March 12, 1979

Venerable Master,

It seems like we've covered miles in the space of a single thought. Bow down and beneath my feet is the wind swept sand of Pacifica. Stand up and behind me the orange towers of the Gay Bridge disappear below the hills of Marin. We've nearly reached the foot of Mt. Tamalpais. Once across the ridge we'll be on Highway One all the way north until we turn east to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Truly as the sutra says, "The three periods of time are level and equal."

As we have often heard,

When you can concentrate,
                then it is magical.

When you are scattered,
                then there is nothing.

      I realized today on Bridgeway Drive in Sausalito that of all the different kinds of work that people do, cultivating the Buddha's Way is the job that requires more concentration than any other. To really concentrate takes everything I've got and then some. Bowing on the highway helps concentration tremendously because we get instant response to our false thoughts these days. It's uncanny.

For instance the mystery of the car horns is still at work. Since the trip began, every time my mind wanders into thoughts of self, what I've done, or plan to do every time I get involved in my surroundings, it seems that I'll hear a car horn on the instant of the thought. It's spooky. When I really concentrate on the bowing method and don't scatter my thoughts, the road is completely silent and still. It works this way every day. It can't be coincidence.

It gets even more specific. In San Francisco last month I put on my glasses for the afternoon's bowing up Point Lobos Avenue outside the Seal Rock Inn. I had this false thought: "It will be fun to see people's expressions for a change." Not recognizing this as a step down the road to scattered concentration, I let it dwell in my mind.

      Two bows later an unusual looking woman walked by. Nothing about her appearance fit together. She could have been put together in a hurry by a committee. She looked like a rush job at the people plant. From lopsided beehive hairdo to her yellow tennis shoes, she was very strange.

She said in a mechanical voice, "Watch your eyes. Be careful you don't pick up lots of germs off the street," and she walked on by towards the Cliff House.

I understood immediately that it was not okay for me to leak light out my eyes, chasing forms and shapes. Someone in the assembly of Dharma protectors works very fast and its kind of creepy seeing false thoughts manifest so plainly. I took off my glasses and went back to work at concentrating on the method. Who would believe it?

So that my mind does not dote on
                the pleasures of the world,

Nor is it stained by
                attachment to what is practiced.

I want to concentrate my
                mind to receive and uphold

The Dharma taught by 
                all the Buddhas


      Cultivators must concentrate like a diamond cutter; the mind is that hard and that bright. It shines light from every polished facet. Concentrate like a hockey goalie desire and bad habits f1y at you from all directions like a hard rubber puck. Concentrate like a bomb defusing expert: let an angry or selfish thought dwell and you can lose your nose to a speeding can of Pepsi as I nearly did in Pacifica.

Concentrate like a lion tamer: don't allow fear or doubt to impede your moves or tarnish your will. Concentrate like a harbor pilot: you know where the shallows and the rocks are in your own nature. Guide your Prajna boat safely through the channel.

      Concentrate like a mountain  climber: follow the pitons and footprints of climbers who have made the safe ascent before you. Concentrate like a brain surgeon: get right in to the stuff of the mind, pull out the diseased parts without harming the healthy parts.

      Concentrate like a soldier behind the lines: the self doesn't like being told to drop dead. You've got to trick it and subdue it without a direct confrontation. Fighting with the mind makes everyone lose.

Concentrate like a Buddha: relaxed, patient, courageous, unsurpassed in  strength and kindness. Concentrate like a cultivator:

In accordance with the still

and tranquil, indestructible

nature of all dharmas, causing

all beings forever to obtain

peace, security, and happiness.


One who takes the Buddha's

 state as his own

And concentrates his mind

 without rest

This person will get to see


Equal in number to his



Disciple Kuo Chen
               (Heng Sure) bows in respect.

   Mt. Tamalpais, Ca.
      March, 1979

Dear Shifu,

I've had a big change of heart. In the last few weeks I began seeing my deepest false thoughts and oldest flaws. I clearly saw the "ego sutra" of me and mine" that I have been reciting inside day after day, life after life. I call it the "Emperor's sutra." All month bits and pieces of this truth came to me. When I stopped talking and began reading nothing but the Avatamsaka, the light increased. The Avatamsaka opened up and came alive, and so did my old sickness my mind for being #1.

      Then one night, right at the last bow of the day, everything stood still and in that space of stopping, I saw myself like never before. I saw the heart of my false mind, unfiltered and clear through. It wasn't pretty. I saw how I am always looking to be #1; how I'm always looking for other's faults and shortcomings so that I can feel I'm #1 always competing and contending, jealous and destructive. Thought after thought, like beads on a necklace, all strung together by "how great I am." "I alone am #1." It was like the whole world was silent and the only sound was the sound of my little mad mind reciting the "Emperor's sutra." It was as loud as thunder. There it was, just hanging in empty space. It was just a small ball of bad noise.

