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Three Step One Bow

Three Step One Bow Song

Welcome Dharma Master Heng Sure and Dharma Master Heng Chau - 11/1979


Video transcription:


Venerable Master:

Originally I wanted to sit down; I did not want to sit on the platform today. But these two [Three Step One Bow] cultivators who bowed are my disciples, so I really couldn’t avoid sitting up here on the platform. And there were two places up here for them to sit. Now the people who set up the platform, I don’t know why, but someone put up four chairs. And I don’t know who the fourth person was that they had in mind. And I thought it over about what I was going to do because if I had Guo Zhan take that seat then maybe Guo Hang would have gotten jealous. And if Guo Yi got up there then maybe Guo Siu would have been drinking vinegar and saying that their teacher was really unfair. Now although we know whether you are sitting on the platform or you’re not, it doesn’t really make any difference, but people can be really strange. If you have some kind of gathering and people get seated in the wrong places, some people are going to start grumbling, so I told Guo Wei to take that extra chair away and that way nobody would have to be jealous or upset. So as long as I was up here, sitting up here I thought I might as well say a few words.

Now I thought I would go ahead and say a few things but I am not a very good speaker, but that doesn’t matter; if you are good listeners, that’s what counts. Now maybe the true cultivators might not want to speak, so I thought I’d first sort of pave the way, sweep the road, and then once that was done they would not be afraid. 

Now although I didn’t go out and bow once every three steps. I think that it was possible that back at the temple where I was, I was working harder than they were, I was enduring even more suffering. Now why do I say this? It’s because everyday I was very busy helping to prevent them from having any big problem. That was what I was hoping to do; I am not saying that I could do it actually, but I was wishing for it.

See, you have to know I said I was hoping they would have no trouble; I wasn’t saying that I was keeping them from having trouble - note how carefully this was phrased. And this was so that, well let’s say that there was some problem, people who have gone around saying, “Oh that Dharma Master, he says he has spiritual penetrations, but then why did his disciples get in trouble while bowing?”

Now it’s not that I really care about my reputation in this way but I still wanted to prevent them from let’s say, getting run over or in some other kind of accident, maybe blown away by the wind or drown. Now that would have been a problem. That’s why I say I may have been working harder than they were.  

So they were out on the road all this time and they were not afraid of the wind or the rain or the sun, the heat of the sun. So nobody here today should wear a hat. Now if anybody has got their hat on, it would be disrespectful of the cultivators. So somebody tried to give me an umbrella; how could I possible go for something like this? I mean what would it look like, nobody else has an umbrella, and I am a big sissy up here with an umbrella, or I am trying to act like the emperor. So I want to be just like all of you, and if the sun is really getting to you, then go ahead and put your hats back on because I’ve got some hair up here, it does not matter, but for those of you who just shaved your heads, the sun might blister your head off.

So you shouldn’t do what I told you to do because everything I say is half true and half false; it is not entirely true and it is not entirely false. If the false part makes sense to you, then believe in that, and if you think the true part makes sense, then believe in that; it’s up to you, you pick whatever you want. I can’t speak this too clearly, because if I told you the whole thing, then you wouldn’t be using your own judgment, your own Dharma selecting eye. And if you insist on me telling you everything, that’s not really right.

So I am just going to tell you that it is half true and half false. Do you understand now? If you pick the false part and believe in it, then you get cheated by me. But if you pick the part that’s true then you cultivate according to the dharma, then you gain benefit.

Now probably what happened were these bowing monks listened to this half and half teaching of mine and they managed to pick out the true half, cultivating towards that, and they just let the false part be. That’s all, that’s all there was to it.

Heng Chau:

The Master just asked me while we were going up, if I had died yet, and I should explain this so that nobody would get the wrong impression that the Master was maybe wishing bad luck on myself. The dying that the master was talking about was the dying of the self, the dying of desire, and not the dying of permanence, (right at this moment, the wind blew down the small flower vase in front of him and broke it), not the dying of the cultivator.

I should be really careful because everything speaks the dharma; the wind speaks the dharma, and when I open my mouth and don’t speak really truly then retribution comes, and it’s right here that disasters begin so maybe this vase is speaking the dharma and saying “Heng Chau, this is a warning, everything you say should be really true and right on the mark, and not the least bit arrogant and false because if it’s that way then for sure something bad is going to happen, not just for you, but for all living beings, because you are a left –home person. And because you are a left home person, and everything you do is for everybody and not just for yourself. So the wind was giving me a warning to be really careful, so I should listen. And that’s what I really want to talk about; that’s an example of the dharma that we’ve learned from two and a half years of bowing - is to be really true and really honest and really straight-forward in everything we do.

