With One Heart, Bowing to the City of 10,000 Buddhas


Letters to the Venerable Master from 
Bhiksu Heng Sure end Sramanera Heng Ch'au 
on their bowing pilgrimage to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

January 24, 1979
El Granada, Cal. 
25 miles S. of San Francisco

Dear Shihfu,

Here's a rundown of the last two days bowing to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

Sun. Jan 22: Quiet morning. Horseback riders trot by, "Hey what you're doing is great. I'd do it myself if I had the time." And off they gallop. A young family in an old car stop. "We're going back to the East Coast but we really feel like we have to see the Ten Thousand Buddhas place before we go."

"The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas," I say.

"Yes. There's something about it...we wouldn't feel ready to travel back East until we visited it. We are looking for a pure and holy place to christen our new baby and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas feels right." The mother proudly holds up the little baby. "I chant Om Mani Padme Hum. I learned it from a Tibetan Buddhist monk in New Jersey. He was a good person but there wasn't any heart there, you know? I mean it was all very intellectual. We are looking for a method, a Path to really practice and walk. We saw a picture of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. It feels clean and has lots of light."

A man in the back seat asks, "What kind of Buddhism do you follow?"

"Buddhism is just the best in the hearts of all living beings. It has no country or sect. It belongs to everyone. Buddhism is the teaching of all beings. Nothing is ex≠cluded, we don't discriminate."

Big smiles and nods of agreement. "What system do you practice?"

"World Buddhism. All traditions, all schools are practiced and taught. Whatever suits you is available ch'an vinaya, secret school. Pure Land, or teaching and someone to teach the method. All paths for all beings." More smiles.

"Got a nap?" "Is it near Mt. Shasta?" "Far out, that's great."

After they left two young Mormon missionaries in spotless vested suits walk up. "This is Elder __ and I am Elder __. We were wondering what you're doing."

"We're Buddhist monks on a bowing pilgrimage."

"Oh, Buddhists. We thought so. For what purpose?"

"To get rid of our faults and help the world." I am half expecting a sermon and conversion pitch, but they simply say,

"That's wonderful! We're behind you 100%. Good luck!" And they leave. Good vibrations, there.


As we bowed up to the last intersection out of town a strange man appeared. He moved slowly, totally in control. His face was hidden from view behind a full beard and the shade of the tall black hat he wore. He circled us and then positioned himself in a field about 75 yards ahead and watched us. From a large shopping bag he pulled bottles of whiskey and beer and downed one after another like they were water. The vibes he put off were black and cold. As soon as I saw him I found myself doing a couple of the 42 hands.

After he settled in, strange things began to happen. Fire trucks and police cars went roaring through the intersection and then weird people started showing up. A car skidded to a stop inches from Heng Sure's head and a woman offered him a ride. A man kept hollering from behind the black hated man, "What religion are you?" and laughing strangely. People in bizarre clothes and long scraggly hair walked by mumbling. The man in the black hat calmly watched over it all nodding his head and laughing. Then he rang some bells that hung from his neck.

Immediately five or six yelling and cursing men appeared on the embankment across the road from us. They were angry and violent. "This is devil's land here," said one. "May you be cursed!" cried another. "Wait 'til you get to Devil's Slide," threatened one with a menacing laugh. (Devil's Slide is a steep and narrow stretch of sheer cliffs and mountains about seven miles north. We've had many warnings about it.) They tossed some rocks but they missed us. The man in the black hat downed another bottle in one long swallow. Then he rang his bells and waved to the men. They climbed back over the embankment and disappeared, cursing and howling.

The black hated man approached to check us out up close. He's laughing under his breath, "Heh, heh, Buddhists, Krishnas, Buddhists, Heh, heh..." I catch a glimpse of his face. It sends a shiver through me. I couldn't describe it except to say that it was full of delight for evil and harm, fleshing red and full. He wanders over across the intersection and stands next to our car. He just stares and drinks. Without moving an inch, you can feel him directing the whole negative show with his presence. He gestures and the men and weird people return and start coming toward us. This could be tight. Heng Sure and I have discovered that no matter what happens we can come through it just fine if we don't let our spirits sag. If we don't let fear or anger or bad vibrations come into our hearts, we can slide through the tightest spots like greased fish. We are learning to counter punch with kindness, compassion, joy, and giving instead of our fists and false thoughts. "Everything is made from the mind alone...as one thinks, so one receives in return." (Avatamsaka Sutra). It's so true. Our survival has come down to not allowing an inch of doubt or yin energy to enter and pollute our minds. Put out light and the sun shines. Put out darkness and it rains. The heavier it gets down, the brighter you've got to go up and shine.

      So here they were, all these hostile strange people gathering to test our temper and resolve. What to do? Just the day before we read from the Avatamsaka, and the verse came into my mind as we bowed into this tense "tollgate,"

It's just like the sun

Which appears in the world

But does not hide or fail to appear

Because there are blind people who fail to see it.

When the Bodhisattva takes on all this grievous suffering his vigor increases.

He does not cast it off, he does not hide from it.

He is not scared or startled.

He does not retreat, he is not frightened.

He has no fatigue...

I do not seek liberation for my own body,

But only to save all living beings

So that they all attain the mind of All Wisdom and

Cross over the flow of birth and death, and

Gain liberation from all their suffering.

      Just then Heng Sure 'and I were engulfed in a sea of children. A school bus had pulled up across the road the about 40 happy, pure faced little Dharma protectors ran over. They completely surrounded us some sitting, some on bikes, some standing. They made offerings from their lunch pails and piggybanks. The strange men were confused and thwarted. They couldn't get near. A couple of men came up and tried to pester Heng Sure but the kids' innocence and good vibrations mellowed them right out. They got very polite and quiet in a hurry.

"Are there really 10,000 Buddhas up there?" "Is it hard bowing all day?" "It's neat helping the world, huh?" "Do you take bathes?" asked a little one. His sister kicked him gently and scolded him for getting too personal. "Of course they take bathes," she said quietly. "But how?" he persisted, "I want to get the inside scoop."

"What if had people throw rocks?"

"We only see good things."

"What if people come by and call you weirdoes?"

"We only hear good things."

"What do you say when you pray? Does he (Heng Sure) talk to pray?"

"Real softly, huh? Shh listen, maybe we can hear him." They all stand quietly there on busy Highway One listening to the sounds of "Hwa Yen Hai Hwei Fwo Pu Sa) as Heng Sure comes up from a bow.

The angry, dark men one by one drift away muttering. The first to come and the last to go is the dark figure in the tall black hat. He is waiting on the other side of the intersection. But as we cross, the kids ride escort on their bikes and he slowly turns and leaves.

On the other side of the intersection is a little stretch of open country. The intersection marks the geographical end of Half Moon Bay. Scores of enthusiastic supporters load us up with offerings and kind words. They are happy and full of light. The kids slowly head for home.

"Itís fascinating," says an older woman making an offering. "A wonderful idea. I wonder where all those kids came from back there all of a sudden...Did you see them?"

Yeah. We saw them.

The sign says 25 miles to San Francisco. Ahead is Devilís Slide. Our map is the Avatamsaka. Everybodyís a teacher. "Everythingís o.k. No problem."

Peace in the Way,
            Disciple Kuo Ting 
      Bows in respect.