Very interesting and very well-written. A great read.
The only problem I had was with the layout. First, there was a Foreward, then a Preface, and THEN a Brief Portrait of The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. Finally, the Letters. The Brief Portrait should have been placed after the Letters, right next to Master Hsuan Hua's 18 Great Vows. This book has many ancillary materials, which are great, but the Letters should have been placed closer to the front. As it was, I skipped the Portrait initially, and then read it after the Postscript.
Extraordinary. Rarely are bowing pilgramages undertaken. This one was accompanied with a brilliant, boldly honest, daily journal. Here we have a rare, sincere journey focusing on one of Buddhism's most essential sutras and most uniquely set in a human/worldly framework....how personal, how honest, how sincere. I wish everyone could read this for their own liberation.
5.0 out of 5 stars Both profound and wry March 13 2015 By AHayes Format:Kindle Edition Back in 1977 a guy from Ohio -- his parents had been Methodist missionaries in China -- studied Buddhism in Los Angeles, became a monk, and began a bowing pilgrimage to a new monastery in Ukiah (California). Every day, after rising at 4 a.m. and reciting mantras and sutras, he walked three steps, then bowed, slowly, to a fully prostrate position, then three more steps and a bow, and so on, until evening, and then more recitations. He took one vegetarian meal a day, before noon . Another monk accompanied him and looked after arrangements -- also talked to people who started conversations with them, since the first monk had taken a vow of silence. They tried to conquer "false thoughts" and learn humility and bring peace to the world. It took two and a half years to cover the 800 miles, beginning in the toughest parts of Los Angeles, then through Beverly Hills, and then up the Pacific Coast Highway. The "dharma letters" are the monk's letters along the journey to his shifu (teacher/father). Among other things, the letters give wonderful evidence of how the world (in the 1970s anyway) treated such oddities! Puzzled people, hecklers, people who didn't care, people who didn't notice. Gangs would stand in their way, but the monks would just "bow through". Often initial hostility turned to respect. (But, occasionally initial hostility simply turned to further hostility, and kicks.) Teenaged girls would strike up conversations with the one who spoke -- the recorded dialogues are priceless. Others came and gave them gifts. Newspapers wrote them up. Cops drove by to make sure they were okay. Huston Smith, the long-time professor of religion at MIT, wrote the preface to the book, and calls this "one of the most inspiring books" of the twentieth century. He may be right. Read more ›
I found the book at DRBU's meditation room when I went to my first Guanyin session last year. I could not put the book down and wanted to finish reading it. It is a fascinating read from two western monks.
I was new to Buddhist teaching. This book offers insights into the two cultivators' minds. The difficulties I've experienced as a beginner is not unique to me. They also experienced frustrations from time to time as experienced practitioners. The book is an alternative to studying the sutras for those who are new to the teaching.
I bought the book from CTTB's bookstore at the end of my retreat. I still read it from time to time to keep myself motivated during my cultivation process.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to enjoy this wonderful book. This book is a travelogue, spiritual journey, and a fascinating snapshot of coastal California in the late 1970s, all in one.
The book consists of letters written by two Midwestern Buddhist monks during their 30-month, 700-mile, journey from Los Angeles to Ukiah, in northern California, a journey made on foot during a three-step, one-bow pilgrimage, mainly along Route 1 on the California coast.
The letters detail the events that the monks experienced, the people they met along the way, and their daily attempts to live by Buddhist practices.
The letters, written to their spiritual mentor, are exceptional candid and honest. They reveal the difficulty in maintaining their practice in the face of very real physical hardship and spiritual adversity. They describe their reaction to the outright hostility and violence they encountered as well as the humanity and compassion that they received along the way.
Their spiritual triumphs as they reach a fuller understanding of Buddhism and their failures as they uncover their own “false” thoughts are all described as they happened.
For those whom are interested, the letters provides a fascinating history of the Mahayana Buddhism practice in California.
I highly recommend this book, which is well illustrated by photographs taken by different newspapers located along their route. It will warm your heart.
I found this book instructive but delightful. The format is a bit hard to get used to, but you shouldn't let that deter you. What a journey! Sort of symbolic of the journey all of us make inside of ourselves, to find what it is that we are called to do. As a student of Buddhism, I found this a text full of insights about being Buddhist , being a monk (which I am not), and about observations of peace-loving folks about the crazed world around us, that was as evident in the '70s as it is now. I definitely would tell anyone interested in self-knowledge about this book---you don't have to be religious or a Buddhist to appreciate it.
It was the year 1977. Two young American college students who left their home earlier to become a Buddhist monk had set their foot on 800 miles long “Three-Step-One-Bow” pilgrimage from Los Angeles to Ukiah, a city north of San Francisco. The pilgrimage is to “clean up our mess and get rid of the hate and disasters of the planet” as DM Heng Chau explained. It took them two years and six months to complete. And I was completely in awe when I first heard about it. I could not believe someone would ever be able to do it, especially in America and in this modern 20th century! The book is like a diary consisting of letters from the two monks to their “shifu”, the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. In these letters they described in humble and honest words their daily events, their thoughts and actions. Many valuable lessons could be learned from their experiences during the journey; among them was the positive and kind reaction of many Californians along the road toward the two monks. Obviously there were rowdies and bullies out there as well but in general the people they encountered were open-minded, kind and generous. Reading these letters I more than once could not contain my tears. I was touched by their commitment and determination, their deep respect to the teacher Venerable Master Hua and the sacrifices they and the Venerable Master had to endure to enable this kind of pilgrimage. On the outside it is a pilgrimage to pray for world peace but on the inside it is a constant battle against their old bad habits, their afflictions and ignorance. “Tired in body, but happy in mind” they pushed forward, bow after bow, day after day until they reached the City Of Ten Thousand Buddhas. This book is a great read, full of treasures for a “True cultivator”.
I'll admit, it's a page turner. The concise daily entries (letters) kept the journey moving. I had to stop and imagine from time to time how such a tremendous effort put forth by these young men must have been so life changing. Through their words and excellent recollection of their experience on the road I was given added insight to the human condition. Even though the story is dated, the experience is timeless. I'm relatively new to Buddhism practice (although I believe I have been a Buddhist all of my life; I just didn't know it) and I will remember the stories from these letters; they are as relevant today as they were when they were written.
This is a very interesting book...and most likely very nearly as important as Huston Smith says it is.
If you would like a glimpse into the lives of some of the first western Buddhist monks in America, then this is a great book to read. It has endless situational wisdom that I found very valuable.
It was a bit arduous to read sometimes for me mainly because the philosophy behind the book is so profound and vast (the Avatamsaka Sutra). Because there is a lot of serious Buddhist jargon some people may find they need to keep google handy, or get a copy of Buddhism A to Z by Ron Epstein.
Received a copy of the book as a pure gift. Flipping through the pages, and was instantly and forever gripped by the intentions and dedications of these true cultivators. The silent power of these pages stirred the heart so deeply it moved me to tears. Very grateful for the writers, the teachers, and the community that brought this new edition to us in such beautiful form. Will leave the book on the living room table for other fortunate ones to come across.