Upasaka Kuo Wo was born in Montreal, Canada, on January 29, 1948. What follows is his unique account of his life--then and now.

"I pray and bow in gratefulness to Amita Buddha and the Venerable Master of Gold Mountain Monastery. It is often said that people who come to cultivate at Gold Mountain have very fortunate roots. I don't think this applies to me, because I am a very unworthy person. But with the opportunity I now have of living in the monastery and of writing about that to you, I know that good roots are now being planted and it is my hope that any merit or virtue sprouting from these roots be given to you, the reader.

I don't know about you, but I live thinking I'm going to die after this next letter, so it pleases me to know that some benefit may be given to you right now. I used to think in terms of a long life, probably very much like all of you. I lived very much the life of a god; the objects of my desires were easily fulfilled. You know the saying 'just push a button and get what you want.'

"In the sutra lectures I hear a lot about the six states of existence and that the god state can very easily turn into a hell or nightmare state of mind when the objects that fulfill the desires cannot be obtained. There was no problem with this before I came here to study and practice Buddhism--I just had to look into my portable cupboard and pull out what I needed—the carrying-case tripper. So I was never exposed to any anguish of what Buddhism calls the exile states of existence. Sleeping, or keeping drugged in many other ways, such as food, sex, movies as much as I could I nonetheless thought myself invisible. But practicing Buddhism here, following a very structured schedule which includes getting up at 3:40 A.M. and eating only one meal a day, brings out my dependency on externals and causes me to deal with them. For instance a few days ago I had an inflow of thoughts about food while meditating. I was not very successful in letting these thoughts pass by. I had no money and the schedule and rules for proper eating at the Monastery are wisely enforced. So I quickly saw the pattern of suffering which comes when you can't fulfill a desire thought. As a result, I was forced to confront this and make a decision to do all I can to stop the habit-energy of this pattern. That was the only way to end that suffering. That's the way one learns here. It's real. A strong foundation is needed to root out my greed, hatred, and stupidity, and Gold Mountain provides that foundation.

"I know this account is supposed to relate somethings about my background, however, I hope you will excuse me for writing little about it. I was very much a 'regular person' like yourselves. Got a college education, taught for awhile, had good times and bad times.

"Right now I am very happy to have the opportunity to remove the greedy, hateful, and stupid thoughts, speech, and acts I have so that I can be of some benefit to myself and others. And here at Gold Mountain, that's what's done. People here are serious in their cultivation. Motivation here is strong to practice. It rubs off on you.

"While at Gold Mountain the first time, I remember hearing many times that 'Dharma arises from conditions." Boy, I sure learned that when I left the Monastery about eight months ago and went home to live and practice as a layman outside the Monastic Sangha. This was very difficult. There's a story about a Buddhist layman who kept the five precepts until one day he got thirsty. Deciding it wouldn't hurt just to take a little nip, he got out an old bottle. One drink lead to another and soon he needed a little something to chase it with. Just then the neighbor's chicken walked into his yard and he captured it. Grabbing the pullet, he swung it upside down and lopped off its head. The oil was already hot so the tender treat was soon ready to eat. Having already violated the intoxicant precept, the stealing precept and the killing precept, he was not very clear when he opened the door to the neighbor's knock. "Have you seen my chicken?" she asked.

      '"No.' he denied, thereby breaking the precept against lying. He took another look at the neighbor lady, decided she wasn't bad looking and broke the precept against sexual misconduct. So by violating one precept he ended violating all five.

'"When I went home, I went through a similar cycle of breaking precepts which lead to breaking others. It was due to my own weakness, but it was also a strong lesson in the law of mutual influences. I was outside a practicing Bodhimanda and exposed to many incorrect things. Not having enough strong foundation, I was unable to work with it. I sure am grateful to be living here in a proper environment where the conditions are such that I am receiving that foundation and will as a result be stronger and able to resist others.

Upasaka Kuo Wo

      "As for me, the reason I'm here is because the Venerable Master is here. In his humbleness and compassion he doesn't want any of the show-light on him, but you only have to read his biography to see this is difficult. And as I wrote earlier I believe strongly that I will die at any moment. And I just finished reading the story in Milerepa’s 10,000 Songs about the dying sheep. Milerepa took his student to the market place because the student was having false thinking about leaving Buddhas' practice and Milerepa wanted to remind the student of the truth of suffering and the need for practice. While there they saw sheep being butchered. The blood was being splattered everywhere. One sheep, in a moment of sanity, with his entrails hanging out and the blood flowing from his mouth, crawled on all fours to Milerepa, seeking refuge.  Milerepa, in unequalled compassion, immediately performed the yoga of consciousness transference

and set the dying sheep eternally on the path of Bodhi. I wasn't too much better than that sheep, so I came here because I know the Venerable Master has equal powers. But that's only my trip--there's lots of other reasons why you would benefit from this community.

      "I wish you all well and hope this letter will help us meet in Amitabha's Pure Land. That's where I vow to go. So long for now, take care of yourselves and thank you for patiently reading this.

"Homage to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas."