THE BODHI LECTERN
Introducing the Eminent Upasika Kuo Chin Vickers
Upasika Kuo Chin (Janice Ann) Vickers was born in Galveston, Texas, an island port on the Gulf of Mexico on the coldest day of 1947. She was the only child of Mr. & Mrs. Chalmer L. Vickers. Her grandfather, a minister, was a very wise and humble man who helped many; occasionally even visiting jails to bring comfort to people in different situations. Kuo Chin was quite devout, and her sincerity brought some unusual responses. A burning ambition to be a missionary was shaken and ultimately given up when her parents divorced and her mother remarried an atheist.
Kuo Chin's wide reading habits were broadened even more by University environments as her stepfather went on to finish his Ph.D. work and teach in Austin, Texas. There she came across such works as Doors of Perception, and began experiments with her existence, which included seeds and buttons because expanded consciousness states had not yet become a popular national pastime. She began to search out practical means to resolve the pressing questions 'why do I exist' and 'why must we die', and attempted to understand the suffering and existentialistic difficulties she experienced and saw around her.
Her family, including a new baby brother, moved to Cincinnati when she was eighteen where her stepfather began teaching and she was accepted as a student at the University of Cincinnati. She got a job in a discotheque at night, working until two A.M. and then getting up for an eight A.M. French class. This went on for a year and something had to give. It did, and she quit the discotheque job to concentrate on LSD and schoolwork. Something had to give again. When it did she quit school and returned to Austin to adult classes in Buddhism and Hinduism given by Professor Raja Rau, a Brahman from India. Although his classes were limited to the classical Indian era, she studied books on all aspects of Buddhism, and was especially drawn by the Ch’an and Tibetan traditions. She began meditating, and was very excited when she discovered the stories of Bodhidharma and the other Ch’an Masters.
Kuo Chin remembers this time well, and has said about her first studies, “People of certain other Asian countries must have been as enamored of the Great Ch’an Patriarchs of China as I was, because they took over the Patriarchs lock, stock, and barrel into their own cultures; they even gave them new names without mentioning the origins, nationality or original names of these great sages. Although citizens and followers of these other Asian countries might now excuse this wholesale robbery, saying it is a pure form of non-attachment to the marks of nationality, place, or names, in actuality this is a bit of trickery and deceit which has confused people who are not deeply into the Buddhist studies into thinking that the proper Dharma was actually transmitted to these other Asian countries. Examples of the most blatant form of this sort of prevarication are calling the Great Masters the Fifth and Sixth Patriarchs ‘Gunin’ and ‘Eno’ without mentioning their original Buddhist names, Hung Hen and Hui Neng.”
the work became clear to her, she gave up meat and became more
determined, and was inspired to find an enlightened teacher. She heard
that there was a Ch’an master in Chinatown, San Francisco, and,
delighted by the idea that such a one could still exist, set out for the
|Upasika Kuo Chin Vickers|
Although she arrived in San Francisco alone, without any contacts in the city, through a fortuitous series of circumstances and deep past conditions, within twelve hours she was having dinner with a group that was soon to become a part of the early nucleus of disciples to gather around the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua: Kuo Li and Kuo Shan Mechling, Kuo Ch’in (Nancy), and others. Upon finding that Kuo Ch’in had also arrived that morning with the same purpose, the two began sharing a room, and heard tales about the Master. Kuo Chin soon realized that the Master everyone was talking about and the man of whom she had heard while still in Texas were the same, and the next morning, surprised and elated, she went to see him. Within a week, in February 1968, she took refuge with the Triple Jewel and became a disciple of the Master. When she took refuge she made a determined vow to transform the energy of her habitual bad habits, stopped taking drugs and committing other acts, which harm the body and are not in accord with the basic moral precepts of the Buddha.
This was the time of Chinese New Year when the Master made his "flower opening" prediction, saying, "This year Buddhism will bring forth many flowers in the West, at the very least there will be five great lotus flowers." At about that time, San Francisco was having one of its major earthquake scares. Many people predicted quakes, among them leading seismologists, geologists, and other influential people. People talked about little else, and many wealthy families who could afford the expense moved out of the city to avoid the impending disaster.
His disciples, concerned about the rumors, asked the Master about them. He said, "San Francisco cannot move; there will be no major earthquakes here. As long as I am here, there may be minor earthquakes, but there will be no large ones. The large ones will have to find some other lands to shake." Not long after, Upasaka I Kuo Jung wrote the Master inviting him to Seattle to conduct a session there on behalf of the Seattle Buddhists. Kuo Ch'in (Nancy) wrote back to Kuo Jung saying that the Master couldn't leave San Francisco because he was preventing an earthquake, and there was no telling what would happen if he left. She went on to say that if the Seattle Buddhists desired a session with the Master, they could all come to San Francisco.
they did. In accord with his words, that summer many future disciples,
both those who would leave home and those at home gathered to hear the
Master explain the Surangama Sutra at the first of the
intensive summer training sessions inaugurated by the Master. Among
those who attended this session were the first five American Bhiksus and
Bhiksunis to be ordained in the orthodox tradition of Buddhism.
the day she first met the Master Kuo Chin has diligently and vigorously
cultivated and supported the Bodhimandala. Her dedication sets an
unsurpassed example for others to follow: she has missed but one of the
Master's explanations of Dharma over the years, and only because she was
compelled to work overtime on that occasion. She has never been away
from the Bodhimandala, and is always on hand for whatever support is
required, and she contributes all her talent and resources to the growth
of the Buddhadharma in the West.
Although she has desired to leave the home life even since she met the Master, she realizes the importance and usefulness of protecting the Dharma, insuring the stability of Buddhism as it begins in the West and devotes all her efforts to that end. In her cultivation of the Buddhadharma Kuo Chin eats only one meal a day before noon in accordance with the Buddha's instructions, attends the daily recitation and the Master's explanations of the sutras, and practices dhyana meditation. Her knowledge and understanding of the Dharma is comprehensive and deep. She knows French, is fluent in both classical and modern Chinese, and is in the process of memorizing the (Leng Yei) Surangama Sutra in Chinese. She carries on this full round of activities in addition to putting in a full week's work at an insurance company where she handles all the workman's compensation claims for the state of California. She has compiled notes from all of the Master's lectures and sessions, and has very complete syllabus of all the language lessons, poetry classes and other sessions.
Commenting on her high regard for the Buddhadharma she has said, "If it were not for the Master and his teaching of the supreme vehicle, this would be a very dark world, for only an understanding of the Buddha Way can bring true peace to the world and its people." Without regard for her own personal wishes Kuo Chin does what she finds difficult in order to reach the goal of spreading the proper Dharma of enlightenment throughout the world. She is one who has truly "put it all down", and does not wish for sons, a good family or friends, a home, fortune, fame, or comfort. She only wishes that all people have the opportunity to hear and respect the Buddha's teachings and awaken from the world of illusory dreams.
THE BODHI SEAL...THE BODHI MIRROR...THE BODHI LECTERN...
Vajra Bodhi Sea, in order to make the good Dharma widely known, will publish the biographies of eminent Sangha members and lay Buddhists around the world. The editors welcome contributions, which are not restricted to biographies alone. Any articles, translations, poems, and stories of interest to Buddhist readers will be gladly received and considered for publication.