Ripples Following Ripples ~ A NEW MILLENNIUM

I’d been in touch with Tinh Giac and arranged to stay at the temple where he was staying with his brother, Thich Tinh Dao, in Melbourne. I left Manila on a night-flight on the 24th of December, arriving next morning to find not just Tinh Giac waiting for me, but also Tuan and Van, who wanted to take me to their home. I told them I’d have to stay with Tinh Giac for a while first, but although the temple ~ just like Dull Moon ~ had lots of space, being a converted school, it was under-utilised; Tinh Dao’s vision extended only to external things like constructing images; he had no idea about Dharma-propagation. I was glad to leave.

I was in Tuan’s place for the Millenium, although to me, it was just another day, no more and no less important than any other day; moreover, it was of significance only to Christians, as our dating-system is a purely arbitrary thing. It would be better to date it from an event that involved everyone, like the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, which really changed the world.

We had an all-out discussion ~ with someone else acting as translator ~ about Tuan’s infidelity, and he didn’t try to deny it. By then, Van had accepted it and wasn’t threatening to divorce or leave him anymore; instead, she used it to get a new BMW for herself. I was surprised he’d even found someone to have an af-fair with, as he’s not at all attractive with his psoriasis; but there you are, the world is full of strange people.

Knowing I was on my way to the US again, Phong ~ the person who had emailed me on Van’s behalf ~ suggested I stop-over in New Zealand, and offered to arrange things for me, with his brothers and sisters there. I agreed, as I’d not been there before.

From Melbourne, I went to Sydney for a while, and gave some talks there, including one at Sangha Lodge, a centre that had been established by Tejadhammo, an Aussie monk, some years before. This was run very well by him, and had a mixed member-ship of Westerners and Asians. It was my first time there, and at the end of my talk, someone introduced himself, saying he was Lebanese. He’d been interested in Buddhism for some time, and it was his first visit to that place. I gave him some of my books, and soon thereafter he started to correspond with me by email on a regular basis. His name was Iman.

On, then, to Brisbane to visit my mother again; she had deterio-rated some more, but that’s how it is with that dreadful disease. I was surprised at how I took it, as I always thought I would miss her terribly when she went, and here she was, going before my eyes, in a sort of no-man’s land ~ not here, and not there ~ with nothing at all I could do about it.

Flying on to Auckland, I was surprised by the security. A dog snif-fed my hand-baggage, and its handler asked if I had any food in it (they are understandably concerned about things being brought in that might cause diseases unknown in N.Z.); I had none. He asked if I’d had any in the past two weeks, and I said yes; he said their dogs can smell things from so long back.

There was a welcoming-committee waiting for me such as I don’t like: video-cameras, flowers and so on; why make such a fuss? I was taken to stay with Phong’s younger brother and his family, who follow a Taiwanese sect called ‘Tien Dao’ (‘Heaven’s Way’), which is a mixture of things from various religions and assures people of a ticket to heaven on payment of an initial fee of just $10; of course, they can offer no evidence in support of their con-tentions, but that’s not unusual, is it? Most religions are like that.

Whatever, they treated me kindly, and took me where I needed to go for what few talks had been arranged. I enjoyed the month I spent there, and thought it would be a good place to settle, if I ever reach that point.

There was a call for me one day from Wilanie in Adelaide; she never kept in touch with me, but had somehow tracked me down. She told me that Wick (which was how he pronounced his name, Rick), had left her for a younger woman after living with her for over ten years, saying that he didn’t love her. She was heart-broken about this and asked me to pray for her, as she wanted him back. Well, I’d known that he was a rat-bag for some years, and wanted to tell her that she should cut her losses and adjust to life without him, but I couldn’t do so. Poor woman; she ex-pected so much from me, and I couldn’t deliver what she wanted. Before I went to India in ’87, she’d asked me to visit Sai Baba and ask him to help her husband, John, return to her. I couldn’t do that, and her husband never came back. I was sympathetic, but it was clear that her clinging caused her so much suffering.

Remembering that Nghia ‘Houdini’ from Bataan had resettled in N.Z. (though which part, I had no idea), I asked about for him, but no-one had heard of such a person. The day I was to fly out to the US, however, I went to a shop to buy some postcards, and upon coming out, ran straight into him. How strange! “Nghia!” I said. He also recognized me immediately. It was as if our meeting had been engineered. He looked a bit rough, and when I asked about the aunt who had sponsored him, he said she’d died some years before. “Then where are you living?” I asked.

“Oh, no place special.”

“How to find you if I come again?”

“Just ask the police,” he said.

My point-of-entry to the US this time was Los Angeles, but after clearing Immigration and Customs, I got a connecting flight to San Francisco, where Julius was waiting for me. However, my bags had not come on the same flight, so we had to drive around and come back later for them. We then went to Tuan/Diep’s new house; not only had they bought another in the past year, but also a condominium at Monterey Bay; it was their way of avoiding paying excessive tax.

