Two Years in Indiana

by Bill Bunting

What we now know as the United States of America began as a tiny colony from England who settled in Jamestown in 1607. Prior to that were multiple failed attempts at colonization that resulted in the loss of resources and people from both Spain and England. Finally though, the people who would become the nation we now know as America got a foothold on the eastern seaboard and made a life for themselves. The ideal that drove those first immigrants from Britain was freedom. They sought freedom of choice, speech, and religion; they also sought freedom from oppressive taxation and monarchy.

For each individual who chose the path of migration from the comfortable, familiar life in England to the great wilderness of the New World, that freedom they so desperately sought came at a great price. Many did not survive the cross Atlantic voyage by sailing ships, many did not survive the harsh winters, many fell victim to the native Americans to whom this land rightfully belonged, but they persevered, they worked hard, and scratched a living from an unforgiving land and created a country founded on the principles and values that they had brought with them. These principles eventually lead to a revolution to throw off the chains that bound them to a king and country that lay across a vast sea and gain true independence. Within a period of roughly one hundred years, a new nation was born, and the entire geography of that nation would fit easily into one of our larger states today, most of the country to the west of Virginia had never been seen by anyone other than the Native Americans who lived there. This land to the west was a huge unknown wilderness, full of dangers and the unknown.

Fearless men and women once again chose to gather up their belongings, and seek opportunity in this wilderness. Many of them had never seen a desert, or high mountain range, or encountered a bear or wolf, or any of the other dangerous animals and hostile peoples that inhabited these areas, and yet they went. Through persistence, patience, hard work, creativity, and lots of trial and error, and many, many mistakes they learned and thrived, and made homes and businesses and an entire economy grew up from east coast to west. And within the span of the second hundred years, America became what we know now, the great melting pot, the model for people all over the world, the dream for many who seek freedom and peace.

There is no doubt that our ancestors, in their quest for a nation committed some terrible moral crimes against a variety of people and against the land itself in the name of "manifest destiny", the term used to describe what was then thought to be the God given right for them to take whatever they wanted and use any means necessary to achieve their goals, and the evidence of those actions is apparent to this day. The aftermath of slavery, prejudice, discrimination, sexism, racism, civil war, and hatred are still visible in our streets and in our homes. But those of us who are alive now, were not there to stop what was happening then. That does not absolve us of responsibility. We are the present.

By now, you may be wondering "What is the purpose of this background history lesson" or "What does this have to do with spreading and cultivating the great Tao".

In the year 2007 there is still a vast American wilderness that extends from the borders of California deep into the American interior, the Midwest and plains states. It is a wilderness of spiritual opportunity, a wilderness where a voice is proclaiming a better way, a different way, an enlightened way. It is the voice of the I-Kuan Tao, which until two years ago was virtually unheard here.

In May of 2005, a group of masters from Los Angeles dedicated the Chuan I Fo Tang in Carmel Indiana, and ever since that day, this small shrine, which remains open to the public, has spread the Great Tao to Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, and Michigan. By using the internet, business travel, person to person communication, the distribution of I-Kuan Tao materials and every other avenue available, we have made the I-Kuan Tao known, and have brought 21 souls to the Great Tao through initiation.

Just as the first explorers of the western plains had to learn how to survive and thrive in a new and sometimes hostile environment, we here have had to learn the skills and methods that produce the most beneficial results. Just as our Chinese ancestors were sometimes persecuted and mistreated in the early history of our country, we sometimes are maligned and mistreated by those who do not understand the true teachings. I myself have been subjected to a form of racial prejudice because of my acceptance of and teaching of this ancient Chinese way. I have been treated harshly by those who demonize anything non-Christian as evil and wrong, I have been called an idol worshiper, I have been called a liar, I have seen countless conflicts and arguments over which Chinese character means what word among people who donít even speak Chinese. I have heard people here in my own city, say "we are all one, except them" and the "them" changes depending on what they perceive is evil or wrong. In short, the wilderness is a wilderness of understanding, true knowledge, true peace, and genuine learning. The need is still very great.

The more we come to understand the needs of the people we seek to serve, the better able we are to help them. I have learned from the masters that not everyone has an affinity for the Great Tao at this point in their life, and that it sometimes is more important to plant a seed and then disappear, knowing the seed will grow up one day. There are those who have the affinity, but are held back either by fear, or other people who do not know, and who may not wish to know the true teachings at this time, and so we plant another seed. There are those who have the affinity, and the ability to learn, but who lack the technology and for whom the distance to Indianapolis or Los Angeles is too far, and so we send email, and speak via the phone, or when Iím in town, such as Rockford Illinois, where we have a small but growing group of people who have shown interest in the Great Tao and from which we may receive additional souls through initiation. We are refining the methods we use to spread the teachings to try to make some of the more complicated teachings easier to understand or more familiar to the American English language. For instance, there is no English word that translates directly to "Qi". The concept of Qi in English requires either very few, or very many words, depending on whether one wishes to discuss Qi as energy, or Qi as a living, dynamic force. I am continually reminded that a carefully chosen word can make a tremendous difference in understanding.

