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Tell It Like It Was - The Buddhists Are Coming

Updated: Feb 28

The Buddhists Are Coming – my buddy, Paul - lotus flower - Herbie Hancock’s sidemen – Tina Turner – Monastic Deep Reflection Period – Leroy Nadler – Tom Whelan – the Chinamen – music so loud you can scrape it off the wall - the caretaker - that’s just crap on their radio – they built their temple on the hill 


Gentle readers,  

there once was man named A, shall we say…   namo amituofo 

married to a girl named B, do you see…   namo amituofo 

they had children, 1, 2, 3…   namo amituofo 

children grow up and they move away…   the Buddhists are coming, the Buddhists are coming 




That introductory verse is the short version of my tale in which I explain the role I and my buddy, Paul, played in selling a beautiful old Augusta farm on Heger Lane to MABA (the Mid-America Buddhist Association).  

And like the lotus flower, much revered by followers of Buddha, my story has many petals. Allow me to pluck a few.  

The first petal: this is a true story dating back to 1994. It was about 2 years later when I wrote a song to preserve this historical moment. In my lyrics I gave the main characters fictional names to somewhat preserve their privacy…as in A (the husband) and B (the wife). The second petal: namo amituofo - is a Buddhist chant used by Shaolin monks. It is derived from Sanskrit…and roughly translates to take shelter in the infinite wisdom.  

Gentle readers, I hope I’m not fooling you into thinking I’m any kind of expert on Buddhism. Really, I have no idea if the female and male monks in our neighborhood are Shaolin monks, or if they even use the above chant. 

Truth is, when I wrote my song in 1996, I was mostly familiar with the famous Buddhist chant, nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which I first encountered in the early 70s. In those days I was studying music at UMKC Conservatory of Music in Kansas City, MO, but to keep food in my stomach, I would take my Marcelo Barbero flamenco guitar with wooden tuning pegs (it was so beautiful) to a natural foods restaurant and play for meals. On one afternoon, Herbie Hancock’s sidemen were dining there, and they started chatting me up. They invited me to their gig that evening, but more enthusiastically, they wanted to tell me about the extraordinary benefits of chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Apparently, you can attain anything you want or need by saying those words, over and over and over…  

I could fill up pages about other encounters with folks who used (and still use) that chant. But I’ll limit myself to offering this link to Tina Turner chanting away.


When I began to write my song, The Buddhists Are Coming, I immediately inserted nam-myoho-renge-kyo in it, but a nagging doubt persuaded me to seek verification on the authenticity of the chant. So, I contacted a local woman who was active in our neighborhood monastery. She told me namo amituofo would be more appropriate for Augusta’s MABA gang. That’s all I remember of our conversation, and she lives in Colorado now, and her contact info is not in my iPhone.  


I suppose I could just go ask Jirú or Kong Xi, but they are currently in a Monastic Deep Reflection Period until September 1, 2024. So, let’s pluck another petal and move on.  



Gentle readers, your friend, and mine, Leroy Nadler, lives relatively close to the monastery land. Turns out, he has a connection to that same farm which became a Buddhist monastery.   

Leroy Nadler: My parents bought that farm when they got married in 1942 and I think it was from a George Nadler…it was either George or Edward Nadler… 

pO: Okay…another Nadler. 

LN: …and they lived there until 1954 when they moved down to his dad’s farm where I live. I was 2yo so I don’t really have any memory of that. And then they sold that to William Warnecke. But when they (Leroy’s parents) lived there, my father farmed until 1952. He farmed that hill ground and also in the bottoms down there. Out of 10 years, from ’42 to ’52, the river flooded it 8 times. So, he survived with the income they had on that little hill farm. 

pO: That’s rather interesting.  

LN: He actually cleared that road that comes down there from Schindler Road. And then that grew over I guess, and then the Buddhists reopened that road. My dad put a road in there because that creek always washed out down below before they put a concrete slab (on Heger Lane).  

pO: That’s good enough; what you gave me is great. Thanks a lot.  


Now, back to my story: 


A and B would soon be ex…   namo amituofo 

gonna sell their farm, walk separately…   namo amituofo 

all this unbeknownst to me…   namo amituofo 

when I came around to fix their place…   the Buddhists are coming, the Buddhists are coming 


Yes. I was in the dark regarding A and B’s future plans. Nobody mentioned divorce. But one thing was clear; it was too much work for one Paul. Let me rap on that: 


every house has broken dreams, missing trim, and wrinkled seams 

but this one needed extra care in every room and down the stairs 

and so, I phoned my buddy, Paul; he was free when he got the call 

our saws were humming, thank God no plumbing…   the Buddhists are coming, the Buddhists are coming 


Gentle readers, some of you know my buddy, Paul. He lives about 10 miles south of New Haven. Actually, there’s an Augustan, Tom Whelan, who remembers Paul quite well. Tom is an active member of FHA (Friends of Historic Augusta). On several occasions, Tom has gleefully told me that he knows all about the mischief of Paul and Paul and the Buddhists…because the other Paul told him. In other words, someone can back up my story. But before I pluck another petal, let’s have a chat with Tom Whelan. 

paulO: It seems like you’ve kinda ribbed me before on this topic. Do you have anything you want to say about it? 

Tom Whelan: Well, first of all, I’m fascinated by it. It (the monastery) is an incredible gem, in my mind. I love going up there. I remember when I first moved out here…they kept referring to it in town…but I didn’t know for sure what the heck it was. But they always referenced, “Oh it’s probably the Chinamen.” 

pO: Okay, that’s good. 