It was still cold when I got there, being the end of winter, and there was snow on some of the hills. Tuan’s aged mother was breathing her last in their home, and in fact died quietly the next day. I refrained from offering my services as she was a Catholic, and her family might not have approved had I done so, but I did stand beside her bed and send her positive thoughts. Her body was taken to a funeral-parlor, and her children started to arrive from all over. I again met Eunice and Truk, from Hartford.

One of Diep’s brothers drove up from L. A. to see me; he considered himself a healer, and he might have had some power, but I wasn’t impressed with what he told me, and thought he was a bit cracked. He commented several times on Tuan and Diep’s pros-perity and said he himself was poor. I detected a note of envy.

As in the previous year, I gave a number of talks in this area, and in Oakland, met Thich Tinh Tuong (who I’d last met in Hartford in ’85). His brother had a temple in Oakland, and Tinh Tuong, know-ing I was going to Vancouver, offered to arrange talks for me in Edmonton; I accepted. I didn’t know ~ because he himself didn’t at that time ~ that he had a rapidly-growing cancer.

Tuan and Diep loaded me up with medication again, and` took me for an eye-examination, with good results. They then sent me on to Seattle, where Nga and Lu of Tampa had arranged for me to stay with a cousin, Albert, who’d set up several talks for me. After two days with him, I went to stay in a temple and from there was picked up and taken to Vancouver. Soon after I got to the temple there, someone I’d known in VRC in ‘86/’87 came to see me: Thao Ngo. It was a real surprise, as I had not known where he’d resettled. He was a nice young guy, and had recently mar-ried; his wife was quiet and shy ~ at least in front of others ~ but I later learned that she would occasionally give Thao a hard time.

Also in Vancouver, I met Victor again. His family had a house there, too, and he was in the process of settling there himself. He was within walking distance of where I was staying.

Thao bought me a plane-ticket to Edmonton, and I enjoyed the flight over the Rockies. It was really wintry when I got there, and I didn’t spend much time outside. Edmonton is on the plains, so the wind sweeps unobstructed over it. Talks had been arranged for me in the Vietnamese temple. Thay Tinh Tuong also came to give a talk there; it was the last time I would see him alive. After my talks, it was time to return to Vancouver, but in Edmonton air-port, I met a Taiwanese monk who had a temple in the city that I’d not known about. He invited me to come and stay if I ever passed that way again.

Back in Vancouver, I met Victor once more, and arranged to see him yet again in L. A., as this was the next stop for both of us. I flew out of Vancouver, after going through the unpleasant US Immigration in the airport there, and was met by Quan and taken to his home again. He was vegetarian himself, and was fond of Indian food, too, so we had some good meals together, even coming across a buffet-style Indian restaurant with a wide variety of dishes. Victor also came and took me out to one of his favorite eating places; this guy really knows how to eat, but never seems to gain weight! Unlike Quan he refuses to eat curry, however!

One evening, I went with Chi Phuong and her family to a buffet restaurant, and while sitting there, someone stole her bag; she’d hung it on the back of her chair and turned around to find it gone. The manager was informed, and the staff alerted, and in a few minutes, the bag was found outside, minus the money ~ quite a large amount. It quite spoiled our evening out.

After talks in various places, Quan drove me to the airport for a flight to Houston, but while waiting at the gate to board the plane, I was unaware the gate had been changed (it’s hard to hear the announcements in airports; they’re so harsh and unclear), and missed my flight, and since the next available one was not for some hours, I called Quan who came to pick me up and take me for lunch; in the evening, he took me to the airport again, and this time I made the flight, but it wasn’t direct; I had to change planes somewhere, and got to Houston quite late, to find Nga and Lu (who’d come over from Tampa to see me) and other people waiting for me; my bags were also there, waiting to be claimed; they’d come in on the flight I’d missed. That would not happen today.

I was taken to the largest Vietnamese temple in Houston, and given a nice room. Talks had been arranged for me but although the translator did what she could, it wasn’t very good.

In Houston, as in other places, I met a number of people I’d known before, and someone I’d corresponded with some years earlier: Nguyen Trong Kha, an elderly gentleman who was poor of hearing. His wife was with him, and she was blind, so he had to see for her while she heard for him; they were a lovely couple. He had such hopes that I could bring the Dharma to America; I was sorry that I couldn’t fulfill them. Nga and Lu introduced me to some of their friends.

Someone I’d met when I first went to Bataan in 1980 ~ Sophie Hai Nhan ~ had arranged talks in Dallas for me, so that was my next stop, and I had a good time there, too. I met some other people from Bataan; one of their daughters ~ Amanda ~ had be-come a dentist in the meantime, and told me that if I needed any treatment the next time around, she would be happy to do it for me. Well, my teeth had been giving out over the past few years, so this was something to keep in mind. In fact, I’d already had some fillings done while I was in San Jose.

