The Bodhi Mirror

Mara Buckles at the Knee

--Bhiksu Heng Kuan

      Sramanera Kyo Yu, christened Timothy J. Testu, was born the oldest of seven children in November 1944 in Seattle. A member of a good Catholic family, he attended parochial schools, and became well-known in those parts for his daring mischievous deeds, on of the lesser of which was going from door to door, begging for food. He attended a high school run by Christian Brothers of Ireland, and more than occasionally was on the receiving end of their studies, even though his interests tended to stray out the classroom doors, into the world of racing machines, mountain climbing, hypnotism, mysticism, and working of the first of his 27 cars. After skipping out to see the world, he took his last few courses at a public high school where he got some vocational training.

Then he joined the Navy and volunteered for submarines. After being trained as a Machinist Mate, and attending Submarine School at Groton, he reported aboard the U.S.S. Rock, an old World War II submarine active in the Pacific. He spent half a year aboard and qualified for silver dolphins, and then received some coveted orders for training in nuclear power at Vallejo. 

Sramanera Kuo Yu

Without much study he ranked high in his class, but shortly before graduation he was expelled after several drinking incidents. This looked like the end of his Navy career with submarines, but because of an affinity with his old captain, and some Irish luck, he was able to get back aboard his old boat legally and physically unscathed.

      Adorned with faults as old Testu was, the captain liked him and since the boat needed a diver for its forthcoming deployment, he selected Testu from among the volunteers and sent him to the Naval divers school in San Diego. There he practiced deep diving, mud diving, and night diving, lots of swimming and miles of running. It was a rough school, which began every morning at five. One morning he collapsed in the front ranks and was trampled by the following runners, and in spite of his bruises he was made to run up and down the pier for an hour that evening for a punishment wearing a fifty pound belt. He graduated first in his class.

Sramanera Kuo Yu spent the better part of the next five years 'on and below the surface of the Pacific, living in a cigar shaped tube 340 feet long with 72 other men, and sleeping in a stack of five bunks, each the size of a coffin, 1x2x6 feet. Kuo YU is exactly six feet four inches, but he was able to negotiate and ended up in a bunk adjacent to a five and a half-foot sailor. These dense conditions coupled with a rolling sea, putrid air, and the constant awareness of being surrounded by millions of tons of water, and the like, served as excellent preparation for Kuo Yu's cultivation of ascetic practices for which he would later become known. He visited many ports in Asia, but spent most of his time working on the engines and other machinery aboard the ship, and working as ship's diver, making hull repairs, recovering lost objects from the bottom and odd jobs. Although a little erratic in port, Testu was a good sailor.

By 1968 he had seen most of the globe and was ready for a change. He returned to Washington, and went to college, but didn't find any satisfaction in his work. He didn't know what was right for him, but he did know what wasn't right. He wandered around the West Coast for a while, and ended up as a journeyman machinist for the railroad, working on diesels, and working out his excess energy on a dirt track motorcycle. After nearly a year he quit and got a job with National Shipyards in San Diego, exploring the countryside and diving off the Mexican coast in his spare time. He knew though, that building warships wasn't where it's at, and soon quit. He declined a position in the Peace Corps to teach applied mechanics in Africa and returned to Seattle, unemployment, and a shared apartment with an ex-guitarist from Iron Butterfly. After a few months in the world of drugs and rock bands he became totally depressed and sank into the inertia of despair. To choose one way of life excluded all the others, binding one in preconceived ideological limitations. He wanted a way that led to a lessening of obstructions and limitations—of freedom, total consciousness and the ability to function in all modes of being.

Just when it was getting really dark he met up with a commune group from Mt. Rainier country, and eagerly joined them in their search for new alternatives. Although the group had some vision regarding the troubles of society, and some good ideas, they were doomed to failure because of a lack of true spiritual leadership and indistinct goals. The commune buildings burned down one midnight under a full moon, and the residents scattered to the ten directions. It wasn't a waste for Kuo Yu, however because he had met Alan Nicholson (see VBS issue #l6 page 32), a quiet observant, naturally religious person who was later to bring him the news of the wonderful Dharma of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua.

Kuo Yu spent the following summer as a carpenter in South Dakota, thinking and studying about Eastern religion and philosophy. When construction ended in the fall, he moved to a mountain encampment in New Mexico where he lived off the land. One day he got a letter from Alan (Kuo Kuei) Nicholson saying that he had met his teacher at the Buddhist Lecture Hall in San Francisco. As soon as he saw the letter, he immediately hitched to the city to investigate for himself.

