He continued， “Master， first he insulted me by holding up one finger to indicate I had only one eye。 Still being polite I held up two fingers to indicate that he was blessed with two eyes but still that traveler kept going on and held up three fingers to indicate that together there were only three eyes among them。 So I wanted to hit him hard and made a fist but he ran off。 Where is he hiding？？”
TT: You had that thought?
Wayfarer then told master about the combat。 He said ， “I held up one finger to symbolize Buddha but he held up two fingers for Buddha and Dharma。 So I held up three fingers for Buddha Dharma and Sang-ha but then he made a fist to indicate that they were all one。 So I ran to indicate that I am no match for him。”
TT: You were in the east coast, in Boston? Bob: East coast in Boston. I was very lost and very confused within a year. So then I barely graduated in high school because I wasn’t really interested at all in school. Didn’t make any sense. But then many of my friends went off to college. I got a draft number so I did not have to go to the military. You know the war was happening but I was glad. But I was very confused. I ended up doing another year of high school. And then I thought I might as well go to college since all my other friends went to college so I did about a year of high school and I got into a college in Lyndon, Vermont. The reason I wanted to go was that I really got into downhill skiing. So I went to the school in Lyndon, Vermont. I majored in skiing, and getting drunk, smoking marijuana, and trying to get girl friends.
Moral： Never be too quick to judge others。
Bob: Oh yea. I had some regret, even though I was very glad to be married too. But as time went on, I think realizing that my practices is my life. The monastery is in my heart. It’s not outside of me. And being in relationship and having chilldren, I never would have known about being a husband or father.
After saying this wayfarer left。 When the traveler left， master’s attendant arrived。 He was angry and out of breath。 He demanded to his master， “Where is that rascal？？”
TT: How does he present himself? Bob: There was certain type of quiet, humility, kindness, intelligence, and curiosity combined. The ethos of him combined. And he assigned us to read and start studying and reading the Tao Te Ching so I started reading the Tao. TT: In the class? Bob: In the class. This was a beautiful translation by xx. I just fell in love with the Tao Te Ching. Up to that point, I’ve never been exposed to any type of literature like this or thought about that. I never knew that people thought about like that. It opened my door, my heart, my eyes. The wisdom of Lao Tzu is so simple and so profound, and so common sense that I just fell in love with the Tao Te Ching. Then I keep on reading. There are certain epigrams I read over and over again. One of them is epigram 47. It says, “no need to look ouside your window for everything you need to know is inside you.” There’s a little bit more but that part paricularly. But I began to realize if I want to know something about myself, I need to look inside here. And up to that point in my life, I never thought into that. I never heard that type of idea- to look inside yourself. And that began my meditative journey.
TT: Do you remember which year is that? Bob: This was in 1974 or 73. And so Bill Jackson was, from the Buddhist point of view, like my heavenly messenger. The heavenly message is the awakening to the realities of aging, illness, and death. And then the monk, the one who has become awaken; the ones who didn’t have. And Bill, he was definitely like a heavenly messenger. By his example, he showed there’s another way to look at life. So that’s how I began to practice meditation. Then I got more formal when I moved to San Francisco when I studied at graduate school. I began taking Vippassana mediation retreats. TT: It’s very interesting. There are 2 points I heard from what you said just now. One is about the death. You witnessed several deaths of people who were so close to you. Then the wisdom of the East. The message was given by your teacher. But here in the MBSR teacher training, we talk about “suffer” a lot. I was wondering this is like a time travel. You are talking in your previous years, in 1970s, experiences that have brought you to this journey. Bob: Yea. So I began practicing mediation, and reading about the wisdom of the East. I just get so intrigued. That led me to SF to get a master’s degree in counseling psychology where I continued to study Hinduism, Buddhism, and I was introduced to a Vipassana meditation teacher. I got so into Vipassana. She said to me (It was a woman and her name is Rina Sircar) do you want to come to Burma and meet my teacher? I said yes. So I traveled with her and some of her other students at the Southeast Asia department. I met her teacher who is a Buddhist monk. His name is Taungpulu Sayadaw. I ordained with him as a Buddhist monk. Several months later, we were bringing the monks to the United States. We were renting a house outside of SF. Saydaw said how about we find a place and buy it and start a monastery. So we moved the people from the place near Santa Curz where we lived into forrest. We raised enough money. We bought a forrest monastry and I ended up living there for eight and half years studying very intensively the Dharma and practicing mediation. I also finished my PhD in philosophy and religion at that time. TT: At the same time? Bob: Yea. I was living in the monastery. the school is in SF. TT: It sounds to me- it sounds so natural that it just unfolded and the path came to you. Bob: yea. Just following the sutra of the Dharma. The Dharma shows me everything. I don’t have a choice. The Dharma told me what to do. Hehe in some way. TT: So when you talk about the memories or the past, some images came out? So when you talk about what has happened, like the red wood, like the place you started your intensive practice for many years, what type of images? Bob: I think the deeppest images-the relationship that I had with my teacher. Taungpulu Sayadaw was the head teacher. He died in 1986 that he left the number 2 olddest teacher, Hlaing Tet Sayadaw , to be in the monastery. I lived with Hlaing Sayadaw for 8 and half years. He’s like my father and I loved him so much. He taught me so much, by example of the Dharma. So I think the teaching of the Sayadaw and his embodiment is the deeppest image that I have. I lived with him for eight and half years and he’s the most contentted human being I really ever met. I lived with him for eight and half years so you get sense of a person if you live there for a long time. He was just incrediblly content and he didn’t need anything materialy. But yet material thing wasn’t xx. He was also incredibly humble. He was increbly quiet. You know everybody has a personality so he had a personality but his personality was such that he didn’t have any needs to be known, or to be seen. Like if you went into a room, some people are very charismatic. He was the opposite of charisma. If you went into a room you might notice someone nap before we notice him. He just didn’t have that energy of being noticed even. So one day I just looked at him. Who is this guy? This guy is so oddly, content with himself. I wanted to be around him. So so many nights I would just be with him and massage his feet and I just listen to him breathe. His breath would take me to the deepest forrest.
