The Bodhi Stand Presents

Upasika Kuo Yan

      Born on January 20, 1958 in Taiwan, Helen Seetao, whose Dharma name is Kuo Yan, is the youngest in a family which includes two boys and three girls. Raised in an old-fashioned tradition of strict discipline, she now reflects:

      "I am very grateful to my parents for
      the way they raised me. They themselves
      didn't have the opportunities of higher
      education in China, yet they taught us
      to refrain from doing evil and from
      harming others—they taught us to do
      beneficial things instead. My family
      gave me a sense of values and taught me
      proper conduct."


Kuo Yan's Junior High School educational environment in Taiwan was no less disciplined than at home. She relates,

      "The girls' school which I attended through my Jr. High School years gave me a
      rigorous academic training from which I gained many advantages. Among them was a good
      education in Chinese culture, language, and literature."

As soon as she graduated from high school, in 1973, her family immigrated to the U.S.

      "At first it was rather difficult for me to adjust to the totally new environment,
      culture, and customs in my new home. Suddenly I had to do college-level work in what,
      for me, was a foreign language--English. This was an enormous challenge."

But, Kuo Yan received her Bachelor's degree in Accounting from California State University,
Los Angeles, in the summer of 1980.

      "Although I did gain some useful skills, those four years of college life were like
      tasteless water to me, and what I did learn doesn't seem very significant."

Their mother's illness led Kuo Yan and her sister Nancy (Dharma name Kuo Ssu) to Gold Wheel Temple in Los Angeles in December, 1977.

      "My mother was the most precious person in my life. After she passed away, I came to
      deeply understand the saying:

            Just as a tree though it tries
              to be still is blown by the wind,
            So, too, a filial son may yearn
              to repay his parents' kindness
                 when they are no longer there.

      "I was grieved that I could do nothing to spare her the suffering and pain of
            sickness; I was frustrated in my desire to return her kindness to me."

Upon reading the autobiography of the Venerable Master Hua, Abbot of Gold Wheel and Gold
Mountain Temples, Kuo Yan was impressed by the accounts of his acts of filial piety.

      "Upon reading about the life of the Venerable Abbot, I was impressed by his filial
      conduct and was moved to feel deep shame. The Abbot is like a bright, shining
      mirror to me, which reveals all my ignorance and stupidity. When I went to the
      Abbot's lectures at Gold Wheel Temple each month, I came away with the resolve to
      become a better person and a vigorous cultivator."

      In September of 1980, Kuo Yan attended the annual Earth Store Bodhisattva Recitation Session at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and then stayed on to study and cultivate the proper Buddhadharma. Presently, she attends Dharma Realm Buddhist University and is taking a full program of studies as a graduate student in Translation, including Sanskrit, and the lectures on the Shurangama Mantra. She is also active in the University's Supervised Instruction Program, along with her sister, Kuo Ssu, teaching Chinese to the children of Instilling Virtue Elementary School, and leading sections in Chinese Conversation and Chinese Calligraphy in the University. She says of her life as a student:

      "It is not for the sake of a degree, but in order to taste the true and inexhaustible
      flavor of the Buddha-dharma and to put an end to birth and death."