News from the Dharma Realm 

Jones Gulch Dharma Assembly

On May 5th, 1973, the Sangha of Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery responded to an invitation from Professor Lancaster, Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, to speak at the annual symposium on Buddhism held at Jones Gulch, La Honda, California. Attended by more than one hundred students and professors from Berkeley, the symposium was designed by Professor Lancaster to provide an opportunity for his students to carry their studies beyond the classroom by meeting with practicing Buddhists and learning the Dharma from those engaged in monastic life and daily cultivation.

Those attending the Jones Gulch Dharma Meeting from Gold Mountain were Bhiksus Heng Kuan, Heng Shoou, Heng Ch'ao, Heng Yo, and Heng Ju, and Bhiksunis Heng Yin, Heng Ch'ih, and Heng Hsien. The Dharma Masters spoke about the necessity to balance study with actual practice, and told numerous lively and engaging stories to illustrate their principles.

  Opening the afternoon meeting with traditional ceremonies, the Dharma Masters led the assembly in the Incense Offering, the 88 Buddhas' Repentance, and the Praise to Amitabha including circumambulating the Buddha. The talks, which followed these ceremonies, proved fascinating to the students who were greatly pleased by this opportunity to hear the Dharma. 




Students visit Gold Mountain

Late in February of this year more than forty members of the Chih Hsing Association for Sinological Studies came to hear the Dharma at Gold Mountain.  All students and professors from California State University, San Francisco, they requested permission to visit the Monastery to taste the flavor of the Dharma and learn about the customs and practices in a Buddhist Monastery. Their advisor is Professor Maurice Tseng, whose biography appears elsewhere in this issue of Vajra Bodhi Sea.

They arrived in the morning and took part in the High Meal Offering, and joined the Sangha in a vegetarian meal, which entailed following the rules of formal monastic dining. After the meal they took part in the noon recitation and joined the Avatamsaka Dharma Assembly. All who attended expressed great interest in all the activities, and where well pleased by their visit to Gold Mountain.








      Shown above, Bhiksu Heng Kuan, (far right) Guest Prefect of Gold Mountain, guides the visitors on a tour of the Monastery. They are shown here before the shrine of the Venerable Patriarchs, The High Master Hui Neng, and the High Master Hsu Yun.


As regular features each issue of Vajra Bodhi Sea contains installments of THE LOTUS SUTRA, THE EARTH STORE SUTRA, and THE AMITABHA SUTRA, all with detailed commentaries; a pictorial biography of the Venerable Patriarch Hsu Yun; portraits of high masters of the past and present; Sanskrit lessons, articles; news and stories. No other English language publication presents the full expanse of the Buddhadharma, its history, theory, practice, and the full breadth of the teachings. If you wish to cross the Bodhi Sea, this magazine is your Vajra boat.

The Professor requests a lecture

--Spoken by the Venerable Master Hua at the Jones Gulch, California Dharma Assembly, November 1971.

--Translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Yo.

Part of a series continued from issue #33.

Today I said that Bhiksuni Heng Yin is wrong because she said that the professor was wrong. Why? He always says his students are wrong and it came back on him. Having seen this principle at work in a living situation, I hope that you will not put other people down. From now on I won't even say that you Americans who have left the home life are wrong.

Some people say that Buddhism is Indian, some say that it is Japanese, and others that it is Chinese. They are all totally wrong. Racial distinctions and boundaries between nations do not define Buddhism, because its great function includes the entire world. There is nothing that is Buddhism; there is nothing that is not Buddhism. Whether or not one believes in the Buddha, everyone still has the Buddha-Nature.

In fact, not only people, but all living beings have the Buddha-Nature, horses, cows, chickens, dogs, fleas, and even mosquitoes have it. We have just heard about Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan's two fleas (referring to Dharma Master Heng Ching's talk, which immediately preceded the Venerable Master's).  Perhaps they are here today in the form of a person to criticize Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan's negligence when he crushed them. It isn't for sure; perhaps they have come, perhaps they haven't. You shouldn't believe what I say. 