Once a traveling monk stop at a monastery。 Master at monastery assigned his attendant to engage in silent debate combat with traveling monk。 By chance attendant who was to combat with wayfarer had only one eye。
Bob: It’s the right thing. It’s the right thing to do. How I left was that…While I was living in the monastery, because of my history, I am working with death and this was also attracting me- The monks go to cemetery every month to do some mindfulness of death meditation. I also really need to go to cemetry, meditating on the death, my own death, and everything’s death. Then I decided I want to work for a hospice. While I was living in the monastery, volunteering with the people dying. So I began to that as well. I was looing at monastery, people who dying. Then I got assigned a young woman, my age, was dying of a brain tumor. She lived very close to monastery. Then I began to help support and voluntter there to help her and her family. She had two sons. Her husband had left them during the middle of her second brain surgery. So I started caring for her and something very strange happened to me. I fell in love with her. And I was not looking for love. She’s all swollen with steroids and she was missing the top of her head. She had brain. They had taken out the top of her skull and it got infected. So they had to take out the top of her skull. She just had a skin flap. But there’s something about her just opened my heart, in such a deep way. And her mother eventually had a neverous breakdown and left. I ended up becoming the primary care giver for her and her two boys. She opened my heart to love in a way that I never experienced. And I for her, I promised her I would stay with her till she either got better or if she died, I would stay with her till her last breath. I would take care of her, I promised her. And I ended up living there. I go back and forth between there and monastery. It’s closeby but towards the end, she really needed a lot of help so I stayed there and took care of her. I was with her till her last breath. The next door neighbors became the gardian of the two boys because I hadn’t worked in 10 years. I didn’t have any money. So, anyways, I went back to Boston to be with my family for about a month and I came back to Cal to monastery. There was a nurse that worked on the case helping to take care of the woman that was dying. She was a good friend to me. Her name is Jan and she had been there the whole time. And after Daisy died, that nurse said why don’t we just go for a walk and we’ll talk. She had been there and she helped out so much. It was so easy to be with this woman, Jan. And that was 27 years ago. Jan and I ended up getting married. She’s the nurse. I really felt like Daisy opened up my heart to love and Jan was really the partner. So that’s how I left the monastery. I didn’t exepect that to happen but my heart just started to open and My teacher Sayadaw, he was so accepting and understaning. He was really quite amazing. Some years after, sometimes go back all the way if I stayed at the monastery, I’d been a monk and maybe I would’ve gotten enlightened or whatever.
TT: When you are a 4 year old?Bob: Yea and that was a very powerful moment in my life-realize that it was not quite gonna last. Then the next 5 years, I was visited by a lot of death. With my brother, my younger brother with a ?? illness. We shared a room together. My best friend who I played with every day after school and she died one night- went into a diabetic coma. And then my grandfather who lived downstaris and whom I was very close to. So by the time I was 9, it’s very extreme and very big loses in my life. It was a very challenging time growing up. This was the middle in the United States and the middle of the Vietnam War. The middle.??. they hear along. There was a lot of unrest in the 1960s. That’s when I grew up.
TT: Really sounds like your father. Bob: yea. He’s my father. I mean I am blessed with another father, my birth father who I love deeply. Hlaing Sayadaw is my another father. I loved him very very deeply. I was his son. TT: Eight and half years with him. Bob: Yea with him but all in all I studied with him for 25 years until he died. TT: It’s in your 20s? Bob: I was in my 20s. TT: And you learned from him for 25 years. Bob: yea until he died. TT: He’s a critical person who has influenced you a lot. Bob: yea, yea. TT: So it sounds very natrual that you chose the life in monastery. What brought you out? Did you answer this question a lot? I saw the smile. Bob: I’ve definitely answered it with a longer version or a shorter version. TT: How do you feel now?