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Saturday, August 5, 2006

That's Bob!

Coming Full Circle

Amongst the hundred or so kids that were at Hua Yan Temple the week I stayed there, a few stand out in my memories. One of these was "Bob."

Bob was a very quiet, unassuming 23-year-old. Not really shy, Bob was somewhat reserved, and extremely gentle in manner.

When we first met, I asked him his name. He gave a Chinese name, and then I asked (as usual): "Do you have an English name?"

"Yes," replied Bob, "but I forgot." Even Diego chuckled at this.

Actor Robert Urich on the
set of "The Lazarus Man"

Later on, when I was alone, I suddenly thought: "I'd like to call that kid 'Bob.'" I was thinking about one of my greatest friends ever, actor Robert Urich, who had died of cancer at the too-young age of 55. So the next time I saw this Chinese boy, I asked, "Would it be OK if I gave you a name?"

"Oh, thank you!" he cried.

"How about 'Bob"?" I asked.

"OK, OK, ah, how to spell?"


"Thank you! Thank you!"

And so, he was Bob.

* * * * * * * *

The Three Sages of the Pure Land:
Da Shi Zhi Pusa, Amitofo, Guan Yin Pusa

A day or two later, I was taking photos in the first floor of the Tian Guan Hall. My usual entourage of Diego, Brian, and Bob were with me. I had figured out two of the three main figures in the Hall, and, not really addressing anyone, I mused aloud, "I wonder who that is?" while looking at the left-hand figure.

"That is Da Shi Zhi," Bob said.

"Really? Bob, how do you know that?" Da Shi Zhi is not one of the more popular bodhisattvas.

"I lived in a temple for a year," he explained.

"Why?" I asked.

"I had... a... disease," he said, struggling for the word "disease."

This, I thought, bore investigating.

* * * * * * * *

Tuesday night, Master Ji Qun conducted a Question and Answer session. Afterward, he distributed copies of his books for free, and graciously signed them for as many kids as requested him to. To my surprise, many of the kids came over and asked ME to sign their books, also!

Bob did, too; but instead of just "name and date," he asked me to write the name I had given him.

So I wrote:

I, James Baquet,
on this 18th day of July, 2006,
do give you the name
in honor of my great friend.

After reading it, he asked me about this other Bob. So I told him that he was a TV star who had passed away four years ago. "Sorry," he said, eyes on the floor, and that was that.

* * * * * * * *

Hangin' in the Courtyard

The next day, lounging around in the temple courtyard, I finally had a chance to ask Bob his full story. Occasionally Diego had to jump in to help with translation, but mostly, Bob and I did this in English.

Two years ago, at age 21, Bob was diagnosed with bone cancer in the shoulder. His elder sister went to a Buddhist nunnery and asked the nuns if Bob could stay there to convalesce. (Apparently that temple was set up to receive such guests.) So Bob stayed there for half a year, then moved to another such place for nine more months. At the end of this time, he was cancer-free.

"Did you receive medical treatment during this time?" I asked.

"No," he said, "only tests."

I was overwhelmed. This boy had been healed by nothing more than peace and quiet--and prayer.

I told him that, in fact, "my Bob" had died of cancer. We agreed that having this new Bob as my friend was a sort of a happy ending.

I then asked him if he was thinking of being a monk. (The kids had asked me this question in class a few days earlier, and I had answered, "Ask my girlfriend.")

Bob answered that he was thinking about it, but that it wasn't good to be a monk if you were (he asked Diego the word) "hesitant."

Very wise, this boy.

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