A new friend came up and asked, “Why are you bowing?” And I said, “We are bowing to try to get rid of disasters and calamities and suffering in the world.” And he said, “Well, what do you mean? Do you mean man-made disasters like broken homes and unfilial children, and car accidents, or do you mean natural disasters, like earthquakes and tornados and floods and famine?” And I said “We mean both, because both are the same. Both come from the same source.” And he said, “I don’t understand.” And when Heng Sure and I started this pilgrimage, we didn’t understand either. We were brought up in a western society, educated according to the best scientific predicaments so quite naturally we didn’t believe in anything really but our egos and ourselves. We didn’t believe as it says in the Avatamsaka Sutra, “All retribution is born of karma.” That is, everything that happens to you comes from what you do. So we decided that it was a matter of life and death to us, to be really careful on what we were doing on San Bu Yi Bai, and to run a little scientific experiment and so that we would have something to share with people who didn’t believe this, because if you don’t believe this, then there is no way to end suffering. No one saves you but yourself; no one can and no one will. You yourself must walk the path; the Buddhas only show the way. 

So the Master says he speaks half true and half false. If you don’t know which one to follow, then you will be in really bad straits. If you know which one to follow, then everyday is happy and everywhere is peaceful. So I wanted to share just a little bit today some of the experiments we ran at San Bu Yi Bai, and what we learned from them. And I really seek the compassion of the Avatamsaka Assembly of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to help me make sure my words are true and not arrogant or false for the sake of all living beings.  

The two outstanding lessons of this whole pilgrimage are both within the Flower Adornment Sutra. One is that "everything is made from the mind alone.", and the second is that "everything that happens to you comes from what you do." 

The first day we started out in Los Angeles we found this to be the case. Right away we met a whole manner of strange people and beings who came to test our vows; they came to test Heng Sure’s silence vow to try and see if they could get him to talk, they tested our vows not to get angry by really pushing us up against the wall with testing situations, and in all of this we were instructed right from the beginning that no matter what happened we couldn’t fight and we couldn’t get angry and that all we could use is use kindness, compassion, joy and giving to deal with all situationsThis was really hard for me because I’m used to fighting, not so much with fists but with words and the thoughts, and used to pushing my weight around, and this is just another kind of fighting; it doesn’t work. We found that when we held our precepts, this is really important. The Five Precepts are the basis of everything: if you can hold the Five Precepts not only are you assured of never being born in the lower regions as a hell a hungry ghost or an animal, you’re always assured of being born at least as a human being. This is really important!

And if you keep your vows, you can make vows and keep your vows, then wherever you go you’ll be okay. We found this to be the case when we started bowing and thought up of Vandenberg Air Force Base. At this time incredible storms came up, I guess you call them typhoons, with winds up to and exceeding 100 miles an hour all throughout the area, and heavy flooding, trailer trucks and semis were blown off the road, whole little towns were completely leveled by these winds. At this time we hadn’t really done anything too bad so we kept our precepts pretty much and we were holding tight to our vows, and for some reason we came through okay; we never got touched by the winds and we never really got touched by the rain. Wherever we went, whoever was looking after us and taking care of us was really compassionate and we came out okay. In fact days went by when it was pouring rain and it never rained on us, and as soon as we started false thinking about “Gee, it’s not raining on us,” we got drenched. There were times when we could actually feel the presence of, I don’t know what to say, protecting spirits, not only of our teacher but of spiritual beings around us, protecting us. This happened in the beginning in Los Angeles. Heng Sure one time had a vision of a Gwan Yin Bodhisattva just before an accident took place, and there was no accident as a result.

(21:54 recording cut off briefly as this point) … his young daughter was running off with a man. She was only 15 years old at the time and he was really worried he was really mistreating his young child physically and emotionally, and he and his wife were contemplating getting a separation. After reading the Vinaya he put it to practice and about seven or eight months later, they stopped on their way to a vacation and they all looked really good. They were all together, happy; their younger daughter and older daughter had come back home and living with them again, and that the kids were really glad and happy, contributed to that glow.  

