I'll say some more irrelevant things. What do I want to say? I want to talk about the idea of respecting the elderly and worthy. On the twenty-seventh of the eleventh lunar month, I organized a banquet for Venerating the Elderly, Honoring the Worthy, and Respecting the Virtuous. We invited mostly elderly professors and elderly scholars. These elders included a monk who was a hundred and four years old. Some were ninety-two or ninety-three, some were in their eighties, and others were in their seventies. The minimum age was seventy-two. I invited them to get together just to get acquainted, and to have a chat.
One of these people is Professor Richard Yang, who attends an annual gathering of Ten Seniors Returning to Youth. These ten seniors include those in their nineties, eighties, and seventies. Not fearing the trouble, these seniors also attended the banquet. Among them, the elder professor and scholar Wu Junsheng used to be the Vice Minister of Taiwan's Education Department. Others had served as presidents of universities in Taiwan or as deans of academic affairs, and most of them had a lot of professional experience. People in their sixties also attended the banquet, although they were not on the honored guest list.
On the occasion of the banquet, I wrote a matched couplet entitled "Evergreen like the pines and cedars," meaning that our elders should always be youthful and childlike. The pines and cedars do not fear cold, and they are green in winter as well as summer, so I'm comparing the elders to them. If you wish, you may take notes.
Respect elders and honor the worthy
for their seniority and longevity,
and your blessings and wisdom will be complete.
Learn from the Buddhas and study with the sages, and at the age of seventy or eighty, you will attain both the Tao and virtue.
First I made this couplet. It is a matched couplet with twelve characters per line in Chinese. Actually, I don't understand how to match couplets. I just recklessly wrote this matched couplet without much consideration. Then from this couplet, I made four other matched couplets, which I shall explain below.
To respect elders and honor the worthyis the teaching of Confucius and Mencius.
Confucius left behind this method for people to follow. Respecting old folks and honoring worthy people is what Confucius and Mencius taught. The second half says,
To learn from the Buddhas and study with the sages
is the teaching transmitted by Shakyamuni's disciples.
Shakyamuni Buddha taught people to study the thinking and conduct of the Buddhas and to learn from the sages and worthies. That is the principle the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha have passed down through the generations and used to teach people.
The plum and bamboo endure the ice and snow,
and I am ashamed of my naive resolve to imitate them.
I want to be like the plum blossom, which opens in the cold of winter, and like the bamboo, which does not die in the freezing cold. I want to endure the suffering, the hardship, and the cold. It is my foolish resolve to be like this.
The pine and cedar are evergreen,
and I wish that you will be as healthy as they are.
I say, "Just as the pine and cedar are eternally green, I hope you 'elderly youths' are healthy in body and happy in spirit, and that everything turns out as you wish, with peace and joy." That's my intention.
At the banquet, I told them about this couplet, hoping that all of those old professors, old scholars, and everyone would also write a matching couplet to commemorate the occasion. The elderly professors, perhaps because they didn't want to embarrass themselves by showing their poor skill, all said it was very difficult to match it. They said, "You have made four couplets from the original couplet. We've never seen any matched couplet like that before." I replied, "You may never have seen one like it before, but today you have." One cannot say that this was unprecedented, nor that it will not happen again. Everyone enjoyed themselves fully before they departed.
The elderly professors said, "I've been to countless gatherings in my life, but they were just for fun, never something as meaningful, memorable, and historic as today's banquet." I said, "From now on, we can hold a Banquet to Venerate the Elderly, Honor the Worthy, and Respect the Virtuous every year, and we hope everyone can get together."
That was the banquet I held in Los Angeles, in the United States, so I thought I would tell all of you about it. I don't care what you think of it. Some people might call me a pedantic Confucian scholar, but I'm not even up to that, because I can't be considered a Confucian scholar. My four matched couplets include the principles of Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Heaven, Earth, and Man, as well as each individual's wishes. That is the scope. The elderly professors told me they would turn in their homework when I got back to the United States. I don't know what kind of lofty words they have.
Every day I use my ghost-beating cane first to beat people and then to beat ghosts. You don't know, and I don't want you to know. If you knew, you would get scared, thinking, "Oh, I didn't know so many ghosts came here, too!" So every day I give aid and support to all of you. Whether or not you come, if you have affinities with this Dharma Assembly, you will receive aid. You don't necessarily have to come here to receive it. If I were to say that you have to come in order to receive aid, I would be trying to trick you. That would be like the words of a fraud. I don't want to tell you too explicitly. As for the question of whether I will come next year, it is not certain, because I don't know whether I'll live until next year. I can't tell you in advance, except to say I'll come if I'm alive, and I won't come if I'm dead.
[Upasaka You: "You all heard it; he will come if he's alive. Now we would like to transfer the merit and virtue from this Dharma Assembly to Venerable Master, wishing him health and hoping that he will live to at least one hundred and twenty."]
I don't want your transference. If I depended on your transference, I would probably be long gone. I can't grant your request, because I made a vow that if I lived to be one hundred, I would cremate myself as an offering to the Buddhas. I absolutely do not want to live to be a hundred and twenty. I'm very sorry, but I am not able to obey your wishes.
If there are people who want to make offerings, I don't want to accept them when I'm here. After I leave, it doesn't matter to me if you make offerings or not. While I'm here, I don't want to accept red envelopes. Taking red envelopes is an unwholesome custom in Buddhism. When you make an offering in a red envelope, you cause the person who accepts it to have an idle thought. What does he think? He thinks, "Oh, I wonder how much money is in that red envelope? Ten dollars? Twenty dollars? A hundred dollars? A thousand, ten thousand, or a hundred thousand dollars?" He can't help but become greedy. It's said, "You would rather disturb the waters of a thousand rivers, than to disturb the mind of a cultivator." If by making that offering you cause a cultivator to have idle thoughts, you are creating offenses. I don't want to have idle thoughts, because I don't have enough samadhi power. If I don't see the offerings, then I won't have idle thoughts. Do you all understand? [Everyone: "Yes."]
A talk by the Venerable Master Hua on January 13, 1993, at the Taipei County Stadium in Banqiao, Taiwan