為什麼各處 Mahayana 的佛教徒都不搭衣了呢？它因為 Mahayana 傳到北方了，這北方天氣寒冷的，你單單搭著衣，他受不住那個寒冷，所以在這衣裡邊必須要穿上內衣，穿上這個貼肉的衣服，好禦寒。穿上裡邊這個衣了，可是外邊這個衣一搭上，也就很容易丟了。在佛教剛剛傳到中國，比丘大約有的也不太靈敏的、笨笨的，搭著這個衣，往往就把它丟了。這一丟了，再做新衣，也沒有錢做。那麼沒有錢做，到各處去化緣，又令人居士怕。所以以後出家人和出家人就開個會，說這不是辦法，我們這個衣常常丟，也做不起衣。中國的人都是節儉生活。那個衣要不少錢來縫一套衣，你丟了，就發生問題了。於是乎大家就開會，開會就有個不是很聰明的祖師就想起來辦法，說我有辦法，這衣上，我們加上一個鉤，一個圈圈。這鉤鉤嘛！就叫鉤；那個圈圈就叫環。鉤、環把它往上一套，這個衣就不掉了，於是乎就發明出中國這衣的樣子來，加上鉤環，穿著這衣不丟了，於是乎就以此為例了，就說這就是出家人的衣了。本來這個衣是沒有鉤環的，到了中國就加上鉤環，所以你看印度的出家人沒有鉤環，就是搭著那個衣，就那 Theravada 由這個就知道，這個佛教傳到某一個地區，因為地區的關係，人的風俗的關係，就有很多改善。
改善，中國改善，然後就流入下流，就不搭衣了。因為中國的出家人，那時候也多數自耕自食。一工作的時候，就不能搭衣，搭著衣做工，就不大方便，所以只穿短衫褲做工，把衣就放下了。放下時間一久，做工的時候不搭衣；不做工的時候也不搭衣了。有的還是依照傳統的關係，上殿、過堂，吃飯的時候，還都搭上衣。傳流到今天！吃飯也不搭衣了；上殿、過堂都不搭衣了。就說這樣就是個出家人了，其實這出家人，現在中國、臺灣、香港，乃至於各處 Mahayana 的佛教，穿這個長衫，越南穿這個長衫，就認為這就是佛教徒的衣，佛教徒的服裝了。其實這是大錯而特錯的！你出家人不搭衣，就等於還俗一樣的，和俗人沒有分別。並不是穿這彎彎領，這就證明你是出家人了，不要說穿彎彎領，就是搭著衣，你還天天總在犯戒，總在不老實，何況不搭衣！
Venerable Master: "If left-home people do not wear the kashaya sash, it is the same as their going back to lay-life. Because Buddhism in China has always been corrupt, I came overseas to proclaim that left-home people should eat one meal a day and wear the sash in accord with the Buddha's teaching. At the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we observed these rules of eating one meal and wearing the sash. Yet during this Chan Session you went so far as to not wear the sash, and to eat three meals a day. I have taught you for so long, yet you were turned by the first state that came along. Are you alive or dead? What kind of guts do you have, that you have been turned around and around like this? If you recognized the true spirit of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, you would rather die than change. 'So you want me to not wear my sash? Tell me to die, but don't tell me to not wear my sash! Tell me to die, but don't tell me to not eat one meal a day--with that kind of solid samadhi power, that kind of faith, you are a true member of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Once I recognize my goal, I won't waver from it even if I have to die. Even if by entering the Chan Hall without my sash, I could get enlightened as soon as I sat down, I wouldn't dare do it! Now that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has become this way, I'm never going back."
(Ven. Master's lecture at Gold Wheel Monastery 1/23/1993).
In Cultivation, We Should Hold To Our Principles
In cultivation, we should hold fast to our principles, and not forget them. In studying Buddhism, we should also hold to our principles, for they are our goal. Once we recognize our goal clearly, we must advance with vigor and courage, and not retreat. Speaking of this, I remember when I first left home, I thought, "Left-home people are so numerous. Do they all understand the Buddha-dharma? Do they all have a goal? When I investigated into this, I found that a great many left people had no wish to cultivate or to end birth and death, and didn't have much of a goal at all. They were just passing the time, "eating and waiting for death." Left-home people of this sort do nothing but add to the debts and burdens of Buddhism. They do not benefit Buddhism in any way.
