Universal Door Chapter Lecture 4 — with all their hearts invoke Guanyin’s name

[Music] Good morning everyone!

[Music] This is Rev. Heng Sure, coming to you from Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia and it’s another beautiful Saturday morning here in Queensland Friday afternoon where many of you are, may be Friday evening if you’re in Europe. We’re about to look into the Lotus Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra Chapter on Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva called the Universal Gateway, Universal Doorway Chapter. 

How are you all doing this morning? We are going to have a Vietnamese translation. Look for your chat box; there’s a link to the Vietnamese translation. We have a translation into Mandarin due to the kindness and generosity of our volunteers. So 如果大家想聽中文的話, 你就可以按你的 Translation 按鈕, 在下邊, 右手邊可以聽中文. 

Okay. Today Elaine Tran is going to be helping us request Dharma, so let’s see here [Ring Bell] and we’ve got our text, there it is. So let me ring the bell three times, I’m gonna do three half bows, invite you to join me if you care to and after the three bows then I’ll ask Elaine to 請法 Qǐng fǎ. Here we go,

[Ring Bell] First Bow

[Ring Bell] Second Bow

[Ring Bell] Third Bow

All right, I’m going to put my palms together. Elaine, if you would like to request Dharma

[Elaine] Yes, Dharma Master.

[Rev. Heng Sure] Okay, please begin.

[Elaine] Ok.


Gōng qǐng dà dé sēng tīng, wèi cǐ fǎ huì jí yī qiè zhòng shēng, qǐng zhuǎn miào fǎ lún,


Jiào dǎo wǒ men, rú hé liao shēng tuō sǐ, lí kǔ dé lè, sù zhèng wú shēng.

Will the Sanga with great virtue,

Out of compassion,

For the sake of this assembly

And all living beings,

Please turn the wonderful Dharma-wheel,

To teach us how to leave suffering,

And attain bliss,

And end birth and death and

Quickly realize non-birth.

[Rev. Heng Sure] 

Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato, Samma Sambuddhassa


Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato, Samma Sambuddhassa

[Rev. Heng Sure]

Homage to the Blessed, Noble and Perfectly Enlightened one


Homage to the Blessed, Noble and Perfectly Enlightened one

[Rev. Heng Sure]

Namo Sa Dan Tuo 南無薩怛他

Su Qie Duo Ye 蘇伽多耶

E La He Di 阿喇訶帝

San Miao San Pu Tuo Xie 三藐三菩陀寫


Namo Sa Dan Tuo 南無薩怛他

Su Qie Duo Ye 蘇伽多耶

E La He Di 阿喇訶帝

San Miao San Pu Tuo Xie 三藐三菩陀寫

[Rev. Heng Sure]

開經偈 Kāi jīng jì

無上甚深微妙法 百千萬劫難遭遇

Wú shàng shèn shēn wéi miào fǎ bǎi qiān wàn jié nàn zāo yù

我今見聞得受持 願解如來真實義

Wǒ jīn jiàn rén dé shòu chí yuàn jiě rú lái zhēnshí yì

Supreme and wondrous Dharma, subtle and profound, 

Rarely is encountered,

Even in billions of eons.

But now we see it, hear it and accept it reverently;

May we truly understand the Buddha’s actual meaning.

[Rev. Heng Sure] Alright, thank you Elaine, appreciate your help this morning. Doing the Dharma request, that really, in fact, does help me a lot to get centered to find my breath and to drop my Qi down to where it belongs, so that when we open this text, which I’ll do right now,  I’m better able to kind of polish my lens so that any light from the Sutra through my lens shines out and connects with folks’ needs around the world. That’s the whole process of requesting dharma.

So,  there’s a note.

A note here.

Our fearless Secretary Chen Yu has said if you would like to request Dharma in the future, please let Chen Yu know. If you’re not comfortable with Chinese or English, we have a Pinyin version, or we can pair you up with another friend, so you can do the English part of the Dharma request.

「各位佛友,如果你感興趣請法的話可以聯繫我。如果你不方便說英文或者你不方便講中文你也可以參與中文的部份,我們可以幫你找到說英文的佛友一起完成請法。」對。那,Chen Yu 你沒有告訴他們怎麼聯絡到你?

You have to tell people how to get in touch with you, so maybe send that connection. The person who sends you the email every week, that is Chen Yu, she’s the one. Okay, there’s the email right there. Alright, good. Check the chat box.

Okay, today is Saturday, 17th of April here in Australia. It is Friday the 16th where many of you are. Here is our text known as the 妙法蓮華經觀世音菩薩普門品, Sutra on Lotus Flower of the Wondrous Dharma: The Universal Door Of The Bodhisattva Who Listens To The Sounds Of All The World. It’s a gateway – I’m tending, I keep changing my thoughts on the title and yesterday, I found myself describing this text to people as “The Universal Doorway. Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s Universal Doorway” and what do you think, maybe, maybe not? Universal Gateway. Universal Gate. Universal Doorway. Portal, The Portal … Okay.

We did these two paragraphs last week. We’re going to start on the second paragraph again, right here on your screen. We did it before, but it works with—it introduces the two passages that we’re going to do today. Okay, here we go. I’m gonna put my palms together: 


The Buddha answered Bodhisattva Infinite Resolve, “Good Man, if all the countless hundreds of thousands of millions of living beings tormented by misery and pain hear of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva, and with all their hearts invoke her name, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva will immediately respond to their prayers and set them free.

So what’s in this? This is the essence of the Sutra, the essence of the Chapter, this is Guan Yin’s story right here. Isn’t it, right? So, Infinite Resolve asked the Buddha where did Guan Yin’s name come from? The one who hears the sounds, hears the cries. The one who responds to the pleas. The one who receives the prayers of living beings. Where’d that name come from? And the Buddha is now talking, here we get the Buddha’s voice. 

The Buddha says, “Good Man,” could be Good Woman, but the requester is a man so 善男子, it could be 善女人. If living beings tormented, hear Guan Yin Bodhisattva and invoke her name, Guan Yin responds and sets them free. All the verbs there, ok? The Buddha says if you’re in trouble, if you’re hurting and you call her name, Guan Yin’s Vows mean she will hear you and respond and set you free. 

That’s the promise. Now there are details. Notice I skipped some of the words here. Why? It says countless hundreds of thousands of millions of living beings—all those living beings—doesn’t matter how many need help, Guan Yin’s Vows, her capacity, her ears, her eyes, her hands are enough to respond to all of them. That’s one detail that I want to point out. The numbers don’t matter. 

Number two, ‘with all their hearts invoke her name,’ that’s how you do it. In other words, you have to need it, you have to be sincere. If you’re checking out Guan Yin, if you’re shopping for Guan Yin’s help, if you’re curious, if you’re experimenting with Guan Yin, you didn’t really  mean it, what will Guan Yin Bodhisattva do then? Not recommended. You might think, “oh, it didn’t work.” Yes, it doesn’t work, and then you cut yourself off from when you need it. Oh, my God!

So, ‘with all their hearts,’ notice that translation 一心稱名 (Yī xīn chēng míng) 一心 with a single mind, there it is. 一心稱名 (Yī xīn chēng míng) ‘with all their hearts invoke her name, Guan Yin will immediately respond to their prayers.’ I also didn’t say the ‘immediately’ ‘respond to their prayers and set them free.’ Okay, let’s take a look.

There’s Guan Yin; here are some notes, see the notes page here? 若有 (Ruò yǒu), the number, how many? 眾生 (Zhòngshēng), what? 受諸苦惱 shòu zhū kŭ nǎo. Look at that. ‘If living beings experience all kinds of troubles.’ Who that? Who are we talking about? Is that you? Do you experience all kinds of troubles? One response would be do you want the latest troubles? What kind of troubles do you want me to tell you about? Yeah, I got some troubles; all kinds of troubles 苦惱 (kŭ nǎo) in Chinese; it is really good, elastic word, it involves is bitter, it’s also the word for suffering, with nǎo has the heart radical on the left side of that character; it’s interesting because the nǎo also is the same word for brain, 腦筋 [(Nǎojīn), and so a lot of the suffering, a lot of the nǎo that comes to us, they don’t impact my body, it’s not that I’m like starving or necessarily that I sprained my ankle or have a sore neck or a sore back, often the kŭ nǎo that comes to us is mental, mental anguish. I can’t stand to be locked up in this room one more minute, and we’ve just heard we have to lock down again. 

