From the gate, a line of men, women and children of all ages streamed to the steps of the temple—their skin brown, black, white, red, and yellow. They wore stripes and plaids, tie-dye and swirly prints, silk suits and blue jeans. The children carried paper cups of pink flowers as offerings to the Buddha. An elderly man carried a portable oxygen tank. They were from the church across the street and they came to bathe the Buddha. It was May 18, 2003, on the Buddha's Birthday at the City of the Dharma Realm.
As I welcomed them, I recalled the dream that the Venerable Master had when he was a child. Lost in the wilderness, he was walking on a road which was gutted with holes like those of a sieve. They were very deep holes, millions of black holes, and if he wasn'’t careful he could slip and fall into one of them. When he walked past the holes onto a safe, smooth highway, he glanced back and saw a great many people of all nationalities following him—old and young, men and women, their skin brown, black, white, red, and yellow. He wondered if that was the road he was walking on then. He never forgot the dream. He knew it was special.
As the day went on, more and more westeners came to the temple to bathe the Buddha and to celebrate the youth; this year we combined Cherishing Youth Day with the Buddha's Birthday. Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, White Americans, Mexican Americans, Polish Americans joined together with the Asian community, well over 200. “Are these the ones in the dream?” I asked, as I watched an African-American child pour rose water over the bronze shoulder of the Baby Buddha.
Being brought up on a farm in Mississippi, I used to hide in the tall cotton with the African-American children and teach them to write their ABC's in the dirt, when we were supposed to be picking cotton. They were the children of sharecroppers who worked on our farm and my only friends. My heart always went out to them when they had to ride in the back of the bus or drink from a BLACK ONLY water fountain in town. “It isn't fair,” I thought, hoping that someday I could help them.
Over the years, I joined the “Black is beautiful” campaign and rooted for the warm-hearted and courageous people who have made things better for the African Americans. But not until I met with the Buddha Dharma and learned about karma, was I able to understand the causes and conditions that lay behind those who are enslaved and those who enslave others and that there was a way to help. At the first Water, Air and Land Ceremony at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, I put up a rebirth plaque for both. At the end of the ceremony, I had a vision of the Venerable Master leading thousands of slaves and slave owners out of the shrouds and bonds, up into empty space. Due to that auspicious event, my previous vow deepened—to take on the work of sharing the Buddha Dharma, not only with my own race, but with every race of people who set feet on the soil of this country and beyond to wherever I might be.
To me, May 18, 2003, was a historical event for the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association—the day Americans of all ethnicities came to the City of the Dharma Realm to bathe the Buddha together.