BHIKSU HENG JU
upon shaping the clay,
(Dharma name--Kuo Tsai) was born May 18,1950 in New York City. When he was
ten years old, the family moved to Los Angeles, and young Mateo eventually
ended up working in his father's meat factory. While carrying gutted pig's
carcasses from room to room, Mateo witnessed the brutal murders of
thousands of helpless animals. He saw how cattle were smashed in the head
by a big machine, then hung from a chain by their feet. And even while the
beasts were still alive, he saw their guts being cut open and the
iridescent green plasma spilling across the floor like a river of sin.
At the age of sixteen, Mateo left his family and began travelling around America, lie worked several jobs, and ended up in San Francisco working as a timecard collector at Hunters Point shipyard. While in San Francisco,
he sampled the wares of several "new consciousness" group, including Synanon where he cracked 600 eggs a day, and Scientology. He would probably still be with Scientology today if his Great Dane, Flo, hadn't crapped on the rug.
Early in 1970 Mateo walked into a hobby store in Los Angeles, in hopes of learning about jewelry making. Joan Amperon, the proprietor, was quick to recognize the young seeker, and before the day was over, had set him up, not as a jeweler, but as head of a pottery department! A production potter named Benigno Barone taught Mateo the essentials, and later on, a Master Potter, Michael Frimkiss, started Mateo on the road towards ultimate pottery. Mateo bought a ton of clay and settled down for a straight month of pot throwing. He would stay at the wheel for sometimes as long as seventy-two hours at a stretch. When he was finished, he threw all his beautiful creations away.
"Michael taught me how to go through a lot of mistakes," says Mateo, "and based on traditional forms I began to take on a style of my own." At one point, he was invited to show his work at the Scripps Invitational in Los Angeles, but the night before the show, some hoodlums came into the shop, beat him up, and broke all his pots.
He moved to New York, studied the work at the Metropolitan Museum, and helped set up a Ceramics course a Hunters College. Later he moved to Hawaii where he set up a studio, making pots by day, and studying Chinese painting by night.
In 1975, while helping his mother establish a restaurant in the Los Angeles Marina district-he designed and made all the dinnerware himself—he got a letter from his friend, Morris Kaplan (Kuo Erh), telling of the teachings going on at Gold Mountain Monastery. Mateo signed up for, and sat through, a one-week Ch'an meditation session. Later on, he decided to join the group at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Talmage, CA.
Right now, Kuo Tsai is on the teaching staff of Dharma Realm University, and is presently offering classes in Painting and Pottery. In his own words: "I see practice as the essence of both religion and art, and here at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, for the first time I have really been able to fuse the two together. In the intense moments of throwing a pot (some of his pots are five feet tall!) it is possible to observe how the mind works, to see pure ideas take form, to see the dream as a dream. One can lose all sense of time. I'm really happy to be here."
INSTILLING VIRTUE SCHOOL SUMMER SESSIONS AT THE CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Organic gardening--swimming--meditation--t'ai chi ch'uan--hiking-arts and crafts--Chinese--creative writing—people who care--
For children ages 8-12. The school will hold its sessions concurrently with the University sessions (see page 57 this issue). Parents may enroll their children in the elementary school while they themselves attend the University sessions. For information about the sessions call (707) 462-0939 or (415) 621-5202.