The Governor of Michigan, state of Michigan—anybody from America listening in?—has the highest rate of COVID infections of any state. 99% of hospitals in major cities in Michigan are full now as of today. This fourth wave has just hit Michigan like crazy, and the thing that works right away is to lock down, is to stop circulating the virus, but guess what? What Michigan is? Michigan is the place where when the Governor a year ago, almost, probably a year ago ordered a lock down, armed men showed up at the Capitol saying, “you can’t take our freedom from us.” And with guns, automatic weapons, showed up and said, “you can’t tell us to keep ourselves safe, we demand freedom, we have to go out and get sick.” 

Crazy, and so now here’s the Governor a year into it, saying we’re going to have to lock down again. Oh boy! So that’s kŭ nǎo, right, that’s real nǎo. People who are determined to keep themselves sick. They have no wisdom and when they’re told to be good and have a thought for everyone, have a civic mind and care about others and be unselfish and just endure a little bit of discomfort because it’s for everyone’s best interests. “Oh, no, oh, no, no, we’re not going to do that.” That’s hard to be a civic leader when you have citizens who are trained to be selfish rewarded for freedom, “we demand freedom,” so that is nǎo

When living beings show kŭ nǎo, it’s invisible often. You can’t see it, but it is . When you don’t like anybody different than you, when everyone who is different than you, you see it as a threat because you’ve been told that story. A lot of it is stories, right, stories. My goodness! We believe in those stories even when the stories have negative intent, when the stories have evil intent. They’re not of good will. They’re called bad faith actors—tell you stories, people believe them even when it’s to their own harm. Oh my goodness, that is 苦惱 kŭ nǎo. 

Okay. “If.” This sentence started out with “if” those beings 受諸苦惱 shòu zhū kŭ nǎo. And what? “一心稱名“ ”single-mindedly.” How did our text put it? The text said right here: “with all their hearts.” That’s a good English idiom: “single-mindedly with all their hearts call her name” 一心稱名 (Yī xīn chēng míng). You have to need it.  即時觀世音菩薩 (Jíshí Guān Shì Yīn Púsà), 即時觀世音聲 (Jíshí Guān Shì Yīn shēng), right then, on the spot, she will hear your cries, and set you free. 皆得解脫 jiē dé jiětuō.

We have a question from Alice. Let’s see here…yeah they’re different, right. I’ve been told that “惱“ nǎo and “腦“ nǎo are different characters. They are, but I said the same sound. They were assigned different characters, but “腦筋 nǎojīn” and “煩惱 fán nǎo” are both third tones. So, I said that’s an interesting coincidence. You’re right Chen Yu. They are different characters, but that’s how I remember my 漢字 Hànzìi—my Chinese characters. You kind of pin it to a picture, and if I wanna say: 你的腦筋 Nǐ de nǎojīn, 我的腦筋 Wǒ de nǎojīn—my mind, I think 我的煩惱。(Giggles) This is the same sound. Okay. So you can get into the eternal question among philologists and linguists is: did language begin as sounds, or did it begin as images, as characters? And pretty much everybody agrees that spoken language preceded written language; written language came afterwards, but the word “惱 nǎo“—trouble, worries, grief, sorrows, afflictions—and “腦 nǎo”—brain—same sound, different characters. 

We have another question from Alice. Alice wants to know: what’s the difference when you are reciting Guan Yin’s name on a daily basis and when you exhort Guan Yin when you’re in trouble like the sutra mentions? Okay, so I would say to you: what’s the difference between ten dollars in your pocket book, ten dollars on your credit card, and ten dollars in the bank?

If you continue with the answer is “nothing!” You can still use it; it’s still money, compared to not reciting. If you have no money in your pocket and you need to pay a bridge toll, what do you do? Do you go through the gate anyway and hope the camera missed you or know that you’re going to get an email from the bridge toll authority, the highway department, Caltrans? So money, if you… I’m mixing my metaphors wildly. Let’s get back to the question. 

