Sramanera Kuo Tao will be among the first to receive the precepts of the Thousand Buddhas and become a Bhiksu on Western soil. The transmission of the complete precepts, unprecedented in the history of the West, will take place at Gold Mountain Dhy5na Monastery in San Francisco during the summer of 1972.
in Providence, Rhode Island in 1949, the second of three sons, Sramanera
Kuo Tao had a good red-blooded American childhood, full of the same
highs and downers, successes, nonsense and broken legs that are
characteristic of life in America. He began applied work in electronics
when he was young, took up photography on the side and developed
professional abilities, which continue to involve him in the dark room,
and coasted through the college preparatory course in a large public
He decided to continue his studies and entered Oakland University in rural Michigan, even though it had become evident to him that the states-of-being offered by the countryside and woods, with an occasional pipe or some other pleasant transcending essence, were far more meaningful, given the irrational state of the world, its dissentions, economic difficulties, wars, military deportations and the like. It was not long before he gracefully and happily flunked out.
Occasionally something will happen to a person, which causes him to face squarely whatever time he has left on this whirling dirt clod. It doesn't happen all at once, but over a relatively short period of time drastic changes can occur. Kuo Tao took up a bohemian existence in the Provincetown art colony on Cape Cod Massachusetts, enjoying an incredibly unencumbered life on the end of a hook of land continually lashed by wind and Atlantic waves. Living was not hard; his life was uncomplicated and many of the people with whom he lived were simple and honest. He made a number of acquaintances among people in the Provincetown theatre groups however, and soon learned about the bitterness of backstabbing, slander, revenge and other destructive behavior that can characterize human relationships.
Suddenly he found himself back at college intensely studying Chinese. He worked double-time, and graduated in two and a half years, in December, 1970, a remarkable feat, considering the wasted first year. His studies were so successful that he was awarded an NDFL scholarship at Stanford to further his study of Chinese language.
While living in Provincetown he had read a book on Taoism, and had begun to "meditate." One thing led to another, and in less than a year he met a Zen student with whom he became close friends and who turned-him-on to sitting regularly. Kuo Tad began meditating on a daily schedule; one night he experienced a joyous state in which he had perception of there being "no inside and no outside." Very soon he became extremely serious about his practice, realized the need to study Sutras, and most important, realized the need for a good teacher.
In his free time he visited various Zen centers and meditation centers, and received guidance and information, but was, in each case, ultimately dissatisfied. He went through many changes, however, and discovered more than before that he abhorred the violence, killing, and degradation of life he saw around him everywhere. His search into Buddhism, although it had not found him a teacher, confirmed his initial feeling that following the practices of Buddhism is the way to a complete and fully realized understanding. He returned home, to visit his parents and gather his resources to begin in earnest his search for a place to cultivate.
soon became frustrated. Time was quickly passing by, his progress with
meditation had reached a standstill, and he still hadn't found a
teacher. He decided to go
to California to see if he could find a place in one of the Buddhist
cultivation centers there. He began in Los Angeles where he was
acquainted with a teacher of Zen Buddhism. With no luck in Los Angeles
he went on to Palo Alto to stay with a friend and student of Zen with
whom he had attended school.
friend subscribed to Vajra Bodhi Sea, the Journal of Buddhism published
by the Sino-American Buddhist Association. As soon as he saw it, Kuo Tao
suddenly realized why he had studied Chinese. He immediately went to
Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery in San Francisco and volunteered his
services in the construction work. He was told: "Your personal
problems are your business. What
we do here is study Buddhism. If you can follow the rules, you can stay. If not, you might as well leave now."
| In less than a month he had
become disciple of the Elder Master Hsuan Hua, and soon took up
practices of eating only once a day and constantly sitting, never lying
down to sleep, while still working hard at the construction of the
In addition to his meditation,
Kuo Tao spends three or four hours a day studying the Avatamsaka Sutra,
studies classical Chinese and Sanskrit to increase his
|effectiveness as a translator, and prepares himself to
take the complete precepts of the Bhiksu next summer. He is the
Photography Editor and assistant to the Director or Administration for
Vajra Bodhi Sea, and is an active member of the Buddhist Text
Translation Society. He has begun a series of lectures on the Sixth
Patriarch Sutra and plans to lecture the text of this Sutra in great
members of the Sino-American Buddhist Association would like to express
their appreciation for the following books received from The Buddhist
Association of the United States in Bronx, New York:
for the West—Dorothy C. Donath (2 copies)