One might think that so far this has been a dissertation on the things that separate us one from another. It is true that there is a large cultural and linguistic barrier to cross between ancient China and modern America, it is also true that there are substantial philosophical differences that separate people one from another, even within single families. It is also true that as human beings spinning through space on this tiny planet that we all have much more in common than we have in difference, and it is these common bonds of the human condition that make this work possible. The words I-Kuan Tao translated mean "The Tao that unifies all with the one" and when we contemplate the depth of that statement its power is overwhelming. No matter a personís country of origin, language, culture, or circumstance, we all have common needs. We need to be fed, nurtured, loved and accepted, clothed, housed, and to feel useful. Those needs are universal. Every single person on the planet turns their eyes skyward at some point and wonders what will happen to them when they die, this question is universal. Every person came from parents, who came from parents, who came from parents, this continuum we call family is universal among humans. We all strive in some way to better our condition and circumstances. No matter who we are, or where we are, we seek a better life for our children than we had. Every person faces challenges and problems. Every person faces choices, some of which are difficult. Each life encounters a certain amount of joy, and a certain amount of pain. We all at some point are at the very top of the wheel, and sometimes at the very bottom. This cycle has continued from the very beginning of humanity.

Into this cycle, the I-Kuan Tao has the ability to bring order, discipline, reason, and truth to the process of living.

One of the challenges we face most often in spreading the Tao, is the absence of understanding as to what exactly the true teachings of the Tao are. There is a widespread misunderstanding which when paraphrased sounds something like this. "The Tao encompasses all things, therefore everything is part of the Tao, and since everything is part of the Tao, nothing is wrong, and everything and anything is okay".  As with every misunderstanding, this one is based in the truth, but lacks the substance of truth. Those who would say that there is no good or evil in the Tao, no right or wrong in the Tao, that any and every behavior is right do not understand the teachings. While it is true that the Great Tao is neutral, it is readily apparent that good and evil, right and wrong, order and chaos, and many other apparent opposites do in fact exist. They do not exist however, in diametric opposition, but rather as complimentary pairs that help lead us to a right and proper conclusion and path. If we never experienced pain, could we truly appreciate joy and good health? It is in this wisdom that Lao Tzu says "All the world recognizes beauty, therein lies ugliness." Communicating this teaching is central to achieving understanding of the most elementary of truths, and yet seems to be among the most difficult to convey. Overcoming the human desire to pursue the course of least resistance, to choose the higher road, to aspire to unify the self with Tao is perhaps one of the most difficult choices that some people ever make.

So what have we learned in two years in Indiana? We have learned that just as the pioneers of the western frontier struggled and persevered, we too must struggle and persevere. We must improve our own practice, giving up bad habits, and embracing proper conduct so that our example shines before others. While we do this, we must be mindful not to become arrogant or prideful, which leads to destruction. We must remember to be humble, as the common dust, so that we do not exclude anyone from the opportunity to receive the teachings. We must remain upbeat and enthusiastic for the heavenly mission so that others can see our true joy in our devotion. What we begin by rigorous practice after a brief while becomes daily habit and is no longer work, rather it is merely a part of us.

We have learned that just as the original colonists, we must be satisfied with small beginnings that grow into large results and blessings. An enormous oak tree starts its life as a tiny acorn. We must not allow fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of our own shortcomings or mistakes to prevent us from making our most sincere effort to spread the Tao, trusting that Lao Mu will take a sincere effort and produce a shining result.

We have learned to save our resources, and to waste nothing because everything is useful somewhere.

We have learned to share what we have and give joyfully to others in need, without judgment or preconceptions, but not to give to the point where our own welfare is damaged or to permit ourselves to be unfairly taken advantage of.

We have learned the wisdom of carefully chosen words, and the power of the spoken and written word, like that of an axe, which might be either a skillfully used tool, or an awesome weapon.

We have learned that in the repetition of the rituals there is both order and focus. Focus on the principles we are commanded to embrace, humility, charity, tolerance, forgiveness, attention to our responsibilities, and performance of our sacred duties. Order is brought to our daily routine that keeps our hearts and minds continually looking towards the Great Tao.

We have learned that discipline, especially self discipline, is a beneficial and worthwhile pursuit. That moderation in all things is the key to material happiness and contentment, and that there is no misfortune so sad as a one who does not know what is enough.

We have learned that sometimes it is sufficient to plant a seed. The path of the Great Tao is so wide and so easy to walk, that many people are unable to see it. It is not within our power to lead another down the path, we only can shine a light on where the path is for each of us, then if someone decides to walk with us for a while, our paths may merge for some time before they separate again and we each go where we are lead.  Each person we meet, every soul we touch, who has not received the Tao through initiation, represents an opportunity to plant that seed. Very often we may never know if the seed took root or not, but where and when we can, once planted it is our responsibility to water and care for that seed.

We have learned that just as the pioneers perfected their methods and practices for raising crops, and thriving in a new land, that we too must perfect our methods and practices for raising our crops as well, and through this, bring more people to the Great Tao by a good example, and the proper approach and right teachings at the right time. "The Etiquette and Discipline" says that "A wise person does not waste words", this would imply that we develop the wisdom to know when to be silent as well as when, and how to speak.

We at the Chuan I Fo Tang give thanks to Buddha Maitreya and Lao Mu, and to the Senior Master and Masters for the opportunity to continue the heavenly mission of spreading the Tao. There are many others to whom we owe many thanks, and to each of you, thank you as well. It would not be possible for us to do this wonderful work here without the support and guidance of all of these wonderful masters, lay people, and cultivators whom we hold dear in our hearts. We are truly a family under the Great Tao.