With One Heart, Bowing to the City of 10,000 Buddhas
Letter from Heng Sure
October 28, 1978
Above Santa Cruz on Highway 1
Continued from issue #104
"Kuo Chen, your worst fault is being sticky with people, especially with women," said the Master, very clearly. This is called recognizing the sickness. Step #2 is seeing how the disease appears in my behavior and #3 finding a way to turn it around. The Master's statement is, of course, right on. In this life I have harmed myself and caused a lot of suffering in others by my selfish sexual misconduct. In the past I have tied myself into bad relationships with women which came to fruition in this lifetime as promiscuous, mutually harmful sexual behavior. Sad to say, before I met the Proper Dharma in this life, I planted many bad seeds, which are certain to flower in the future.
But it's here that I am taking my medicine. Why? "If you can't transcend sexual desire, you will not leave the Triple World," says the Surangama Sutra. If I don't end sexual desire completely, just cut it off for good, I won't be able to realize my goal of living as a Bodhisattva and becoming a Buddha. I won't succeed. And, since I believe in cause and effect, I see what I've done in this life, seen the bad I've done, the essence I've wasted, because of past bad karma, and the blueprint for the future that I've drawn up for myself, and it's not a good one.
Because I want to change, the Master has been kind to give me a method of practice. My medicine is called Three Steps, One Bow and repentance and reform. Everyday I repeat my vows to end sexual desire, and I recite my wish that together with all beings I can return to the root and go back to the source of original purity. My vow has a part that says, "I vow that all negative "affinities already established will come to fruition in a way other than sexual. I will never again have to endure sexual embrace in order to repay my debts. Any debts owed to me in this regard I now cancel." Does it work? Can I really uproot the bad seeds I've planted in this life so that I don't have to go through the same sick dance in the future that I endured in this life? I really have faith that it will work, just like that.
Bowing past a shopping center parking lot in Aptos Village last week, I got an "offering of orange juice without the benefit of a cup," as Heng Ch'au calls it. Showered with sticky juice from a passing pick-up truck, I thought immediately of my vow.
Later that same afternoon (it was full-moon time that day), I took a bath in a cup of beer that flew from a passing truck. My vow was repeated with a wish to transfer all merit and virtue of my work that all beings return to purity. The next morning I poured a cup of scalding hot tea into my Sierra cup, and reaching for the thermos lid I tipped the whole cup onto my bare foot and into my lap as I sat in lotus posture before doing zao keh. First degree bums: And in my head, the immediate memory of how much hot suffering I'd given to others through my casual, selfish behavior in the past. (Heng Ch'au's comment: "That's good tea, really wakes you up, eh?") Are these incidents my bad sexual karma resolving itself in another form as I wished in my vow? I think so; I believe so.
Three Steps, One Bow is making my cure possible. Who throws the orange juice and beer? My Good Advisors. Beings who I've hurt in the past. Who are these innocent-looking Santa Cruz High school girls who shower me with rocks and curses that would make a truck-driver blush? I see them as my own behavior returning to me. They are my friends, my fields of blessings. As the Bodhisattva in the Ten Practices chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra says, "as he sees a host of starving beggars coming to request his body's flesh to eat, "These are my good friends. I am really getting benefit. Without being asked, they are coming to help me enter into the Buddhadharma."
Although from one angle the environment for the practice of self-healing may seem unpleasant and bitter, on the other hand the pressure of the highway gives us exactly what we need to actually grind away some of our accumulated powerful bad habits. The practice is the healing, and I am truly grateful for the chance to change and get better.
Am I all better now? Far from it. I've just begun to see the extent of my illness. But this is a "start, and with the good medicine I've got, bit by bit I will get well and become a genuine disciple of the Buddha.
The cure is working. Does it sound like a bad experience? It's not at all that way from my point of view. It makes me happy to go through these experiences that reduce ray attachments to my ego.
"All the problems of the world come from the presence of the self. Without a self, who is there to be unhappy? Who is there to feel pain? The self is an illusion. You should have no self. Die a little sooner, Kuo Chen."
That is the voice of the Good Doctor, ripping old band aids off the old wounds, not gingerly pulling at them, one scab at a time, the way most of us do. Shih Fu wants us to get better now: Until we all make it to Buddhahood, he's got to keep returning and playing doctor to his unwell disciples. One of these great aeons, however, we'll all make it, the great hero's work will be done and we will all be able to gather at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and "mutually shine upon each other's lotus thrones, in world systems like motes of dust."