WITH ONE HEART, BOWING
Bhikshu Heng Sure & Shramanera Heng Ch'au
HENG SURE: May 16, 1977. It is hard to blend with the rhythm of this land because it has no rhythm. It is like a river of gas-fired metal on paved stone paths. No sound; one roar. No smell; one stink. No light; one haze. No time; pure morning when the zero is pure and then the one comes into being and the two and the three and the millions.
No human can live here. We have made a hostile environment at great cost. The World Trade Center runs on electrical power, is adorned and sanitized costing millions of dollars for the few hundreds of people who will ever see it and the millions of ghetto Chicanos who will never see it or dream of it. It is like Versailles. It is a thin reality, disposable, ready to be abandoned. Dead. With Muzak. We come in off the street to relieve ourselves and return to our lively hells of streaming metal.
"Do you believe that praying and bowing can affect disasters and catastrophes?"
Yes, we do, don't you? Where do disasters come from? They come from the accumulated heaps of bad karma that you and he and I pile up and after a while the scale is unbalanced and nature, erupts or a plane crashes and human suffering results. But it starts with us first; we make our fate with every present action we do, with every thought. So by working directly with the mind and by concentrating a prayer for no harm, no hatred, no weapons, no suffering, we are seeking a response right at the source of the problem—our own minds. Do you see the link?
Yesterday and this morning I experienced a shrinking of desire to this point: I recognized that I was not looking forward to today with any pleasure in mind. I did not have any expectations of pleasant, pleasing, or positive events. At the same time I was not hoping to avoid any unpleasant events--those come as part of the work we do.
Whether it is a honk, a
laugh, the constant sneers, the verbal attack, the physical attack, or actual
polite interest, all that sort of attention is just one text after another, to
measure our depth of sincerity and to remind us of our goal.
The truth about bowing seven hundred miles is the same truth as making one solitary bow. If you are sincere, if your mind is clear and if your heart has no expectations, then you can be anywhere and it makes no difference where you are. The Gold Mountain Buddha-hall is the same as the noisiest downtown ghetto; the highest isolated mountain crag is the same as the busiest highway roadside. The Dharma rests unchanging. In other words, the bowing practice cuts through time and space.
Sincerity is the key, however, and patience, and desirelessness. If you are not looking ahead to a better time, to lunch, to being finished bowing, to enlightenment, then your bow will be sincere.
HENG CH'AU: May 20, 1977. When your mind is moved by states, the precepts keep a perimeter around you. This is the palace, the Imperial Court of America. Emperors of old never had palaces like the multi-national corporation plazas, fountains, closed circuit T.V., security fences, entertainment...
Man on bicycle stops and watches us carefully. He is not disapproving; rather, open. As we get closer he places his palms together in prayer as we pass. Then he rides off into the smog.
Bowing states: What a wonderful, honest, and free thing to be--a monk! Passing through the smog my nose gets clogged and I can't smell too well. The constant drone of traffic smothers other sounds; the sidewalk is one homogeneous spread:
What happens when the wind stops?
In the center of movement, stillness.
In the center of sights, blindness.
In the center of sound, deafness.
Enveloped in scents, flat.
Skin and sidewalk blend without distinction. From cold ashes the fire is kindled and the light warms and illumines all directions. Which is moving, the flag or the wind? What happens then when they both stop?
When I am bowing low to the ground, completely vulnerable, I feel totally safe and ok. With all my martial arts training and experience, bowing is number one kung fu. When prostrated, everything is ok. Sock me, stab me, spit or swear—it's all the same. No problem. I must be crazy, but it's then that I feel safe and contented from my guts out. They don't teach that in martial arts yet.
Fiery, hostile people harass us. "What the hell you doin'?"
"I saw you peek at me!"
"Go do that in a church."
"Stop disgracing people."
"You're going to get arrested."
More anger. "What are you doing? Stop it!"
Screaming, wailing, mad laughter. All those years working in mental hospitals takes some of the edge off these jabs. When it gets real thick I imagine us in a huge, deep Kuan Yin lake; the anger people vent is fire. Pretty hard to start a lake on fire. They throw matches into the lake.
We've noticed that when situations start getting sticky, either a bus arrives and takes a crowd away or at least eight or nine times fire trucks have come roaring by, diverting the storm. Most interesting is a wonderfully refreshing cool breeze from the West that seems to sedate and mellow us and our antagonists. Through all of this we keep bowing and getting stronger and trying harder to plug our leaks and laugh at ourselves.