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Tom MacMillan


(April 13, 1939--Febuary 20, 2002

I just want to let people know the loss of a very special human being, Tom MacMillan, who finally lost his bout with cancer this past week. Yesterday I was able to attend his memorial service. His interment was on Friday at the Ukiah cemetery on Low Gap Avenue.

For those of us who were his students, we knew him as someone who was more than a great teacher. He was a real human being with a great sense of humor, which he used to great advantage in his classes; he practiced what he preached, and he really CARED. Because Mendocino College lost students to Jim Jones' religious fanaticism, Tom made sure that any student who ever came in his presence would never go to such extremes to find spiritual fulfillment again. Because his friend Bob Wallen--also a MC professor--was worried about his daughter's bout with cancer a few weeks before Tom's own death, Tom put his own physical pain aside and prayed for his friend's daughter. (This was mentioned in Bob Wallen's eulogy at the memorial.)

It is said, "When you have a Buddha in your own heart, you see a Buddha in everyone." Tom took the time to see each and every one of us as special human beings. He truly saw a Buddha in everyone. In his introduction in the World Religions class, the class I attended, he would say, "If nothing else, I want each and every one of you to leave this class with a better understanding of what religion you say you are." He didn't care the color of your skin or what spiritual faith you were; he just wanted to make sure that his classes were the ones where you could leave with a better understanding of what or who you were.

Interfaith peace was the biggest wish that Tom had for the betterment of the world. After September 11th, his first action was to help organize a gathering to educate young people about the Islamic faith. Even though the cancer that he had battled so valiently with for over a decade had spread throughout his body and was causing him so much pain, he was still thinking of others. Tom always wanted to make sure that as long as his human body could, as long as his spirit could be felt, he would have no battle between religions where he was. This is perhaps why he allied himself with the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, as he saw the place as somewhere this dream of Interfaith dialogue and peace could happen.

For me, he was my teacher, the greatest one I've had, barring the Ven. Master; but more than that, he was my spiritual and foster father. I grew up with no father figures in my life, and so he became that figure. I was lucky enough to have been one of the few people Tom made time and energy to see near the end of his time.

He never stinted in his giving of himself to others. In Buddhism, the foremost Bodhisattva practice and the first of the Six Paramitas is Giving--the Giving of Fearlessness, the Giving of Joy, and the Giving of Dharma. Although Tom was a Baptist minister, he knew and practiced this Dharma door the best of anyone many have ever known. In his teachings, in his classes, in living his life, he carried all of these qualities to every person who ever crossed his path.

Dear Tom: You searched for God and found him in every human being you ever met. In that process, you found God within your own heart. And now, as the pain of the human shell has disappeared, you are with your God.

Tina Yang