letter from Bhiksu Heng Sure
and Sramanera Heng Ch'au

Mt. Tamalpais
March 18, 1979

Dear Shih Fu,

      "We're holding a Kuan Yin session this week. I'll bet you have thoughts of greed,
      wanting to run up to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and join in, don't you? Well,
      don't worry. For you two bowing once every three steps, every day is Kuan Yin's
      birthday and every day you're at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas,"

said the Venerable Abbot when he visited this Friday. How right he is. Kuan Shih Yin Sessions are special occasions. The Bodhisattva of Great Compassion bestows happiness and plucks out suffering in miraculous ways. Single mindedly reciting Kuan Yin's name turns anywhere into the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

Bowing once every three steps has been a wonderful school for Heng Ch'au and me. By doing our work in the Dharma out on the road, we have been able to compare our lives with the people we meet. We have seen ourselves, who we used to be, on all sides. We have models of kindness and compassion that are the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the Avatamsaka Sutra, and we have come to recognize our faults and bad habits and know shame.

Every day we experience this rich treasury of learning and life that is the study and practice of Buddhism. In the heart of it, the big lesson is learning to be a good person.

      Disciples of the Buddha, the Bodhisattvas take great compassion as foremost...through
      increasing their faith...through becoming sympathetic...through accomplishing great,
      kindness...through adornment with repentance and reform...

-Avatamsaka Sutra

Although the Buddhadharma contains supreme, subtle, profound, wonderful, protection of wisdom, its highest application is in the realm of living beings, by going towards the good in everyday life. By using kindness to make beings happy and compassion to show people the way to end suffering, everyday becomes a Kuan Yin session.

The same day of the Master's visit we were bowing on the rain-slick Shoreline Highway in Tamalpais Valley. An old woman came walking down the road, bareheaded and alone. She wore scruffy slippers and hunched her shoulders against the cold drizzle. Cars passed going much too fast on the narrow road, missing her by inches. She made a purchase at the local "convenience" food store and then shuffled by us again on her lonely way back home. My heart went out to this old lady. Why did she have to risk her life and her health on this treacherous road just to get food to eat? Where was her family? I knew that she could have been my own kin.

There are millions of old people in the world in her situation or in worse straits. I reflected that our work in establishing the Buddhadharma here in the West will certainly have a great deal to do with changing our attitudes towards old people. This old lady needed caring for. She needed the basics of food and shelter against the elements. By making homes for our elders and providing care for the lonely old people of the world we will be doing good and repaying a part of our debt of kindness to the Buddhas, our parents, our teachers, and elders This is the work lot Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. This is the promise of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

I recalled the Hyatt family of Cambria, a young couple who made space in their home for old Pappa Joe, their invalid father. The Hyatts came to visit us and brought old Joe along, bundled in blankets and full of smiles.  He was a happy man despite his infirmities and failing health. The Hyatt's model of compassion shines a light of goodness. It made that day very special. Every day was Kuan Yin's day for the Hyatt family.

As I saw the old lady on the road I thought how good it will be to bring all our lonely old folks together and teach them about the Pure Land to share with them the peace and joy of reciting the names of Amitabha and Kuan Shih Yin. This is our work, Buddhism will make a great contribution to the west in this way.

This morning I had a dream. It was like a T.V. commercial in style, like a message from the United Nations. A man and a young boy stood together. The boy's eyes were wide and full of wonder. The man said as if to a teacher on the first day of school. "Here is my son. Please train him well. Take good care of him in your school and show him how to be a good person."

      Following him were three more men each with their sons and they repeated the same message, one in English, one in Chinese, one in Japanese, one in French. I reflected this morning 'how everything we've learned on the bowing pilgrimage, every bit of Dharma I've absorbed, since becoming a Buddhist all comes to a focus here: to recognize my faults, to change towards the good and to teach others to do the same.

The Master has always stressed the importance of education and making schools, wholesome training in growing into good people as a path to Buddhahood.

The Bodhisattvas...have vast great intent and inclinations, which cannot be destroyed. They intensely and diligently cultivate all roots of goodness, which become accomplished...through seeking learning without satiation...

-Avatamsaka Sutra

Instilling Virtue School, Dharma Realm Buddhist University and the middle schools and high schools that will be established at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are really important to the world. The children we have met on the bowing pilgrimage still have pure light and great trust. If these children can grow into adults with the guidance of True Principles in their education, if they can pass the difficult, years under the influence of a community of people who believe in and practice kindness, righteousness, principle, wisdom, and faith, then the world will naturally turn into a better place. What a great gift to the world we can make at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Following the light of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva and cultivating the dharmas of Great Compassion, we can make education the total transformation of the heart and spirit that it should be.

With the elders happy and praying for peace and the youngsters excited by their discovery of the world through their studies of great ideas and true principles and the middle-aged people busy as Bodhisattvas cultivating the Way and transferring the roots of goodness to the Dharma realm, then every day is a Kuan Yin Session and everywhere is the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

This is not just a dream. It's as real as the next thought in our minds. Before many years pass, the world will know the Proper Dharma has found its new home in the West. People like the Iowa farmer we met on the Great Highway near the San Francisco Zoo will no longer say, "Buddhism? I thought that was in Asia But you're Americans? Ever been through Iowa?" I wanted to say, "Yes I have Pops, and I grew up in Ohio. And before long you're going to be proud to tell your neighbors in River City that your sons and granddaughters have taken refuge with the Triple Jewel or even left the home life to study the Way. Soon your friends will be investigating vegetarianism and Ch'an meditation. You may be reciting Kuan Yin's name yourself before you know it. Just watch how it grows."


"Buddhists? Oh yeah, they're the ones with the big hearts, right? Educators aren't they? They take care of the old folks, I understand. They're the ones who don't fight, right? Yeah, I've heard of them. In fact I've been thinking of subscribing to that magazine that they put out and looking into it for myself. What's it called "Yankee Buddha Sea" or something like that. I heard about it on their radio show that comes on every week. Real decent listening, I'll say. I like best the sing-along part when they chant that Homage to the Bodhisattva tune. Yes I used to think the Buddha was an Oriental God but kindness and compassion, happiness and giving, why that's an American as cornflakes, yes, indeed."

The Bodhisattva gives rise to happiness because he is mindful of the ability to benefit living beings.

-Avatamsaka Sutra

Signs we like to see:

(Posted on the fence outside Pigeon Point Lighthouse:)


By order of the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard.

-Concluded next issue