Los Angeles, California, June 27th, 1976

by the Venerable Master Hsuan-hua

Translated by Bhikshuni Heng Yin

      All of you have now taken refuge with the Triple Jewel and received the Dharma name Kuo Shan. You all received the same name and this represents the fact that we are all equal. You have been given the name Shan "Mountain" because in the future the merit and virtue you will attain will be as high as Mount Sumeru.

      Taking refuge with the Triple Jewel is the bestowing upon everyone of new life, a new beginning. Now that you have started fresh, you should all take note of some things: Today you took refuge with this very muddle-headed teacher who doesn't understand anything at all. What does he understand? How to sleep, wear clothes, and eat. However, these three things are very important. If you don't eat, you sustain your life. If you don't wear clothes, you are unpresentable. If you don't sleep, you don't have enough energy. Everyone then, needs to sleep, wear clothes, and to eat. But you must regulate them. If you don't regulate them, you will have problems. Don't make discriminations between what is good and what is not. When you eat it should be as if you were taking medicine. You eat medicine to preserve your life. No matter how good the food is, once you have eaten it, if you spit it up chemical changes and ends up as nothing but waste matter.

      If you like wearing fine clothes, you have to be careful all the time not to bump into things and rip holes in them and you spend a lot of time watching out for them. It's like wearing a ball and chain. If you just wear ordinary clothes, things are much more convenient.

      As to sleep, you should not be greedy for it. Get as much sleep as you need and no more. Food, clothes, and sleep are very important and you should all pay attention to what I have said and learn to regulate them.

      You have taken refuge today with this muddle-headed teacher who has a muddle-headed vow which I will tell you all about. Basically, I feel that I am very unintelligent, that I am very dense. I began cultivating the way when I was ten years old. When I was nineteen I cultivated filial piety sitting besides my mother's grave. While I was cultivating the way many people came to take refuge with me and I felt very ashamed. What right do I have to act as a person's teacher?, "I thought. I don't have a firm enough virtue to move them. So I thought it over and made a vow. I said, "I vow that all those who have taken refuge with me, if they believe in me, or even those who have seen my face or heard my voice, will become Buddhas before I do." All of my disciples must become Buddhas before I do. As long as one of them has not become a Buddha, I will wait here for them, no matter how long I have to wait. I will wait for one year, two years, three years, four years, five years, one hundred years, two hundred years, a thousand years, ten thousand years, one great aeon, two great aeons, a hundred great aeons, a hundred thousand great aeons, a million great aeons--I will wait and I will not become a Buddha until all my disciples have done so. having made this vow I figured that in spite of the fact that I would be a muddle-headed teacher, I could still stand of my disciples. It's just this vow that makes your teacher quite unique and you should pay attention to the muddle-headed vow your muddle-headed teacher made.

      Why do I say he is very muddle-headed, very stupid? If he wasn't stupid why would he vow that his disciples will become Buddhas before he does?

      Before Gold Mountain Monastery was established, the Sino-American Buddhist Association was located at the Buddhist Lecture Hall. At that time some Americans came to take refuge, although I don't know why. Before they did, I told them about my vow and said, "Because of this, if you want t o take refuge with me you must first make a vow to become a Buddha." When I said this, one person was so frightened he ran off. Why? He was affraid of becoming a Buddha!

      "Oh, no," he thought. "Become a Buddha? But if I became a Buddha things would be so boring!" and he ran off. He ran for several years but there was no way he could escape. Such a wide world but no matter where he went he felt uncomfortable. Finally he returned to Gold Mountain Monastery and not only did he take refuge, but now he has left even left home.

      Today, because I know that none of you people are affraid of becoming Buddhas, I told you about my vow.

      Now that you have taken refuge, you must all have faith and make vows and practice accordingly, You must have deep faith, sincere vows, and real practice.

      First of all you must have faith in the Buddha. You should take the Buddha as seriously as you do your food. You can't go a single day without eating and in the same way you should feel that you can't go for as long as even one single day without believing in the Buddha. You must have deep faith. You can't go a single dayu without wearing clothes, and you can't go a single day without believing in the Buddha. You can't go a single day without sleeping and you can't go a single day without believing in the Buddha. This means that at all times, in every moment, you must have deep, profound faith.

      Second, you must make vows. Aware of the suffering the living beings of this world must undergo, you should make a vow to cultivate and when you obtain success, to lead all beings to leave suffering and to attain bliss, to end birth and death.

      Third, once you have faith and make vows you must actually practice. You should think, "I can go for a day without food, but I can't go a day without cultivating."  Faith, vows, and practice should form the foundation of your cultivation. As you now begin to cultivate, take faith, vows, and practice as you work.

