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May 11, 1977:
Dear Shih Fu,
Homage to the Venerable Master, May he lend his compassion to all beings!
This work is very much like a Ch'an session. Constant mindfulness is hard work and we are making slow and steady progress. Three steps, one bow.
Heng Ch'au is a good protector. He has already saved us from one nasty situation which he will tell about below. Many lay people have protected us and show us great care. I am not talking very much at all. This is a wonderful chance to practice my vow to speak only words in service to the Triple Jewel. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to cultivate the Way.
Keeping our wonderful protection requires carefulness. We've met relatively few obstacles so far, but many tests.
Our first day out we started bowing along a row of bars in a tough neighborhood. Lots of drunks and macho toughs. Our first solo, we were really less than confident. Wet and muddy from the streets (it had just stop raining, a small clearing when we started bowing), we were not an awesome sight. On the second bow the action started.
A huge drunk tapped me on the shoulder from behind, "Hey what you making with this?" I feebly tried to explain through his stupor. He's seven inches from my face. He slowly pulls one of those sentimental, wavy-haired, hippie pictures of Jesus out of his wallet. He keeps shaking it in front of my face, waiting. I gracefully exit to stay close to Heng Sure. A souped-up car whizzes by full of drunk and violent men, "You queers have until sundown to be out of this neighborhood!" We're only three minutes out and already so much flak.
We trudge on. Many groups of people forming ahead as the work quickly spreads. "You'll never get anywhere that way, ha! ha!" laughs someone.
"Hey, Joe, they're blessing your gas station! ho! ho!" mocks another.
Some pass us like we're old popsicle sticks. They are indifferent, as if in T.V. samadhi. But each group dissipates as we bow into them. How we must seem to them.
They test us verbally - no response. "Hey, think I'll kick 'em in the ass when they kneel down!" No response. A larger, older group of men gathers at one corner. The leader stands a good 6'5". His sidekick has been running in between us, patting us on the heads, posturing, and trying to provoke us. No response. Heng Sure is constant - pushes forward. I close the gap. Suddenly they make way, telling the lingering one, "Let 'em be, they ain't doin nothin'." We bow through. I feel the two leaders stalking from behind. It's hard to put down my years of martial arts training, but I know there's no real protection save sincere cultivation. We keep bowing, walking… Finally the hulk pulls alongside and politely asks, "Pardon me, Sir, may I ask what you're doing?" I nod, finish a bow and explain.
"Wow, that's something! Don't he talk? You've got the hard job. I can dig being peaceful. All the way to Ukiah! What's this Buddha about?" etc. They are moved. Something soft and genuine peeks out. The edge is gone. Ice melts to water. "Peace to you guys, " he says and crosses us with his blessing as he walks away. "Take care."
We are beat! Time to find a camp. The clouds are back. It's starting to rain. Forgot toilet paper.
2:30a.m. Parked across from a tortilla factory in South Pasadena. I woke up reciting mantras. I hear footsteps shuffling and quiet voices. A shadow passes by the right side of the car. Bang! An arm forces itself through the vent window, trying to open the door. Dogs outside barking wildly. I yell, "Hey!" I can make out four dark figures moving away from the car. They re-group down the street. A little later I hear rocks hitting the pavement around us. I wipe the moisture off the window and see them, now with nightsticks or bats, coming for us, buzzed on something, throwing rocks and charging down the center of the street to attack us. I jump the seat, grope for the ignition and start the engine. Engine won't turn over. Panic sets in. I recite Kuan Yin's name and try again. Varoom! the engine roars. I pull out. One of them jumps at the car trying to stop us. We made it!
Went to the Gold Wheel Temple and slept in driveway until 4:00 a.m. Adrenaline exhaustion. A hard day, this one.
We are accidentally killing many little bugs and ants under our bowing hands and feet. Every day we feel stronger, more mindful. Dreams within dreams bowing through L.A. It's inconceivably wonderful, Three Steps, One Bow.
Peace in the Way