Since all living beings have the Buddha-Nature, how could Buddhism be limited or have bounds? There are no boundaries. Sentience is defined as "everything, which has blood and energy." Not only sentient beings, but the many kinds of plant life also have the Buddha-Nature. So in Buddhism it is said: "Both those with sentience and those without have the seeds of wisdom." In the future all can attain the wisdom of a great awakening. This is what is meant by Buddhism being unlimited.

Whether you believe in the Buddha or not, you cannot go beyond the Buddhadharma, and thus the infinity of numbers is within the scope of Buddhism. Is this big or not? The last time that I spoke here I said that the Buddha was "not big." (In Chinese, not big is pronounced "BU DA" which sounds like "Buddha".) If he is not big, is he small? Neither small nor big, thus he became the Buddha. Why don't we become Buddhas? It's because we are big or small. When there is big there is small; you have a discriminating mind, and because of that you don't become a Buddha.

Now don't believe me and don't believe the Buddha. We may be cheating you. Accept what your professor tells you, think over whatever he teaches, consider it, but don't even believe him. If you do, it will just be another attachment. You should believe in yourself, "I am originally the same as the Buddha."

I don't know what Bhiksu Heng Shoou said that made you all laugh, but when he did I thought, "He should hurry up and make them cry." But he couldn't do it. His story was wonderful and yet not wonderful, because he couldn't make you cry. You think, "But we don't want to cry like children without candy."

If I could really speak the Dharma, tears would fall at the sound of my voice. You would want to laugh and cry. You think, "But isn't that just going nuts? I've seen people who have taken drugs act like that." If you aren't on drugs and act like that, it's right, but if you act that way under their influence, then it's wrong.

Now we are investigating the Buddhadharma together, so we cannot even speak of understanding the Buddhadharma. To understand the Buddhadharma is to cultivate it. If you do not cultivate, but only speak about it, you don't understand it. For instance, take the very simple example of eating.  Believing you won't be hungry, you eat. If you didn't eat your stomach would fight with you, and you would certainly be defeated in this battle and end up eating. If you truly know that you are hungry, you should eat, and not just saying, "This rice is really delicious, and bread is even better, especially with butter." Westerners just have to have butter; if they don't, their lives are in question. So you must eat, and not just talk about eating.         

      Investigating the Buddhadharma is also this way. If you don't do it yourself it is like being hungry and not eating. We must certainly cultivate. What is cultivating? HA! It's just getting rid of your shit, cleaning up all the shit on Shit Road.

Now where is Shit Road? It's just the road of your thinking and calculating. If you wish to cultivate the Buddhadharma but are on the road of thinking, upon reaching the doorway, HA! You can't go through the door. Why? Because you don't have the key, and can't open the door. Now, previously, I asked the Greatly Virtuous Ones of Gold Mountain Monastery what the lock represented, but because they were stuffed with bread and on the edge of a coma, they didn't know what it was. Later I told them that the lock is just ignorance. In order to open the lock of ignorance and enter the hall of the Thus Come One, one must use the key of wisdom. Cultivate on the path of thinking and calculating, use the wisdom-key to open the lock of ignorance, enter the hall of the Thus Come One, and sit in the position of the Greatly Enlightened One.

I hope you will all believe in yourselves and not in me. What I say is not what you say, and what I believe is not what you believe. If you believe in yourself, you can, without a doubt, study to become a good person; if you believe in yourself you can, without a doubt, accomplish Buddhahood. If you have this faith and this goal, you will certainly get to enter the hall of the Thus Come One and ascend the seat of the Greatly Enlightened One.

Someone thinks, "Accomplish Buddhahood? I've seen those Buddhas and they aren't very interesting. They don't talk or eat; they don't even touch the offerings of fruit. What's so great about that? And when people offer incense, it irritates their eyes so that tears fall." When you accomplish Buddhahood, you can tell people not to offer incense, because you may have made the vow, "After I accomplish Buddhahood, no one is permitted to offer me incense; I'm afraid of clouding my eyes up in an incense cloud worse than an atomic bomb. " So you think, "Aaaaahh, sitting there is boring." Well, if sitting there is boring, you can stand up and cultivate the Bodhisattva path, can't you?

