Many know Rev. Heng Sure as the bowing monk. Typically, Buddhist monks don't play music, but his teacher taught him about 'skilful means' and asked him to pick up the guitar. Since then, he has moved many to tears with his songs -- including this one, that emerged post 9/11 in America.
Click below to listen (you can also download here):
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At gun point, the last thing you would do is bow to the man holding the gun. That's exactly what these monks -- Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au -- did. Three times. Of course, bowing came a little easier to them because they'd been doing "three steps and a bow" for 800 miles. Yes, 800 miles for 2 years and 9 months straight. They were on a peace pilgrimage along California's highway 1, a pilgrimage to bring peace within and without.
That journey to boundless compassion never ended, though. "To make peace on earth we must want it. To stop harm and fear in the world we must change our ways. To change our ways we must change our minds," Rev. Heng Sure says. "The power is ours. Evil and good, selfishness or compassion all come from the mind first. If more people care for others, the world will spontaneously grow brighter."
Originally from Ohio, Christopher's life changed with a random phone call while pursuing graduate studies at UC Berkeley. Through a series of serendipitous events, he met a Chinese master who inspired him to dedicate his life to understanding and building virtue. He became Rev. Heng Sure.
Today, decades later, Rev. Heng Sure continues to serve the world in various creative ways -- including playing songs! Below is a song from his first album, titled Dedication of Merit. Rev. Heng Sure himself explains the origins of the song:
The song "Dedication of Merit" was born as an antidote to the grief and helplessness following 9/11 and the fall of the two towers. 250 Buddhists and Catholics had gathered at a Benedictine Convent in Indiana to investigate the Rule of St. Benedict from a Buddhist perspective.
Sister Mary Margaret Funk invited the Buddhists to provide a dedication of merit, a practice of sharing with the world all the goodness created by any wholesome action. Using the mind to broadcast goodness is an effective form of spiritual activism.
The Abbot of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and I accepted the challenge and the night before the conference concluded, we managed to translate into English the 1300 year-old Chinese Buddhist verse. Needing a tune, my thoughts spontaneously recalled Ms McKennitt's "Dark Night of the Soul." I matched our translation and her melody and they joined like body and soul.
The next day the participants, holding candles, processed out to the driveway of the convent, around the white marble image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who resembles in so many ways Guan Yin Bodhisattva, the Awakened Being of Great Compassion. I introduced the new song, saying, "After meritorious deeds of any sort, a Bodhisattva, an Awakened Being, can share the goodness with the world by making a wish and dedicating the merit. The scope of your mind and the sincerity of your heart determines the efficacy of your vows. When, as today, so many hearts dedicate together, the effect can change the world in profound ways."
May every living being,
Our minds as one and radiant with light,
Share the fruits of peace
With hearts of goodness, luminous and bright.
If people hear and see,
How hands and hearts can find in giving, unity,
May their minds awake,
To Great Compassion, wisdom and to joy.
May kindness find reward,
May all who sorrow leave their grief and pain;
May this boundless light,
Break the darkness of their endless night.
Because our hearts are one,
This world of pain turns into Paradise,
May all become compassionate and wise,
May all become compassionate and wise.