"The Dreaming Monk"

The seed of Heng Lyou's resolve to leave the home-life was planted during a Kuan Yin recitation session in July 1975, when four Americans younger than he were given the novice precepts. During that ceremony Heng Lyou grew very calm and attentive, but at the same time felt a deep sense of excitement, which would soon become a firm resolve. During the Kuan Yin session in October 1975, Heng Lyou fell ill and eventually was diagnosed at a hospital as having double pneumonia. At the peak of the illness Heng Lyou was resting in a half-waking state when suddenly the first two fingers of his right hand began to move of their own accord, as if forming a mudra. He was then bathed in a golden light, but the intensity of peace it brought was beyond his power to receive and he felt frightened and waved it away, only to fall back into a sickly doze.

A day or so later he was at the point of total exhaustion by the end of morning recitation and his attempt to rest only sent him into a very muddled dreamlike state mixed with vague scenes and sharply defined visions. This continued for about two hours. Feeling later that he was close to death, Heng Lyou recalls that two images from that experience stand out in his mind: one was when he saw a dying old man. In the vision, Heng Lyou went over to the man, and told him to recite "Na Mo Amitabha Buddha" but he turned his head away. Heng Lyou left feeling sad but detached. The other experience was of his grandfather at his cottage by a lake in Ontario, Canada. He was singing an incredibly beautiful song, the words of which were "Home again, home again." Heng Lyou relates: "I had never heard such a beautiful song, with words that said more than the saying. He turned to me, his eyes and face shining with bliss, and just our eye contact was enough to relate to each other what had to be said. I awoke weeping for joy, knowing that the ceremony to rescue and aid the dead, Ullumbana, had taken my grandfather to the Pure Land."

The impact of Heng Lyou's near-death experience broke loose the hard covering on the seed of his resolve, and shortly thereafter he received the Master's permission to leave the home life. "I realized what a rare opportunity this was," Heng Lyou states, "and when the Master compassionately consented, telling me to 'work hard when you become a bhiksu,' my heart leapt at the words 'when you become a bhiksu,' and I was deeply moved.

Bhiksu Heng Lyou received the novice precepts on Amitabha Buddha's birthday in December of 1975, during an Amitabha Buddha recitation session.

His dreams have increased to the point that waking and dreaming states are not discriminated into-separate realities, but are all seen as learning experiences of varying lucidity. Heng Lyou categorizes his dreams, defining them as “dreams of the Master and of my bowing to him; 'separate reality' dreams in which seeming possibilities of where my life could have gone were taking place in the dream space; recitation dreams that usually saved me from a desperate situation; and sometimes really abstruse analogies that usually brought understanding that would be very difficult to verbalize."

      In April, 1976, during a Kuan Yin recitation session Heng Lyou was dreaming of the assembled Sangha performing ceremonies at some special event when suddenly he was overwhelmed by what he calls "a waking state of seeing a giant thousand-petaled golden lotus," which disappeared as soon as he focused attention on it. Later in the same session Heng Lyou relates, "I had a waking experience of sitting bolt upright, and having some water start dripping on my head. When he moved out of the state by looking up to see where the water was coming from there was no water anywhere, only a picture of Kuan Yin Bodhi sattva, under which he had been sitting for the entire session.
      In June of 1976, Heng Lyou moved to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Of this move Heng Lyou says, "Perhaps the dreams that have held me together the most are the constant and wonderful dreams of the Master. 

I understand a little what the Master means when he says, 'I'm always here, and I always see you.' A great feeling of shame comes over me when I think of the stupid things I have done, knowing that somehow the Master knows what I'm doing." 

      One vivid dream of the Master held premonitions of places and things to come.  Heng Lyou relates, "In this dream I found myself in a very large house, almost a palace, and I came upon the Master talking to two people. I arranged my robes and said, "ding li Shih Fu," (obeisance to the Master). As I started to bow the Master gently held my head and rubbed me on the crown and told me,  'You'd, better lie on your stomach.' So I lay on my stomach and I felt many little hands slapping and poking at me. The Master said with some urgency, 'Oh, this English language is just too slow!' and suddenly I was in a vast flowing golden field gliding around among complex geometric shapes. Then the scene changed and I was in the Buddha-hall of that grand house, weeping, 'Why is Shih Fu so good to me? I'm no good, why is he treating me this way, so kindly? I deserve to be beaten."' The dream occurred in January, and in March, 1977, while in San Francisco, Heng Lyou accompanied the Master and several other Sangha members to receive offerings at the home of a donor whose house was indeed the elegant one he had dreamed about three months before. At another time following that dream the Master said to Heng Lyou, "I see you crying, you cry all the time."

Heng Lyou's family has welcomed his life as a monk as being the most sensible thing he has ever done in his life. However, Heng Lyou was still plagued by a mean temper and was prone to giving people a hard time, even after becoming a novice. So when his parents came to visit his mother perceived his difficulties and said politely, "You're different, but you haven't changed that much." Her comment shocked Heng Lyou and caused him to begin examining himself, but his habits were heavy and he still continued to display anger and manipulate people. Then the retribution fell. "Three days before the precept platform, the most important day of my life," relates Heng Lyou, "I was on a ladder that suddenly slipped and sent me crashing to the hard concrete below. My left foot was nearly crushed at the ankle and every meridian cried out with pain. A trip to the hospital revealed no broken bones, but it was obvious that I wouldn't be walking on it for a long time. The next evening while I sat waiting for evening recitation to begin, the Master, who had arrived with guests from Los Angeles, came into the Kuan Yin hall and I got up and called out "ding li Shih Fu." Suddenly a dream-like scene began, reminiscent of that January dream. As I started that first bow, the Master hurried over and started whacking me with the whisk he carried throughout the precept platform. I was really surprised by the first whack, and as I bowed he whacked and whisked away furiously at my body. When I finished bowing, I stood awkwardly on one foot as he risked my body from my head down to my left foot. He told me to sit down to ease my discomfort, and he continued to whisk away everything into my foot. After some time he kicked my left ankle, and stepped on my left foot, surprising me even more. He told me to recite 'Namo Kuan Shih Yin Pu Sa,' and left."

Several months later the Master told Heng Lyou that it was Dharma Protector Wei T'ou Bodhisattva who had given him a little tap because he was really fed up with Heng Lyou's behavior. Heng Lyou states, "I guess my karma is really fierce. The injury caused me tremendous suffering, but, I realize now, not nearly as much as the victims of my frustrated rage. At times there seemed to be something very alive in my foot."

Bhiksu Heng Lyou's lessons and experiences have been many—too numerous to relate all in detail--but in summing them up he says, "After all the stupid things I've done, all the ridiculous attachments I have; after all the upside-down things I've thought about, the Master compassionately said tome, 'I'll forgive you because you are the dreaming bhiksu, always dreaming.'"