Opening the Shrine
by William Bunting
On May 29, 2005, a group of
masters and members of the I-Kuan Tao temple in El Monte, California,
quietly thundered into Indianapolis, Indiana, and the status quo there would
never be the same. I picked the words I used above very carefully because
it’s important to convey the level of energy, enthusiasm, caring,
compassion, generosity, and the nearly palpable force that eight real
cultivators of the Great Tao bring with them. Their arrival and departure
were silent and still, their presence was quiet, reserved, poised and
imminently elegant. It was apparent from the outset that this was a group
with tremendous power behind them, and well it should have seemed, because
to a person, their ally was the Great, Immutable Tao, the eternal divine
More than a
year ago, I don’t remember exactly when, Derek Lin and I began discussing
the possibility of establishing an authentic Tao shrine in the Midwest. For
more than a year we communicated frequently, spoke often, got to know each
other well, and then in July of 2004 I was blessedly accepted to be
initiated into I-Kuan Tao. It was at this point that the dream of bringing
the Great Tao to the people of Indiana and beyond began to coalesce. During
this time as well, Derek permitted me to send some of my thoughts and
teachings on my own path to him for inclusion in the True Tao web site,
where like his wonderful and insightful teachings, these few simple words
seemed to reach some people and speak to their hearts.
history in a nutshell and it bears mentioning here that everything to this
point and beyond unfolded without force, without contention, without furor,
without fanfare – in fact without most of the trappings and rigors of
coordinating an event of this magnitude. It simply became time for the next
step to occur, and it did, quietly, peacefully, wonderfully, miraculously,
people on the Tao Forum, as well as the people in and around the
neighborhood, asked me quite frequently, “Why do you want a shrine?” or “Why
do you need a temple?” or “If you’re a Tao cultivator why do you need a
church?" All I could do was smile. I do wish to answer these questions, now
that I fully understand the impact of the shrine establishment, and that is
what this teaching ultimately is all about.
many people who label themselves Tao cultivators. Many of these people say
that they do not require a formal organization to assist them in cultivating
the Tao or to gather together to support and aid one another. Okay, I myself
walked the path alone for many years. I also sacrificed tremendous
understanding and knowledge wading around in the swamp of disinformation.
cultivators, we are supposed to espouse the philosophy taught by Lao Tzu and
the great masters and teachers: a path of wisdom, compassion, love and
respect for all living things, boundless and limitless giving, service
without expectation, the elimination of the ego self, and the nurturing and
discovering of the true Buddha nature. I know of no one who calls him or
herself a Tao cultivator who does not say this is the truth.
group of “Tao cultivators” I know online, some personally some not, I
observe among them a spirit of contention, strife, academia, quarrelsome
natures, as well as demeaning and belittling behavior towards people of
different values and beliefs. I know this is not the way of the Great Tao,
and to those who read this, and scream “NOT ME,” to you I say, read on, for
we all posses those very qualities.
people I saw for myself what the discipline of I-Kuan Tao means. I know now
why Master Chen and Master William are masters, and why Senior Master Yang
is Senior Master. I know why Derek is the Director of Tao Studies at the
temple, and I praise and thank them all from the very depths of my heart.
Why do I need / want a temple? So that one day I can hopefully emulate them
fully, rightly, wholly, and teach my children and others to do the same. It
would not be appropriate for me to speak specifically of individuals and
their acts as it would violate their peace, so I will speak of the group,
and please understand that what I say of one applies to all of the
delegation who came here.
Where I see
limits, boundaries, pettiness, squabbling, and self-centeredness in myself
and others, in them I see giving and compassion with absolutely no limit
whatsoever. I mean, NO LIMIT, there was nothing accomplished here where one
or more of the eight persons from the temple could not find an opportunity
to give of themselves and everything that they had. Not only did they give
and give and give and GIVE, but they looked for opportunities to GIVE MORE.
In their giving, they were truly, ecstatically thankful for the
opportunities to give and serve. They cooked, they cleaned, they watched out
over my two-year-old and my other children with the patience and forbearance
of saints. They tolerated my positively horrible attempts to speak and
master (yeah right!) Chinese, and actually found humor in my abuse of the
divine rituals. I am convinced that the Maitreya Buddha has a great sense of
humor. Every time I thought they were at the absolute end of the rope, they
had more of everything, and they held back nothing. We initiated 13 people
the day of the dedication. I saw what it meant to be a Tao Cultivator. I
thought I had the ability to give, I believed that my family and I did an
adequate job there. I had much to learn. I still have much more to learn. At
the end of the day, I could only gaze on in absolute amazement at the wonder
that had unfolded before me.
remarkable people flew in at 6:00 in the morning on Saturday, worked all
day, visited my humble Tai Chi school, participated in the class, prepared
lunch for my family, went shopping for the balance of our needs for the
dedication, and did not stop until late in the afternoon. They were up and
working again by 7:00 in the morning Sunday, where they did the whole thing
over again, and added three initiation rituals and all of the dedication
rituals plus a couple of private rituals, a tremendous teaching discussion
AND a vegetarian feast for 20. They were all still smiling, and watching
children. Their patience in instructing me was boundless.
As a final
note but by no means a small note, everything was done out of their own
personal funds. The temple fixtures are precious, expensive, and, had to be
shipped cross country via truck. In American terms, it was a bunch of
expense. Every penny was contributed by the temple masters and members.
do this? Yes. With the proper intent, the right heart, a lot of time, a
serious and reverent mind and heart, yes. Why would a person not want to do
this? If one would wear the label “Tao cultivator” then why would that
person not put down the ways and means of this existence, and put on Buddha
nature? How can one who claims the Great Tao, not align himself or herself
with the authentic tradition and discipline?
I now say
to all who read this: ask not “Bill, why do you want to do this?” but rather
ask, how is it that you do not? I have seen, with my own eyes, people
who live by and demonstrate that which they teach. To claim the Tao without
this knowledge and wisdom is to never know what the Great Tao truly is!