Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Guest Speaker (Jan 2001)

"How will the world be better if I don't change myself?" As Buddhist disciples of Master Hsuan Hua, Rev. Heng Sure and Heng Chau took a 800 mile bowing pilgrimage, starting from South of LA. Every three steps, one full bow to the ground to spread compassion in the world. Every three steps. "We get up at 4am and pray and meditate till 10pm. We eat one vegetarian meal a day."


An awe-inspiring account of their journey, from encounters with violent minds to compassionate minds to beer bottles and eggs thrown at them to meals offerred to them everyday, their story speaks volumes to many issues we face in our daily lives! And their response of compassion in all situations is nothing short of amazing. Heng Sure was silent throughout and Heng Chau spoke little to the outside world but they wrote journals and letters which are published in their book.

Excerpts From Their Journals

On bowing: "Sometimes after countless ups and downs, coming and going on the cement, there is simply nothing. Sounds, conversations, hecklers, restaurant smells, cigarette butts -- no problem. At times, even the "me" gets lost, unimportant, blended into it all, yet untouched and separate. Patience and humility comes easier after bumping noses with ants in between lumps of welded chewing gum and broken bottles. It's just fine. The place to be now. Cleaning house, inside-out."

Lay disciple: "Well, you'll be out of LA in a month."
Monk: "Oh?"
Lay disciple: "Yeah. I figure the hardest part is over (Lincoln Heights). Chinatown is a little better, and Beverly Hills, no problem."
Monk: "The hardest part is inside. It's never easy."

There's so much to learn about being a monk: deportment, rules, ceremonies, when to speak and when to shut up, who to talk with and who to avoid. It all comes slow and hard. Usually I learn quickly but here it's not simply a question of imitating, but of transforming from the inside out. In other words, the understanding has to come from within. Can't fake it. The heart and mind have to change, and that take time, a good teacher, hard work, and patience. In the meanwhile, I blunder along from sloppy mistakes to gross errors. A phony monk would be transparent to anyone, especially himself.

I turn everything into a contest and a game; everyone becomes an opponent and rival. Driving the freeway, getting the best deal, always racing and beating the clock, making a hit and a score -- bigger, better, higer performance ... the Winner! It is said that breaking the rules wins wars. But breaking rules cause wars, too. Always trying to win, "by hook or crook" is waging war in my mind. Soon, it spills out and fills up the universe with conflict and destruction. Fighting inside brings wars outside.

The little war with the rock-throwers is just a scaled down version of the bigger war going on in the world. It all starts right in my upside-down heart. "Gotta make it big! Get to the top. Be a somebody. Be looked up to and admired." So I get back what I put out. [...] When I stop competing and scrambling for (money,) name and fame, then people will stop fighting with me. How will the world get better if I don't change myself?"

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