SRAMANERA KUO CHI
on March 19, 1945 in Seattle, Washington, Kuo Chi was the second son of
three; the third child of five. He is the son of a Lutheran Minister, so
the pattern of his childhood was framed in a strict Christian upbringing
and interrupted with frequent changes of residence. Kuo Chi summarizes:
"Viewing it from the present, I am only grateful for the kind of upbringing ray parents gave me. The old-fashioned discipline resulted, I think, in certain advantages for cultivation of the Way. My family moved to a new location approximately every five years and so I learned a lot about impermanence and how to make renunciations. My mother's kindness and patience ameliorated the strictness of the home and the tensions,
often arose. However, I rebelled early, both emotionally against my
father's restrictions, and intellectually against a religion whose
explanations I found wanting and whose values I found were practiced by
I always saw the academic world as a big game, but, because I could play well, I was planning to go to graduate school and eventually seek a teaching post. However after three years I had an experience, which ended those plans. I was increasingly aware of the lack of meaning in my endeavors and was sick of the gross selfishness, which motivated all my activities. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I should renounce everything and somehow give myself entirely over to others. I told my professors I was quitting and invited my friends to take whatever of my possessions they desired. However, at the time I knew nothing of the Buddhadharma. I had no formed spiritual values and no worthy models to follow. Somewhat dazed and not knowing what to do next, I allowed myself to be talked into finishing school."
After Kuo Chi finished school he was drafted and went to Canada. He experimented with altered-consciousness and sense experiences; read books on Eastern religions; and was "married" for three years. Of this period, Kuo Chi relates:
"In these five years of experimentation, I somehow managed to avoid any number of extremes which could have been disastrous in terms of my being able to cultivate in this life. It is as though there was special protection as conditions slowly ripened to the point where I could begin the Bodhisattva Practice. I own no small debt to my partner in that quasi-marriage who, when the spiritual path opened for me, did not try to hold to a relationship we both considered 'ideal,' but rather encouraged me to enter the Path."
Kuo Chi entered a "monastery" in Montreal where he was introduced to the Mahayana Buddhist concept of the Bodhisattva Practice. He studied and cultivated there for four years until doubts about the qualifications and teaching methods employed by that teacher caused him to leave for Gold Mountain Monastery where he sought to study under the Venerable Abbot. Kuo Chi's evaluation of these four years is as follows:
"These four years were naturally very important. The teacher I studied with has been severely criticized by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. It was in fact my own doubts about this teacher, which eventually caused me to leave that monastic setting. However, I don't feel I can participate in the discussion of his good or bad points. He is the one who initiated and nurtured the spiritual development that lead me here, and for that I must always be grateful, just as I am grateful to my parents whether or not they might have some shortcomings."
On Buddha's birthday, 1978, Kuo Chi left the home-life under the Venerable Abbot Hua and received the Ten Sramanera Precepts and the Ten Major and Forty-eight Minor Bodhisattva Precepts. Residing now at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, where the precept transmission took place, Kuo Chi is a regular participant in the Avatamsaka Assembly and in all intensive sessions held at the City. He is diligently studying Chinese; while also carrying many of the responsibilities and duties involved 'in the functioning of Tathagata Monastery, Great Compassion House, Dharma Realm University, and the City in general. Of his current outlook he concludes:
"Faced with so much blessing and good fortune in my present life, I am greatly ashamed of my ignorance and lack of accomplishment. With so many debts of gratitude, I have no means of repayment save the vow to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path until all are enlightened."