from the Dharma Realm

Master Carver of Buddha Images from Ning Po 
moves Ancient Process to America

On March 4th, 1973, the Master Carver and Buddha image expert Upasaka Wong T'ai Sheng and his family arrived in San Francisco from Hong Kong to take up permanent residence in the United States. A native of Shanghai-Ning Po, Upasaka Wong is unequalled as a Master craftsman and guilder and his work is famous throughout the world. He brings with him the detailed knowledge and skills that go into making orthodox images, and is the only person alive in the world today who understands and teaches the ancient technique of dry lacquer work. (See VBS issue 18.)

As Buddhism declines in the Orient, it begins to flourish in the West.  Upasaka Wong's arrival is opportune and significant, bringing skills and knowledge, which are essential to the propagation of Buddhism to the West where they can be passed on and flourish. Step-by-step Buddhism is being transmitted from the East to the West, and Upasaka Wong's move and his future work in America are a significant part of the process by which Buddhism becomes a self-sufficient religion and a viable shaping force in Western culture.

Upasaka Wong is accompanied by his wife, two sons, daughter, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren; other members of his family will follow in the near future. The members of the Sino-American Buddhist Association extend a cordial welcome to them and wish them great success in their work to help Buddhism flourish in the West.

Clinging to existence? Why not let go a little and learn to relax your grip at Gold Mountain.

Watch for the EARTH STORE BODHISATTVA SUTRA and the AMITABHA SUTRA, which will appear again in the next issue.

Language Training at Gold Mountain

Upasaka Kuo Yi Foorman is a devoted disciple of the Triple Jewel who vigorously supports the growth of Buddhism in the West. Upasaka Foorman has studied at Occidental College in California, and at Waseda University in Tokyo where he received a thorough grounding in Japanese while living in Kamakura, the ancient capital of Japan. He has traveled and observed Buddhist practices and organizations, and met influential Buddhists in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea. He is now putting his studies and experiences to good use serving as a language instructor in Japanese for the Sino-American Buddhist Association.

Living at Gold Mountain Monastery, Upasaka Foorman follows the rigorous daily schedule. He maintains the ascetic practices of eating only one meal a day and never lying down to sleep and in addition holds a full time job with the Wyman Foorman Company. It is this kind of vigor and selfless hard work which set high stand's for cultivating the Buddhadharma and make it possible for Buddhism to survive and flourish in the West.







 Upasaka Kuo Yi Foorman is shown here teaching a course in Japanese at Gold Mountain Monastery. This course is part of the Sino-American Buddhist Association’s language training program whereby eager students of Buddhism are being prepared to translate and propagate the Dharma worldwide.


Uninterrupted Vigor

Two well-known Buddhists, Upasika Hsu I-chun and Professor Hsieh Ping-ying recently completed a week in total seclusion at Gold Mountain.  Beginning on March 20th, these two diligent and devoted Upasikas sealed themselves off in separate rooms from which they had no communication with the world outside, concentrating their minds solely on the cultivation of the Way. No letters, phone calls, or conversation disturbed their austere silence. They took only a simple vegetarian meal of rice and vegetables once a day at noon--this is certainly vigorous cultivation.

In an interview with the two Upasikas following their week in seclusion, it appeared that both of them had thrived in the severe simplicity of Gold Mountain. Their minds were clear and bright, and it was learned that both had experienced expanded consciousness states, and encountered strange states which came in response to their vigor to test their cultivation.  These extraordinary occurrences are a sure sign of the effectiveness of their work.

Upasika P.Y. Hsieh is a popular Professor and a well-known author who is currently residing in the United States (gee VBS issues 20 and 21). Upasika I.C. Hsu's biography can be found on page 27 of this issue.








      Shown above on the Venerable High Master Hua’s left is Upasika Hsu, and on his right Upasika Hsieh, in a photo taken to commemorate the laywomen’s cultivation in total seclusion. I Kuo-Chih (ANAN) also got in the picture. 