Now perhaps someone is thinking, "That isn't bad, the Bodhisattva Way.  It sounds good, I think I'll travel the Bodhisattva Way." The Bodhisattva Way is certainly not an appealing way to go, because if it were, everyone would be a Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva, first of all, gives. Gives what? Inner and outer wealth. Inner wealth is head, eyes, brain, and marrow. Exterior wealth is country, title, wife, and son. A Bodhisattva gives away his title, his family, and even his own wife. Now at this point in the lecture people's wives are probably upset. "EH? This blithering Dharma Master is trying to upset my family. I'll wind up with a divorce." Well, how many divorces are the result of my talk? Are divorces caused by this kind of talk? Hardly. But divorce is not giving, it is divorce. But if one were to truly give, divorce wouldn't be bad, because it would be done to benefit others. This is giving exterior wealth.

An example of giving interior wealth: someone wants your head to make some medicine and you say, "O.K., take it." If someone wants your eyes, you say, "O.K. I'll send them over." Whatever people want, you give. If they want flesh, give them flesh! If they want bones, give them bones.

Now you are thinking, "But if I give it to them, then I won't have it anymore!"

      Of course you won't, but you want to practice the Bodhisattva Way, and possessing things which others want is not the Bodhisattva Way. So the ancients have said, "Last year I was poor, but I still had space for the point of an awl; this year I am poor, but I don't even have the awl!" This is the practice of the Bodhisattva Way; you don't want anything, even your own bones and flesh.

You think that this is not at all scientific or logical; it can't be done. If you can't do it, others will. You think, "I don't believe others can do it." If you don't believe that they can do it, then I 'II do it!   Regardless of whether it is you, me, or him, it gets done. Worldly affairs are thus, if you don't do it, someone else will; if you don't practice, then others will. No matter what it is, good or bad, affairs are all the same. If you don't do it, someone else will.

Now you know that the Bodhisattva Way is not easy to travel. In fact, it is extremely difficult. If it weren't difficult, you couldn't become a Bodhisattva. Because candy is sweet, everyone likes it. But because the Way is difficult, few people undertake it. But there are still some. Sakyamuni Buddha was the first to successfully practice the Bodhisattva Way in our time.

When you return to your homes, think about whether or not you want to practice the Bodhisattva Way. If you don't, no problem, if you do, that's even better. In a word, "If it's the real Way, then advance, if it's not the Way, then retreat; select the good and follow it, and change what is not good."

Today I was not going to speak because I saw it was already 4:30 and, as the saying goes, "If there is something to do, the disciple does it."  These people who have left the home life with me have done my work for me.  "But if there are delicacies, the teacher is first in greed." When there are goodies to eat, I like to eat a bit more.

Now everyone knows that there is still time left for more talking, but since so much of your valuable time has already been tied up, I must excuse myself. And to Professor Lancaster, I say thank you, which I translate myself, "Thank you very much!"


receives offerings in the East

--Continued from issue 38

Dharma Master Heng Kuan was born in Boston and educated at Harvard and Stanford. He became a Bhiksu several years ago on Taiwan and is now the editor of Vajra Bodhi Sea and Guest Prefect at Gold Mountain Monastery. He cultivates the ascetic practices of never lying down and eating only once a day.


I'm originally from New England. It's a little unusual to return to a region where traditionalism is entrenched in this garb. None the less, Kuo Chao's parents are enacting a tradition, which is thousands and, thousands of years old by inviting members of the Sangha to their home for a meal.

Some of the traditional literature, which has come out of this landscape, shows that New England is a very appropriate place for Buddhism to put down roots. A poem by one of New England's foremost "Buddhist" poets will serve by way of illustration. The poem is about a little piece of sediment in the bottom of a barrel of hard cider, and goes, without too much fabrication to fill the gaps in my memory, like this:

It seems I was a mite of sediment

Waiting for the bottom to ferment

So I could ride a bubble in ascent.

I rode up on one until the bubble burst

And I went spiraling back again reversed

To find I was no worse off than I was a first.

Whenever it seems I'm going to get in trouble

I wait around a ride up on a bubble.

