By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"Oh, yeah," says Vo. "People say, 'Aren't you a cult?' They're confused. They say, 'How come I hear such and such?' But then when they come to us, they see we are very caring and loving."
"This is not like Scientology," says Hudson, becoming animated. "They get very controlling. This is really about the simplicity, because that's really where that happiness is . . . it's really about being humble, and Master is so that. I want to cry when I think of that, because that is what she taught me so much. I am very in awe, but I am . . . I want to be . . . I rule the world!"
"It's Queen Kathryn!" laughs Vo. "She has her own show!"
She has a show called Queen Kathryn?
"I do all that. I'm also the head of entertainment here," says Hudson. "It's not like I have a jobjob here. I'm a producer and a writer and an actress, I have my own companies, but I also do their weekly show."
"We have a TV show called A Journey Through Aesthetic Realms," says Vo. "It's on KSCI, Channel 18, as well as on ETTV in Taiwan, and international in Asia."
"The other thing we wanted to know," says Hudson, dabbing her lips with her napkin, "is if you'd like to come on our weekly show. We just want to ask you maybe a few questions, whatever."
I tell her I'd rather do a little more research before commenting on Ching Hai.
"No, no, just you, as a human being," she says, her voice again breathy and lulling.
"Yeah, you as you," says Vo.
"We're in the moment, in the now," says Hudson, leading me through the door Linda has come in and out of. "Master is about teaching people to be very spontaneous."
I find myself in a studio that is the opposite of spontaneous. There's a raised stage, with two chairs set up; cameramen and sound people; and a line of smiling, nodding Asian men pointing still cameras at me. The sound of mechanical chirping fills the room as Vo tries to get me to sit in the guest's chair.
"Are you ready?" she asks. "They really love and want you."
I decline, despite the encouragement of a dozen people, including the chef, Nancy, who Vo tells me has flown in from Texas, and who wears a locket holding a photo of Ching Hai. I ask her if she made it.
"No," says Nancy, in a thick Vietnamese accent. "Master have a . . ."
"They make it Taiwan," says Vo. "You can buy it online, and we have a store in Orange County, they have all kind of her stuff. We take you down there."
Vo plants me in front of a giant photo of a table laden with steam trays, below a banner that reads "SUMA CHING HAI RESCUE TEAM." It was taken at the World Trade Center site.
"This is at the Ground Zero, where the whole thing collapsed," says Vo.
"She was there," says Hudson.
"I flew there a few days later," says Vo. "The people there were very touched because everyone was exhausted, and to actually bring coffee to their location . . . They have never realized that some people have that much love and dedication to the work."
The men with still cameras motion for Vo and Hudson to stand close beside me, and then begin taking our pictures. I smile stiffly; I've been here over three hours. I tell Hudson and Vo I really need to leave.
"Wait, we have presents for you," says Vo, leading me back to the conference room, where Linda is waiting with two Tiffany-blue shopping bags, one filled with Ching Hai videotapes and books and magazines, the other with a large box of Almond Roca, a tin of tea and half a dozen Asian pears.
"Because you say your daughter like them," says Vo, smiling.
I thank them for the materials, but tell them I cannot accept the food, as it might be construed as their encouraging a positive write-up. Vo's face clouds over, either because she's truly wounded I would make such a supposition, or -- and to my eye -- because this is precisely what she's hoping for.
"But this is a gift," says Vo. "It is brought for you from China."
I move toward the exit, with Vo, Hudson and Linda pressing the bags on me and speaking at once.
"We can get you any materials you need," says Linda.
"And if you want to go to the Orange County store, we can pick you up and drive you," says Hudson.
"We can also drive you to the Sunday meditation and meal at the center in Riverside," says Vo. The desire to flee trumps journalistic ethics, and I grab the bags and push open the door with my butt. The women follow me into the street. It may be paranoia, but I don't want them to know which car is mine, and make a show of jangling my keys next to someone else's beater station wagon. I thank them for their time, and after a protracted goodbye, they go back inside, though not before Hudson tells me to check out her own Web site.