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Hridaya Vihara - Temple in the Heart Sangha.

We are a Zen Buddhist community based in Southern California that originated in California State Prisons.  The Sangha now includes over 100 members in and around Los Angeles and internationally.  To learn more about our origins, go to About the Sangha.

Abbott, Rev. Kshanti,
(a.k.a. Su Co Thich Tu Nhân
 a.k.a. Maria Cristina Beato-Lanz
 WGA a.k.a Cris Beato)
can be contacted at:
kshantihome@gmail.com



On the Death of Bhante Suhita

posted May 3, 2015, 6:21 PM by Dorian Peters   [ updated Nov 16, 2015, 10:07 AM by MCBL Kshanti ]

December 28, 2013

All of you can enjoy the tributes, remembrances, and images of Bhante Suhita that have appeared all over the internet since the announcement of his relocation from this realm; so there is no need to recount the events of his life and the details of his legacy at this moment.  The only thing I can offer that cannot be better provided by others is to share a couple of  particular Dharma gifts that he gave to me specifically to speak to my condition.

 

Only recently did I realize that Bhante had decided to teach me in reverse.  One example:  my favorite memory of Bhante is helping him to smuggle contraband fried chicken and catfish to vegetarian places that shall remain unidentified to protect the innocent.  For a while now, I've gravitated without strain or fuss to vegetarianism, but not entirely.  I do like meat – particularly fried chicken, catfish and Cuban pork, and Bhante and I bonded over this and many other Creole sensibilities that we shared – like wisteria, weeping willows, bayous…but I digress.   So I would still eat the occasional meat, as long as it came from what I call "non-tortured" sources.  The day after Bhante left our visible area – not precisely the day he died, but a couple of days later -- in a way that those of you with a meditation practice will understand, I suddenly cracked up laughing and knew – clear as a bell -- that I would never eat fried chicken and catfish or any other meat again.  No effort, no sacrifice -- and it still makes me laugh that I don't even want to.  And I cannot explain the paradox, because no paradox can be explained in words – that it was Bhante's reverse teaching that got me off the fence, but I know this to be true with an insight that is startling and hilarious.

 

I should have caught on to the madness in his method with the last lesson he gave me.  I had received an email explaining the existence of the L.A. mayor's Crisis Response Team, and suggesting that I submit an application to be a part of it.  I still don't know who sent that email or how it got to me, though I tried my best to find out.  But by now in my life I've noticed this pattern, where things to deepen my practice fall into my path for me to do, often requested by others but always unsolicited – and, I'm sad to say, always without pay.  This was no exception.  The application was due on the day I got the email, so I filled it out, attached my resume – and almost immediately was asked to come in for an interview.

 

The work is a bit daunting psychologically, so I consulted Bhante about pros and cons and strategies.  He told me to forget it – don't do it.  "It's too hard, let somebody else do it.  You'll burn out.  I'm talking from personal experience – don't go anywhere near that, and don't even think of asking me if I'm interested.  Why you want to go and do that?  Why you want to bring yourself more grief and more expense and no pay?"  I was shocked speechless – which for me is rare -- then finally stammered that I'd expected that kind of reaction from friends and family, but I REALLY didn't expect it from him.   So he asked again why, and I replied that it seemed to make sense, as it came into my path and fell right in line with my bodhisattva vows, and they were desperate for help, you can't get people to do it, and don't we take these vows about going to the hell realms and all,  so what's the deal with you, Bhante, I don't get it? Again he ranted on, don't do it.  Let other people do it. 

 

So when I told him I'd interviewed and been accepted, and decided to at least do the training and then bail if it was too much (which was what they recommended), he said, "If you take it on after the training, I give you six months.  Tops.  You're not going to last.  You'll have a breakdown."   I remained nonplussed.  Then I passed the training, graduated, told him I was signing up, wasn't going to listen to him -- and he said, "Good.  That's good.  That's very good.  That's exactly right."   Confuse a nun, much?   From that point on, when we couldn't meet because I was on call, I'd tell him "I'm working that job I'm not supposed to be doing," and of course he would laugh – reminding me of the late Ven. Puja who once said to me, "The sound of Zen is laughter."

 

And that was another bond between Bhante and me – the comedy flaw.  My second favorite memory of Bhante is taking him to doctor's appointments, dental appointments, medical procedures --  where he would wreak havoc among the staff, like when he asked one baffled eye surgeon's nurse, after she asked him to remove his watch and mala, if he also had to take off his artificial leg.   Or when he danced -- literally danced – into the waiting room with one eye patched and sang to a child, "I can see, I can see, I can seeee!"

 

I've had other insights brought on by Bhante's reverse teaching repertoire that have defined my practice and my choices and will continue to do so, in a blessedly useful, validating and empowering way.  He also taught me to be more comfortable in my own Dharma skin, as he was supremely comfortable in his – no paradox there, just directions and example – and not to doubt the value of what I do. He even made suggestions about evolving my work and Dharma uniforms, which I have yet to adopt, but will do so whenever the moment arises. 

 

Our third bond was interfaith work, and Bhante taught me and encouraged me to create meaningful individual marriage and funeral ceremonies, all of which I used last year when officiating at three weddings and a funeral.  (We laughed at that also.)   And it is this last ceremony, written at the request of my dying cousin -- who was closer than a sibling, with whom I had a very deep bond – that I will modify slightly and use to celebrate Bhante's departure. 

 

Thank you.

 

 

Su Co Kshanti

Abbot, Temple in the Heart

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