Suppose you have beads. I have a set of beads right here. [Clangs beads] Hear my beads here? And daily as I walk from the parking lot to my office, as I hit my head on the pillow and not yet asleep, as I am waiting in line at the bank, what do I do? I go, [recites to melody]

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva 

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva 

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva 

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva

Namo Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa

Namo Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa

Get the idea? You recite regularly. Maybe you don’t have beads. Maybe you’ve got a fancy electronic calculator counter, nifty high tech counter. Maybe you don’t need no stinkin’ counter. Maybe like Master Hsuan Hua, like ShrFu, you recite and you’re never wrong of the number, you’re never confused about the number, you always know where you are. ShrFu said you could do that; he didn’t use his fingers, didn’t use the beads, he always knew where he was when he was reciting. And you don’t recite carelessly. It’s good to know, “today I recited 10,080 times or 1080 times,” “today I recited 108 times,” “today I recited 21 times.” If you do it all the time, sure enough, you have access to Guan Yin. And the way I think about it Alice, it’s not so much we think about we’re reciting the name of Guan Yin, and we think about an external Guan Yin who comes from afar, from the sky, or where? Where does Guan Yin come from to cross the distance from where she is to where we need her to be? That’s the natural way to think about it. I think about Guan Yin inside!

What’s the “普门 (Pǔ mén)”? Where is that “universal doorway”? And my best answer is that doorway is in our heart, it’s in our mind, it’s in a place where Guan Yin already is if we have that connection to her. 

So, let’s say we’re on the always reciting side, I habitually, personally, I have to say, I don’t recite Guan Yin’s name as often, I recite the mantra, the 大悲咒 Dà Bēi Zhòu. Same thing. It’s also a 大悲法門 Dà bēi fǎ mén, Great Compassion Gateway. Okay, so I’m reciting, “Na Mwo He La Da Nwo Dwo La Ye Ye.” Other people could be reciting, “Namo Guan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.” By doing that, you open the gateway in your heart to Guan Yin. I think of it that way. 

Now, is it that way? That’s not necessarily. That’s the way I think of it. You’re opening your line, you’re making the cell phone call, you’re sending the text to Guan Yin in your heart when you recite, so the response is already there. The problem is, we often are so covered, we can’t hear the response. Guan Yin is in our heart saying, “Hello? Hi! Just, will you listen? I’m here, what do you need?” And we’re like, “Where’s Guan Yin? Where’s Guan Yin? Where’s Guan yin?” We cover up, we mess it up, we think too much. 

So question: “many recitations better or one recitation? Is the response the same?” My experience tells me, my personal experience, that it’s the same. What matters is that you send the text, that you actually make the request. Once you do, once you say, “Namo Guan Yin Pu Sa. Namo Guan Yin Bodhisattva” the connection is there. So that’s my answer. It’s the same. Now your question, I think, was prompted by my statement not to try, not to experiment. It’s kind of like we trick Guan Yin into responding. That’s to look down on Guan Yin. My experience shows me that Guan Yin is way bigger than we know. Guan Yin Bodhisattva was a Buddha and she took all that wisdom power, all that light, all that nature you could say, and focused it down to a function in a female body, Guan Yin Bodhisattva. I’m gonna respond to living beings who need me.

The size of the Buddha, the Buddha’s ability to respond; you could just say it this way, the human mind’s ability when it’s uncovered and functioning to respond is vast. Understand that Guan Yin Bodhisattva is a technique, is a method.  Guan Yin is an awakened human mind.  The cry regarder, the sound hearer, the voice hearer. The one who responds. Guan Yin is big, pretty big. It’s a human mind uncovered and trained and given this charge, this mission. What’s the mission? The vows. Guan Yin’s vows, the Buddha who became Guan Yin made vows. And said, 正法明如來 (Zhèngfǎ míng rúlái) The Light of Right Dharma said, “I’m going to stick around. I’m not going to go away. I want to continue to help living beings.” And so made that vow.  And came back in this incredible form. The form changes too, mind you. We’ll find out all the different forms of Guan Yin. 