Reading the Vinaya, following the rules, may seem really old fashioned but it has made a big difference in my life. So we really found that all our problems come from selfishness and all disasters come from greed, anger, and stupidity. We’ve seen this in bigger ways too and I want to talk about these because they don’t often get talked about. Heng Sure and I have been really skeptical about these things but now I’ve come to really believe them. For example, it’s a fact that there hasn’t been an earthquake in San Francisco. Now why is this the case? And San Francisco is right on the San Andreas Fault Zone and it should have earthquakes, it should have gone under the ocean a long time ago. And it’s clearly because of the vow power, or precept, or great virtue of our teacher. I don’t say this to give anybody a high hat because we’ve been told not to give high hats; I’m giving a high hat to the power of the Dharma and to the power of pure precepts, that the way and the response intertwine and the heart conceive them; if they are really pure, then magic things happen. The city of San Francisco hasn’t had any earthquakes, nor has Hong Kong over there had any typhoons on the map over there because of the same thing - because of cultivation, because of the power of the pure precepts. 

When we were in LA, we rode down to LA and we barely made it to LA, the storms were so bad the roads were flooded up and we were in a VW bus at the time. we floated through a couple of puddles on the highway, the tires weren’t even touching the ground it was so heavy. We got to LA and there a Medicine Master Repentance Ceremony going on and all the people in the LA area had come to Gold Wheel Temple to the Medicine Master Repentance to eradicate the cause and conditions of disasters and illness and suffering and calamity. At this time it was really strange because the mayor of Los Angeles had declared a state of emergency. In fact, many homes have been wiped out and things were bad and there was more storms coming in, and yet the Gold Wheel Temple and the surrounding area, nothing happened and many of the disciples who went back and reported at that time that in their neighborhood huge trees had gone down and ruined homes right next door to them but in their own homes nothing had happened either. And at this time I remember (someone – Kean, the Dean?) said this was attributed to the sincerity of the people who participated in that weekend Medicine Master Repentance. We witnessed it ourselves, it was really hard to believe, and not only that but during the repentance a huge tidal wave was coming in off the ocean and somewhat short of the city of LA it suddenly dissipated and gone.

With every thought, with every act, with every word that Heng Sure and I have ever said or done or thought of that had been marked with greed for food, for fame, for wealth, for sex, or for what we seek, has brought us trouble, has brought us disasters. Every time we kept the Five Precepts from not killing, not stealing, no sexual misconduct, no false speech, no drug or intoxicants, not even thoughts of those, we’ve always been okay and there’s been really magical responses in those (inaudible)

So the heart of this whole pilgrimage is that we’ve learned a whole lot. Now all the what looks like bitterness and suffering in cultivation, there’s none that isn’t happiness. It says, the hells, the hungry ghosts, and the animals, King Yama’s realm, all animosity, hatred, conflict, slandering insult, all these evils are caused by greed and attachment to the five desires. So this is what the Master is saying when he said, “have you died yet?” because if I was embarrassed to go back and bow again in front of the assembly and come up here again, if I had that much of a blush in my face then the emperor hasn’t died yet, then desire hasn’t died yet, and because desire hasn’t died yet, disasters go on. So Heng Sure and I really feel that if we can get rid of our own desire by a little bit, then the whole world is better by a little bit, and then if we hold onto our little desire and think well, it’s just a little desire and it’s mine, then the whole world is polluted by that much little desire. And so it says the Bodhisattva looks at all of this and figures out, “Gee, we’re all connected - no man is an island, everything we do touches each other.” He looks at this and realizes this and reduces his greed for the flavor of the five desires, so as a result we’ve been really trying to get rid of our greed for food. We eat a lot differently now than we did when we started; we ate a lot of sweets and really good food when we started and we found that it brought a lot of trouble.  

I really tried to control and reduce my sexual desire because more than anything, this is the heart of all desires. Because of a greed for others, because I can’t see through myself, because I’m confused about myself, I’m confused about others, and because of that on this trip I almost died because of my sexual desire. In fact it was a (inaudible) on an Asian tour that the fruit of my sexual desire came to ripeness and I almost died, and if it weren’t for the compassion of the Master I would be scattered back to the four elements right now and who knows where my soul might be - for sure in King Yama’s regions. So that taught me a lesson, that what’s sweet is really bitter fruit and what looks bitter really brings a sweet mind. And so it’s been a little easier because of that every time I greed for women I see it really clearly that it’s not women but my own selfishness I can’t turn around. And so it’s said once you stop seeking you can stop worrying and then you can reach true ultimate happiness.  