Dharma meeting with some friends

During the third week of February 1973, the Venerable High Master Hua, Abbot of Gold Mountain, was invited to speak at the Quaker Meeting Hall in La Jolla, California by Mr. Jack Shultz, minister of the Society of Friends.  The meeting was attended by the Quaker Community, by San Diego Buddhists, and by other scholars, businessmen, officials, and by disciples of the Venerable Master who reside in the San Diego area. Because all who attended were especially happy upon hearing the Master's speech, the text of his speech is presented here so that everyone might benefit from the occasion.







      Shown here the Venerable High Master Hua instructs San Diego area adepts on the nature of the Dharma.

I am extremely pleased that I can join with all of you this evening to investigate the true principles of mankind, and am especially happy because some of you are my old friends and relatives. But a long time has passed; although we have met before, we do not immediately recognize one another.

Some of you may be thinking, "I've never seen him before. How can we be old friends? I've never met him before in my life. How can we be relatives?"

When you grow up you forget your childhood friends. Even grown relatives may not recognize one another if they meet after a long separation.  This forgetfulness pertains to the events of one lifetime. I am referring to former conditions, which we have forgotten about that led Jack Shultz to invite me here to lecture and to give us the opportunity to meet again. Now even though we meet, and are former relatives and friends, we still do not recognize one another. If we did, it might be bothersome for some or embarrassing for others, and we might become attached, so everyone feels it is better not to recognize the presence of these former relations.

How are people born? Do you know? How do they die? Do you know? "I don't know how I got born,” you say, "because I was too little. I didn't know anything at all when I was born."

When you die you won't be little. You will be old. You should know about it. But then you won't be aware either, and you won't know how you die.  Since you don't know how you were born, and you won't know how you die, you also aren't too dear about how to do things well in the short interim in between. You are confused when you come, confused when you leave and the things you do in between vacillate between confusion and understanding. Confusion consists of improper thoughts and activities; your understanding appears in every clear and proper thing you do.

With both the correct and the incorrect activities, you pile up both merit and offenses. Who creates the merit and offenses? Your six roots, six dusts, and six consciousnesses (the eighteen realms) create them. The six roots are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. They are called roots because they grow on our bodies like sprouting roots. The six dusts are forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects and dharmas. The eyes see forms and you become confused by them. "Ah, that form is really beautiful.  Oh, I love that shape." Ears hear sounds and you are scattered by them, your heart becomes scattered. The more you like to listen the more distorted your heart becomes, and the more distorted you are, the more confused things you do.

When your eyes first see a form you are not confused, but as soon as you start loving it, you become confused, upside-down, unclear, and you give rise to ignorance. As soon as ignorance is born you do confused things. 

The nose likes to smell scents. It is turned by fragrances. The tongue tastes flavors and pursues them. "I really like this flavor. I think I'll eat a little more...I don't like that taste, I don't think I'll have any more."  What is to be done with someone who has so little control over himself that he is turned by flavors.

"When the body is at peace A hut is enough.

When the heart is in samadhi vegetable roots are tasty."

When your body is peaceful, you feel very content living in a small hut. A peaceful body doesn't get angry, doesn't strike up false thoughts, and is free from greed, anger, and stupidity. If your heart is in samadhi then you basically do not enter forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, or dharmas.

The body is turned by touch. When clothes of the finest fabrics, like cashmere, are worn, the body experiences comfort and pleasure. If you don't believe it, close your eyes the next time you put on a very soft garment and you will become aware of the pleasant sensation. That is being turned by touch. The mind is turned by dharmas, the thoughts, sensations, and the life, which it perceives.

"Since the six roots and six dusts are not good," you think, "then I'll gorge out my eyes, clip off my ears, slice off my nose, and cut out my tongue. And if my body likes touch I'll use sandpaper and rub it raw and see how it likes that. As for dharmas, I'll stop thinking altogether. I won't let the thought of a single dharma arise. Right?"

Wrong! The six roots commit the offenses, but they also establish merit. For instance, a thief brings great harm to society, but if he reforms he can become a soldier and protect the people. In the same way the six roots which commit offenses are able to do meritorious deeds.

"The eyes regard outside form

While inside there is none.

The ears hear sounds

But the heart does not know."

