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Venerable Master Hua's Talks on the Dharma in 1993 in Taiwan

化老和尚開示 Lectures by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua






No matter where we go, we always call ourselves a Visiting Delegation, not a Dharma Propagation Delegation. We are going to learn from others.



Disciple: Master, this time the Dharma Propagation Delegation isn't bringing much...


Ven. Master: This is not Dharma propagation. We aren't qualified to propagate the Dharma, and we can't just recklessly call it "propagating the Dharma." We are just visiting. We are going around learning, not "propagating the Dharma." None of us are qualified to propagate the Dharma. We are all students, and when we see virtuous people, we should emulate them. When we see unworthy people, we should reflect on our own conduct.


Who is doing the recording? Someone should be assigned to take care of the recording. On this trip, if reporters come to interview us, we should all participate. It shouldn't be that one person does all the talking. If one of us says something wrong, the others should make a correction on the spot for the reporters. This is just explaining, and it is not arguing. If we did not do this, then if someone said something wrong, there would be no way to correct it. When we are all together, everyone will know what is being said. If a point has been poorly expressed, we can clarify it. Do you understand? [Everyone: "Yes."] This is not disputing or picking on each other's faults. We are simply filling in what the speaker left out in order to make things clear.


If there is any article or publicity about us in the news, we should keep a record of it. We should collect these news items and make a journal of the trip. We shouldn't totally ignore the media as we did in the past, because this time our delegation is quite large. It includes forty-four people. Do you agree with my suggestion? [Everyone: "Yes."]


If a reporter wants to take our picture, everyone in the group should be in it. Don't run away and refuse to be photographed. That's not right; it shows a lack of team spirit. In public, whether we are seated or standing, the men and the women should not be too far apart. We must move as a unit. Don't walk in single file. Instead, the men should walk two by two, and so should the women. That's how we should walk. Wherever I go, I always walk in back. I don't want to be up front, so everyone should walk in front of me. It shouldn't be that each person looks at the others and no one dares to walk; then our movement becomes disorganized.


Our delegation should be like an army, with everyone alert and on-the-ball. You can't be dozing off when we're about to board the plane. We have to board the plane quickly and also get off the plane efficiently, but don't run. We must be solemn and dignified. We don't want the laypeople to think we're hippies! No matter where we go, the men should walk on my left and the women on my right. We should also sit this way. There are rules for all of this. Don't sit a mile away, so that I don't even know where to go looking for you. Yesterday when we were boarding the plane, everyone just looked at each other and no one dared to walk ahead. What were you all doing? Do you all understand the situation? [Everyone: "Yes."]


We're not the same as hippies. When we go to the morning and evening ceremonies, we should go as a group. It shouldn't be that one person goes first, and another goes later on. Everyone should go together. [Disciple: "We should line up."]


Yes, it should be very orderly. People shouldn't straggle in at different times. Within the delegation, the left-home people should protect the laypeople, and the laypeople should also protect the left-home people. Does everyone in the delegation have a nametag?


Disciple: Yes. Last time the nametags were all made in Taiwan, and they said "Dharma Propagation Delegation." Now we've changed them to say "Visiting Delegation from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas."


Ven. Master: None of us is qualified to propagate the Dharma. You shouldn't be arrogant and say you're propagating the Dharma when you are still new to Buddhism. What do you think you're propagating? How can you propagate the Dharma when you haven't even got your own life in order? If the nametags say we're a Dharma Propagation Delegation, we won't wear them. We don't want to call ourselves a "Dharma Propagation Delegation." You should all know this; I shouldn't have to teach you this. We left-home people should be especially careful not to be arrogant. We are not qualified to propagate the Dharma, and we cannot fake it. I know I'm just learning. I don't know about you, but I'm not qualified to propagate the Dharma. We are a Visiting Delegation. We go around visiting, calling on friends, seeking knowledge. We cannot shamelessly boast that we are a Dharma Propagation Delegation. There's an attitude of arrogance in that. Do you understand? [Disciple: "Yes."]


Then why did you call yourselves a Dharma Propagation Delegation? I don't know about you, but if I see the name "Dharma Propagation Delegation," I know I don't have that kind of status. On our first trip, we were called a Visiting Delegation. The second time, we were also called a Visiting Delegation. As far as I know, on the few trips we've made, we've always been called a Visiting Delegation, not a Dharma Propagation Delegation. We go to each place to learn from people. Haven't you heard? Every place I visit, the first thing I say is, "I have come to inquire and learn from all the elders and the noble and virtuous Sangha members."


When we visit other places, we shouldn't become reckless and arrogant. Don't be like one of my left-home disciples. When he went to Malaysia, everyone wanted to take refuge with him, so he accepted them as disciples. Even after he had conducted the Taking Refuge ceremony and taken them as disciples, he still didn't know what sect we belong to or how to give them Dharma names. He had absolutely no idea. When the people who had taken refuge asked for Dharma names, he had no choice but to call me on the phone to ask what sect we belong to and what names to give them. How embarrassing! When those elder monks saw that, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas really lost its reputation. Seventy or eighty people took refuge with him, and it turns out most of them were juvenile homosexuals.


Disciple: This time probably there won't be an opportunity for everyone to speak the Dharma. Nevertheless, I hope we can still have a meeting beforehand, the way we did in the past, to discuss the content and schedule of the lectures, so that there won't be any overlap.


Ven. Master: There are several topics we should cover in our lectures. First, we should emphasize education, because all over the world, education is going bankrupt and civilized culture is being trampled into the ground. If we don't try to reverse this trend, then each generation of humanity will be worse than the last. For example, in American schools, they are giving contraceptives to eleven- and twelve-year-old students. Doesn't that amount to killing the children?


Second, we should promote respect for the elderly. Nowadays, no one takes care of the aged, and they get sent to homes for the elderly. The homes for the elderly don't take good care of them either, and the elderly may even die of cold or hunger there. We should mention this issue, for it's a way to save the world.


Third, we should speak about the problems of young people. How should people in old age, youth, and middle age conduct themselves? We should explain the "Sutra of Human Life" for everyone. How to be a person--this is the most important thing to know in studying Buddhism. If you cannot be a good person, how can you become a Buddha?


Fourth, we should put emphasis on not eating meat. Actually, we were supposed to talk about why abortion is bad, and why homosexuality is bad, but you all are too young and not suited for speaking this Dharma. When you're older, it's all right. [Disciple: "So young people shouldn't talk about abortion and homosexuality?"] If you talk about abortion and homosexuality, no one will believe you, and they will not want to listen to you.


The theme of education is very important, and so is respect for elders. Did any of you attend the recent Celebration for Honoring the Elderly? [Disciple: "Yes."] What impressions did you have?


Disciple: What I feel is, if we have this kind of gathering for respecting the elderly every year, it will remind...


Ven. Master: This is not just every year; it should be every day. It should be promoted in every moment, at all times. If you do it only once a year, what use is that? We must advocate it in thought after thought. Even when we advocate it constantly, people may still forget about it. If you just advocate it once, they will forget about it as soon as it's over. Honorable Professor Yang plans to write an article. Those of you who have opinions on this can also write articles for Vajra Bodhi Sea or other magazines. You should all practice writing essays. Just make an honest report for the world, and don't be overly elaborate. This is a fundamental kind of education, a basic principle, and you should all do your best to carry it out. At all times, we must promote education. At all times, we must promote the idea of honoring our elders and cherishing our young people. That was the wish of Confucius.


Once Confucius said to his disciples Zi Lu and Yan Hui, "Tell me what your wishes are."


Zi Lu said, "I wish to have a plump steed to ride and a light fur coat to wear. I would share them with friends, and if they got ruined, I would not be upset." His meaning was, "I'd ride a mighty horse and wear light, warm fur clothing. My friends could also ride my horse and wear my clothes. I'd share them with a friend, so two people could use them. Even if they got ruined, I wouldn't regret it." This was the answer that Zi Lu hastily blurted out.


Yan Hui said, "I wish to refrain from bragging about myself and speaking about my own merit." He said, "My resolve is to avoid praising myself and boasting about my good points. No matter what help I render to others, I will not make them feel indebted to me, or say that I am benefitting them, or say that I have done a meritorious deed."


After they had given their answers, they said, "May we ask what the Teacher's wish is?"


Confucius replied, "To console the elderly, to be trustworthy with friends, and to cherish the young." He said, "I will make sure the old people are peaceful, happy, and free from anxiety. In associating with friends, I will not cause them to lose faith in me. I will always keep my promises. As for children, I will treat them all as my own sons and daughters and care for them compassionately."

敢問子之志,敢問夫子您的志願。子,這是尊稱,這是夫子,敢問夫子您的志願是什麼?不是說「你」。這有讀過書的人,不能對尊長就說「你、你的」,沒有這口氣的。不像你們美國人叫爸爸都叫「你、你的」,叫媽媽叫「她、她的」。你說 you you,這就是不恭敬的話。

The word zi 子 is a respectful form of address, used in fu zi 夫子[a title of respect for one's teacher], as in "May I ask what the Teacher's wish is?" In addressing one's teacher, one does not use ni 你 [the informal "you"]. Educated people do not address their elders using ni. They cannot use that tone of voice. This is different from Americans who address their fathers as "you" and refer to their mothers as "she." That's disrespectful.


It is important to know how to address people. In general, laypeople should not call one another by their official names. They should use a style name. For example, Professor Yang's official name is Fusen, but he gave himself another name, Lichi. By calling him Lichi, you show your respect for him. You cannot call him, "Fusen, Fusen." Not to speak of left-home people, even laypeople have this etiquette.


The son must not say his father's name. For example, suppose someone wants to make an apology and asks who your father is. You should say, "The son cannot say his father's name, but since you asked, I will tell you what my father's name is." There are rules of etiquette for all of this.

好像一般在家人給出家人寫信,有的時候就說ㄐㄧㄥˋ啟,這個ㄐㄧㄥˋ,有的用清淨那個「淨」,有的用恭敬那個「敬」。你用清淨那個淨,是叫對方清淨?是要自己清淨?這媕Y有疑問的。叫對方清淨,那就是你因為知道人不清淨,你叫人清淨,是不是這樣子呢?所以叫你淨啟。還有恭敬這個敬,你是叫人家恭敬你寫信這個人呢?是你寫信的人恭敬看信的人呢?這媄銙ㄕ酗@些個講不通的地方。所以用ㄐㄧㄥˋ 啟,恭敬的敬和清淨的淨,這按著文法都很不對的,可是現在寫信,很多都這麼寫。好像有的人給我寫信,大陸上很多人這麼寫信。你連稱呼都不會,都不懂,這種很皮毛的事情都不懂。或者皈依弟子看見出家人,說是給誰寫信寫合十,合十就這麼樣子(合掌)。那麼對出家人,人家懂禮的,人家都是寫頂禮,或者作禮。譬如平等的人,就說作禮,不說頂禮,那麼這是出家人給出家人寫信。給在家人呢,根本你就合十也不應該寫,就寫這個某某人啟就可以了,不必說個合十。因為你先給在家人合十,這也犯戒的。譬如在家人給你合十呢,那你可以還禮這麼合十。因為你給人家寫信,你不知道人家向你合沒合十呢!你說合十,這也是一種不合理的。就這小小的地方,你看!讀了多少年書都不懂的。

When laypeople correspond with left-home people, they usually write on the envelope either "Open in respect" or "Open in purity." If you write "Open in purity," do you wish the recipient to be pure, or yourself to be pure? It's ambiguous. If you wish the recipient to be pure, that means you know he's not pure, so you want him to become pure. Isn't that right? As for "Open in respect," are you asking people to respect the writer? Or does it mean that you, the writer, respect the people who read the letter? It doesn't make a lot of sense. Whether you write "Open in respect" or "Open in purity," it is grammatically incorrect. However, many people use these phrases. In fact, most of the people who write to me use them. They don't even understand such superficial things as the etiquette of an address. Also, some laypeople write letters to left-home people in which they close with the phrase, "Placing my palms together." But when a left-home person who understands etiquette writes to left-home people, he will use the more respectful closing, "Bowing my head to the ground" or simply "Making a half-bow." When writing to his equal, he should use "Bowing my head to the ground," not "Making a half-bow." When left-home people write to laypeople, they should not even say "Placing my palms together." They may just use a simple "To be opened by so-and-so." If you place your palms together for a layperson, you are violating the precepts. Of course, when laypeople place their palms together first, you may return the gesture. In writing a letter, you don't know whether or not the recipient has placed his palms together, so it doesn't make sense to say "Placing my palms together." Even people who have studied for many years still fail to understand these fine points.


Professor Yang also has another style name, Jingqiao [literally "warning to woodcutters"], which means he is telling people not to come to his mountain to cut firewood. You can also call him by that name. If we live to an old age, we should also continue learning into our old age. We must keep on studying. Don't say, "I've learned enough. I'm satisfied with what I know, and I don't need to study anymore." If you think like that, then it's all over for you.


When you write "Open in respect" [an opening phrase used in Chinese] on the envelope, you are telling the recipient, "Before you read my letter, you should first respectfully bow several times." Isn't that what it means? Or, "Before you read this letter, you must first bathe and put on clean clothes." That's what "Open in purity" implies, don't you think? What do you think of my reasoning?


Disciple: Well, what should we write then?


Ven. Master: You can simply write, "Personally open" or "Please open," and that will do. You cannot tell people to "Open in respect." In the past, one disciple always wrote "Open in respect" or "Open in purity" on his letters, but that's contradictory. Ordinary people may not be aware of this, but anyone with learning would see how awful this is. You might study in school for eight or ten years without ever getting to attend a class like this one!


Disciple: What about the opening phrases, "Please inspect with your wisdom," "Please inspect with your virtue in the Way," and "Please inspect with your kindness." How are they different?


Ven. Master: Those are fine. There's no problem. "Please inspect with your wisdom" says that he has wisdom. "Please inspect with your virtue in the Way" says that he has attained the Way. "Please inspect with your kindness" says that he is kind and compassionate. There's not much difference. If you think he has great wisdom, use "Please inspect with your wisdom." This is telling him to use his wisdom to examine your letter.


Disciple: When a junior Dharma-brother writes to his senior, should he use the closing "Making a half-bow" or "Bowing my head to the ground"?


Ven. Master: He should write "Bowing my head to the ground," because juniors should respect seniors.


Disciple: Well, what about when a senior Dharma-brother writes to his junior? Should he write "Making a half-bow"?


Ven. Master: Yes, that is correct. After we get to Taiwan, we should set a time, preferably in the morning when other people are having breakfast, to evaluate the previous day's mistakes. Everyone should be frank. We should also discuss that day's activities and how we can compensate for our shortcomings and emphasize our strong points. This is called "bringing out the good points and making up for the shortcomings." Everyone must work hard. Don't give the impression of being half-asleep or so hungry you can't even keep your head up. When we go out in public, we must be stately and dignified. If we hunch over and hang our heads, people will say, "No wonder they're like this--they eat only one meal a day!" Haven't I told you before that we must follow the motto: "Freezing to death, we stand firm in the wind. Starving to death, we stick out our bellies and walk on." In propagating the Buddhadharma, we must have a warlike spirit and be even braver than the army. We must have great courage.

上人:(對某弟子)你以後不要有脾氣,不要對誰講講話,就發脾氣了。講是講道理嘛,也不要不高興,就是用道理來說服人,不是用脾氣來壓迫人,那才香了;你若用脾氣,那就臭了,懂不懂啊?(弟子:弟子會努力學習。)人都說臭脾氣、臭脾氣,沒有說香脾氣的,你一有脾氣,這個人就臭了。一發脾氣來罵人,或者鬧人,就是像放臭氣似的。不要說你,就我若天天盡罵人啊,對你們發脾氣,你們大家也都跑了。我雖然是也說人家毛病,但我完全是用慈悲來說的,所以你們大家也都不怕了。 弟子:在工技學院有定題目,一個是「現代人心、道德、行為」,一是「科、哲學的進步」。

Ven. Master: [to a disciple] Don't lose your temper anymore. Don't get mad when you talk to people. Just speak in a reasonable way, and don't get upset. Use reason to persuade people, rather than threatening them with anger. We always say the temper is smelly, not fragrant. As soon as you blow your top, you start to stink. When you scold and nag at people in anger, it's as if you're releasing a foul odor. Let's not talk about you; if I were to scold you people and get mad at you every day, you would also run away. I do scold people and bring up their faults, but I do it entirely out of compassion. That's why you are not afraid. Disciple: The Institute of Industry and Technology has already given us the lecture topics. One is "Mind, Morality, and Behavior of Modern People" and another is "The Progress of Science and Philosophy."


Ven. Master: All of you should look into these topics, and each person can speak briefly on them.
[A letter arrives from President Bush's Public Liaison, Mr. Clayton Fong. A disciple reads it aloud.]


Ven. Master: He personally mailed this letter. He also sent a letter when we had the Celebration for Honoring the Elderly, but it seems to have gotten lost in the mail.


Excerpts from the Venerable Master's instructions
given during a pre-trip meeting of the delegation to Taiwan
at Long Beach Sagely Monastery on January 1, 1993


法界佛教總會 • DRBA / BTTS / DRBU