I further discovered that Chinese Buddhism does not even realize what Buddhism is all about. The Buddha expounded the Sutras and proclaimed the Dharma all for the sake of letting future generations understand the Buddha's teaching. How should Buddhist disciples propagate the Buddha's teaching? As I thought about this, I observed that Buddhism never planted its roots deeply in China. Buddhism in China is actually rootless, and thus it has not stood firm in the face of tests and oppression. Why is it rootless? Because it failed to recognize the foundation. What is the foundation of Buddhism? The foundation of Buddhism is education! Education must start with the youngest children, instilling them with the knowledge, the wisdom, and the way of thinking of Buddhism. Then, at the very least, a child is raised to be a truly noble and fine citizen of the country and world. With a foundation for his thought and goals to guide his conduct, such a person will be able to vastly propagate Buddhism. In this way, the basic teaching of Buddhism will not be forgotten.
"People can propagate the Tao, but the Tao cannot propagate people." How can we propagate the Tao? It is only when we have a goal, an ideal, that we can commit ourselves to do something. As for the rootless Buddhism of China, even if it did have roots, it still doesn't have a trunk, and is merely spinning at the branchtips. The Buddhism of China consists of performing ceremonies such as Water-Land and Flaming-Mouth, to cross over spirits. This is the superficial appearance of Chinese Buddhism. They never thought that if they continued like this, they would create a class of jobless vagrants who relied on Buddhism for meals. How pitiful this is! All they know how to do is to make money and perform ceremonies to cross over the dead. In performing such ceremonies, if you are a Sanghan with a real foundation of virtue, you don't need to recite Sutras or mantras. You simply tell the spirit, "Go off to rebirth," and he will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. However, if you have no virtue and you are not careful in your conduct, what power do you have to cross over people? Actually, you are just getting into debt with the donor. Furthermore, the practices established by the Buddha no longer exist.
Never Apart From the Three Sashes, Almsbowl, and Sitting Cloth.
For example, in China's Buddhism no one wears the precept sash on a daily basis. Why don't they wear the sash? Ah! If you ask them, they don't know why they don't wear it. Actually, Bhikshus and Bhikshunis should wear their sash at all times, and eat only one meal a day. But they have forgotten all of this. It's a hundred and eight thousand miles away from their memory, so they have no idea of the meaning behind wearing the sash and eating one meal a day. In Chinese Buddhism, no one understands this. There might be one or two people who still wear their sash, or eat one meal a day, but again, there might not even be that many in ten thousand. You could say they're rarer than fur on a phoenix or a horns on a female unicorn. They are as few as can be. If you ask them what appearance a Bhikshu should have, they haven't the slightest idea. Nowadays, in China and other countries as well, the vast majority of left-home people in Mahayana Buddhism do not wear their sashes. Ah! They feel it's very natural, that that's the way it should be. Little do they know that by not wearing the sash, they no longer have the appearance of a Bhikshu.
"Well," they say, "Mahayana Buddhism is about Bodhisattvas, and Bodhisattvas who don't wear the sash are still Bodhisattvas." Hah! Bodhisattvas also have to wear sashes, for they have to be especially adorned. You can see that Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, Manjushri Bodhisattva, and Earth Treasury Bodhisattva all wear adornments on their bodies. Although these are just false marks, they represent something. Their adornments represent the adorning of Buddha-lands! So left-home cultivators should all abide by the rules. Don't drag your heels, or act in a crazy manner. You say, "But the Old Monk Ji Gung was really crazy." Ji Gung pretended to be that way because he wanted to influence people to give food to the lunatics. That is, he wanted to teach ordinary people not to look down on insane people, not to scorn them. Among the insane, there are also those who manifest expediently, hiding their true identity as they teach and transform living beings.
Why is it that Mahayana Buddhists everywhere do not wear their sashes? It's because when Mahayana Buddhism spread northward, the northern climate was too cold for people to just wear the sash. They couldn't take the cold, and had to wear clothing underneath the sash, right next to the skin. These undergarments kept out the cold, but when the sash was worn on top of them, it was easy for it to fall off. When Buddhism had just been transmitted to China, probably those Bhikshus weren't very bright. Being sort of stupid, they would lose their sash every once in a while. Once they lost it, since they had no money to make a new one, they had to go around begging, and this worried the laypeople. After awhile, the left-home people held a meeting, and decided, "This won't do. Our sashes fall off all the time, and it's hard to make new ones. The Chinese people live frugally, and it takes quite a bit of money to sew a new sash. If you lose your sash, it becomes a problem." Then, in their meeting, a not-so-intelligent Patriarch said, "I have an idea. We can sew a clasp and a ring onto the sash, and when we fit them together, the sash won't fall off." That's how the Chinese-style sash was invented. With the clasp and ring, the sash could now be worn without falling off. From then on, this became the model for the sash of left-home people. The sash originally had no clasp and ring. These were added on in China. So you can see that Theravada leff-home people from India wear the sash without a clasp and ring. From this, we know that when Buddhism is transmitted to a place, many reforms are made according to the region and the customs of the people.