So it’s a really good question. Does Guan Yin come to people who never recite except when they heard grandmas tell them to do it, and so at the last minute they do it? The question would be did they do it? Did they ask? If they ask, they get a response. So,  somebody here, “So, why bother? Why put all that work in? Why keep reciting if I get the same response if I just do it once?” Well…what if you forget? That’s the deal. The fear would be that we don’t even do it once and that’s really true. Too late. Your car is heading for the divider strip. You’ve been clip in the back by somebody running from the police, which is a real possibility in America. You were driving safely on the freeway. Somebody clips you and suddenly you’re spinning towards the center divider at high speed.

The cars on all sides of you. Oh, that’s not too far away. We can imagine that. We’ve been on that freeway. What then? Well, Namo Guan Yin Pusa. Namo Guan Yin Bodhisattva. That’s when the constant reciting pays off. So Alice’s question was, “what’s the difference when you’re reciting a lot, all the time or once you get the same response?” If you sincerely recite 一心稱名 (xīn chēng míng) with all your heart, invoke Guan Yin, it happens inside us. We open that line. GuanYin gets the message. It’s not that she was busy on another call. She was in a Zoom meeting. No. Guan Yin gets it because it comes from our heart, which is Guan Yin’s heart. So, once does the same too, but don’t wait because you might forget. You might not remember, so habits matter. That’s the word I didn’t use yet to answer Alice’s question. Habitual reciting means it’s there and available to us. 

If one has been reciting Guan Yin’s name, is there a greater benefit by changing to learn and recite the Great Compassion Mantra? It’s a question from Jerry. No. Greater benefit? No. I don’t think so. Cause why? What you want in the time of so, I start back—they’re both methods of accessing Guan Yin, but they function differently. 

The question is, “is reciting the name the same or different from reciting the mantra in terms of benefits?” Definitely different. The mantra has all kinds of other functions. Kane asked about the Dharani sutra last week or the week before. And I didn’t remember to answer.  The Dharani sutra is another text that teaches Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s Dharmas. Shrfu, Master Hsuan Hua, explained the Dharani Sutra. It’s a wonderful amazing Sutra that focuses a lot on the mantra. 

So, that’s where I’ll refer to it. The 大悲心陀羅尼經 (Dà Bēi Xīn Tuó luó ní Jīng)  Dharani of Great Compassion Sutra. I’ll refer to it. We’re not going to explain it, but it talks about the mantra. It has, let’s say for example, healing. The Dharani Sutra talks about healing a lot with the mantra not so much when you recite the name there is healing.

However, I live in what’s called the Bush in Australia. I live in the forest. I live in the woods surrounded by trees and this place is alive with living beings. Living beings who have no feet. They crawl on their bellies.  Living beings who have two feet. Living beings who have four feet. And I’m not going to stop there. Living beings who have six feet, who have eight feet? We have a lot of arachnids, right? Spiders and all kinds of critters like that with many feet. 

And because their bodies are small and fragile and my body is big, I find myself in a position to be hurting living beings, crushing them, stepping on them, squashing on them without knowing it. A spider crawls in my tea cup and I turn the faucet on to wash it out before I look and here I drowned the spider.  It happens. At night, they crawl around without knowing it. I have spiders in my saucepan on my stove. Big ones! Luckily, I learn to look. You learn to learn. 

When that happens, when inadvertently I harm a living being, I have found at that point if I say, “Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa. Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa. Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa. Namo Guan Yin Bodhisattva, please save this living being whose body I’ve harmed.” Many times, I’ve seen those beings who are, for all the world, they look grounded, they look dead, they wake up and walk away. I’ve seen this happen a lot. And, it gives me something positive to do. I would say, “Guan Yin Bodhisattva, please help this sad little living being.” And she does. I’ve seen it happen a lot. 

So, I’m still responding to Jerry’s question. There is healing in the name and if you’re in a hurry and you don’t have time to “Namo he la da nuo duo la ye ye”….recite the mantra, the name works well. The mantra, however, functions in many, many different ways, so to say they’re the same, not exactly. 

