Although the official ceremony for taking
refuge concluded at the Masonic Hall, people thereafter also
took refuge at the Woos' over time. There was a little
interlude there too. Bhikshu Heng Sure had mentioned this
during the City of Ten Thousand Buddha's Sunday lecture on
February 4, 2001. As mentioned, no one knew of [a visitor,]
a woman who could "see." This woman was in the entertainment
business, but perhaps she really did have some history to
her. She knew that a good teacher had arrived so she came to
the Woos'. She asked the Venerable Master to give her a hand
in her career. When she came, someone told the Venerable
Master that she could "see" things. The Venerable Master
took out his hand to let her see and she saw there were lots
of eyes in the Venerable Master's palm. She also saw that
the Venerable Master was incredibly bright and that there
were lots of beings around. She ended up sobbing! The
Venerable Master said that what she saw was right. She even
took pictures with everyone. It was really inconceivable!
Later on the Venerable Master came to Los
Angeles to speak Dharma every month. He would stay for four
or five days each time. The Woos' house served as a temple.
He patiently answered questions from the audience and taught
them about Buddhism and cultivation. He tolerated every
possible mishap and impoliteness on the part of his
disciples. According to the laity present at the time, "Now
that we think back on it, our behavior then was truly
embarrassing and shameful."
After half a year, the number of
participants increased gradually, everyone felt that they
ought to have an official place for the Venerable Master to
speak Dharma. So they located a kindergarten at North
Huntington Drive. Guo Hsiang loaned her table from home that
she used for opera to the temple so that it could be used as
an altar. She also brought over from home her wooden Buddha
statue; it became Gold Wheel Monastery's first Buddha
statue. Guo Hsiang said, "I really didn't know the rules at
the time. I went to the temple as if attending a party.
Besides bowing and meditating, we also brought food for
potluck. We had a good time chatting and laughing."
Because the monthly expenses were
considerable, some people suggested that they collect
membership fees. Some recommended charging fees for classes
that they could start. Hence, classes on geomancy and
fortune-telling began. It was a mess and hardly dignified.
Guest lecturers were invited too! The Venerable Master still
came every month, but he never said anything directly. He
still gave talks and wrote verses to teach Buddhism so that
everyone would change themselves after they understood the
principles. Guo Hsiang recalls, "The Venerable Master knew
that the people in this group were successful in their
careers, had a relatively high level of education, and
considered themselves highly. So he could only use
expedients to help us recognize our own faults and change of
our own initiative."
Eventually everyone came to understand
the principles; hence the Venerable Master's demands
increased too. He said so clearly during a talk: "The
Wayplace is a place for cultivation, not a place for
socializing. You cannot turn it into something worldly...."
Not only did the Venerable Master request that everyone be
serious and earnest in the Buddha Hall, but even when
working in the kitchen they must be mindful of the Buddha
and not talk and laugh as they please. If anyone chitchatted
in the kitchen that day, the Venerable Master would not eat
that day. Sometimes he was here for three days and wouldn't
eat for three days; sometimes he was here for four days and
fasted for four days. The Master would say, "I don't know
how to teach people. It's my fault because I lack virtue."
Everyone would feel ashamed and change his or her faults.
This is how the temple gradually fell into place.
At that time Guo Hsiang had arthritis,
but every time she entered the the Gold Mountain Monastery
Buddha Hall, she would feel her body warm up, and feel much
better. She didn't believe it at first, but she purposely
left and returned several times to experiment and every time
she went to rest in the dining hall next door, she would
become uncomfortable. Again, she would feel better as soon
as she entered the Buddha Hall. She really didn't know how
to explain it!
In the winter of 1976, Gold Mountain
Monastery at Huntington Drive was officially established, so
the Venerable Master wrote a couplet especially to be posted
by the entrance:
Giving; precepts, patience and vigor
are the causes.
Dhyana, Prajna, vows and Bodhi are the fruition.
The following year, on February 19,1977,
the Buddha Hall with space for fifty people was completed.
On May 7th of the same year, Bhikshu Heng Sure made the
resolve to bow once every three steps from Gold Wheel
Monastery to the City. Shramanera Heng Chau volunteered to
act as his protector. It was quite an event because it was
the second time that a three-steps and one-bow pilgrimage
was to take place in the West (the first was by Bhikshus
Heng Ju and Heng Yo). After travelling this way for 800
miles over the course of two years and ten months, they
continued to bow once reaching the City. As early as October
16, 1973, Bhikshu Heng Ju had completed a three-steps and
one bow pilgrimage from the San Francisco Gold Mountain
Monastery to Washington State's Marblemount. The entire trip
covered over one thousand miles and was completed on July
20, 1974. Bhikshu Heng Yo acted as the protector for this
unprecedented event in the West.
The three-steps and one-bow trip that
lasted two years and nine months for Dharma Masters Heng
Sure and Heng Chau was initially protected by disciples of
Gold Wheel Monastery. They would drive food, drinks and
necessities to them and bow behind them for a ways just to
personally experience the hardship and cultivate the
Buddhadharma. It was approximately a year and more later,
when they had passed the midpoint of the trip, that the
protectors in northern California took over. After numerous
requests by the laity, in 1978 the Venerable Master began
having disciples take turns to manage this monastery and
named it Gold Wheel, meaning that the Wheel of Dharma is to
turn constantly. Gold Wheel Monastery and the City of Ten
Thousand Buddhas were established the same year. The Master
said, "Gold Wheel symbolizes [a wheel] that cannot be
destroyed by anything and always moves forward. It also
represents the proper Dharma that can subdue heavenly demons
and those of externalist persuasions. For cultivators, the
Gold Wheel symbolizes the solid resolve for the Way: not
retreating if confronted by a thousand demons, undaunted by
the myriad hardships."
The Venerable Master hoped that everyone
associated with Gold Wheel Monastery to pay attention to the
meaning of the Gold Wheel: in life after life not retreating
from the resolve for Bodhi until they realize Buddhahood.
~ To be continued