Excerpts from the daily records of Bhiksu Heng Sure and Sramanera Heng Ch’au who are making a pilgrimage from Gold Wheel Temple in Los Angeles to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas near Ukiah in Mendocino County, California. The first in a series of publications of the monks’ complete records, letters, news accounts, and photographs titled WITH ONE HEART, BOWING TO THE CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS is now available from the Buddhist Text Translation Society.

Wednesday, August 3rd, Heng Ch'au:

We are 25 miles south of Santa Barbara on an old bike trail. There's a water shortage here. We only half fill our jugs at a State Park.  There's a big fire north of here. Hundreds of families are homeless.

"...repenting and reforming for the sake of those whose retribution is to endure floods, fires, and thieves and the danger of weapons and armies." (Medicine Master Repentance).

Some are born in an ocean of thoughts, they dwell according to what the mind understands.

Like magic, in a place which is without a place.

(Avatamsaka Sutra)

There are worlds within worlds and countries within countries.  According to what one can understand and "see" they appear. In a tide pool or within the fungi on the end of a cantaloupe are self-contained ongoing little worlds, lands unto themselves.

There are lands within lands "born in an ocean of thoughts." Not talking is one of them. When silent, countless worlds and connections manifest that I never dreamed of. Patience and giving stop the worlds of anger and stinginess and in a single act of each, everything looks different--"like magic" they appear.

Slowing down in a meditation session or fasting for a few weeks shifts over gears. Familiar realities empty and new ones appear "in a place which is without a place." Not unlike finding the "hidden things" in one of those picture puzzles--a squirrel in a picnic blanket or birds in a table's woody grain.

It's the same with campsites. An area will look totally without promise and then suddenly, "like magic", a place will show up—like the vacant lot at Marina Ricks or a forgotten road. They all come from the mind and are born "in a place, which is without a place."

Inside and outside, from wonder to wonder and from world within world it all unfolds "like magic." All of these separate realities, 10,000 at least, floating in an "ocean of thoughts" all around and through. Amazing.

August 24, 1976, Heng Sure:

Adorned with Wisdom's Flowers

The Flower Store World is the name of our cosmos. It is made up of layer upon layer of world systems, all different, all especially fine to behold. The worlds of the Flower Store are adorned and decorated with the most rare and wonderful kinds of valuable things that we possess. A few rare treasures that exist in these realms we do not possess in our world, such as vajra, more fine than diamonds; and mani, a special substance that comes from purity in cultivation.

In our world, adornments, ornaments, decorations are considered excessive, frivolous, the whim of the idle rich. Emperors and kings are few these days; no one else has ever had the time or the wealth to bother with splendid adornments beyond paint or gold leaf. The Taj Mahal is more engineered than adorned and Versailles is lavishly decorated but not pure or inspiring to behold. The religious architecture of Catholic Europe, the Eastern Orthodox styles, the Mosques, are all attractive but limited as they do not extend beyond the scope or level of deities worshipped. The Empress' marble boat outside of Peking comes from stupidity and has no religious impulse behind it; so too the Winter Palace in Leningrad is impressive but based on self, and is only as grand as the Tzar's conditioned Imagination.

Try to conceive of a world called the Wonderful Jeweled Banner, all Brilliant Flaming Adorned Trees, Ocean of Vajra Flower Clouds. That's adorned!

How would it feel to live in a state of mind where the Buddha always speaks the Dharma and his voice produces flowers and the flowers shine forth a dazzling light and in the light are world systems as many as there are tiny bits of dust in this world and in each world, which is totally pure, are countless Bodhisattvas in full lotus, each one holding vajra banners and clouds of golden light. How about it?

Na Mwo the Whole Mind

When reading would you use only one eye?

Of course not.

When working hard, say chopping wood, would you use only one hand?


When walking, would you use only one leg?

Don't be silly.

When eating would you use only one side of your mouth?

Who would be that stupid?

So why when you recite do you only use half of your mind and let the other half 

go roam around and play as it pleases? The first mantra illustration in the 

Dharani Sutra shows Kuan Yin Bodhisattva "using the mind" to recite. You can bet

that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva uses all her mind when she recites. Why would you do 

anything less? 

You got me...

Saturday, September 2nd, Heng Ch'au:

Echoes of Compassion

A pick-up truck squeals to a halt, "You #$%&*!" It skids into a driveway ahead. A tough, brawny man gets out and squares off in front of us. "This is my house here--get out!" Heng Sure keeps bowing quietly forward. As he passes behind the truck the other man rev's up the throttle threatening to run Feng Sure down. Heng Sure softly chants "Hwa yan hai hwei two pu sa" and takes three measured steps. The truck moves and the engine is turned off. "Get the #$%& out of my yard or..." No response.

Finally, as we pass, "What are you doing?" We give him a release and answer a few questions. "All the way past San Francisco?!" he keeps saying and then, "Well, take care!"