How wonderful would you say that is I

"When you see things and understand them

You transcend the world;

When you see things and are confused by them

You fall into the wheel of dust."

Seeing some situation, it should be as if there were nothing seen at all. Who sees? Who understands? If you see something and are confused by it you fall into the cycles of the objective world. When you understand you wake up. If you become confused, you fall. Therefore I say man's life is lived half in understanding and half in confusion. When you come you are confused, when you go you are confused, and in the middle you vacillate between confusion and understanding. 

But that is very good. It would be far worse to be totally confused and to lack any understanding. In that case you wouldn't know any true principle at all. All you would know was going to work, making money, eating food, wearing clothes, and living in houses. Without understanding, when your house deteriorates you have to move on, muddled and confused all the while. Where do you move? Who knows? Perhaps to an old cow's house an old pig's house, or an old sheep's house. The whole lot of horses, cows, pigs, sheep and chickens are just waiting for you to arrive. As soon as they see you coming they cry out "WELCOME; WELCOME; QUICKLY, COME IN!" If you have any understanding you won't go to those places, but will realize that you want to go to a better place. Even though they welcome you, you won't go in. You will be in control.

People cultivate the Way because they don't want to be confused. They want to gain understanding; they want to be in control and don't want to be controlled. If you can work well in cultivation you can be in control; if you want to be born you can be born, and if you want to die you can die. That is called independence over birth and death. If you decide to live several hundred years you can do so. If you want to die you can immediately and casually die. In the "According to Intent" samadhi you can't be upside-down nor can you lose control. There are many principles concerning this which could be discussed, bat instead I will tell a story.

Once there was an old cultivator who practiced "going out the mysterious and entering the female:” that is, he could transform a small child to go out the top of his headland then return and enter it again. One day in his travels he stopped for the night at the temple of an old master and his young novice. That night he meditated and as usual, "went out the mysterious" to play. He went to Japan, Germany, Australia, and even to America, and although he didn't understand the language of the people, he saw everything very clearly. "The Golden Gate Bridge isn't bad," he thought aid he played on the span until dawn.

That morning, when the novice went to call him for breakfast, he found the cultivator sitting upright—dead? When the old cultivator "went out," his breath and heart stopped, and consequently he appeared to be dead. The novice ran to his master and said, "Master, Matter, the old man is dead!" The master rolled his eyes and said, "What a bother. Very well, we'll have to cremate him."

So they burned the body. When the cultivator returned from his airplane-free travel, he couldn't find his "house." That evening he showed up again and made a lot of noise. "Give me back my house," he demanded.

Although the old master and the novice cultivated the Way, they didn't have the five eyes or the six spiritual penetrations and so they couldn't see that it was the old cultivator who had returned. They thought their guest was a ghost. The next night he came again and soon he was haunting them day and night asking for his house. The old master and the novice were terrified and wanted to move out. They were packed and ready to go when another old monk came seeking shelter. The novice refused him. "We don't accept guests anymore," he said. "It's too much of a bother."

"Oh?" said the monk. "What do you mean?"

The young novice related the events of the previous guest's death and cremation, and the ghost that appeared shortly thereafter.

The monk said, "So you've run into a ghost. That's no problem at all.  I can handle ghosts."

When the old master heard this he was skeptical. "That monk's a fraud.  He just wants us to let him spend the night. We'll see if he can really manage ghosts."

That night the monk questioned them. "Which room did your guest die in?"

"He spent the night in the west corridor and the next morning he was dead," replied the old master. "Now every night at sunset he comes looking for his house. What are we going to do?" 

"It's very simple," said the monk, "just bring me a brazier of fire and a bucket of water."

That night when the cultivator asked for his house the monk said "it's in that bucket of water," and the cultivator dived in the water.

"There's no house in here," he finally said, after swimming around for a while.

"There isn't?" said the monk. “Then it must be over there in that fire brazier."

The cultivator leapt into the fire. "It isn't here either," he said, disappointed.

Of course his "house" was just his body. "Superior One," the monk said, "do you realize that you jumped into the water but did not drown, and entered the flames and were not burned? What could you possibly want with your house?"

