Let Us Cleanse Our Own Minds


      The following is an excerpt from a talk given by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua during the recent tour of the Asian Region by a delegation representing the Sino-American Buddhist Association and Dharma Realm Buddhist University. These instructions were delivered during a welcoming conference held at the Buddhist Temple called Purple Bamboo Grove, Ipoh, Malaysia.

Sramanerika Kuo Jing, trans.

I am a teacher who does not know how to teach and transform beings. My disciples say things which people do not want to hear. And yet, "Loyal words are unpleasant to the ear but benefit conduct; good medicine is bitter to the mouth but appeases illness." If you're sick, you shouldn't stay away from the doctor.

Some thirty years ago, I saw that Buddhism was about to perish, that it was infested with something akin to terminal cancer. I exhausted my abilities to help Chinese Sanghins to go to the West. There were over a thousand left-home people who came from the mainland to Hong Kong, and over the years many of them have spread throughout the West and other parts of Asia to propagate the Buddhadharma.

Buddhism is right now desperately struggling in the throes of death, and we must use every bit of our strength to save it from complete annihilation. I have found that within the Mahayana and Theravada traditions, we make the same mistake, that of being unwilling to admit to our own shortcomings. This is the same as a person trying to steal a bell while stopping up his own ears. He is cheating himself as well as others. That is why I often say,

Truly recognize your own faults,

Do not discuss the faults of others.

Others' faults are just my own.

Identity in substance is called great compassion.

It is said that even a common person bears the responsibility of whether a country prospers or perishes. The same applies to Buddhism: every Buddhist disciple should shoulder the responsibility of its perishing or prospering. At present Buddhism is riddled with a terminal illness, much like cancer. That is because people care only to praise themselves, and refuse to bring their own errors out into the light. This causes others not to believe in or respect them. No wonder there is no response in the Way! Even people who make offerings to the Triple Jewel do so with an attitude of doubt and skepticism and are not inspired by pure faith.

Ever since I left home, I have observed that the reason for Buddhism's decline is due to our overlooking the important matters of education, propagation, and communication. The reason the Catholic, among Christian faiths, is so popular, is that its adherents have translated the Bible into the tongues of every country, in easy-to-understand language, so that their doctrines are disseminated throughout the world. Their converts increase daily, and their position has solidified to the point that now all the chiefs of state come to pay respect to the Pope.

In Buddhism we most sincerely suggest that Sanghins keep no private assets, that all private funds go to the Buddhist Church. Such a lofty practice molds lofty character, banishes selfishness, and ensures vigorous practice and cultivation, and this is bound to command esteem from other people.

      A long time ago I vowed that I would translate the entire Tripitaka (the Sutras, Vinaya, and Shastras of the Buddhist sacred writings) into foreign languages. This is a colossal task, one, which requires the support of the state or the country to be fully realized. I came to America in 1962, and after I had stayed hidden for a few years, in 1968 a group of Western students and scholars showed interest in studying Buddhism, and we started to investigate and translate the Sutras together.

      About ten years have passed. Now the causes and conditions are ripe and it is as if the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has welled up out of the earth! With it comes the dawn of the light of Buddhism in the West. This 237-acre peaceful city was built by the U.S. government forty years ago when it was at its wealthiest. It cost eighty million dollars then. Now it would probably take $1,500 million to build a similar complex. The place is big enough to house twenty-thousand people, which is why we have named it City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for a start. We have established Dharma Realm Buddhist University and Instilling Virtue Elementary School. The purpose of our schools is to groom young people as healthy, upright, and productive members of society, so they may serve their community and the country in the future. Americans do not stress filial piety, but we believe filiality is the backbone of a country's moral fiber, and have adopted it as the central theme of our schools. Our high school is in the planning stages, and the University is well on its way.

      Since the task of education is stupendous, I wish all of you Buddhists would work together and support this cause. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a huge place. I've dedicated it to people of the entire world. It is no longer our private property. Our only aim is to work for the liberation of all living beings.

If we are to seriously propagate the Buddhadharma, we must first get rid of the superstitious customs, which are undermining our religion. This is the space age. It takes only a little over ten hours to fly from the United States to Malaysia. We should keep abreast with the times and expand the capacity of our minds. Do not be petty, obstinate, and old-fashioned as before. If you want to close your doors and continue being selfish, there will surely be no chance for Buddhism. We need to fortify the foundations of Buddhism, so that it can stand up to the tests. Not only should it reach all countries of the world, it should go to every star and planet of the universe!

Our delegation here adheres strictly to the schedule we keep at Gold Mountain Monastery and at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. We do morning and evening recitation, recite the meal offering praise at mealtime, and at all times the left-home people wear their precept sashes. If you do not even maintain these basic requirements, what is your claim to "cultivating according to the Dharma"? How are you any different from laypeople? The reason we are called left-home persons is because our thoughts and conduct are supposed to be different from those of lay people. If we can't even transcend the level of the mundane and the worldly, how can we merit the title of "teachers of gods and men"?

I don't know whether what I've said has meaning. If it does, then we should together investigate how to propagate the Proper Dharma.

I've just said that Buddhism is riddled with cancer and some people are becoming very worried. "What are we going to do?" they ask. Don't worry: if I know the illness, I can also prescribe the cure.

We should make a clean sweep of things. Set up a new constitution for Sanghins, eradicate the superstitious and corrupt practices of the past. Buddhist disciples should not drink, smoke, or take dope. Those bad habits have not one benefit but bring a hundred ills. I don't care how hard the tobacco and liquor companies are going to protest. I have to protect the interests of all Buddhists.

Secondly, Buddhists should cultivate the five precepts and the ten good acts. Do not pick fights right within the Triple Jewel, always harping on others' faults and causing dissension. Why do you do this? It's because you are selfish. Why do we discuss other peoples' shortcomings and hide our own? It's because we fear some good will befall other people. If you get rid of these bad habits, cleanse your own mind and work towards the good, then it's certain that Buddhism will be cured of its cancer, and the Buddhadharma will see the light again.