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How I Met the Master

阮果舟/文by David (Kuo Chou) Rounds



上人來的時候,我正在吃早餐,然後要去上班,我請上人和我一起吃早餐,上人說「No, I no eat.」(我不吃),使我很困惑!因為我搞不清楚他是從來不吃?或是只是不吃這一餐?但是他絕對不會吃我所吃的東西!後來我明白了為什麼?因為,我那時正在吃煮蛋,你想得出我竟敢請上人吃雞蛋!




It was in New York City in January or February of 1966. At that time I was living in an apartment and working in a publishing company on Park Avenue. One Friday morning at 7 o'clock in the morning I received an unexpected phone call from a Chinese gentleman whom I'd never heard of (or so I thought). He told me he was going to come and visit me. At that time the Master's English was not yet developed and it was quite hard to understand him if you didn't know any Chinese. (Later on his English became quite adequate.) I didn't know what to expect or who this was, but I told him to come ahead, and I gave him my address. He had just made a grueling five-day bus trip across the country, and he was in the bus station.

There he was at my doorstep a little bit later. I'd never seen a Buddhist monk before. I hadn't been brought up as a Christian, so I really didn't know very much about religion, and nothing whatever about Buddhism. I didn't have any Chinese friends and I didn't know a word of Chinese. He might as well have stepped off the moon as far as I was concerned.

He arrived at the time when I was having breakfast before going to work, so I offered him some breakfast. He astonished me by saying,“No, I no eat.” I didn't know whether this meant that he never ate or what, but he certainly didn't want what I was eating! Later on I realized why...I think I was eating a boiled egg. To think that I had the cheek to offer the Master a boiled egg to eat!

Eventually I realized that the person who was sitting at my breakfast table was actually the monk my friend Ron Epstein had been writing me letters about. The Master didn't know Ron's English name and just called him by his Chinese name, which I didn't know. I think there was a little bit of the Master's magic going on here, because at some point I realized that my friend Ron was involved and I suddenly realized who this was. And yet there was really no way for the Master to tell me [that he was Ron's teacher].

At any rate, what the Master really needed at that point was a place to rest, because he had been on the bus for five days, and that's extremely tiring. I found him a place to stay at the East Side YMCA, and then I went to work. I thought that would be the last I would hear of it, and I just put it down to one of the many strange things that happen to people in New York City.

But the next morning he called me again. He had found his way down to the Mott Street temple, which was the only Buddhist temple in New York City then. It was in the center of the old part of Chinatown. The Master came by in a taxicab and we went down to Mott Street to have lunch at this temple. There were some other Chinese Dharma Masters there, both Bhikshus and Bhikshunis, but I was the only Westerner there. The monk who was in charge of the temple knew English and translated for me, so for the first time I really had a conversation with the Master. What I remember most of all was the experience of eating a meal in a monastery, which was something I had never done before. The food was very magical. I felt like I was in the heavens eating ambrosia. I'd never eaten vegetarian food before, and I was delighted. The whole scene was really inspiring to me, although I had no idea what I was encountering.

This was the seed that the Master compassionately planted in my stupid brain. Somewhat later--it took several years--but slowly this incident kept recurring to me as I continued my ordinary life in New York, and eventually it made me decide to move to California and study Buddhism.


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