By Bhiksuni Heng Yin

The Sangha is ripe for revolution!--over-ripe, in fact. "Freezing, don't climb on conditions" is the first of a three-part manifesto designed to cleanse the Buddhist Sangha of its deadwood and downright subversive elements.

The statement was first issued in November, 1969, by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua to caution his five American disciples who were on their way to Keelung, Taiwan, to be ordained as America's first Bhiksus and Bhiksunis. The Master said, "Those who leave home under me must observe, as I do, These three Conditions:

Freezing, I do not beg.

Starving, I do not scheme.

Dying of poverty, I ask for nothing.

If you don't uphold them, don't ask to see me again."

You may be wondering, "As fields of blessing for living beings, aren't members of the Sangha entitled to beg for alms?"

Basically, yes. But unfortunately many of them don't know where to draw the line. Occupied solely with "raising funds" they seek name and profit, thus neglecting their first responsibility, which is to cultivate and propagate the Dharma. It was to counter-act such behavior, symptomatic of the Dharma-ending Age that the Three Conditions were set forth.

Since everything is made from the mind alone, the thought to beg for the smallest thing—a needle, a blade of grass, or a blanket, if you happen to be freezing--does not differ in principle from the thought to finagle $15,000 to build a tourist-oriented temple.

Those who truly cultivate don't have to worry about freezing to death. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will protect them. Wei T'o Bodhisattva has made vows that if a cultivator is even 30 percent sincere, he will watch out for him and make up the other 70 percent.

And suppose you do freeze to death? What greater glory could there be than dying for the Buddhadharma! In order to seek the supreme Buddha Way, Sakyamuni Buddha gave up his life as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. If you can't give up just this one life, what Way do you cultivate?

The Sangha is ripe for revolution, and it begins within ourselves. Buddhism is just beginning in the West, and it is most important that it begin properly. Hold to the Master's Three Conditions and break the chains of greed. Then the Right Dharma will flourish. Freeze to death—but don't-beg!

Starving to Death, I do not Beg

The majority of American youth, concerned solely with enjoying the pleasures of an affluent society, are independent, headstrong, and unmanageable. And yet, an increasing number of them are gathering around the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua to submit to his strict teaching, the teaching which includes such difficult principles as "Starving to death, I do not beg." What value does that have for Americans?

American youth are not easily fooled. Were it not the case that the Master actually practiced what he taught, they would not bow before him.  But, seeing the Master rise at two A.M., they get up at three-thirty; observing that the Master's every action is geared to benefit others, they strive to rid themselves of selfishness; struck by the note of deep compassion which runs through the Master's vows and practice, they have put aside worldly pleasures in order to follow him.

"Cultivating the Way is our work," the Master has said, "and even if we have to live on water, we won't stop cultivating or stoop to beg. Those who have left home must endure what others cannot endure, and do what others cannot do. What could be more glorious than to starve to death in quest of the true Dharma?"

As an example, the following incident occurred in Manchuria many years ago when the Master first resolved to cultivate and to take only one meal a day before noon and none after noon:

While observing the practice of filial piety by sitting beside his mother's grave, the Master did not cook for himself, and, since no one brought him food, he simply didn't eat. Finally a laywoman vowed to bring him food. When the rains came and the ground was muddy, the Master told her, "I have enough food stored for twenty days or so; please don't climb the steep hillside in this rainy weather." After that, she obediently stayed home whenever it rained. As a matter of fact, the Master hadn't so much as a grain of rice stored in his hut.

Once it rained for many days, but the Master just shut his eyes to meditate and paid no attention. When the woman arrived again he asked, "How long has it been since your last visit?"

"Twenty-three days," she said.

"Ah," said the Master, "I have dreamt a twenty-three-day dream."

Dying of Poverty, I ask for Nothing

Starving to death, freezing to death, and dying of poverty—these are things, which all people fear. All people fear them simply because they have not understood that basically there is no "self" which can starve or freeze, and no "self" which can be born or die.

What is poverty? not enough money for food, clothing, and a place to live?

No. True poverty is just greed. Greedy people are always poor. No matter how much they have they always want more. Because they are never satisfied, they are constantly unhappy.

If poverty is greed, what is wealth? In the world the Triple Jewel--the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha--is true wealth. To understand the Buddhadharma is to purge oneself of greed, hate, and stupidity and gain genuine peace and contentment. Understanding that people and things are empty brings non-attachment, and non-attachment is freedom. Enlightened people are fearless, being free to live or die as they choose: how could they worry about dying of poverty?

THE ESSENTIALS OF THE SHRAMANERA VINAYA AND RULES OF DEPORTMENT, a general explanation by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua. Whether you intend to become a novice or not, you can learn a lot from this book. Just listen to the topics: eating, studying, working, taking a bath, sleeping, going to town, around the fireplace. As a potential novice you may wish to take it more to heart, but the message of how to live in harmony with people can be found for all in this lively commentary. For instance, I quote for the part about working: "DO NOT SWEEP AGAINST THE WIND. Some people can't even sweep! If you sweep against the wind, it will keep blowing the dust all over. DO NOT POUR HOT WATER ON THE GROUND. The ground is covered with bugs and hot water will kill them. Every single grain of RICE, every NOODLE, and every chunk of VEGETABLES AND FRUITS must be used carefully and with thrift. Do not leave them LYING AROUND." —paperbound, 112 pp. $3.95.