Susan Rounds was born in 1941 in New York City, but when her father took a job with the federal government a few months later, the family established their residence there. Sue had a happy childhood with her parents and younger brother. She relates, "My parents both set an example of service to others and both were very active in volunteer groups of various kinds. When I was 10 or 11 I decided that I wanted to be a teacher, and my parents always encouraged me in that choice."
The Christian church was important to Sue in her later childhood and early teens. She attended the functions of the Lutheran Church regularly, and the Christian ideal of love and service to others had a great influence on her. But, she says, "In my late teens I began to feel that there was something missing and I was beset with doubts and difficulties. For the next few years I thought and read about Christianity a great deal, but I was never able to find what I was looking for, and eventually I stopped going to church."
graduated from Wellesley College in 1962, and spent a year getting the
necessary courses for becoming an elementary school teacher and received
an Ed. M. from Harvard in 1963. She spent two very difficult years
teaching second grade in East Harlem in New York City. During this time
her mother died of cancer.
|Sue went on to teach second grade, and then kindergarten in suburbs near New York City of the next seven years. During this time, in 1967, she married David Rounds. In 1969 David visited the Buddhist Lecture Hall and paid his respects to the Venerable Master. Drawn to Buddhism, he returned in 1971 to participate in a summer session at Gold Mountain Monastery, and before the summer was over he informed Sue he would become a disciple. He was given the Dharma name Kuo Chou. Not yet Buddhist herself, Sue was open to exploration and joined Kuo Chou in becoming vegetarian. Of this she says:||
"In 1972 I became a vegetarian. This has been extremely beneficial for several reasons. First, I am happy that no animals must be killed to feed me. Second, I find a vegetarian diet to be very nutritious, and it keeps me healthy. Third, since I stopped eating meat, I find that I have less anger and I am more peaceful, and this benefit continues to grow. I enjoy cooking many different kinds of vegetarian food. In fact, we are now raising a vegetarian cat who eats cereal, milk, and cooked vegetables and refuses to eat commercial meat-based cat food.
In 1972 Sue and Kuo Chou decided to move to California, primarily to be closer to the Master and his work. Meanwhile, after her extended teaching experience and before beginning a Ph.D., Sue wrote a book for teachers, Teaching the Young Child--A Handbook of 0pen Classroom Practice which was published in 1975.
In 1976 Sue took refuge with the Triple Jewel under the guidance of the Venerable Master and received the Dharma name Kuo Tsai. At that time she also received the five precepts. "I keep the five precepts," she comments, "and cultivate every morning and evening. I find Buddhism to be very practical—it provides very specific methods for improving your life, for reducing greed, hate, and stupidity, for ridding yourself of dullness and confusion, and for helping others." She stresses the importance of actual practice:
I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from the Master's example and from his teaching. But I know that I must work to take advantage of this opportunity and not waste it. If I cultivate sincerely and if I try to be always mindful of keeping the precepts in thought and action, then I make progress, a little bit every day. But if I am lazy and slack off, then I don't make any progress. It's up to me. Because of the Master's great wisdom and compassion, I have this opportunity, but I must do the work.
After taking refuge, Kuo Tsai went to the Master to express her filial concern for her mother. She explains, "For twelve years after my mother's death, I had frequent disturbing dreams in which she appeared lonely and distraught. In these dreams I felt helpless and was frustrated by my inability to aid her. When I asked the Master how one could cross over someone who had died, I was instructed that in addition to establishing a memorial plaque that the five precepts could be administered to the one "in darkness," that is the deceased one." In August of 1976 the Master compassionately administered these precepts to Kuo Tsai's mother, and since that time she has not has any more disturbing dreams about her mother.
Kuo Tsai is a founding member of the Board of Trustees for Instilling Virtue School and has acted as consultant to the School's principal, Terri Epstein during its initial years of development.At present Kuo Tsai is conducting a research project for her Ph.D. dissertation investigating the relationship between language development and reading ability in second grade children. After completing the Ph.D., she hopes to work in teacher training and curriculum development in reading and language arts for elementary school children.