The Bodhi Lectern  



      Upasaka Kuo Fa (Robert) Olson was born in Seattle, Washington, in November, 1943 He grew up and attended school in the Pacific Northwest, and went on to attend college at the Washington State University at Pullman.

      He came to the Buddhist Lecture Hall in San Francisco in Chinatown out of a complex matrix of interests and relations which included a deep involvement in mysticism, poetry, and the occult. For several years he had practiced soft-school karate which emphasized a vegetarian diet and meditation. Having heard of the inconceivable teaching of the Venerable Abbot, Tripitaka Master Hua, he attended the Dharma Assembly at the Buddhist Lecture Hall on several occasions, and each time was awed by the power and light he experienced emanating from the Master. Having seen something of the ultimate nature of the Dharma taught by the Master, each time he returned to his former persuits he was discouraged by their finitude and by the lack of any substantial returns. He realized that if he continued on his present course he would be unable to obtain any real freedom, any ultimate samadhi, from which there would be no retreat; in spite of his attempts to enter higher realms of consciousness, he had always ended up, in the long, run, more or less where he began. Consequently he took the rare opportunity to study Dhyana meditation with the Master, to leave suffering and impermanence, and to obtain some lasting benefit from his practice.

      He joined the 1969 Summer Sutra Study and Meditation Session which was devoted to the study of the Sixth Patriarch's Sutra as explained by the Master each evening of the session. Kuo Fa quickly entered the full swing of the schedule, meditating seven or eight hours a day, and studying sutras and learning mantras during the remainder of the time. Although each day of the session lasted nearly eighteen hours, he ate only one meal a day, an ascetic practice he has maintained ever since. By the end of the six-week session he had become a devoted disciple of the Master. This entailed a tremendous change for him, for he left a life in which there were no restrictions on what one might do to attain a goal, for a life of rigid discipline and adherence to the Buddha's moral code of precepts. That he was able to endure such a wrenching change in such a short period attests to his strong character and deep good roots. He took the complete Bodhisattva precepts within eight months of his arrival, and has maintained them faithfully ever since.

      After his first six weeks attending the Sixth Patriarch's Sutra Study Session, he decided to stay on and become a resident student at the Buddhist Lecture Hall. Before long he began a series of varied jobs at the Sino-American Buddhist Association, the first of which was cook, a position in which he became well-known.  In 1970 when the Association moved its headquarters to the newly acquired building that was to become Gold Mountain Monastery, Kuo Fa was one of the first to move in and help in the work of totally refurbishing the interior; in addition he did all the cooking.  A skilled electrician, he alone completely rewired the 18,000 square foot structure, and in addition helped with the plumbing and woodworking.

      A diligent cultivator of Dhyana meditation who practices daily and a T'ai Chi adept, Kuo Fa has worked faithfully for the Master ever since his arrival, performing a wide variety of tasks toward setting up the facilities to house cultivators as Buddhism grows in the West. He attends all of the Master's Sutra lectures--the number of Dharma assemblies he has missed can be counted on the fingers of one hand--and drops everything to participate in intensive meditation and recitation sessions. Devoted to the Master's work, he sincerely protects the Dharma and watches out for the needs of the Sangha, benefiting the growth of Buddhism where ever he can.

      Upasaka Kuo Fa currently works as an electrician, going to work after arising at four A.M. for three hours of recitation and meditation, and returning in the evening for more meditation and Sutra study. He has on occasion taught courses in T'ai Chi Ch'uan at Gold Mountain.

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.