Upon first meeting the Venerable Master and his disciples Kuo Yu was impressed by their sincerity and vigor. Kuo Yu knew that the Master wasn't a halfway man, and that any decision he made would have to be firm. After a year of study and meditation he produced the vow to leave home and become a Bhiksu. This was a carefully made decision, for Kuo Yu is one who despises the thought of people blindly following causes, and had to make sure of the authenticity of his teacher and his doctrines. When he realized that the Buddhadharma is the ultimate complete teaching, and that the Bodhisattva path is the noblest task a man can undertake, he firmly decided to correct all of his past misdeeds and completely turn the flow of habitual energy from the bad to the good. During this time he worked at Jewish Home for the Aged, working intimately with old people on the edge of death, and had many significant awakenings and understandings as a result.

Not only did Sramanera Kuo Yu lend his great variety of skills in the construction of Gold Mountain Monastery, he did so while beginning his cultivation of ascetic practices: eating only once a day and never lying down to sleep. He worked as a machinist, carpenter, mechanic, and cook each day from before sunrise till after sunset, in addition to working on his practices, studying the Sutras, beginning work on classical and modern Chinese, and writing articles for publication in various Buddhist periodicals. He has lectured from sections of the Lotus Sutra.

      Sramanera Kuo Yu is devoting all his energy to building the foundations for Buddhism in the West. This summer he will be among the first Americans to attend the first transmission of the Precepts of the Thousand Buddhas ever held in the West, and will receive the complete precepts of a Bhiksu at that time. In the fall he will begin university courses in Chinese.

The Bodhi lectern



--Bhiksu Heng Kuan

      Dr. Roger May was born in Franklin, Louisiana, in 1946, into a family devoted to the well-being of humanity; his father is a psychiatrist and his mother a social worker. One of three sons, he grew up in Dallas, Texas, and then went on to attend Grinnell College in Iowa where he received a bachelors degree in chemistry in 1968. Understanding the fundamental rightness of the principles from which his family acted, he knew that he did not want a life’s work that would lead only to his own self-benefit, and decided to go into medicine. He entered the University of California Medical School in San Diego, receiving his M.D. in June, 1972.

      Dr. May’s interest in Buddhism was aroused when he investigated it in the broad schedule of reading he undertook in college. Because his nature is extremely straightforward and practical, he quickly realized that what he was reading was not just metaphysical speculation but a practical guide to practices and a way of life designs to bring the maximum benefit to mankind.

Upasaka Roger May

      His curiosity wouldn’t let him refrain from sitting still after he saw The Sino-American Buddhist Association’s announcement for the summer Sutra study and meditation session, and in 1969 he joined in for a few months of rigorous study and cultivation. Since that time he has stayed at Gold Mountain Monastery whenever his busy schedule permits, and has deepened his practices and understanding of the Buddhadharma. He is a sturdy cultivator who can keep up with Gold Mountain’s vigorous meditation and cultivation schedules, and does so on one meal a day and only a few hours sleep.

Since his first visit to The Sino-American Buddhist Association, Dr. May's faith in the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua has continued to grow, and he has visited the Master to pay his respects and seek instruction at every available opportunity. He became a disciple of the Master and took refuge with the Triple Jewel in December 1970, and received the Dharma name Kuo Chi—"to aid", "to complete"---at that time. He is a serious and faithful Dharma protector, one of the rare people who has recognized the orthodox Dharma and supported it as it begins in the West.

Dr. May will fulfill the requirements of Internship in Internal Medicine at the respected Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas next year, and will probably take his Residency there the following year. He has accepted a Clinical Associate-ship in Gastro-enterology at the famous National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, which will begin in 1974, and ultimately plans to enter the field of academic medicine in gastro-enterology.

New Buddhist Books

A Western Approach to Zen, by Christmas Humphries. Theosophical Publishing
      House, Wheaton, Ill. (George Unwin & Allen, Ltd., London).
Two Dialogues: from the Dialogues of the Buddha. Pali Text Society.
      Rutherford Publishing Service, New York.

The Master said,

"Can you give the good food to others and eat the bad food yourself? Can you decline the advantages and take the blame? This is to have no mark of self, but to keep the mark of others and benefit living beings. In general, do you discriminate between good and evil? If you don't discriminate, you're nothing but a rock, a piece of stone. But if you do, then you're just a common person and you haven't attained the Bodhi fruit. Ultimately, what should you do?  When the time comes you will know, naturally. Now, don't ask.

The Master said:

Put everything down. If you are able to not give rise to a single thought, you certainly can obtain some good news. What good news? That, I can't tell you. When you obtain it, you yourself will know and you can tell me!