"Ah!" said the cultivator. Enlightened at these few sentences, he made no more trouble for the old master and the novice, and they didn't have to move after all.

These are the hazards of "going out the mysterious and entering the female." Although you can go wherever you wish, if your body falls into the hands of someone who doesn't understand, you may get burned and when you return you won't be able to find your house.

Why did the cultivator lose his house? It was because he cultivated a wrong road. He didn't have a good knowing advisor to instruct him, and from morning to night he cultivated the dharma of "going out the mysterious and entering the female," thinking it was a lot of fun, until finally someone burned his house. When you cultivate the Way you certainly should draw near a bright-eyed good knowing advisor, and then you won't be able to take a wrong road. If you have no good knowing advisor to guide you, you blindly sit there practicing ascending to heaven and descending into hell, both of which fail the test. Everyone who wishes to cultivate the Way should find someone who knows how. Draw near a good knowing advisor, and then you can realize your Way karma.

Perhaps some people believe what has been spoken here tonight, perhaps some don't. If you believe, you will find a good knowing advisor. If you don't, you will go find a bad advisor. It's up to you, which you choose.

--Translated by Disciples Bhiksuni Heng Yin and 
                       Bhiksuni Heng Ch'ih

More Americans seek the Dharma

On March 18, 1973,more than thirty people took refuge with the Triple Jewel and became disciples of the Venerable High Master Hua, Abbot of Gold Mountain Monastery. This was the second time in 1973 that many Americans, young and old, became Buddhists during ceremonies held at Gold Mountain.  Inspired by the wonderful teaching and wishing to draw near to the Venerable Master, all of the refuge takers bowed for several hours, and many for the better part of an afternoon, to cleanse their natures and seek the Dharma.  More than half of those who took refuge also took the five precepts, vowing to abstain from killing any living creature, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicants, including all forms of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.

receives offerings in the East 

-Continued from issue 37

Bhiksuni Heng Yin gave the following Dharma talk at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Eberle of Long Island New York on February 11th, 1973. On that Sunday the Sangha of Gold Mountain was invited there to receive offerings. (See VBS issue #37). Bhiksuni Heng Yin is the first Western woman to receive the complete 348 precepts in the orthodox Buddhist tradition. In addition to maintaining the ascetic practices of eating only once a day and never lying down to sleep, she is a vigorous translator of Buddhist texts. Her most important completed work to date is the Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra with an accompanying commentary by the Venerable Master Hua.


You have heard it said that we were Bhiksus and Bhiksunis, and you may be wondering what Bhiksus and Bhiksunis are. American Buddhism is just beginning, the ground is just being cleared, and many terms and concepts are unfamiliar. People sometimes form incorrect notions about Buddhism because in the beginning they are misled.

The Buddha has four kinds of disciples called the four-fold assembly.  The first is a Bhiksu, a man who has left the home life. He has shaved his head, put on robes, and joined the order. A Bhiksuni is a woman who has left home. You could call them monks and nuns, but that's not entirely correct because Bhiksu is a Sanskrit word and has three meanings. First of all a Bhiksu begs for his food, takes a bowl and goes from house to house. The second meaning is that he frightens Mara, the demon. When a Bhiksu leaves home he joins the family of the Buddha and leaves the family of Mara. And so, that puts fear in Mara.

Third, a Bhiksu breaks through evil. There are three major evils--greed, anger, and stupidity. Everyone is greedy. Some have greed for food, beauty, or for sleep, others are greedy to be famous, others to be rich. If you are greedy but you don't get what you want then you become dissatisfied and grow resentful. Our society is geared to greed. Advertisers say "more! more! the more the better!" and since people can never be satisfied, they are perpetually resentful and filled with hatred.

So a Bhiksu who leaves home is always on the alert for greed and disciplines himself to dispel his hatred. When you are greedy and hateful you grow stupid, because you are so busy being greedy and hateful that you forget about everything else. You no longer try to improve yourself or benefit others, and so you become stupid. These are the three poisons, which a Bhiksu breaks through.

A Bhiksuni, the second of the four kinds of disciples, is a woman who has left home. These are two of the four-fold assembly.

Upasaka, the third kind of disciple, is also a Sanskrit word, and it means someone who is close to the Bhiksus and Bhiksunis. An Upasaka is a layman who supports the Bhiksus and Bhiksunis, and also follows the Buddha's teaching. One who protects the Triple Jewel the Buddha, the Dharma (the teaching of the Buddha), and the Sangha (the assembly of Bhiksus and Bhiksunis), is an Upasaka. An Upasika is a laywoman who protects the Triple Jewel and follows the teachings.

As Buddhism is just beginning, it is important that the foundation be correct. If you are off just a little bit in the beginning then in the end you will miss by a long way. It is just like sending a rocket to the moon: if the calculations are off in the beginning by even one degree, then the rocket will miss its target by millions of miles. Don't let someone who is a layman convince you that he is a Bhiksu, you should recognize the four assemblies clearly.

At Gold Mountain Monastery members of all four assemblies have undertaken some difficult practices. They rise at three-forty in the morning, eat only one meal a day, study very hard and most of them sleep sitting up.  At Gold Mountain there are classes in English Composition, French, German, Sanskrit, Japanese, and Chinese, as well as four hours of lecture a day. I am happy to be here today. I have known Kuo Chao for a long time and she is a devoted Upasika who has done a great deal to help found Buddhism in America.


Bhiksu Heng Shoou, who led a group of four young Americans to Taiwan to receive the complete Bhiksu precepts, was the next to give a Dharma talk. Bhiksu Heng Shoou is a diligent student of the written teachings who has confirmed the profound theories of the teachings through his own personal cultivation.


Today two very important events have taken place in the space of the few hours we have been here at the Eberle's. I think everyone will benefit from investigating them. The first occurred when we were chatting informally when we first arrived. Someone asked me some questions about China and about the Orient in general, and to the surprise of the person who asked, I replied that I didn't have the faintest idea what the answers were.

The second event which I thought noteworthy, was Dharma Master Heng Yin's performance of songs she composed herself. I have previously heard them on a tape recorder.

These two events point out something, which anyone who is really interested in the study of Buddhism should pay attention to. The Buddhadharma is not a cultural phenomenon; even though it is imbedded in many cultural contexts it should not be confused with those contexts. For instance, the reason I don't know more than incidental knowledge about China is that I'm not especially interested in China. What we study is the Buddhadharma. Having heard those songs once, I will probably have a lot less trouble remembering them than songs in Chinese I've been attempting to memorize for three years and which I still have to read out of the book. It shows also that in order to understand Buddhism it is important to understand it in terms of the way we live as Americans, and not attempt to be Chinese or Indian. Anyone who is really interested in studying the Buddhadharma should pay attention to this principle.

What does Buddhadharma mean? Buddha, once a Sanskrit word is now an English word, which can be found in most dictionaries. So we can just say that it is an English word which means enlightened being, enlightened understanding. What does an enlightened person understand? He understands what is right and what is wrong. He understands how things really are, understands what confusion is and how not to be confused. The word Buddha is not an esoteric concept which one has to study many, many years to understand, or to investigate in several different foreign languages in funny different letters in order to grasp its subtitles. It merely means enlightenment. Buddhas come from living beings and a Buddha is a living being who has fully understood what's right and what's wrong.

Dharma is another English word, originally from Sanskrit, which means a method, a law, model, or rule. Therefore Buddhadharma is a method for becoming enlightened, a method for understanding everything you want to know a method for understanding what's right and what's wrong, and for understanding what's true and what's phony.

      It is easy to explain the basic meanings of the words. It is a matter of acting on what you understand and realizing that the Buddhadharma which we investigate is not a matter of learning a lot of foreign things from foreign lands, but rather learning a lot about ourselves. We learn to look within our own situations and our own conduct to find out what’s right and what’s wrong, guided by the Dharma. Rather than expanding on this theme, I’ll just leave you with an ancient Buddhist text, “It ain’t no use to talk’in to me, it’s just like talk’in to you.” If you think about it, you’ll find it has a lot of principle to it. 

--To be continued