My Dharma name is Guo Fa and I was born in Seattle. Before I met the Abbot, I was pretty aimless; I went to find my goal but found a wrong path instead. I used drugs with some friends.
I heard about the Abbot from Ron Epstein and Guo Ning. They attended the first
Shurangama Sutra lectures in 1968. When I was 22 years old, I followed the second group of people to San Francisco and the Abbot was lecturing the
Sixth Patriarch Sutra.
At that time, the Buddhist Lecture Hall was in Chinatown on Waverly Place. I went to the second floor with my friend John Scroggs (who later became Guo Zhan) and inside they were having a Shurangama ceremony. There were about eight or nine participants and the Abbot was hosting the ceremony. When I got there, I saw a beam of purple light which made it almost impossible to continue to walk since our footsteps became heavier with each ascending step. That was the experience I had when I first met the Abbot.
Earlier, I saw the Abbot's picture at Guo Ning's house. I looked at the picture and the picture was moving all over the place. You couldn't really focus on it. I looked at it and there was definitely something going on in the picture.
I was quite used to the life at the Buddhist Lecture Hall. But sometimes I would sneak out with John. One night, we went down to the beach. This guy on the beach was trying to rob us. We didn't know. We were reciting the Great Compassion Mantra, and trying to use it to control him. It did work because the guy couldn't even move. We never touched him; he just didn't move. We got back that night. In the lecture that night, the Abbot scolded us: "You don't test Bodhisattvas; Bodhisattvas test people!"
Once, after the Abbot's evening lecture on the
Sixth Patriarch Sutra, I went out to Golden Gate Park and sat down on a bench, and recited Da Bei Zhou (the Great Compassion Mantra). The sky opened up and all these bubbles came out of the sky! In each bubble there was a standing Guanshiyin Bodhisattva holding a willow branch. I think it was a response from reciting the Great Compassion Mantra.
In the early 70s, the Abbot went to South America for a while. Every day we would listen to the lecture tapes by the Abbot. Dharma Master Heng Tso (who was a layman) was in charge of taking away the garbage. However he had quit after the Abbot had left. One night, we were listening to the
Dharma Flower Sutra which the Abbot had lectured the previous year. It wasn't transcribed into books, so someone had to translate it right on the spot. It was strange that we heard the Abbot half-joke with Heng Tso Shi about dumping garbage. Wouldn't you say that was a coincidence?
Many things appeared to be coincidental, but if you accumulate all the little incidents, you will discover that they are not all coincidental. Slowly, our faith changed from not believing in Buddhism and the Abbot into believing in them completely. When you are with the Abbot, these kinds of "coincidences" happen quite often!
The Abbot saw I was interested in construction, so he encouraged me to get a license. Later on, I installed an electrical stove in his room, but since the building was quite old and the voltage didn't match with the stove, I had to apply for a permit to install it from the government. I used my name to apply for the permit and it was turned down. I asked the Abbot and he replied, "There will be no problem if you use my name." So the next time I went, I used the name "Tu Lun" and the permit came back quickly. After I installed the stove, an inspector from the government came to check on it. He thought I was "Tu Lun" and said, "You don't look Chinese." I kind of joked with him, and replied that my great-grandfather was Chinese.
Guo Peng studied martial arts; he knew Tai Chi, karate, and other martial skills. When he came to Gold Mountain Monastery in 1972, we exchanged some experiences about martial arts and he stayed to bow the repentance. Since Guo Peng practiced martial arts, he often needed massage. Once, when I was massaging him, I discovered a lower section of his spine curved in; that was why he suffered a lot when he bowed. He had to put a table in front of him and lean on it when he bowed. From this, we could see how sincere he was. Once the Abbot walked by Guo Peng and was about fifteen feet from him. The Abbot swung his arm as if swinging a stick, and Guo Peng's body moved a little bit. Two or three days later, when I massaged him again, his spine had become straight and normal.
In 1981, I went to Malaysia with the Abbot and the delegation to propagate the Buddhadharma. There were lots of strange ghosts and spirits in Malaysia. One person who had been poisoned by "gu" was controlled by some people who wanted to kill the Abbot. Since the Abbot propagated the proper Dharma, told the truth, and showed people the real face of those externalists, he had offended them. We were at a temple in Kuala Lumpur with one or two thousand people. When that person came near the assembly, he dropped to the ground and died! The situation was very serious. Someone brought him to the Abbot for help, and the assembly made a road for them to pass. When they came to the Abbot, they asked him what should be done, and the Abbot just blessed him. It was as if pure water was sprinkled from a willow branch; that person came back to life after a while. If I hadn't witnessed that with my own eyes, I wouldn't be so surprised. There was a dead person, but the Abbot saved him without the slightest effort.
In 1969, once when the Abbot was walking in Chinatown in San Francisco, a car suddenly ran into him from the back and the Abbot was knocked fifty feet. The car drove away instantly. I think the Abbot had some kung fu so he wasn't critically hurt. Despite the accident and his wounds, the Abbot still went up to the stage to lecture. He said, "Today someone tried to kill me, but I'm going to lecture anyway."
I'd also like to talk about the causes and conditions of discovering the Sagely City. In 1974, I went to Seattle with Heng Sure Shi, Heng Lai Shi, Randy Peterson, and John Scroggs to see the two monks who were practicing three steps and one bow-- Heng Ju Shi and Heng You Shi. On the way back, we passed Mendocino State Hospital in Talmage. When we arrived, I saw a strange scene. There were a lot of left-home people walking slowly in a vacant lot. I asked the others whether they had seen it or not and they had all seen it. After we came back to Gold Mountain Monastery, the Abbot asked, "How was it today?" All of us recommended, "That place could be a Buddhist center in the future."
I lived in the City after it was purchased. When the Jeweled Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas was first built, the Abbot encouraged us to set up long life plaques for our parents so as to fulfill our filial piety. Thus, I set up one for my mother. During that time, because she smoked a lot, she was very pale and unhealthy. After the plaque had been set up for six months, my mother stopped smoking and color returned to her face one year afterward. Not only did she regain her health, but her view of life also changed a lot.
I left the City in 1988. I came back in 1996 after the Abbot had entered Nirvana. Guo Shun [Craig Cassin, who has become a novice monk now] called me to help with the sewage project so we could save a lot of money. After I came back, I found out that every project is bigger than the last, so I have stayed to help in the City.
If the Abbot hadn't saved me, I'd probably have been dead by 21 or 22. That being the case, why not try my best to repay the Abbot's kindness? I hope I can help the City in any way I can.