Remarks by the Venerable Master Hua, Abbot of Gold Mountain Monastery, San Francisco
February 24, 1977

Translated by Bhiksuni Heng-yin
Buddhist Text Translation Society

First of all, is there anyone who objects to my saying a few words? If so, raise your hand. No one? All right then, if no one objects, I will speak. If one single person objects, I'll hold my tongue. Very well. I am going to talk a bit about how people got to be people.

People are created from the collectivity of their deeds (karma). Their deeds arise because of false thinking. So people are a creation of their false thinking and their karma. But that is not all. In order to be an actual, physical being, people rely upon the combination of the four elements--earth, air, fire, and water. Once they become people, what is their work? They false think. If their false thinking is good, it takes them to lofty heights. If their false thinking is evil, they sink along with it. Either way, however, it is their false thoughts, their deeds, and the combination of the four elements that make up a person.

Someone is now thinking, "But people get to be people because of their father and mother. People come from the union of egg and sperm."

Right! If you hadn't said anything, it would never have occurred to me. But you are quite right. It is the father and mother who bring people into the world. But, still, before this happened, there was nothing there. Then out popped a new being. When you think about it more deeply, it goes back to the four elements. Let me illustrate this:

Let's take the breath. Breath is necessary for life. When we cease to breathe in and out, we cease to live. Breath is the element air as it is present within our human bodies.

People have a body temperature. Their bodies are warm. If you stick someone is the freezer, and they get too cold, they die. Without the heat, people cannot live, and heat is the element fire as it is present in our bodies.

Bodies also have various fluids--spit, snot, blood and excretions. If the body dehydrates, it dies. It cannot live without these forms of moisture. They are just the element water in our bodies.

The body has solidity, which is necessary to maintain life. For example, if the bones grow soft, and the skin rots away, one will die. The solid parts of the body are the element earth.

So we see that it is the combination of the four elements that make up the body. People are born because of the combining of the four elements and because of false thinking. They die when the four elements separate. When the four elements are not in harmony, one becomes sick. The health and well being of each of us depends upon the harmony of the four elements in our bodies.

Likewise, the health and well being of the family depend upon the harmony of its elements, that is, the father, mother, sons and daughters, and grandparents, aunts, and uncles. When the members of the family do not get along, the household soon falls apart.  So it goes for the home.

The country works on the same principle. It is made up of a great number of families. The country, or society, is made up of many families and when the families are in harmony, then the nation is harmonious. If the families are in a turmoil, filled with fighting, unfiliality and disrespect, then the country will not last long. The country depends upon the family for its rise and because of disharmony in the family, it falls.

The world is made up of a number of countries. It stands to reason that, if we want the world to be a decent place, we must take things back to their source and start working with ourselves, with our own persons. This means disciplining the body and bringing harmony to the mind. From there, the discipline and harmony can spread to the family, to the world, bringing it peace, and sparing it cruelty and bloodshed.

I have taken much of your valuable time. Time is precious and I shall not waste more of it. If, in what I have just said, you find principle, then practice it; if you find no principle, feel free to forget it.

Another thing: At the Instilling Virtue Elementary School, the most important thing we teach the children is how to respect their own persons, their parents, and their family, and how to love their country and be good world-citizens. To be an asset to the world they live in, they must first respect and take care of themselves, and refrain from self-destructive acts and from doing things which are against the laws of society and of nature. The children are taught to be filial and to respect their parents, to care for them and not stick them away in a closet somewhere to grow old and lonely. These are the most important concepts taught at the Elementary School, and they are fundamental.

Now, the responsibility for one's own well being rests upon oneself. The responsibility for the family rests, ultimately, with the head of the household. The responsibility for the well being of a state can be traced back to its leader, and the same applies to the nation. If the leaders are greedy and corrupt, or if they are simply incompetent, the heavens will be most displeased and the people they lead will fall prey to disaster and difficulties and suffer greatly. If an entire nation is struck with calamities, let that nation's leader examine his conscience. The same applies with a state. It is not enough to seek answers in political action or in rearranging the environment if we do not root out the cause of trouble and disaster within ourselves.

May the leaders of humankind shoulder their responsibility with honor and take a long, long look at their motives and their actions.

THE DHARANI SUTRA, with commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. The Sutra speaks of compassion, which relieves us from suffering and gives us joy.  The Bodhisattva Who Regards the World's Sounds (Avalokitesvara) embodies this infinite compassion. The Dharani Sutra shows how by the practice of compassion and the recitation of the Great Compassion Mantra we can gain the thousand hands and thousand eyes of Avalokitesvara and rescue living beings in distress by means of wholesome magic and healing. The first translation in any Western language. Illustrated with woodcuts from the Secret School. 352 pages, $10.00.