There are several authentic accounts of prophecies, most of them Tibetan and some dating back several centuries; which run more or less as follows:
A time will come when Buddhism vanishes from many Asian countries. By then, however, the sacred Dharma will have been carried until the time is ripe for its return to the East.
To us, living today, these words are striking: for, though Buddhism in China, Tibet, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam has become virtually moribund with the advent of communist regimes; and though, for other reasons, it has been gravely weakened in a number of Asian countries, 'seeds of the Dharma' have been carried westwards by 'iron birds' (aeroplanes), planted in fertile soil and appear to be flourishing vigorously. Among the many Buddhist institutions in the United States, there are some, such as Gold Mountain Monastery and the Nyingma Institute in California, at which devoted scholars are busily translating the sacred texts from Chinese and Tibetan so successfully that we may hope that the entire Mahayana tradition in its written form will be preserved for posterity. Nor is that all, for many of the precious oral teachings are also being disseminated in the West by Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan monks and laymen, among whom Gold Mountain's Master Hua is one of the most remarkable in terms of written and oral output, of institution-building (e.g. Dharma Realm Buddhist University) and of inspired teaching which has led to the gathering of whole bodies of American men and women, mostly youngsters, eager to assimilate and, in their turn, transmit the sacred doctrine to future generations. It is foreseen that the stream of learned teachers coming from Asia must run dry within the space of one generation, but there is good reason to hope that, long before this happens, there will be numerous Western disciples well able to carry on their work with the same devotion to the welfare of sentient beings and the same, or even greater, success.
As one who has resided in Asia for between forty and fifty years. I am absolutely astonished by this development. Even before the Post World War II upsurge of communism, Buddhism had been severely weakened in the countries that had long formed its traditional homelands by the inroads of materialism and, in some cases, by more or less harsh discrimination on the part of 'modern-minded' governments which quite unjustifiably regarded it as an obstacle, to scientific progress — that being the attitude of almost all scientists until comparatively recently. As for Western countries in pre-war days, the number of native-born Buddhists was infinitesimal and the number of books on Buddhism annually produced in the West at that time was small enough to be counted on one's fingers! Ah, WHAT has taken place since then! Though the total numbers of Buddhist followers and Buddhist books in the West are still relatively small, their rate of growth has been phenomenal. Also, I think, we are past the stage at which this rapid growth could be looked upon as the result of a passing fashion. It would seem that many of the seeds strewn by those iron birds have landed in good rich earth; already some of the plants that have arisen from them are sturdy enough to have begun proliferating much more widely than could have been expected just a few years ago. Thus, Gold Mountain, for example, though it started on a tiny scale with scarcely enough budget to keep a handful of people alive, has now fathered both the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and Dharma Realm University. Similarly, Zen centers are now widespread in America, and a number of Tibetan Buddhist institutions are being rapidly developed. In addition, learned monks from Vietnam are beginning to win support, the Theravada Buddhism of Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka has long been well represented, and native American Buddhist institutions are no longer rare and by no means confined, as they used to be to Americans of Japanese or Chinese descent. Doubtless this brief list is far from giving a complete picture of how things are now; and, as to the near future, we may expect even more spectacular developments.
In short, Buddhism has already attained considerable stature in the United States. In Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Finland and some other Western countries (not excluding communist Hungary, by the way) its development-through less spectacular-has been enough to arouse great hopes for the future; so the overall picture can be considered astonishingly favorable. Even so, complacency must at all costs be avoided. An enormous amount remains to be done both to secure the gains already made and to ensure that they will continue. In my opinion, the chief priorities are translation, translation, and more translation, accompanied by the building up and consolidation of Buddhist institutions-temples, meditation centers, universities, communities both large and small.
Distinguished author, lecturer and traveler John Blofeld paid a visit to the City in June 1978. Mr. Blofeld is a world-renowned student of Ch'an, Tibetan Buddhism and Taoism. He has lived most of his in the Far East, including 17 years in China, and currently resides in Thailand. He has made pilgrimages to Mongolia, the Tibetan border region (Sikkim, Kalimpong), Burma and a host of exotic places in his spiritual quest for Buddhism. The first meeting between Mr. Blofeld and Master Hua was tinged with enlivening warmth and laughter. Picture shows our guest chatting amiably with Master Hua and the delighted fourfold assembly.
Continued next issue
See picture Chinese section