      And you must not be lazy. I don't want any lazy disciples. In America I have had several lazy bugs for disciples, but I drove them all out. I don't believe any of you will be lazy. Being lazy yourself is not that important, but if you are lazy you will tie your teacher up and he will be forced to wait around until you become a Buddha before he can become a Buddha. Do you see how important that is? There is a saying, "Don't be afraid of going slow. Just be afraid of standing still." If you make steady progress, no matter how slow it is, you will eventually reach your goal. But if you stop altogether, you have no chance of success. So we cultivators of the way must be vigorous and practice giving. In giving, we should give to others, not tell others to give to us. In keeping the precepts, we must keep them ourselves and not just tell others to keep the precepts. In being patient, we must ourselves be patient and not just tell others to be patient. We must bear what can not be borne, yield what others cannot yield and eat what others cannot eat, take what others cannot take, do what others cannot do. I f you can be that way, you have patience. You must also be vigorous and practice Dhyana meditation and then you can have wisdom. With wisdom you can become a Buddha.

      Now, as to the Buddha, many people believe in the Buddha but if you ask them, "What is a Buddha?" they will reply, "I don't know>" Now, is that wonderful or not?

      Because so many people don't know, I will explain to you what a Buddha is. "Buddha" is a Sanskrit word which means, "an enlightened one.".  He is enlightened, he understands, he has great wisdom. If you have great wisdom, you are a Buddha. If he has great wisdom, he is a Buddha. If you have great wisdom, you are a Buddha. I just said that I was very muddle-headed, and that's the reason I haven't become a Buddha. If you understand, you are a Buddha. But your understanding must be genuine. You cannot, as it were, "try to make tea with cold water." If you really understood you would not claim to understand. This like the question which Laymen Ch'en asked a while ago. He said, "Since everything is empty, why do we still need to cultivate?" I answered him saying, "If you are really empty, then why do you need to ask?"

      It is just because you aren't empty that you have to ask. I f you are really enlightened you would not feel that you weremore intelligent than other living beings. You should be just the same as other living beings. The Buddha said, "All living beings have the Buddha-nature; all can become Buddhas>" Therefore the Buddhism I promote is not Indian Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, Thai or Burmese or Ceylonese Buddhism. It is not Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese Buddhism. Buddhism is not the private property of any single country. No one nationality has a monopoly on Buddhism. It is trans-national. It pervades to the end of empty space and the limits of the Dharmarealm. Buddhism cannot be restricted to boundaries of nationalities or to discriminations between "us and them." You cannot define it to a single race. Buddhism includes of all creation, it extends to the furthest limits of the universe.

      And whether you believe in the Buddha or not, I count you as a disciple of the Buddha. If you believe in the buddha, you are a Buddhist disciple. If you don't believe in the Buddha, you are still counted among the Buddhas disciples. Whether you believe or not is merely a question of time, because in the future you are bound to believe. If don't believe this life you will in the next. If you don't believe right now, you eventually will come to believe. You can't guarantee that you won't change. Take a look of your own life: today you may like to eat sweet things, tomorrow you may prefer sour things, the day after you may prefer spicy things, and then the next day you may prefer something salty. Then, when you have tried all those flavors, you may want to try something bitter. Who told you to change your preferences for taste? You did it on your own. Believing in the Buddha is the same way. Gradually you will come to believe in the Buddha, regardless of whether you are presently a Catholic, a Protestant, Jewish--whether you belong to a religion of the heavens, of the earth, or of human beings--you are all included in Buddhism you can't escape! Why not? Because you cannot run outside of the Dharmarealm. Buddhism extends to the ends of space and the Dharmarealm. Where could you run to? Can you run outside of the Dharmarealm? Where could you possibly get such great spiritual powers?

      The Buddha told us, "All living beings have the Buddha-nature; all can become Buddhas." He never said, "No living being has the Buddha-nature; none can become Buddhas." Only I, Shakyamuni Buddha can become a Buddha. I am the one and only; I have the monopoly." He never said that. Therefore he said any living being who cultivates can become a Buddha. You and I and they and even all the mosquitoes, ants and bees are all living beings and all have the potential to become Buddhas. Unless you say, "I don't want to become a Buddha; I am not a living being," you will become a Buddha. Whether you are priest or a minister you are still a living being. You can't say, "I am not a living being. I am God!" Even he who claims to be the one and only God is a living being. How can you escape?

      ATTENTION STUDENTS: Have you already enrolled for classes at Dharmarealm University? You will find Chinese, Sanskrit, meditation, Buddhist Studies and more offered at City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Talmage, California, and at the San Francisco branch, Gold Mountain Monastery. For information call (415)861-9672.