I wanted to cry for shame. It was so ugly and unkind. How small and selfish, my little "song for myself " that was running my life; I sat down to meditate in an empty lot next to a big Howard Johnson's motor lodge. I thought, "Ok, so now you know. Now you see what a crummy person you are. Now you know your sutra. What are you going to do about it?" CHANGE. I knew I could change. My heart was truly sick of being so arrogant and self inflated. How? I didn't have to think about it. I knew. Just single mindedly concentrate with no other thought until all the false thoughts are crossed over to wholesome thoughts. Hold precepts purely and return the light. Walk the Way of nowhere dwelling and don't neglect it for an instant, Don't allow yourself to follow after one thought for self. Don't schlep through the garbage anymore of name and fame and the five desires. "Be one of the May with no mind " by bowing with a single heart. Let it all go.

With no false thinking everything's ok. With a single mind there are no worries. Pure and happy, things are naturally done as they come and left as they go. With no time to false think, how can I fault others? Clean up my own junk, mind my own business.

I was happy and ashamed; humbled and new. It's really hard. I have so many fake thoughts and defiled habits! But it feels so right and "root" to put down all the false coverings and just be real, just be a sincere person.

That night we read from the Avatamsaka Sutra how the Bodhisattva "in one thought is able to know all thoughts." Why? Because everything is made from the discriminating mind. From the one thought of self, everything else is born. Knowing your own mind is to know the Dharmarealm. But I only just now saw all my false thoughts. I knew them. I know who I wasn't. But I didn't know who I was. I felt empty, like a baby, but incomplete.

      A few days later the Master stopped with Dharma Master Heng Lai and some lay people on their way to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. It was the day before Kuan Yin's birthday. I told the Master, "Shifu, I've been really seeing my false thoughts and flaws these last few weeks. I'm really ashamed."

Shifu: "So you've had a big change of heart, eh?" The Master turned to the laypeople. "This is Kuo Wu's sister, do you recognize her? Do you recognize Kuo Wu? Surely you recognize these two! Do you recognize him? Do you recognize me? Do you recognize yourself?"

I was speechless.

Shifu: "So you've had a lot of false thoughts?"

      Me: "Lot's of them. So many..."
      Shifu: "That's for sure. You've been emperor for so many kalpas since beginningless time, it's for certain you would have false thoughts, well, if you recognize your faults, then you can change them." The Master's tone was encouraging and positive. Then he spoke this verse:

"The living beings of my self nature
              are boundless, I vow to take them across.

 The afflictions of my self nature
              are limitless. I vow to cut them all off.

 The Dharma doors of my self nature
              are numberless, I vow to learn them  all.

 The Buddha way of my self nature
              is unsurpassed, I vow to accomplish it,"

and asked, "Do you understand?"

Me: "Yes, Shifu." The words went right to my heart and hit the empty spot.

The next morning while bowing, the Master's words came back to me and began to grow in my heart. It was as if my teacher was saying, "Do you recognize that all is one. We all share the original True Suchness nature. Within it there is not a single dharma that can be obtained, how much the less is there an emperor. Do you see now? There is no you, there is no me. No self, no others. Do you recognize the self nature?"

      My body shook, and I got a run of shivers Up and down my spine, and in a small way, I understood. Finally these verses from the Avatamsaka Sutra that I had been puzzling over for weeks untangled.

The Tathagata's Dharma body,

  all karma which is created, and

Everything in the world has

  this appearance:

We say that the mark of all

  dharmas is no mark,

To know appearances like this

  is to know dharmas.

All disciples of the Buddha in

  this way know:

The nature of all dharmas

  is always empty and still.

There is not a single dharma

  which can be created,

And just like all Buddhas,

  they enlighten to no self.

They understand and know that

  everything in the world

Is identical in appearance with

  the nature of True Suchness...

He vows that all beings' skill

  fully enters the level of equality

Of all dharmas and understands that

  the Dharmarealm and the self nature

   are not two.


But my ego is strong, Shifu, and my false thoughts like a blizzard. How to change and really expand the measure of my heart naturally to where the "self nature and Dharmarealm are non dual"? .Compassion. Compassion crosses over arrogance. Being one with everyone transforms the mind of #1. Probably for the first time since leaving home, I got a clue to my name, Heng Ch'au. It doesn't mean, "always the emperor," It means, "always bowing away the emperor." Be humble and compassionate. Bow your "self" away. Bow with a single heart to all beings. Be a good person with a humble heart and don't give anyone afflictions.

Peace in the Way,
            Disciple Kuo T'ing
           (Hang Ch'au) bows
            in respect.

P.S. Shifu, the $120 is from a man who just came up and said, "I'd like to support your work." He "emptied his pockets and then very sincerely said "and thank you" and left.