15 August 1974 A Good and Wise Advisor
Another one of those hot, dusty days. Heavy traffic, logging trucks, and affliction everywhere. We bowed along Highway 20 into the little town of Van Horn [Washington]. The Olsons, who own the general store and gas station, invited us in for a cool pop. There was a lot of activity around the place; these folks had been hearing about us for months. Kids and dogs were milling around everywhere. At one point, I noticed an old man, short, bearded, and bespectacled, wandering around outside the station. He was talking to the kids, and although I don't think he had ever been there before, he behaved like he was old friends with everyone. He had a white truck with a homemade trailer behind it, and two dogs that he was trying to give away. I was taken aback when he walked up to me and asked me if I called myself a Buddhist. I noticed that he was totally relaxed and centered.
"Why, ahh, ahh, yes," I replied, wondering what he was getting at.
"Do you want to hear what the Buddha taught in plain English?" he asked. I didn't want to say no, because that wouldn't be right. And I didn't want to say yes, because that would imply that I didn't already know. I looked around and there was a small crowd gathering. He had a mischievous gleam in his eye.
"What did the Buddha teach?" I finally said.
"The Buddha taught compassion. The Buddha said that we should stop knocking each other around, but most people don't buy it!"
I was sure this little man could see right through me, but I quickly replied, "Buy what?"
"What the Buddha taught!" laughed the little man. "I don't think you are a complete convert," he said.
Boy, he was really putting me on the spot! "I didn't say I was perfect," I replied. I had shifted totally into my own defense. The little man paused, and then he moved closer and looked right into my eyes. I was beginning to steadily flash on how angry I had been towards Hung Yo during the last few weeks.
"The Buddha taught compassion. Be more compassionate!" he said. Then he took off his glasses and stuck his face up about twelve inches in front of mine. "I'm not your enemy; I'm your friend. How many people do you know who would talk to you like this?"
By this time I was completely overwhelmed, not to mention embarrassed. I had never seen this guy before, yet he had zeroed right in on my number as if I was transparent. All the people were looking at me. Everything was quiet, and I was absolutely speechless. I didn't know what to do or say, so I went back out on the road and continued bowing. Only afterwards did I begin to realize just how miraculous an encounter it was. Just as the Master had often done, this man was talking right through my false front, directly to my attachments. As I bowed along, I began to feel a sense of shame that I hadn't felt in a long time. I really had been mean to Yo in many, many ways. Most of the time it was very indirect and subtle; nevertheless, it was always very irritating. I felt terrible about it. I recalled a verse that the Master once wrote:
Truly recognize your own faults,
Don't discuss the faults of others.
Others' faults are just your own.
Being one substance with everyone
Is called the Great Compassion.
I scurried down the highway until I reached the spot where Yo was waiting with the cart. He had missed my little encounter with the old man, so I told him what had happened. We sat down and mixed up some lemonade powder with some fresh Skagit River water. I looked at him directly for the first time in a long time. For a short moment, we shared a smile of silent understanding. I felt old, old, old. Then we both got up and continued on.
_ World Peace Gathering, Sino-American Buddhist Association, 1975, San Francisco
_ "The Bodhi Mirror:
Mara Buckles at the Knee," Vajra Bodhi Sea #22, p. 38;
_ Various issues of Vajra Bodhi Sea , 1972-1973.
For more information: Editors, Vajra Bodhi Sea, International Translation Institute, 1777 Murchison Drive, Burlingame, California, USA, 94010-4504