Never in my life would I have imagined that I would be so fortunate to receive the teachings of Venerable Xian Zhong, nor that I would be asked by him to write a book with him. When I first became a Buddhist, my only focus was on learning the essentials, but that soon grew to a strong desire to receive guidance from a qualified teacher. For the past two years I have been hoping for a qualified teacher to take me under their wing and guide me on the path and help me to understand the teachings, but for the longest time it seemed as if my desire would remain nothing more than a dream. Then I met Venerable.
The date was July 20, 2016; the place, the Chapel on Facility “C”, at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California. Up until that fateful day, my only introduction to Buddhist mons was in books, but I was about to meet one face-to-face. I did not realize at the time that not only would my first meeting be the most memorable, but it would also change my life and open more doors than I could ever have imagined.
Before I entered the Chapel, many doubts and fears went through my mind. “Will he shun me for being trans-gender?”; “Will he welcome me with open arms, or refuse to shake my hand?”; “Will he like my writings?”; “Can he answer some of my most pressing questions?” These are only a few of the countless thoughts that assailed me.
However, the moment I introduced myself, all of my doubts and fears disappeared. Venerable’s infectious enthusiasm and beaming smile would tame the most ferocious of beasts. He warmly shook my hand and did not even bat an eye when looking at me. He saw neither an abomination, nor an inmate, but a fellow sent being in need of life-saving and changing teaching of the Buddha.
As I sat and listened to him teach, I was in awe. His teachings were presented in a clear and comprehensible manner, and his knack for employing anecdotes in just the right doses is second to none. The fact that he is brilliant is evident to all, and his passion for the Dharma is undeniably. I could feel his sincerity as he pleaded with us to get sincere about our practice so we can help other beings. This sincerity is something I had not encountered elsewhere, and I was so moved by it that I could hardly wait to get back and practice!
Near the end of the session, I had voiced to Venerable my desire to enter Sera May Monastic University, in Southern India upon my release from custody, and showed him a packet I had put together containing the curriculum and a lesson I had written for a course I started, and when he saw it and learned I am a writer, he shocked me by asking if I would be willing to write a book with him. I was stunned speechless. Did he really ask me that?! After a moment or so, I stuttered: “Of Course!” And so began our partnership and the beginning of the book you hold in your hands.
No amount of words can ever fully express how honored and thrilled I am to be so fortunate as I am to be given the privilege of collaborating with Venerable Xian Zhong in a work such as this. Nor can I ever express how much it means to me to be able to contribute to the wide range of Buddhist literature in order to benefit all sentient beings. I pray that anyone who reads, hears, speaks, or thinks of this work will attain good fortune and quick enlightenment. And if there is anyone who desires a teacher such as I have been blessed with, then I encourage you not to give up hope, but to wait for one to come to you. I hope you will find a teacher such as Venerable. He is an excellent and brilliant teacher and wonderful friend!