TW: Yeah, I remember thinking what the heck is the Chinamen? And finally. Of course, the house project (Tom’s own) got started. I got to meet Paul ____, and I got to hear the story of how the Buddhist monastery kinda got started. But up until that time, it was always the Chinamen. I knew what that was only afterwards. 

pO: So, these were locals always saying the Chinamen?  

TW: Yeah, it was neighbors and what not. I didn’t ask questions…like I’m supposed to know…so I just shook my head like I knew… But it wasn’t derogatory, I don’t think, in any way. It was just more a reference to the Buddhists. 

pO: It was as close as they could get.  

TW: Eventually, I hear the story about you guys, working on the farm, and then a limo (a van) rolling up the hill…and then you or someone decided to put on that Buddhist chant music… 


mister A said to Paul and Paul… namo amituofo 

I’ve got a stereo wide and tall… namo amituofo 

lots of cds, play them all…   namo amituofo 

we played them LOUD, and we played them all…   the Buddhists are coming, the Buddhists are coming    


Gentle listeners, this is an important part of my tale. In the early to mid-90s, it was fashionable to have massive stereo systems that could produce music so loud you could scrape it off the wall. The homeowner was proud of his stereo and his collection of tapes and compact discs. He encouraged us to utilize it all. We did.  

In A’s eclectic music stash, we found a disc of Tibetan monks chanting one note for an hour or so, in a full-throated low growl. Truthfully, we liked it. It sounded like a cross between a cello, a chainsaw, and a bullfrog. It was simultaneously relaxing and stimulating. We probably played it once a day…and then…well, let’s see what the other Paul remembers about this. 

Other Paul: _____ (A) and ______ (B) were very nice about inviting us to listen to anything on their stereo. And that was a NICE stereo. It was like the old school kind, and it really had some amps behind it. It could make the walls vibrate.  

There were several recordings we had come to really like in their collection. Another one I remember was…Nat King Cole and his daughter together. We used to blast that one out too.  

pO: They did have quite a collection of music that covered a lot of genres.  

Other Paul: So, we had that cd playing…was it monks who were chanting? And me and you both were not shy about…we’d be working in different parts of the house…cranking that stereo up to a fairly good level. So, I think when they walked up (the monks) and heard that rrrrrrrrrrrrrr or whatever…I recall it just blew their minds, you know…they were all excited talking in their native language, I guess. 

pO: Yeah, we couldn’t tell what they were saying, bit I did understand her English…when Mr. A’s dad opened the door, and she said, “It’s chanting, it’s chanting!!!” And he says, “No, that’s just some crap on their radio.” 

Other Paul: Yeah…that’s just some crap the Paul Brothers are playing…those commie, hippies who are working for my son. (Hahaha.) I think she even interpreted a little bit for us, right? She would tell us some of what that one guy (Jirú) was saying. 

pO: Oh, I guess I forgot that part. 


Gentle meditators, here’s what I do remember: by this time, we knew the farm was for sale. We were working indoors on the day I saw the saffron robes emerge from the van. I immediately called out to the other Paul to replace the current cd with the Buddhist low throat chanting. He had no trouble finding the cd because it was a favorite. In a matter of seconds, A and B’s walls were throbbing.  


one fine day, a van pulled in with a lotta shaved heads, and a lotta brown skin 

out popped Buddhist monks and nuns…c’mon Paul, let’s have some fun 

find that disc of Buddhasong, sounds like bullfrogs in a pond 

crank it up man, it ain’t no sin…   the Buddhists are knockin’, the Buddhists are knockin’ 


Why did we do that? Really, I have no defense for what might seem like a disrespectful prank on our part. But I do have a flimsy excuse: construction work can be so boring. True…your planning, execution, and end-product can make you proud at the end of the day but…sometimes the tedious repetition…scrape, scrape, scrape…hammer, hammer, hammer… puts a fellow in an altered state of mind.  


the caretaker opened up the door…   and that first nun, she nearly hit the floor 

“it’s chanting, it’s chanting”, she started to glow…   he says “no, that’s just crap on their radio 

but she knew better and she told her clan…   I think were treading on Pure Land 

and there’s 2 bearded guys rolling on the floor…   could be a sign from Buddha our lord 



Okay, there was no caretaker. The bare-chested, grizzled, Camel smoking, elderly man who opened the door for them was the father of Mr. A, and he was cutting grass and soaking up excessive ultraviolet rays and nicotine that day. But the first nun (technically a monk) at the door did, in fact say, “it’s chanting, it’s chanting” in an ecstatic voice. I knew we had hit a nerve; mission accomplished. And the “caretaker” really did say that the chanting was just some crap on our radio.  

We turned the stereo down and resumed working while the sweating, sun-tanned, bare-chested father of A showed the monks around. The two Pauls pretended nothing had happened. Perhaps we had manipulated the monks. More likely, we were manipulated by some force we didn’t understand. 



MABA temple, Augusta, MO.  


all the rest is history…   namo amituofo 

they built their temple on the hill…   namo amituofo 

they meditate and the mind is still…   namo amituofo 

until they think of Paul and Paul…   the Buddhists are thinking? 

the Buddhists are grinning 

the Buddhists are laughing 


Gentle listeners, click to hear my song. 





The laughing Buddha at MABA, Augusta, MO. 


Be mindful…and curious, of course. 




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