All the time I kept reciting "Namo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa" and thinking of him as my father or uncle. But the patient, slow motions and the silence of Heng Sure really move people to stop and reflect on what they are saying. Heng Sure's silence is like a compassionate echo—all you hear is the sound of your own heart. I've seen many people turn reflective and inward as his silence causes wonder. "What would it be like to be quiet for a year? What would I find inside?" And in just that quiet minute they ask themselves that question, they have already found something.

The Buddhadharma is subtle, wonderful and difficult to measure.

All words and phrases cannot come up to it...

What he practices is fearlessness, apart from the path of words."

(Avatamsaka Sutra)

September 1977, Heng Sure:



It seems to be working out like this: there are other things in your mind than just thoughts. There is a seed of wisdom-light, Buddha-nature. We don't see it because we put things in the way--"thought-coverings." Once we discover that the Buddha-seed lives inside, that Buddhas are made from work done inside, hand in hand with regulated behavior outside, then we can make progress. Our first instructions were "Don't do any false thinking!" Why not? False thinking throws shadows over your slowly growing light and obscures it. Desire-thoughts send it out the wrong way. No thoughts allow it to smelt and cure and manifest properly. At the same time we were instructed to bow, which generates light which feeds the Buddha-seed which starts to grow and glow. The fuel comes from (naturally) "returning the light" in many forms: not talking, not thinking, not leaking out the eyes, not writing letters, not getting angry or goofing off at all.

The thoughts are controlled by the wisdom-sword, which watches the mind from telephone pole to telephone pole—any thoughts in those ten bows? Chop 'em. More light and fewer shadows. Now let's bow up to that bush without letting a single false thought flower up. Ready? Go! Chop! Namo Chang Ju...chop! Swo Pwo He! Paramita! Now go to that next fencepost...Chop. It's getting lighter inside with each bow and each chop. It seems like there's something in there besides the kaleidoscope of thoughts? I've got to shut up in order to find out. Really stop talking inside and out. Next noisy space to prepare for a wonderful victory over thought-coverings: morning recitation, lunch, evening recitation. We'll get 'em. Swo Pwo He! Paramita! One of these days it's going to be Prajnaparamita! Can't think of that now, though. Got to swing this sharp old sword some more. Chop! Shut up! More light.

Friday, September 8th, Heng Ch'au:

We are bowing past Goleta High School "Welcome New Students" says a sign on the marque. A ear speeds by and half a dozen eggs whiz past. Heng Sure is low into a five-point bow. Two eggs splatter all over his sash and back. (They hit the ground behind him, but they splashed.) He just slowly rises, chanting, and continues on.

Sitting in an empty field meditating, a car pulls up and a few handfuls of rocks rain down on us. We keep sitting.

"Cultivation of the nature is simply not getting angry." (Master Hua). It's becoming clear to us that whatever we put out comes back. And so it works the other way--whatever comes back was put out. Why get angry? We can't avoid our retribution. All we can do is let it come and pass and try our best to create no more. With no greed, anger, and ignorance going out, then in time there will be a pure place for the "jewel within." Make no waves and soon the lake is still, reflecting like a perfect mirror.

We turned the engine and headlights off and coasted into a dark quiet nitch in a residential neighborhood of Santa Barbara (ordinance forbids sleeping in cars). About midnight we are jolted out of sleep by yelling and laughing voices. There are cars all around us. Some kids on their way to and from Friday night back-to-school parties have stopped to down some beers and smoke some there all around our car. Big roving party!

About 1:30 AM we awake again to find ourselves flooded with spotlights from police cars. We wait and they wait. This goes on for about five minutes and then they drive off.

September, 1977, Heng Sure:

At Gold Wheel on Sunday afternoon I heard the Master lecture on the Middle Way of the Buddha and the wonderful truth of the Dharma hit my heart like a lightning flash. A moment later he turned to me and said, "Kuo Chen what do you have to say?" I had been trying hard to break out of my head and break into my heart and suddenly tears flowed right up from some inner pool and nearly choked me as I spoke my heart...what I felt was the overwhelming goodness and power and light of the Master. His power is the power of virtue and by doing nothing but being the source of Proper Dharma he can do the impossible: he can lead people to change their minds and habits. The Dharma of the Buddha is the finest thing in the world. I'm beginning to believe that I can really return to purity and be of use to other beings and this makes me very humble and very happy. At the same time I feel deep grief that I am so slow to change. So selfish and so small. The Master-uses tremendous energy to teach and transform his disciples and yet I give him trouble, arrogance, and stupid selfishness in return. The Master's way is selfless--he has no greed, or hatred, or stupidity. His virtue is stronger than the darkness. His light pervades everywhere, even to the dark caverns of my crusty heart. It's wonderful and sometimes unbearable. So the tears fall. I want to be reborn, transformed out of the Dharma. Let the rain of Dharma fall everywhere throughout three thousand great thousand worlds.