Sue says it doesn’t matter how far we are, she can hear our heart. Indeed, our hearts are connected. Heart to heart. Ok. Chant all the times when you begin to notice the acts of kindness and reflections. Ok, Bernie and Xingfei down in Sydney brought out the really really important point, which is the first question—Alice’s question was when you need it, Guan Yin saves you.  If you recite once at the time you need help, the help comes. If you recite all the times, what happens is you begin to notice compassion on all sides. Little acts of kindness in everyday life that reflect our deeper connection. You become more compassionate and you appreciate Guan Yin. You feel grateful. Exactly. Bernie, thank you for that. Absolutely. 

Kane wanted to know about the Dharani Sutra. Dharani Sutra belongs to a genre of Buddhist literature known as Secret School, I guess, exoteric school text. The Dharani Sutra contains other elements—medicine, actual formulas, chopped up this and combined with this and this helps.  But Master Hua, Shrfu, gave us the Dharani Sutra and then discovered that once he pointed people to it, there was, I guess you could say, there was some unwholesome attention. People want power from the sutra and he heard stories of people taking his lectures and selling them online for hundreds and hundreds of dollars, so he said we’re not going to circulate that book for now. People are not quite ready for it, but I still refer to the Dharani Sutra and there’s lots of goodness that will come into our lecture series here. But if you have a copy, if you have access to it, certainly there are tremendous values, goodness in that text. 

Is it encouraged to keep counts? It seems impossible if you are using Guan Yin’s name during meditation? Yes, correct. That’s impossible to count. Shrfu’s teaching was, don’t recite 亂, 不要亂來 (luàn, bù yào luàn lái). You don’t want to recite carelessly so if you are someone who meditates to Guan Yin’s name, definitely, you don’t want to…here I am telling you what you want to do and do not want to do.  

It’s ok to simply recite without counting. By saying, “uh-oh, I better know how many,” you might mess up your Samadhi, so I don’t want to give you something else to worry about. The less we worry about during meditation, the better. What Master Hua meant was, if you have a practice, some people have practice, often with Amitabha. They will say, “I’m going to recite ten thousand Amitabha today.” If that’s your daily practice, then do it. Be clear. Don’t give yourself the practice and then carelessly recite and quit, then pick it up later after your soap is over your soapers, you know, after Netflix, you pick it up again. That’s what he was talking about. 

People who use the name as a focus device while meditating, don’t worry. To give yourself another thing to think about will often upset the mindfulness that you’re working on. So, if you have beads, it’s nice; I used to keep—when I was a grad student on the Berkeley campus, I had a 108 beads string and I had a little tiny safety pin. To get from the Bus Stop to Durant Hall, the bus stops on the West side of the campus, I had to walk past the Life Science building to get to Durant Hall, took me about twelve mantras. So I would recite and when I got to that spot, I would advance my safety pin along my bead string then at lunch while I was going over to the restaurant to get my bowl of 素菜湯面 (sùcài tāng miàn) at the Long Life Restaurant, it would take me another 20 mantras and I would advance my safety pin. So, I had a number of mantras I wanted to recite. That wasn’t names, it was mantras. Often, I would get back home and I would still have 25 mantras to go or something because I’ve been counting all day, but in that case, I wanted to know precisely. So that’s another story, if you’re doing a precise vow. Understand, Michael, that it’s all expedient. We don’t want to keep different natures of people approaching these practices in different ways.  

Some people like, gotta do it. Gotta be that way or else. Nah! It is not the way Shrfu has taught us. The whole idea is to keep our connection to Guan Yin open. Her name has the power, the mantra has power and we empower them. We charge them up by bringing them into our mind. So that is the basics. It doesn’t do to get like super legalistic about it. So if you are reciting Guan Yin’s name while meditating, it’s great.

What do we’ve got? We got. I promised that we were gonna introduce some music as well. Guan Yin access to music. 


