At the Way-place we have the rule that when there's work to do, people do it together. They eat together and work together. However, there are some exceptions. For instance, people who truly work hard sitting in meditation day after day can do a little less of the other work. This is because they are already cultivating, either reciting the Buddha's name or bowing to the Buddhas. They already work hard in cultivation. But these are special exceptions; ordinarily we cannot be lazy in our work. We must abide by the rules of the Way-place.
Other people don't always sit in meditation or bow to the Buddhas, and yet they don't have time to attend morning and evening recitation. In spite of this, they find time to gossip. Or they drag their feet when going to morning and evening recitation. If everyone comes late, then who does morning and evening recitation? If cultivators don't do morning and evening recitation, what do they do? In a Way-place, doing morning and evening recitation is the duty of the residents. No one can be absent. If you don't do morning and evening recitation, you are showing disrespect for the Way-place. Disrespect for the Way-place implies disrespect for the Buddha, which in turn implies disrespect for the Abbot. If you have no respect for the Abbot, then you cannot live and cultivate with everyone else.
Apart from the time spent in morning and evening recitation, you can do whatever you want at other times. People who like to translate Sutras can translate them. People who like to study Sutras can study them. People who like to gossip can gossip. People who like to listen to gossip can listen. No one will stop you from doing what you want to do. However, when the time comes for morning or evening recitation, you must attend, because morning and evening recitations are required for all cultivators at a Way-place.
Cultivators must protect and maintain the Way-place, respect the Way-place, and abide by the rules of the Way-place. Upon hearing the bell and drum, one should stop doing the work at hand and eagerly get ready to go to the Buddha Hall. If one does the morning and evening recitations perfunctorily and does not take them seriously, one is simply waiting to fall into the hells. “There are many Sanghans at the gates of hell.” Whether you are a left-home person or a layperson, you should participate and rejoice in meritorious activities, do the Buddha's work in earnest, and not just absent-mindedly follow the beat and go along with the crowd, for that would really be pointless.