Kuo Shan moved to the International Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts, and in June to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. She joins the full schedule of activities at Joyous Giving House--from morning recitation at 4 am through one meal a day to lecture and chanting in the evening until 10 p.m. She generously contributes her time and technical skills to the Buddhist Text Translation Society and is attending Dharma Realm Buddhist University where she studies Chinese, German, and Buddhism.


-By Upasika Kuo Yin Henry

Peacefully dwelling, harmonious sound,

Balanced and stable, never unwound.

Persistently reaching forward, never behind,

To tame the flickering, butterfly mind.

Straight as an arrow, growing closer to

True Suchness Being that weeds overgrew.

This is the conduct that bhiksus must make

To find their True Suchness that is no mistake.