Steve Setera 講於2012年4月16日星期一晚 萬佛城大殿 A talk given by Steve Setera on April 16 (Monday), 2012 at Buddha Hall of CTTB
短期出家活動之後，當時主持的法師，叫Kathmandu 瑪興達 Ven Mahinda，他拜託我幫他安排一個旅程來美國，他要來美國看看美國的寺廟，其中有一個地方他堅持一定要去看的，是萬佛城。所以就是這個因緣，當時我們來到了萬佛城。那時候，我有機會參觀了女校，我當時就決定：我要我的女兒到這個學校讀書。
Connecting the Dots to CTTB
by Steve Setera
Often during my life I would take some time and reflect on just how I got to where I was both physically and spiritually. Spiritually, in this sense, does not necessarily have anything to do with holiness or religion, but used in the metaphysical sense of other than physical. This practice goes way back to my childhood. At the same time I would wonder – where will I be going due to any particular experience? In this way I have been enjoying my life’s journey not only in the ever present now but also as a reflection of the past and a view into the future. Every day is like a new page. The future pages are not blank sheets.
Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, NeXt and Pixar and several other ventures commented in his famous June 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University that “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path; and that will make all the difference.”
After his death I became quite familiar with this speech and in listening to and reading it and reflecting on it I realized how comfortable I was in what he said. Some ‘coincidences’ – he began college at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, my home town also references to karma and that he was a Zen Buddhist. But having faith to follow one’s heart and to trust that things will work out has been a belief of mine since I was very young. One possible difference is that I believe in connecting the dots into the future – to see what I want and where it will be. Actually, I believe that Jobs did see the connections into the future as he relied on his Zen-like focus to achieve most goals. He knew what he wanted and why. He was aware of what his mind was telling him.
My path to CTTB was a rather large circuitous one beginning several years ago in the US. Well, actually on a trip to The Philippines to visit my son who was working in the US Air Force on jet fighter planes. Upon my arrival there I remarked – completely ‘out of the blue’ – that “I was moving to Asia.” This finally happened after a few years requiring me to change companies to work for a competitor, getting an MBA degree on Asia-Pacific Management and having perfect timing. The dots were connecting.
However, it took 13 years of living and working in Asia in order for me to consider moving to an Asian community here in the US. Without a doubt I would not have moved to CTTB while living in the US. There was no connection, very little in common – and I believe this is what many, if not most, of the westerners that visit here feel. It’s up to the person coming in here to adapt to the Asian cultures, not the Asians here adapting to the west. Is this what Master Hua had in mind 50 years ago?
Prior to moving to Malaysia I had been studying the mind as I was not satisfied with the religious/spiritual experiences in the organized religions and began even deeper, more intense studies there with several different teachers finally culminating in earning a PhD in Metaphysics. But that was still no reason for me to move here to CTTB. But, the dots were connecting. During my many business trips to China I unintentionally visited the home town areas of both Master Hsu Yun and Master Hua.
My ‘official’ Buddhist pathway began with my taking refuge in Kuala Lumpur followed by a personal retreat in Bodhgaya, India and visiting other Buddhist sites throughout Asia. Sometime later my wife and I participated with many others on a novitiate program to Lumbini (birth place of the Buddha) and Kathmandu, Nepal. After this I was asked to organize a trip for Ven Mahinda, leader of the trip to Nepal to visit temples and monasteries in the US with the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas being one of his main goals as a “must see” place. While visiting the Girl’s School here at CTTB during this trip I was convinced that this is where I wanted our daughter to go to school. With single minded pointedness I began the task of introducing and convincing my wife and daughter of this. During our visit together a little more than a year later they heartedly agreed and felt they truly found home.
The Buddha taught that all things begin in the mind. We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. This pertains to nations, companies and organizations, as well as, individuals. When we function with a single-minded Zen-like focus we are able to achieve our goals and aspirations – even enlightenment. However, as we see today, nations, companies, organizations and individuals that are functioning with a scattered approach cause disharmony, dissension and strife among factious partisan groups resulting in wars, wasting of energy, time and money. This even happened to Steve Jobs. However, as strange as it may seem, he gives credit to getting fired from Apple, the company he started, as the stimulus for his success in guiding Apple to become the most valuable company in the world. We have all experienced times of loss in some manner and when we rise up from the ashes we are stronger, more focused and dedicated to achieving our goals.
During this life’s journey, I have been aware of death, death of those all around me and my own impending death. A fortuitous opportunity for me to understand the meanings of life and death when I was a young boy arose as my father became part-time caretaker of a Catholic cemetery. Being part-time from his regular job meant working in the charnel grounds evenings and weekends. While this was a Catholic cemetery and I was ‘at odds’ over some of the Church’s teachings it, never-the-less, allowed me the opportunity to be closely involved with those passing over. Once I got by the fears of eternal damnation, hell fire and brimstone, I was able to take a more meaningful approach to the life/death relationship.
Death, as in life, is what you make of it. This is the ultimate “dot connecting” into the future and is the synthesis or culmination of what the Buddha taught – ‘all things begin in the mind, we are what we think.’ Death serves many purposes.
Allow me to close with Job’s comments on death as he spoke to the young college graduates:
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one ever escaped it. And that is how it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite so.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important(ly), have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Following one’s own intuition is listening to your mind, being aware. Your mind knows what is right, what is wrong, what is positive, what is negative. Be calm, focus, listen and be aware then take the proper action to connect to your future.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak here in the Buddha Hall tonight. In closing, may I mention that we are all here together for a time and for a reason. This may be for a day, a season or longer. Often people are attached to life and do not want to leave the world. As with being attached to not dying and trying to ignore death, some are attached to what they are doing, to what they believe is their function not making room for a new better way of doing the same task. When we do not accept the need for change any place can become stagnant until unseen forces intercede. And they will. Change is the modus operandi of the universe. To resist or deny it is foolish.
During our time here in CTTB we have the opportunities for many wonderful and auspicious experiences. Last summer we took our ‘pilgrimage’ to several spiritual places. We began with Mount Shasta, followed by Crater Lake in Oregon. Then we traveled to Glacier National Park on our way to the Avatamsaka Monastery in Calgary. This allowed us the opportunity to visit and to climb Castle Mountain in the Canadian Rockies. During the climb and descent we saw many images along the rocky cliffs overlooking the two lakes including that of Shakyamuni Buddha, Guan Yin Bodhisattva, Manjusri Bodhisattva and two rock formations of Master Hua sitting in meditation. Following this we traveled to Gold Buddha Monastery in Vancouver, Gold Summit Monastery in Seattle and to Heng Lai’s new monastery east of Seattle. We connected the dots to several auspicious places.
Several months last year we cared for Bodhi Burro during a time in which she became a real member of the CTTB community due to her poor health. As we fed her morning and night watching her closely as her health continued to deteriorate with old age finally succumbing to the inevitable on 30 Oct at 5.10 PM. My wife and I were with her as she breathed her last breath finally escaping the difficulties of this life. Along with others, we chanted the Buddha’s name for her for 8 hours until after 1AM. During the cold, clear dark night her years of being alone ‘out back’ struck a note of just how she was ignored for so long until the final months. Obviously she was protected as during her 29 years here she was never attacked by any of the wild animals – cougars, coyotes, etc. that also live ‘out back.’