So I wish to say that we tried our best to die and we maybe just got a little sick. Keep on bowing and I hope that what we’ve learned was of value to all human beings, and what we’ve done… (30:00 to 30:25 of lecture omitted, inaudible due to overhead plane interference) So I hope we all die soon. I hope we all die together and be reborn together, I hope we all stay together and meet time and time again to cultivate the Way together to help each other reach the Path. We transfer at the end our day of bowing to the City here, to all living beings, to end disasters and calamities, and so that all of us together can accomplish complete Buddhahood, and I really hope that this may be so.  

So I’ve got on my hat on today because I shaved my head and I have a blister. And I should stop talking…


[Rev. Heng Sure bows to Venerable Master Hsuan Hua and bows to audience]


Venerable Master:

Everybody, in case you don’t know it, Dharma Master Heng Chau hasn’t talked in a long time. Today he got a chance to talk and today he got into a talking insanity and talked for a 100 hours.

He did not pay attention to whether or not everybody was sitting here sweating in the sun (inaudible) I personally can’t stand it. I really…  really wanted to get out of here but what could I do?

I’m not going to say another thing ... (inaudible).


Heng Sure:

.... (inaudible) ...

… fighting with people outside, fighting with Heng Chau outside, was fighting with me inside my heart ...(inaudible).. And just at that time, a beer bottle flew and smashed our side window, right beside the picture of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion. And I learned that anger causes wars, it’s a direct relationship. So we’ve learned the source of war in our own heart, and in this way by controlling our own anger, just not giving rise to anger inside, not giving rise to anger outside towards any being, anywhere, we don’t obstruct ourselves and we don’t cause trouble for others… The third thing we transfer to everyday is that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas might be quickly and easily accomplished for the sake of all beings in the world. We really believe, we have indestructible faith, that this is the source of a lot of goodness in the world and as I bow to everybody in the assembly (inaudible). I am bowing to ten thousand Buddhas, I am bowing to ten thousand Buddhas in your heart and I am bowing to the ten thousand Buddhas in my heart, and I am bowing to the ten thousand Buddhas in empty space, all around. And that is what San Bu Yi Bai has been to me. And it’s been a source of indestructible faith in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha and all pure white Dharmas that can be transferred, and Bodhisttva, Dharma Masters, Buddhist teachings, like cause and affect, like giving as a practice of happiness. We’ve learned that giving is a practice of compassion. And I vow to all the five indestructible faiths, and bodhisattva dharma masters, indestructible faith in the Buddhist spiritual penetrations, indestructible faith in the clever, expedient means of great Bodhisattvas who can take ignorant living being like this one, and no matter how greedy, no matter how hateful, no matter how many false (inaudible), they can trick us towards going to the good, and that’s my indestructible faith.




Venerable Master:

Dharma Master Heng Chau said that, he’s still an emperor inside, so everybody should take a good look at him and let’s figure out is he an emperor? Does he look like an emperor? Does he have an emperor's nose, or the eyes of an emperor, or emperor ears? Or the mouth? Exactly what is it about him? Or what...

Why am I bringing this up? Because he’s figuring out now that he sat up behind the podium to lecture and Dharma Master Heng Sure was still down on the ground, so he probably figured that the emperor... (inaudible).


Heng Chau:

... So I am at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, so maybe some people are thinking at the very least that, maybe they are enlightened now or they have some type of spiritual penetrations. And all I can say is that I feel really ashamed because I give off this impression and it’s not the case. Everyday I false think, everyday I have attachments, everyday I do bad things, everyday I have bad thoughts towards Heng Sure. Everyday I feel like the Master has tricked me into cultivating. Everyday I false think that maybe, I still can be a layman and do this.
Right at this moment the Venerable Master laughs, looks at Heng Chau and says Yes, Yes...). And I think no, I can’t be a layman and do this because it makes me sick. I can’t go back, I get sick going back, all I can do is be a left home person, I’ve been tricked. So I think all these things.

So where is the pure and lofty in this? So I feel ashamed, yet I tell these stories and you don’t know what is really going on. The man who got up and spoke and said yes, like the seed, very simple on the surface but underneath very complex.