The Bodhi Stand Present

-by Bhikshuni Heng Ch'ih

      Kuo Gao, whose entire family is Buddhist, took refuge with the renowned Master Thich Tri Tinh in 1972 in Saigon. In 1973, the Venerable Abbot Hua travelled to Saigon accompanied by two bhikshu disciples who had just completed a Three Step One Bow pilgrimage in the United States. Kuo Gao's friend told her about the Abbot and although she did not have the opportunity to see the Master, she told her friend that one day she would meet him.

      In 1975 on April 23rd, Kuo Gao boarded the last plane out of Saigon with her husband and three of her children. As she said good-bye, her friend urged her to return quickly. "I will leave home in America," said Kuo Gao.

      "No, come back here and we will leave home together," said her friend. "If you really cultivate, then it doesn't matter where you are. If you don't cultivate, then no matter how good a place you are in, it doesn't do any good," was Kuo Gao's reply.

      When Kuo Gao first came to America, she could not find a temple to go to and felt a great sense of loss. Shortly, though, she learned of a newly established Vietnamese Temple and joyfully began to attend. The Temple was in the heart of Los Angeles, however, and Kuo Gao kept having the feeling that she wanted to cultivate in a "quiet place," a jungle, perhaps. But America was too cold for jungles. She also could not forget the 'old Chinese monk' who had come to Saigon in 1973. But America was so big and she did not know where to look to find him.

      In May of 1977, Kuo Gao learned that there were two young monks bowing once every three steps. Immediately she wondered if these were disciples of the 'Venerable Abbot.' She went to pay her respects and when she saw them from afar she began crying as she thought. "Why don't living beings cultivate? They don't know they have a 'good diamond inside.' Because they don't know to cultivate, these monks have come to represent them in bowing for a11 our offenses. They are truly Bodhisattvas who have forgotten about themselves." She bowed to them and made an offering.

      "Why did you do that?" asked the person who had accompanied her. "You could save that and make an offering at temple tomorrow." 

      "How do I know I will live until tomorrow? I can't wait unfit tomorrow. When I see someone realty cultivating, I want to do what I can to support them. Tomorrow may never come." was Kuo Gao's reply.

      Shortly after that encounter, Kuo Gao met the Abbot at Gold Wheel Temple and soon became a disciple and took the Five Precepts. From the moment she saw him, she knew he was 'a good monk.' She began to attend Gold Wheel Temple regularly, helping out in whatever way was needed. Later she went to the city of Ten Thousand Buddhas to receive the Bodhisattva Precepts. Hearing the big bell, memories of temples in the distant past flooded over her and as she walked through the quiet of the City's wooded grounds, she realized that this was the 'quiet place' she had been searching for. After a week's stay she returned to her family, and realized with a slight sense of fear, that although she had taken the Bodhisattva Precepts, she was not sure what they all said and wished to be able to study them. By way of response, a Vietnamese friend gave her a volume of the Bodhisattva Precepts in Vietnamese and she has recited them bi-monthly ever since. Kuo Gao went to listen to the Dharma at Gold Wheel every month when the Abbot came to lecture, and continued to protect and support that temple.

      As the time for the Opening of the Light on Kuan Yin Bodhisattva at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas approached in 1979, Kuo Gao made her plans to go to the City. But about three weeks before the time, her husband fell i11. She did not know how seriously i11 he was until his pneumonia had advanced to the fatal stage.

      When she finally got him to the hospital there was another full day's wait in the emergency room while tests were taken and results read. When asked his religion, her husband said "none," but added, "my wife's a Buddhist." "My husband is practically dead and you let him lay here without any treatment for a whole day. If you are not going to take care of him, I will take him home and care for him myself."

      "You speak very straight," replied the doctors, "We have been running tests -- that caused the delay. Let's take your husband to intensive care now and care for him together, alright?" She knew that the doctor did not expect her husband to live.

      As the doctor wheeled her husband into the hospital room, Kuo Gao did not accompany them. Instead she found a place to sit and began to recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva's name and to appeal to the Venerable Abbot alternately. Her vigil did not cease nor
her sincerity wane for an entire day and night. For three days none of the professional people thought her husband would live. His face was blue, his throat blocked, his lungs full, and his heart weak. After three days he was out of critical condition. The fourth day he woke up, not remembering anything that had transpired since his arrival at the hospital.

At the end of a week he was out of intensive care and into a regular hospital ward. The nurse on duty said, "We all thought you would go "down" and you went "up" instead. We don't know how you went "up."

      Kuo Gao whispered to her husband, "Kuan Yin helped you," and her husband immediately turned to the nurse and said emphatically, "Kuan Yin helped me," and from that day on, he always recites the name of Kuan Yin Bodisattva before he goes to sleep each night. "I'll never forget," he tells Kuo Gao gruffly. In two weeks her husband was released to go home.

      But the opening came before he left the hospital and Kuo Gao was determined to go. So she walked out of the hospital one day, straight to the bus station and took a bus to the City. One brief day was all she dared spend, but during that day she looked around at the hundreds of people attending the opening and thought to herself, "You may all think it's easy to come here, but it's not easy. If you don't have good luck and good roots, you'll never be able to get here."