The Bodhi Stand Presents
UPASIKA KUO NA KOCH
Having resided at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for over a year, Kuo Na is active at Dharma Realm Buddhist University, both as a graduate student and as an instructor in the ceramics department. In addition to her university schedule, she regularly takes part in daily activities such as recitations, lectures, and special sessions. What follows are Kuo Na's own musings on how her path lead to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas where she took refuge with the Triple Jewel and bowed to the Venerable Abbot as her teacher.
Having outgrown all the traditions and needs that led to New Year's celebrations in the past, I now see the new year beginning with the Autumn full moon in September - a time of harvesting another period of effort and production.
Lift up your head
Which way to direct one's focus. So many paths. We must always direct the flow.
There are two ways to get to the magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. A train leaves Cuzco and runs along the Unabamba River, and from the station a mini bus runs up the steep zigzag road to the sight perched on top of a mountain. There are even arrows to the points of interest for people not inclined to explore. There is however, another route - a trek over mountain passes and along the ancient Inca trails. It is grueling for people not used to altitudes of 14,000 feet, but there is a promise of solitude and challenge in investigating a region and sensing the spirit of a powerful civilization that existed not so long ago.
It doesn't seem to matter how much one prepares for the real challenges - reality of the moment is never quite what one expects. The train station had been packed the morning that my friend and I set out because a land-slide onto the tracks had halted rail service for several days. Like an enormous school of fish we all had burst onto the platform and scrambled for our seats. When we got off the train, some of the native people indicated, "Vamanos" (Let's go) as they started up. There was nothing to do but begin climbing. By noon, after only several hours, I was so wiped out that I couldn't face undoing my hiking boots, and after two days of plodding upward, I was wondering what I was doing on a drizzling mountain top. Before nightfall we arrived at one of the few flat spots where there was a stream and where it was possible to pitch our small tent. Cold and wet we were, but already it was satisfying to have accomplished the highest pass.
From this point one meets the Inca road (a narrow path at this point in time) , and is guided on a gentle incline, around the mountains. At these slightly lower altitudes the wild-flowers were so delicate and the mosses so lush, as clouds drifted by. It is wonderful to run into the ruins of Inca Way Stations. The stone foundations, stairways, and terrace walls are still intact and with a little imagination, one can visualize the thatched roofs that once existed. There is a spirit there of ancient times, of a hearty people who were able to survive in these remote, cold regions.
Finally the path begins to descend, It
is warmer and one can see for miles across the Andes Mountains. Machu
Picchu was definitely an amazing spectacle and the gradual climb made
the sudden view and further
exploration of the sight, a truly rewarding experience.
I had always had the urge to paint or somehow creatively express my thoughts and at the age of 22, I painted a picture, "The Amoeba." It was a rather strong statement, I realize now.
My explanation was that the Amoeba represented myself. The outline was black and it got progressively light gray toward the center. An image of myself pulled in so many directions that the purity of the colour was lost. My idea was that it would have been solid and a pure colour if it had been "together." One arm was directed, arrow like, toward the S.W. to a flame-like yellow area toward which I wanted to proceed. Above me was a mass of colours, representing people in general - all just moving through space. Only a few were interested in moving toward the light. Small wormlike things attached to the amoebic-self, I saw as obstructions draining me of energy.
The road toward that light has been long over much rough terrain, but there was always the promise of a greater self.
The two main threads through the years have been my pursuit to creatively express myself, and to understand the Buddhist Way.
While studying art in Mexico for several years, I worked out what direction my creative expression could take but I was not satisfied with the general emotional confusion of human interactions. During the 1979 harvest period, I realized that I was approaching a need to make another leap for the transformation of my personal consciousness.
I first heard of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua eight years ago, and it has taken that many years for me to approach the Eight-Fold Path.
The first five months of my stay, at
the City of 10,000 Buddhas felt
very much like a struggle straight up a cliff. There didn't seem to be any choice but to keep hanging on.
August 31, 1980, - I consulted an old friend, the I Ching.
"The gathering of people in a large community. Where men are gathered together, religious forces are needed."
Now that the initial orientation is over, I have moved into an energetic period of synthesizing all the aspects of my life. To have chipped away layers and layers and finally to see the essence of what is possible to attain.
To have reached the top of the cliff and approach the "Hundred Foot Pole."