On August 30th, 1976, in the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Sramanera Kuo Chen received the complete precepts and became ordained as Bhiksu Heng Sure. By that time the resolve to bow once every three steps from Los Angeles to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas had already become firm in Heng Sure's mind.

Bhikshu Heng Sure

      It was during the 108-days of intensive practice and instruction that preceded the full ordination that Heng Sure saw what the future held for him. At 6:35 am on June 9th, 1976, while bowing character by character to the Avatamsaka Sutra, a practice he had carried on daily for over a year, Heng Sure had a vision of himself bowing to the Sutra out on the road, once every three steps and knew that he was journeying from Los Angeles to the Sino-American Buddhist Association's new center near Ukiah in Mendocino County California. At the time Heng Sure had that vision, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas wasn’t even named yet and Gold Wheel Temple in Los Angeles didn’t even exist. But the vision was strong and made an indelible impression. His thought was, "If I am sincere, all details will take care of themselves. There may be a response and it may help the center near Ukiah come into being."

      What was the reason for the pilgrimage? It would remind people that it is not a peaceful world; that while most of us go about fairly oblivious, enjoying what pleasure we can, there are others making weapons—improved weapons, smarter weapons, weapons which before long will be able to set themselves off. When that happens, one will trigger another and a great roar will well up: "Kill! Kill! Kill!"

      These weapons are fierce; they can annihilate the entire world. The bowing journey is to awaken the people to this madness—that the missiles are coming. And to encourage people everywhere to seek peace in their own way, sincerely.

As the concept of the pilgrimage formalized in Heng Sure's mind he thought: "The attitude that will carry us through is a sense of shame and a sense of sameness with all. It will be a compassionate regard for the suffering of all living things that must die again and suffer again. It will be the constant awareness that it will be my own hard work, which will carry the practice through to completion. The pilgrimage is a process, a path, done before, to do again. I must push myself to the limit—expand my state through practice. I don't know how far I can so until I do. Beyond reckoning..."

On Tuesday, September 7th, Heng Sure went before the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the Venerable Master and the Great Assembly to formalize his vow to make this bowing pilgrimage. His purpose was three-fold:

1) To seek for world peace.

2) To repay the kindness of his teacher.

3) To repent and reform of his bad karma from past, present, and future.

And the transference of merit from this practice was all to go "to the establishment of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, that it might be quickly and easily accomplished."

Emphasizing this point Heng Sure noted: "It is clear that to insure the establishment of this great Bodhimanda will take a real sacrifice on the part of many people. If someone has to die literally or figuratively to accomplish this project, let it be me."

On October 10, 1976, the third phase of the precept platform was completed with the administering of the Bodhisattva precepts. Then began the training period for Heng Sure during which he practiced bowing once every three steps for hours around the Buddha-hall of Gold Mountain and also carried on must of the administrative duties of the monastery.

In December it turned cold and he envisioned himself suffering in the cold with nowhere to go for shelter but his own mind. No light, no roof, no hot water, no front door. And he thought, "One sure for the trials to come: don’t go sideways to improve or to change the situation; don't look for relief in physical pleasure. Keep it clean and you will reap the benefits of directed energy.'

His training continued and on April 5th, 1977, he noted, "This morning I rediscovered the importance of focusing my eyes for concentration. Eyes focused on my nose, I will he able to enter samadhi. Tongue on the roof of my mouth and breath light and regular, everything else falls into right perspective and I can be mindful. I can turn every waking moment into meditation!' On May 7th, 1977, the pilgrimage actually began.

Now in their tenth month of bowing, the monks have experienced an ever-deepening level of cultivation. Their experiences serve as lessons, as motivation to work even harder, and as evidence of the unfailing power of faith, vows and practice. Vajra Bodhi Sea prints excerpts from their records and letters and with One Heart, Bowing to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Volume I, the first in a series of their daily records, letters, news articles, and photographs of the extraordinary pilgrimage, is now available from the Buddhist Text Translation Society.


THE EARTH STORE BODHISATTVA SUTRA, the Sutra of Filial Piety which Sakyamuni Buddha spoke in the Trayastrimsha Heaven for the sake of his mother, the Lady Maya. This Sutra is an invaluable means to rescue the sick, dying, and deceased—to relieve suffering, bring better rebirth, eradicate of tenses. It can be recited by expectant mothers, by the relatives of those in peril who cannot recite for themselves, by children to help their parents, by parents to help their children. Each recitation brings merit to the one reciting and to those recited for Available in English from the Buddhist Text Translation Society.