Back to Houston, then on to Tampa, to stay with Nga and Lu again; they’d set up talks for me, both in Tampa and Orlando, and these over, drove me down to Miami, leaving me with Hoa and Mai in their waterfront home.

Now, having met Chau in Raleigh, I decided to visit him, so from Miami, I flew to Washington D.C., where he was waiting for me and took me to his home in Virginia. His wife, Phuong and their children made me welcome, and I stayed with them a few days, giving talks in several places in that area. It was at one of these talks that I happened upon Yogacara Rahula’s autobiography, “A Single Night’s Shelter”, that inspired me to write my own memoirs (I told of this in the Introduction to “So Many Roads”). Chau told me that he‘d been so disappointed with his eldest daughter’s conduct and the people she hung around with that, in order to discipline her, he sent her to a special school, from which she was allowed to come home only once a year; I don’t think it had the desired result, and maybe made her more rebellious. His other children were alright, and his youngest, Henry.

From Virginia, I doubled back to Atlanta, and stayed with Hien again. He drove me to several places, sight-seeing, including a worked-out gold-mine, and some deep caves near Chattanooga. He then sent me on to Hartford, where I stayed with Eunice and Truc for a while. They took me to New York one day, and while having lunch in a crowded restaurant, a lady opposite started to talk to us, and it turned out she was Thai, so I spoke a few words with her in her native tongue; she was pleased by that, and in-sisted on paying for my lunch. We went to the Statue of Liberty, but were unable to get right to the top. By then, there wasn’t time to see much else, but it was quite enjoyable nevertheless. I never got near to the Twin Towers.

I also spent a few days with Quang. He took me to visit a large Chinese temple in the hills not far away, together with the monk from the Hartford temple, Thay Tri Hoang. One of his students, a newly-ordained American monk was staying there, and for the sake of conversation, I asked where he was from. The smart-ass replied, “That’s what I’m trying to find out.” End of conversation.

Another person named Phuoc, who I’d met in VRC years before, called me from a town named Lawrence, near Boston, and in-vited me over, saying he would pick me up soon, as he was in the vicinity. ‘Soon’ was almost midnight; I had to quickly get ready to go with him. After a few days with him, taking my early-morning walks past huge old cotton mills, I flew out to Cleveland, for the last time with Toan Huynh and his family. I had a quiet week there, as I’d been told in advance not to expect too much as most people would be away on vacation over the Independence Day holidays, and so I wasn’t disappointed. I needed a break anyway.

A monk who I knew from '85 in Chicago (before he was a monk), came down to Cleveland to pick me up and take me to his temple in Detroit, where I spent 10 days. My stay there was good and I enjoyed it; my four talks went exceptionally well. The first was in a Thai temple where there was a mixed audience of Thais, Viet-namese, Chinese, Koreans and Americans, without translation, too. The resident American monk even praised me for it ~ a real bouquet! Contrary to what I expected, he was very friendly. He was strict, according to the Thai way, but not stiff; he even invited me to stay there when I next passed that way. He himself had spent 10 of his 30 years in Thailand working in the Cambodian refugee camps, so we had a lot in common. The second talk there was in the Vietnamese temple where I was staying, and was translated by an American Vietnam-vet named Bob; it was quite good. Several times before, I've had Westerners translate for me, and the Vietnamese audiences loved it. That same after-noon, I gave a talk in a Sri Lankan temple, and there was a mixed audience there, too. My final talk was in the Vietnamese temple.

While in Detroit, a visit to the Ford Motor Museum at Dearborn was a must, and I found it very interesting, although I grew tired after some hours there. The vision of Henry Ford had changed the world. “You can have whatever color car you like,” he said to someone who’d asked him about that, “as long as it’s black.”

From Detroit, the monk drove me to Chicago, a seven hours’ trip. I had a good time there, too, made better by the Indian food that I had chance to partake of several times in restaurants. My week there soon passed, and was really not long enough; actually, I’d tried to squeeze too much into that trip, and should have spent more time in fewer places. Nga and Lu came up from Tampa to visit me and take me around. By this time, I’d come to realize that Nga was overly attached to me, and I found her attention cloying.

My final place of visit in the US this trip was Minneapolis. I stayed with the VINA’s again, and was treated nicely. Before coming, I’d asked them to find me a different translator from the previous year, and Tho had volunteered. But, because of the distorted notes he’d made of one of my talks, I didn’t accept, and when he asked why, I told him. He was very upset, claiming his English was better than most Americans’. That may be so, I said, but it was still not good enough for me. He later became quite abusive via email, thinking that a 2-weeks’ visit to India qualified him as an authority on Buddhism.

At the end of July, I flew out to Atlanta, where I caught a connect-ing flight to Manchester; another long trip was over.

This time, Glen had got timber waiting for me to make double-doors for what used to be her garage; she had no idea what kind of job I would make of them, and was delighted; they were the first of many I would make there.



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