Song: Namo Guan Shi Yin

Melody adapted from Joanne Shenandoah’s “Creator’s Song”

Lyrics: Rev. Heng Sure 2007

My heart cries out to Guan Shi Yin (3x)

Namo, namo Guan Shi Yin (3x)

Guan Yin, Guan Yin hear my call (3x)

Guan Yin, Guan Yin calm my mind (3x)

Guan Yin, Guan Yin still my heart (3x)

Namo, namo Guan Shi Yin (3x)

Thanks to Joanna Shenandoah for loaning us that melody from her creator songs. You can find that on Joanna Shenandoah’s album called: Lunda. Last-minute appointments opened up for Pfizer vaccine first those three days ago. There we are. I have a story to tell. I was in a white panel van heading towards Golden British Columbia and I was in the passenger seat. It was Winter; it was February in Alberta. Oh man! I was setting out from Calgary with another monk and we’re on the Queen’s highway, heading west in a white panel van in the Winter. Talk about a cliffhanger…not recommended, don’t keep your audience waiting that long you may lose some. 

So what happened? The monk who was driving was not used to cold weather driving, probably never driven on snow and ice before. And he had an attitude that was dismissive of such paltry worldly concerns as things like icy highways in Canada in the Winter in a panel van that has a very high center of gravity, not the most stable of vehicles. There’s a phenomenon in Canada that you need to know about called ‘le glass bleu’—black ice. In French, it’s blue, but it is black, ‘le glass bleu’. What you do is if you are on the black ice, the problem is it looks like the road surface because it’s kind of transparent, but it is actually a cake of ice and it is as slippery as a skating rink. If you hit black ice while you are driving, you don’t apply the brakes. If you have to apply the brakes, you tab gently and you get ready for the wheel to spin and you steer into the direction of the spin. So if you rear and break away, you see yourself going left, you turn the wheel to the left to correct. It’s really a skill you have to learn how to do it. It is not immediately clear how to deal with black ice. 

So here we are, in this top heavy van and I know the van had old tires to boot. The other thing that you do if you drive the road in Alberta is you get studded snow tires. Every vehicle needs them well, we didn’t. We didn’t have studded tires. So guess what? I had a copy of my sutra recitation book. 

I had one of those volumes that had multiple sutras in it. I was scared stiff because I knew this monk was unconcerned. How did I know? He had a half-gallon plastic jug of chocolate milk that he was swigging from, and one arm draped over the steering wheel. That was the situation where you needed to be super careful because it’s tricky driving those roads. Well, he accelerated around a curve, and the wind caught the van, and blew us slightly off track. He hit the brakes and we spun. We spun one, two, three times in a circle. The highway? This is the Queen’s Highway! This is the major thoroughfare from New Brunswick to Vancouver.

And, what happened?

We climbed the embankment where the snowplows had piled up the snow eight feet tall, way over your head, the snowplows just blew this tunnel. We spun, climbed the embankment. The van flipped on its side and went, “BAM! Whoomp!” On its side on the freeway.

And I was on the high side, dangling from my seat belt. I had fastened my seatbelt moments before because as we left Alberta and entered the province of British Columbia, there was a sign that said, “Bouclez vos ceinture (Fasten your seatbelts).” I had fastened my seatbelt. He spun the van over. I was hanging in midair, suspended by my seatbelt. This is a big van— it’s a panel van! There’s a lot of room in that seat, so I was two, three feet in the air. Cleverly, I thought, “Hey, this is not good. I better get out of this van because what if it’s leaking gasoline? What if somebody comes around the curb?” So I unbuckle my seatbelt. And landed, “WHAM!” on the steering wheel and broke a rib.

I need to take you back to the important moment, which was what? As I saw the monk hit the brake, I recited, “Namo Guanshiyin Pusa, Namo Guanshiyin Pusa, Namo Guanshiyin Pusa.” Although I’m a reciter of the Great Compassion Mantra, when the moment came that I felt the van leave the road and climb the embankment, climbed the snow wall of the tunnel, and then flipped over, I was reciting Guanyin’s name.

You can bet I was. I was reciting Guan Yin’s name. It came out of my mind very spontaneously. And I felt everything slowed down. It was as if we had shifted to slow motion. Everybody’s got a slow-mo function on their phone. You know how it works right?

Things slow down and I remember this exquisite frame by frame experience of the van leaving the road, climbing the embankment where the snowplows had pushed up the snow, turning on its side, spinning around, bam! and down. 

