Letters to the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua from Disciples Heng Sure and Heng Ch’au as they bow from Los Angeles to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas seeking peace and the eradication of karma for all beings.

March 16, 1978
North of Hearst Castle

Shih Fu, Great person above,

Spring came all of a sudden today and we took off layers of clothes for the first time since November, it seems. Hot sun and visits by swarms of insects. It's so clear that everything is made from the mind alone. Last month I dug through my clothes bag looking for a pair of warm socks. The light, hot weather socks would not do. Too cold. Today I sorted through again. The heavy wool socks looked like pure misery on such a hot day. They were no longer attractive. At the bottom of the bag were the light socks. Ah! Perfect. Had the socks transformed in four weeks? Not a bit. It was all my heads doing, making big discriminations and seeking comfort for the skin bag. Being a living being can sure be complicated and troublesome.

Anyway Shih Fu, I did not write to complain or to beat my brow-I've got some good news for the Great Assembly. First, Heng Chau and I have resolved to edit and submit to BTTS our collection of instructions and kai shrs that we have gathered since the trip began; we want to make a book of this material. These are wonderful Dharma treasures that came from the Master's compassion in private session, discussing the details of our journey, and in public talks at Gold Wheel Temple, we have found these instructions mind-blowing, to say the least. Often they came like time capsules-delivered in advance-before we were able to absorb them. Back on the road a situation would arise or an understanding would emerge and bingo! The instructions would emerge to confirm it, or clarify it, or sometimes cancel a false step.

Always like good medicine personally prescribed by the King of Physicians these words of wisdom and advice from a Sage have made our trip a magical journey, many, many times. By no means has the process stopped. We are just now unpacking the layers of meaning stored in some of the earliest teachings. But we wanted to share our plan and let the Assembly in on our happiness.

The second good news emerged from the first. Heng Chau and I have had a big realization over the past few months about the presence of the Venerable Abbot here among us. It goes like this: One of the Eight Difficulties are being born before a Buddha appears in the world and being born after a Buddha leaves the world. Those of us who have drawn near to the Venerable Abbot have left behind this difficulty. That is to say when we cultivate according to the compassionate teachings of our Master, it is the Proper Dharma Age and we have the fortune to be alive while a Buddha is in the world turning the Proper Dharma Wheel. It is that time for us all now.

We reached this awareness after experiencing Shih Fu's instructions come true in our hearts time after time. Such clarity and precise timing! Wherever we wander on our initial attempts to walk the Middle Way, whatever state arises in our meditation we find the Master has foreseen our direction. Then either he points to an open door and/or by using some effortless expedient means he delivers with a message, a gatha to steer us away from a certain path, or to another straighter, higher road. This is hard to communicate in words but we both feel the Master's presence as we work-it's tangible, reliable and constant as long as we use effort. The power and the wisdom of our good and wise advisor is inconceivable. The realization we had is that such a teacher is most rare in all the world. Think of all the cultivators throughout history who have worked really hard but fell into attachments to form or to emptiness and stopped their progress simply because they had no such teacher to guide them. As I work I know my efforts slip and slide all over the place, from resolve to retreat, from proper to deviant. It takes constant turning and adjustment to keep my feet walking on the Middle Path. The Master's kindness goes beyond measure: Now encouraging, now admonishing, now silent and waiting with infinite patience while I spill my juice or suck up his light like a scared kid running to his father after a bad dream. Teaching and transforming living beings. This takes the patience only a Buddha or an Equal Enlightened Bodhisattva possesses. Heng Chau and I bow to our teacher each day, on the highway, morning, noon and night with ever deepening and respect for him and with a profound sense of wonder at our incredible good luck to have met in this life. We hope that all those who see the Master or hear his voice will not waste another second in doubt or disbelief but will discover for themselves the magic and the delight we have found as we cultivate the Buddhadharma at the feet of the Venerable Abbot.

I did not do a good job of being a filial son to my own father while he was still alive. Now through some miracle I have another chance to truly serve and offer up filial conduct to my kind father and Master, and through his teachings, to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as well. This opportunity makes me humble and deeply happy.

Disciple Kuo Chen (Heng Sure) bows in respect.

March 16, 1978
On Highway 1 between San Simeon 
and Gorda, California

Dear Shihfu,

It's spring. Suddenly there are warm winds and soft sounds. The bitter and cold winter storms are gone leaving behind flowered green meadows and easy flowing creeks. The birds are looking for mates and building nests. It's that time and the earth's "natural" energy all moves in this direction: make your mark in the world, nesting (the home) and being creative.

And us? We are also returning to the natural—the original natural, the unconditioned self-nature. Life after life we yielded to spring's desires and pleasures. Life after life we went "with the flow" and returned to the nest. But the nest (home) became a cage and soon the ultimate questions arose. "Is this it? Is this all there is? Mating and dying, dying and mating? Birth, dwelling, decay, emptiness all in the blink of an eye? Is there more than eating, sleeping and wearing clothes? How and where do you look?"

If these are those who don’t know how to get out

Who do not seek liberation but only cry and are dazed

The Bodhisattva manifests for them the giving up on his country and


And constantly happy, he leaves the home-life and his mind is tranquil

and still.

      -Avatamsaka Sutra

Yesterday Heng Ju and Kuo Kuei Nicholson stopped by and Kuo Kuei commented, "Tomorrow is a special day."

"Oh?" I said.

"Yeah, it's the day Shakyamuni Buddha shaved his head and rode off on a white horse--his left-home day." What a powerful image of purity and freedom--the Buddha shaving his head and riding off to cultivate on a white horse! Sakyamuni Buddha had one of the finest nests. So why leave it?

The home is a place of greed and love, bondage and fetters.

He wants all living beings to be able to leave it behind,

Therefore he manifests leaving home and gaining liberation,

And amid all desires and pleasures he accepts none of them.

-Avatamsaka Sutra

      This morning bowing along the deserted, quiet road I realized it has been almost a year since I left home and I'm happier every day. There is another natural urging that wells up inside of living beings. It is the urge for enlightenment and ultimate freedom. It is stronger and more basic than mating and nesting (needing a partner) and in time we all follow it. In time we all realize it. "All have the Buddha-nature, all will become Buddhas." Some of us will mate this spring, some of us will cultivate. And that will make all of the difference. But originally there is no difference and sooner or later we all are "able to leave it all behind" and ride off on a white horse. So "everything is ok."

Everybody should be free and happy this spring and everyday go toward the good. Lighten the heart and purify the mind and find ways to benefit others. In a year of bowing Heng Sure and I are discovering it is right here--in these simple basics. This is what matters and causes others to be happy and free. May we all go to perfect enlightenment together real soon. I hope so. Much peace in the Dharma.

                        Disciple Kuo Ting (Heng Ch'au)
                              bows in respect

P.S. The local Dharma Protectors have strongly urged us to leave Highway 1 and find an alternate route. The road apparently becomes very windy and narrow and heavily trafficked. Our friends in the Forest Service are mapping out a new route for us through Ventana Wilderness and Los Paches National Forest. It will bypass the treacherous section of Highway 1 up to Carmel. We should have it figured out whenever it's figured out. We have learned not to force or get attached to even the smallest things--so whatever happens will be as it should be and accord with conditions and not our false thoughts. We will be on Highway 1 for another 4-5 weeks as best we can tell and will let you know as soon as we have a new route to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. There is no fixed way to get to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas!