[Note: The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, founded in 1976, is located 110 miles north of San Francisco. On November 4, 1979, the Ceremony for Inaugurating the Thousand-Handed Thousand-Eyed Guanshiyin Bodhisattva Image and the Opening Ceremony for Dharma Realm Buddhist University were held. On October 30, 1982, there were ceremonies for dedicating the gate of three arches at the entrance, the Jewelled Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and the newly-completed Dining Hall of Five Contemplations. For the occasion of the first anniversary of the Venerable Master’s completion of stillness and the twentieth anniversary of the City’s founding, we have compiled the Master’s talks from these events and from before the purchase of the City, hoping that those who had heard the Master’s teachings can review them and those who have not can also benefit from the Dharma.]
Every one of us, whether we are left-home people or laypeople, should know what we are doing at the monastery. We aren’t here to idly pass the days. We have to be very clear about what we are contributing to the temple as we live here. As Buddhist disciples, our job is to help Buddhism expand and grow. If Buddhism appears to be half dead, how can we be said to have fulfilled our responsibility? Our responsibility is to spread Buddhism and make it flourish so that every person comes to understand the Buddha’s teachings and puts them into practice instead of casually letting the days go by.
Now we should all make vows to purchase the buildings and the land in Ukiah Valley. If we are successful in this matter, then, beginning with this most influential nation, we will be able to propagate Buddhism to the rest of the world and use the Buddha’s teachings to save the entire human race and all living beings. This is our shared responsibility. We shouldn’t pass the days being satisfied as long as we are fed. That’s too selfish and defeatist. We should take a good look at ourselves and think, “I definitely want to be the best disciple of the Buddha I can be; I don’t want to be a bad disciple.” We have to work very hard and be pioneers for Buddhism. Don’t pass the days in a muddle, acting as if you didn’t understand anything at all. That’s totally meaningless. We ought to be cultivating in every moment, working in every second to teach Buddhism to all people and cross them over. As for this piece of land in Ukiah Valley, we should all work together in this matter, contributing whatever money or strength we have to make it a success.
Once this property is purchased, we can start a Buddhist university, a seniors’ home, a youth counselling center, an orphanage, a hospital, and any other institution for benefitting people. We shouldn’t let our lives go down the drain, without any principles or goals to guide us. We should get serious and do the things we ought to do. Living in this world, we have to be productive and useful to the world; we shouldn’t be worthless bums.
No matter what it takes, we have to purchase this piece of land in Ukiah Valley. Then next year (1976) we can hold a transmission of precepts there. We can also convene a World Buddhism Conference and invite all the eminent Buddhist Sangha members to come and study the question of how to spread Buddhism throughout the world. When the conference ends in September or October, we can organize a World Buddhism Delegation and propagate Buddhism to every country. The delegation members can tour and visit various places during the day, but they should continue to hold Sutra lectures at night and do morning recitation in the morning. Such a delegation probably will be the first of its kind in the history of Buddhism. We are now breaking new ground, planting the seeds of Buddhism in every mote of dust as we turn the great Dharma wheel and propagate the Dharma. Each one of us has a share of responsibility in this work. Since we are Buddhists, we should spread Buddhism to every mote of dust in all the worlds of the Dharma Realm.
Buddhism Sends Forth Shoots in the New Land
The Garden of Bliss Is Re-Established in the West
November 6, 1976
Buddhism goes through periods of flourishing and decline. It flourishes when living beings have abundant blessings and declines and disappears as their blessings become scarce. At present Buddhism has virtually disappeared from Asia because the blessings of Asians are becoming fewer and fewer.
The advent of Buddhism in the West marks a new beginning for Buddhism and the start of a new life for Westerners. Because Westerners have abundant blessings, this "field of blessings" has come to the West. The beginning of Buddhism in the West will be different from in the East. Buddhism developed on a small scale in the East, but in the West there needs to be a large place for it to develop. That’s why we have purchased the former State Hospital. This place will become the birthplace of Buddhism, the source of world Buddhism. We need everyone’s support. Each person should contribute his or her strength and energy to protect Buddhism and support the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
When Buddhism started out in China, it was sponsored by the emperor himself and his high ministers. At one point, Chinese Buddhism became so prosperous that Daxingshan (Great Flourishing of Goodness) Monastery housed 200,000 monks and, in one county, over 3,000 people left the home-life in a single day. Buddhism in the West has only just begun and is like a newborn infant who needs his mother’s care and the protection of those around him.
Why has the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas been founded in the West? It’s because this is exactly the time for such a place to come into existence. When I first arrived in America, I stayed in a windowless basement about 150 square feet in area. It had only one door, and once the door was shut, it was like being in a vacuum. After living there for a while, I moved to Sacramento Street. Later, when I felt it was too complicated to propagate Buddhism in Chinatown, I moved to Sutter Street temporarily, and then to Waverly Street. In 1970 we moved to Gold Mountain Monastery.
We began translating Sutras in 1968. In all these thousands of years, no one in China thought of translating Sutras from Chinese into other languages; no one could conceive of undertaking such an immense project, which would have required the support of the government to be carried out successfully. When Dharma Master Kumarajiva was translating the Sutras into Chinese, sometimes he had over 3,000 people helping him; at the very least he always had 800 people working on translation.
Now in America, how can I do this work all alone? None of the great monks in Chinese history dared to think of translating the entire Chinese Tripitaka (Buddhist canon) into foreign languages. Why not? Because there was no one who could do it. Although the situation is better now, over a hundred years ago people who understood foreign languages were extremely rare in China.
Not knowing my own limitations, I am now attempting this project which no one in China dared undertake for several thousand years. After the thirty some American students who came to study Buddhadharma completed the 1968 summer session, they began translating the Sutras. Our translators are all volunteers who seek no reward or compensation of any kind.
In the beginning, everyone was arguing instead of translating. They each proposed their own translation for everything, starting from the very first phrase, “Thus have I heard,” and criticized everyone else’s translation as wrong. Progress was very slow.
Later, I thought of a way. I gave each person his or her own Sutra to translate. After he or she completed his draft of a primary translation, another person would review it. The translation would then be edited and finally, it would be certified as correct. When the work was broken into these four stages, everything proceeded smoothly.
Ever since we began in 1968, I have required that each Sutra translation be examined by one hundred pairs of eyes. That is, one hundred people have to go over the Sutra until they feel there are no major problems with it. That’s the best we can do with the wisdom we have, so after that we go ahead and publish the translation. In the future, people can make further revisions. If we waited until we had a perfect translation, two hundred years would pass before we could print anything. Since we can’t wait that long, we publish our translations knowing that they are bound to contain minor problems and errors. Two hundred years from now, people can revise them as they see fit. That’s our method of translating Sutras.
Since we were translating Sutras, we founded Gold Mountain Monastery. In 1973 Mr. C.T. Shen loaned us a house because we were running out of room. At that time the men and the women were both living at Gold Mountain Monastery, the women on the second floor and the men on the third floor. There were rumors that in Gold Mountain Monastery where the rules were supposedly very strict, the men and women were mixing together in total disregard of the precepts. Many people outside were eager to find fault with us.
In 1975 when our place became too small again, we began to search for another place and came upon what is now the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. You could say the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas appeared because we needed a bigger place. Now all of you who have taken refuge with me should make a resolve to support the City.
You should all know how we came to have the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The first time I visited the place, I didn’t dare to think of buying it, because it was simply immense! I didn’t even dare to dream about the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. When I came a second time and looked at the hospital, which I hadn’t seen the first time, I thought to myself, “This hospital alone is worth much more than the price they’re asking for. Even with that much money, we couldn’t build such a hospital or buy one like it now.” Then I decided to go for broke, to lay it on the line. I said, “We definitely have to buy this place. If we don’t, then I’m going to take this ‘cane of birth and death’ and beat every one of my disciples to death, regardless of whether you are Chinese or American, left-home or lay people. I won’t spare a single one. Why should I spare you if you are totally useless and can’t do a single thing for Buddhism?” After that, we entered into negotiations and bought the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Right now the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is still a baby that needs to drink milk and be cared for by its mother and nanny. It needs all kinds of care and protection in order to grow up. If any of you are afraid of taking losses together with your teacher, then you can leave right now and go 108,000 miles away. If you aren’t afraid of taking a loss with your teacher, then come and support the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
What I’m saying to you now is important! No one is allowed to retreat. Everyone has to go forward with courageous vigor.
Do not harbor greed in offering incense and worshipping the Buddha.
Far eachng is the respect in this piece of incense from the mind.
The Opening of Light of the Thousand-Handed Thousand-Eyed
Guanshiyin Bodhisattva image at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
and the Opening Ceremony for the Dharma Realm Buddhist University
November 4, 1979
The Dharma Realm includes all people and all living beings within it. Since its inception, the Dharma Realm Buddhist University has developed step by step and is now ready to get on track. For this opening ceremony, the Dharma Realm Buddhist University is very happy to welcome Dharma Master Dhammananda, who has come all the way from Malaysia to be here, and is presenting him with a honorary Ph.D. degree. All of us in this ceremony today should study from Dharma Realm Buddhist University and Dharma Master Dhammananda, so that we can together go to the Buddhaland of the Dharma Realm. If you want to go there, you must first come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which is the headquarters for the Dharma Realm Buddhaland. If we want to become Buddhas, but we don’t come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the Dharma Realm Buddhist University to study, we won’t be able to reach Buddhahood. And so we all have this fine opportunity today. Now let us begin the ceremony for presenting the honorary Ph.D.
It’s totally superstitious to insist on personally offering incense to the Buddhas. If there is already incense burning in the censer, you can simply bow a few times to show your sincerity; don’t light more incense. If you light too much incense, the smoke chases the Buddhas away without your knowing, and your retribution for causing this is to become an animal.
I am very annoyed by such superstitious people. Burning so much incense amounts to defecating on the heads of ten thousand Buddhas. You wouldn’t like such an experience, so how much less would the Buddhas? How do you expect a Buddha to endure so much smoke?
The “rule” that “everyone must light incense” doesn’t apply here, because it’s too vulgar. My rule is that you cannot fight to offer incense. This is a new beginning for Buddhism; we’re different from other Buddhist temples. Such behavior may be acceptable in other places where people don’t know any better, but no one is allowed to be so superstitious here. People who don’t follow the rules are not welcome here.
If you want to scold me, go ahead. I know someone is scolding me for calling everyone superstitious. Although this person is totally ignorant about the principle, he is scolding me, “Who does this monk think he is, anyway, telling us not to offer incense?” Who do you think I am? And who do you think you are? You don’t understand anything at all. You’re not human; you’re not even up to an animal. Tell me, who do you think I am?
In your eyes, there is no father, no national leader, no seniors or juniors, no Buddha, no Dharma, and no Sangha, so to whom are you offering incense, ultimately? Although you offer incense, you will fall into the hells. Because you don’t follow my rules, I am obligated to correct you. I don’t mind if you scold me or even take a knife and kill me, but I won’t allow you to break my rules.
You must realize that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a place that upholds the Proper Dharma. No one is allowed to be superstitious here. If you want to study the Buddhadharma, you must follow the rules. Anyone who does not is headed for the hells. Someone is thinking, “What kind of Buddhist would come here to offer incense and then turn around and scold the Dharma Master?” Now, if that person doesn’t become an animal or fall in the hells, what will he become with all the evil karma that he’s creating? I would rather that there were no people here than that there be no Dharma; there has to be Dharma.
At mealtime, we should all take our meals together. No one should eat before the others. How can you have the gall to sit there and eat before the members of the Sangha have begun eating? You’re basically usurping the host’s position. You ought to know better than to begin eating before you’re supposed to. How can you sneak off and eat on the sly? People may not casually do as they please here. Everyone must follow the rules. If you don’t follow the rules, then you’re not welcome here no matter how rich you may be.
I have always looked down on rich people, because their wealth is equal to their offenses. I have to say this. You are welcome to scold me as much as you like, as long as you don’t fear the retribution of falling into the Hell of Pulling Tongues.
I’m speaking in this wild way because I’m overjoyed today. I’m not really mad at you. If you’re afraid of my getting mad at you, then simply follow the rules well. If you don’t fear my temper, then you don’t have to follow the rules here.
All of the left-home and lay people at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas follow the credo:
Freezing, we do not scheme.
Starving, we do not beg.
Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing.
According with conditions, we do not change.
Not changing, we accord with conditions.
We adhere firmly to our three great principles.
At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas,
We renounce our lives to do the Buddha’s work.
We take the responsibility to mold our own destinies.
We rectify our lives to fulfill the Sangha’s role.
Encountering specific matters, we understand
Understanding the principles, we apply them
in specific matters.
We carry on the single pulse of the Patriarchs’
We stand facing the wind, not caring if we freeze.
We stick out our bellies and walk, not minding
if we starve.
We will never bow our heads in submission to money.
November 5, 1979
If there is incense in the censer already, then you should just bow. People live as long as they have a single breath left; likewise, a single stick of incense is enough for the Buddhas. If you light too much incense, the Buddha can’t even open his eyes with all the smoke. You may say, “The Buddha isn’t like ordinary people. Smoke shouldn’t bring tears to his eyes. He should be able to take it.” Perhaps, but how can you make the Buddhas endure what people find unendurable? Isn’t that too disrespectful?
For example, if you tell someone who is already full, “Eat some more! Eat some more!” you’ll make him stuffed to the point of bursting. Likewise, assuming the Buddha does “accept” the offense offered him, then no matter who offered the incense, the Buddha has already accepted it and it’s the same as if you offered it yourself. You can simply bow sincerely a few times, and that will suffice. Don’t be like the person who scolded me after he heard me say that lighting too much incense is superstitious. I probably put it too strongly, so he was upset and scolded me. I don’t mind being scolded, but his attitude was disrespectful to the Buddhas. If you come to the Buddha Hall and act as you please, not abiding by the rules, you are just like a bandit. Those of you who have taken refuge with me should pay close attention to this. We should all work together and not fight to offer incense, being as superstitious and greedy as most Buddhists are. If you insist on fighting to offer incense, the Buddha will think, “This stupid person will always be stupid, because he doesn’t follow the rules. He’s serving me more food than I need, covering my whole table with dishes of food. How does he expect me to eat so much?” That’s an analogy. The Buddha already has incense, yet you light more until the whole censer is filled with incense. How can the Buddha take so much smoke?
The incense is a token of our respect. If there is some in the censer already, we don’t need to light more. Incense is very expensive nowadays. Why should we be so wasteful? You should look into this well. In any matter, we want to understand the principle behind it, not just blindly follow others, thinking, “Everyone else is rushing to offer incense, so it must be a good thing.” Actually, such people are creating offenses in Buddhism. Why are they so unreserved about showing the Buddha their greedy hearts?
Buddhists should absolutely be sure they understand this principle. We don’t want to create offenses in Buddhism by scolding one another and competing to offer incense. Such behavior is pointless. It’s utterly superstitious and lacking in wisdom. Why are we still so stupid? It’s because we keep doing stupid things like this.
The same principle of moderation applies to food offerings. It is disrespectful to cover the whole altar with dishes of food. How can we expect the Buddha to eat so much?
Don’t seek elsewhere for the Land of Ultimate Bliss;
Amitabha Buddha is right before your eyes!
Today I’ll explain a method for going to the Land of Ultimate Bliss to meet Amitabha Buddha. If you’re happy here in this world and have no wish to move to another world, you don’t have to listen. However, if you are sick and tired of the Saha world and yearn for the eternal bliss of the Western Land, then listen carefully!
The “Vow to Be Reborn in the West” begins: With one mind I return my life to Amitabha Buddha who is in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. With a concentrated mind free of discursive or scattered thoughts, I return my body, mind, nature, and life to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, where Amitabha Buddha dwells. In the past, Amitabha Buddha was an ordinary person just like us, but after he left the home-life to cultivate the Way, he made a vow. He vowed that when he became a Buddha, the beings in his Buddhaland would endure none of the sufferings but would enjoy every bliss, and that the three evil paths (hells, hungry ghosts, and animals) would not exist in his land. Thus his land is known as the Land of Ultimate Bliss. How can one be reborn there? One can use the “Ten Recitations Method,” which is to simply recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha” single-mindedly for at least ten breaths each day. Amitabha Buddha vowed that if beings who did this were not reborn in his land, he would not attain Proper Enlightenment.
By virtue of his vows, he realized the Land of Ultimate Bliss, and any living being in the ten directions can recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha” and be reborn there, where they will endure none of the sufferings but will enjoy every bliss. For this reason, we should with one mind return our life to Amitabha Buddha, wishing his pure light illumines me and his kind vows gather me in. Now, with proper mindfulness, I praise the Thus Come One’s name, the name of Amitabha Buddha, in order to take the path of Bodhi and to seek rebirth in the Pure Land. Amitabha Buddha’s past vows gather in all living beings to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. If living beings practice at least ten recitations and are not reborn there, he vowed not to become a Buddha.
Seeing Amitabha Buddha’s great vow, I also wanted to turn the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas into a Land of Ultimate Bliss. Even though it hasn’t become one yet－the ground isn’t yellow gold and a heavenly rain of mandarava flowers doesn’t fall in the six periods of the day and night－it will eventually become one. That’s why I made a foolish vow, saying, “If any of the disciples who have left home or taken refuge with me have not become Buddhas, I will not become a Buddha either.” If my disciples become ants, I will become an ant too; if they turn into mosquitoes, I will become a mosquito and join them; if they fall into the hells, I will follow them right into the hells; if they turn into hungry ghosts, I will turn into a hungry ghost along with them; if one of them becomes an animal, I will become an animal to keep him company. After they have all become Buddhas, then I may or may not become a Buddha. “Why wouldn’t you want to become a Buddha?” you ask. It’s because I see that so many people still haven’t become Buddhas, and I want to give them a helping hand. And so, even when all my left-home and lay disciples have attained Buddhahood, I will wait and see before deciding what to do.
You might think my vow is very stupid, but stupid people have stupid ways of doing things. I don’t know how to do things the fast way, at rocket-speed. When I’m at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, I always like to walk on my own two legs rather than ride in a car. Even on this rainy day, I sneaked over here on my own. Guo Wu keeps trying to pick me up, but she always ends up with an empty car! I know that I don’t have that many blessings, so I’m willing to suffer a little hardship.
I have tricked all of you into believing my slogan: “Enduring suffering puts an end to suffering; enjoying blessings uses up blessings.” No matter what we are doing, we should do it with a true mind, not with an insincere or opportunistic mind. We have to cultivate the Way and perform the Buddha’s work with the utmost sincerity. If you have one part of sincerity, you obtain one part of response; ten parts sincerity yields ten parts response; a million parts sincerity brings a million parts response. Therefore, when we believe in the Buddha, we have to truly give up our attachments before we can obtain freedom and ease. We shouldn’t take what is wrong to be right.
To truly study Buddhism, we should not covet fame or advantages, but should honestly work at our practice. Only then can we obtain a true response and have some achievement. Basically, we should not hope for any response or achievement in our cultivation, but if you tell ordinary people that, it makes them feel as if they are in a void and they lose interest in cultivation. On the other hand, if you tell them about the advantages and the wondrous functioning of spiritual powers that can be obtained, they will want to cultivate. Their aim in cultivation is not to end birth and death, but to gain empty fame and benefit. They’ve been deluded by external states. This is a great pity.
I feel very remorseful towards all the people who have come from Hong Kong and all the laypeople and Dharma Masters from Malaysia. I feel I owe each of you a deep apology. I’m not being polite. I really feel that I lack the virtue to teach and transform people. So many of you have come from so far away, but what do I have to offer you? I have no strengths, but plenty of shortcomings. My strengths are as few as phoenix feathers and unicorn horns, while my shortcomings are as numerous as the hairs on a cow and the sands in the Ganges. Nevertheless, no matter how few my strengths and how many my weaknesses, I would like to impart to you a teaching that I consider a strength. I’m willing to share it entirely with all of you.
This is a very difficult teaching to receive, however, because it requires that you have faith, patience, and perseverance.
What is this strength of mine? Well, as I said before I don’t have any strengths, but Guanyin Bodhisattva has plenty of strengths. Now, before we open the light on the sixteen-foot image of the Thousand-Handed Thousand-Eyed Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, I would like to take this opportunity to transmit Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s Forty-two Hands and Eyes to you, teaching you what I understand of each of the hands and eyes. Whether you believe or not is up to you; I cannot force anyone to believe. But if you can practice this Dharma with total dedication and mindfulness, in the future you will all be able to obtain a thousand hands and a thousand eyes.
Guanshiyin Bodhisattva obtained a thousand hands and a thousand eyes by practicing this Dharma door. In Malaysia I said, “The Forty-two Hands and Eyes are the most secret of secrets, the profoundest of the profound, the wonder of wonders; they are inconceivable and unfathomable.” This Dharma door was lost in the past, but now I wish to resume its transmission by teaching it to you. I will be transmitting the Hands and Eyes from seven-thirty to eight-thirty every morning and hopefully will finish in the next several days. All of you are welcome to come and learn. If you do not wish to learn, then simply forget about it.