Do you know what brought me back to regular time? It was the chocolate milk dripping off the windshield onto my face as I lay broken over the steering wheel with my ribs cracked. Yeah, the chocolate milk coated the windshield! And the monk who had driven, climbed out the back. His door was crushed against the highway against the ice. He climbed through the back of the van and out the back door. I climbed up and opened the top door. We were on our side. I managed to push the door open. My rib cage was in great pain and I climbed out of the car and down to the road and the first thing we saw was a Royal Canadian mounted police. A Mountie, a real Mountie who was clapping his arms on his shoulders saying, “Oh, it’s cold! You alright? Yeah? Oh, it’s cold. Really cold today. How are you? You okay? How many of you were in the car?” 

So we both escaped with nothing, but a lot of spilled chocolate milk. I noticed something on the road bed and I walked over and there was my sutra book open to Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s practices and vows for some reason. It would be better for the story if it was open to the 普门品 (Pǔ mén pǐn) right? But it wasn’t. It was Samantabhadra. And there were ice crystals on the pages. I still have that book with pages that show like when you spilled water on it where the melted snow and ice wrinkled the pages. I still have that text and every time I see it, I’m carried back to the road bed, the road way. 

And clearly that ability to recite Guan Yin’s name kept me, number one, from freaking out, kept me from panicking. We were okay even though a car came around the bend, saw us, hit the brakes and spun as well. A second car spun when they saw our collision. Our accident. And they were saved. The Mountie was running back to get those flares out of the bed. 

So quite a scene, but I had Guan Yin’s name to recite and I’m sure that it was Guan Yin’s compassion that kind of lent a hand so that our van arrived at the other shore. Took us across. Yeah, yeah. 

Comment – Sue says yeah, downshifting, downshifting better to slow you down than hitting the brakes. 

Let’s see here. Can dogs make it to the Pure Land from their doggie bodies if they’ve heard Amitofo recitation for most of their lives and resonate with the name? How would you know? I don’t know the answer to that. And I would have to have different eyes working than the ones I have right now to tell you clearly yes, no. The principle is, I mean, I have birds who visit my deck everyday to whom I recite the name Amitabha, all the time. I’m reciting Amituofo with every bit of bird food that I pass out to these critters—these feathered friends—telling them to go to the Pure Land because  they can sing for Amitabha there. I tell them to be good so they can get to the Pure Land. So I’m hoping I’m definitely hoping that because they hear me say Amituofo that it will go into their hearts and create an affinity with the Buddha Amitabha.

So I’m hoping. I hope so. For me to say yes or no? I can’t say that. So certainly it doesn’t hurt at all to recite Amitabha for your little puppy. It’s a good sound and that is a very powerful seed of goodness so I would not hesitate, you know. You can add you can be the first one to tell us whether that really works. And you can also dedicate merit to animals both alive and alive only in your memory. 

Okay, time’s up by golly. We just did one paragraph of the text, but I think going into it not bit by bit is helpful for all of us even if you can recite it from memory, which I strongly recommend. Going into the words, seeing them again as if for the first time, that’s a good thing. Can we transfer merit now to folks who are suffering from Coronavirus, COVID19? The pandemic is not over and we need to be mindful, right, of folks who are suffering? If you got your shot, well done, got your vaccinations way to go. If it’s still coming here in Australia, not so many folks have, right? Still to be rolled out. But we can recite for those both newly infected, already recovered and never infected, create an affinity with Medicine Buddha for those who need help. Here we go:

Om namo bhagavate bhaisajyaguru

Vaidurayaprabharajaya tathagataya

Arhate samyaksambuddhaya tadyatha: om

Bhaisajye bhaisajye bhaisajya samudgate svaha om


Thanks everybody for joining. See you all next week. Recite that name—Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa.

Contributors of this transcribing this lecture:

Yan Ming, L. Lau, Aurora Yu, Vera Cristofani, Bernie, Alice Cheng, Annie Tran, Thuy Bui, Hong Anh Nguyen, Bach Nguyen, Justin Lee, Susan Chai

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