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Two Bikkhus who may have crossed my path

September 1, 2017

Robert Jackman served in the Korean war in the Navy.   Then after that he finished his Master of Arts degree from UC Berkeley in 1963, he decided to serve in the Peace Corps in Sabah between 1964 and 1966.  Near the end of his service as a Peace Corp Member, he went to Singapore for his break.  Sitting in a sidewalk cafe, he saw a monk walking by and he said to himself “That looks interesting.”

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At the end of his service in the Peace Corp, he became a samanera in a northeastern Thailand town.  The following year his became a disciple of the famous Ajahn Chah.

When in Asia I saw Buddhist monks all the time.  But when I was in my forties, I saw while walking on a bridge in Singapore two seemingly new Theravada monks.  My first instinct was to kneel down but I wasn’t sure if that is what people do in Thailand and so instead I stand to the side and in total respect I simply bowed.  I would not say I have the same feeling as Mr. Jackman when he saw the monk in Singapore.  Mr Jackman is now a very famous Ajahn Luang Por (father, venerable, teacher).  I wished Mr. Jackman actually was very near to me when he was at the cafe in Singapore in 1966.  Or better still, he actually touched my head while I was being carried.  But those thoughts are what Chinese Buddhists called “Da Wan Xiang”–打妄想.

 

Teo Bo Kang, 張保康 was born in Wolf Mountain, JiangSu, China, in 1931.  By 1943 (and records say he was 14 year-old that time), he was bought to this place to become a Sa Mi 沙彌 (samanera I think), because somebody thought his 生辰八字 was suitable to be a monk.  His life became better because his parents were very, very poor and at that time in that place, that was one way people made their children’s life better.  In 1949 he was forced to disrobe due to the war to serve the Army under Chiang Kai Shek.  Only in 1960 was he able to return to monkhood but by that time he with the army had already moved to Taiwan.  In 1969 he was forced to go to Rissho  (立正) University to do a PhD as very few Mahayanist Buddhist monks have high degree.  When he returned to Taiwan with a PhD, he was told there was no position for him in Taiwan and he had to go to the US to spread the Dharma in the so-called Buddhist Association of the US.   In 1977 his Shifu (in Taiwan) passed away and he had to go back to Taiwan for a funeral, but when he returned from the funeral, to the US, he was out of job again because his place had been filled.  So he became a homeless person with no jobs and no position in New York.  Here is what he said in his own words:

“我就是在逆境中走过来的人。诸位现在看到的都是我风光的一面,没见到我在美国纽约做流浪汉的时候,没见到我被人落井下石,当成落水狗一样的时候。我这一生,可说是在挫折中走过来,是在被重重的打击之中、阻扰之中走出来的,但是当初那些困扰我的人,其实都是帮助我的人。

因此,我很感恩我的生命历程中,能够有这么多帮助我的人。”

 

I remember walking Canal Street New York City in the year of 1990 with my brother, I may have seen a Buddhist monk sitting on the street begging. Could that be this famous Taiwanese monk?  I wished I have given some money to him because my contribution will be “wu liang wu bian” 无量无边 limitless.  Then again, by 1990, he may have established himself and is no more a 流浪汉.  So again 我又 打妄想 了。

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2 Comments
  1. Robert Jackman came back to Singapore about 50 years later on March 7, 2015 to Singapore 光明山 as an aged monk and gave a Dharma talk.

  2. Incidentally Chris Clowery (恆實法師) also attended UC Berkeley and later became a very prominent monk of 万佛城。And Robert Jackman came to 万佛城 because part of it was donated to his Theravada sangha..

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