Robert Frost took a look at life and recognized its bubbly nature—at one point or another it always bursts. Sometimes it seems like we are riding upon small bubbles and sometimes as if we are riding upon big bubbles, but basically, if a person pays very close attention to what goes on, there is not a single situation that does not eventually burst and end. Based upon this kind of vision Frost also spoke about climbing up the birch. But he never stayed in the birch trees; he always swung back down to the ground.

Although he understood the cycle, he was never able to transcend it, never figured out why he should want to. Basically, what Buddhism teaches is a way to not climb the birch and swing back down again, or ride on the bubble until the bubble bursts and be sent back again reversed, but to find a way to get to a state, within the space of a single lifetime, which is peaceful, whole, and irreversible. To get to this state one usually undertakes a two-fold method of study and practice. The practices are varied; one of the basic ones you all have probably heard about is meditation. The study, which explains how to undertake the meditation practices, can lead one out of conditioned creation to complete understanding and freedom from reversibility.

The reason Robert Frost, this mite of sediment, was reversed when it hit the top was because he rode up on a bubble, and a bubble is something that breaks. Buddhism helps one learn how to get from one place to another without riding a bubble, without hanging onto something, which is going to break. It takes not only the practices of meditation to help develop one's wisdom, but also careful study of the bubble-like nature of everything in this world to learn how not to become attached and how to avoid reversal--something all of us wish to learn.


The next person to speak is Dharma Master Heng Ching who is the chief translator for the Sino-American Buddhist Association and Director of Translations for Vajra Bodhi Sea Magazine. He is also the managing director of Gold Mountain Monastery. He recently completed a translation of the Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra. A popular speaker, he has explained sutras both in this country and abroad.


Although ours is pretty much a unified society, there are some qualities in the east, which don't exist in the west. The landscape is different, the people are a little different, the houses are different and the buildings look different. Nonetheless, there is something common to all of us whether we come from the western part of the country or from the eastern part of the country. This Buddhadharma, this method of how to become a Buddha, came from India, went to China, and spread all over Asia. In each country it assumes different forms and a different appearance, in accordance with the characteristics of the people who were living there. Still there was something, which never changed.

There is something in us that does not change, and that's what the Buddhadharma is about. It is the method for refining that, which never changes. Not only does it not change when you get on a plane and come across the entire North American continent, from the sunny west to the cold blustery east, and from the evergreen forests of the northwest to the bare birch forests of the east, but it never changes in people at all at any time. It doesn't even change in passing from the culture of India three thousand years ago, to a culture where people ride across the entire North American continent in four or five hours. There is something that hasn't in all this and something that never will change. While some of the people in this assembly have seen our society, our culture, and our way of life change enormously just in the space of one single lifetime, there are other people in this assembly now who were born when some of the things which are past ancient history were remembered as yesterday's headlines. There is something which we all have in common, which doesn't change, didn't change, and is not going to change.

The Buddhadharma is a means of finding out what this non-changing thing is. You don't have to think, "Oh, we have to join this foreign order with this alien yellow apparel which has indeed invaded the country and is undermining the foundations of our culture." The answer is found absolutely everywhere.

Everyone in the world has dealt with this question of what is it that doesn't change. Some people have found even deeper more far-reaching answers which explain even more yet. The teaching of the Buddhadharma is just the means for finding the most ultimate of these explanations of what it is that doesn't change. The most all-embracing teaching of what it is that doesn't change. If you want to know what Buddhadharma is then you should not look at the superficial aspects, at Robert Frost, or at an ancient Indian, or at Bob Dylan, or at Chinese poets, but take a look at yourself and everything in the world and find out what it is that doesn't change. If you do that and find the answer then, you will understand the Buddhadharma. If you undertake that question and find that you really don't know how to go about it, and you want to know some useful practical steps of finding it, you will find these practical aids within the teachings taught by the Buddha. Ultimately, however, it is not a question of this people or that time or this place or that culture but a question of what it is in all people that does not change.

Now, we have talked about us coming from the west part of the country to the east, our teacher from Gold Mountain Monastery, the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, came from the east to the west and now he's come from the western part of the country to the Easter part of the country, so he has come from the east to the west and the west to the east, and perhaps he will speak with you now.                                  

(To be continued)