But in China, after the reforms were made, people regressed and stopped wearing the sash. This was because at that time, most of the left-home people of China farmed to sustain themselves. When they worked, it was rather inconvenient to wear the sash, so they took it off, and only wore the shirt. They set the sash aside when they worked, but after awhile, they didn't wear it even when not working. Some people still adhered to tradition and put on the sash when they entered the Buddha Hall or took their meal. But in the present-day tradition, people don't even wear the sash to take their meal or enter the Buddha-hall, yet they feel qualified to be left-home people. In fact, nowadays, left-home people in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and all the areas of Mahayana Buddhism just wear a long robe and consider that to be the uniform and attire of a Buddhist. This is a big mistake! If a left-home person does not wear his sash, it's just like he's returned to lay-life. He's no different from a layperson. Ah! Wearing a robe with an arched collar doesn't prove that you are a left-home person. And even if you do wear your sash, you still break the precepts everyday, and are always dishonest. How much more so when you don't wear a sash!
Eating Once a Day at Noon is the Teaching of the Buddha
So now, there is virtually no Buddhism in China, nor in any of the places to which "Buddhism" spread from China. They have all lost the original appearance of Buddhism. When I contemplated this situation, I wanted to reform the trend in China, but I knew that I was just an insignificant person whose words carried no weight. I didn't have any status, and nobody would listen to what I said. Even if I shouted until my throat was sore, no one would believe me.
Therefore, I vowed that I would reconstruct Buddhism in the West, and make it flourish once again, so that people could know what Buddhism is all about. Therefore, as soon as I came to America, I alone advocated wearing the sash and eating one meal a day. Since Americans constantly crave comfort and convenience, they didn't like it too much when told to wear the sash. Nevertheless, in America there were few left-home people who didn't wear there sash, so I was able to advocate wearing the sash. I also promoted the practice of eating one meal a day, because even before I left home, I ate one meal a day as a layman. And in all these years since I left home, I've always taken only one meal a day. Therefore, for those who leave home with me, because I don't have any other virtue or cultivation, all I can do is teach everyone to imitate my outward style. Those who leave home with me, whether male or female, all must eat one meal a day. I will accept a person only if he or she can eat one meal a day. This is an iron-cast rule for those who leave home with me. It cannot be altered. No matter when, no matter how much pressure there is in a situation, it must not be changed.
When the Sash is Not Worn, A Chan Session Becomes An Eating Session
This is because I have promoted this style of Buddhism of wearing the sash and eating one meal a day for several decades already. I advocated it when I first came to America, and I'm still advocating it now. It's been several decades, and as people gradually get used to it, I believe they will really come to accept it in our hearts. Everyone will come to understand the way I've been teaching people. But recently, I discovered that while I was absent from the Chan Session in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the people who had left home for a long time actually failed to wear the sash and eat one meal a day, imitation of the "Eating Session" of China. They had three tea breaks and four meals, with a snack of dumplings on top of that. They even ate dumplings at night. If you claim you can still work diligently like this, I don't believe it. I already feel it's a lot of trouble to eat just one meal a day. Yet you eat four meals, plus dumplings in the evening! In China's Buddhism, they call the evening meal "taking medicine." This is called "plugging up your ears and stealing a bell." This is cheating yourself and deceiving others. Ah! They want to eat at night, so they call it "taking medicine." That's Buddhism in China — a Buddhism which cheats people. I had no way to reform it. however, in America, I established an overseas tradition that's totally different from the Buddhism in Asia. Now, after leaving home with me for twenty or thirty years, my disciples have presumed to change my teaching, and this especially pains me. I heard this news before I left for Taiwan on January 2nd. Now I've returned from Taiwan, but I don't dare to go back to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Why? Because I have no face, no standing, to go back. My toil and sacrifice of several decades have all gone to waste overnight. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas' golden reputation has been ruined. Alas! Everyone knew about the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas' reputation of eating one meal a day, but people actually presumed to eat three meals a day and dumplings as well. Although in the past, a couple of left-home people would secretly go to the kitchen and steal food, I wasn't concerned. But now, a whole bunch of people, too many to count, are eating three meals a day! All the Shramaneras, Shramanerikas, Bhikshus, and Bhikshunis used to wear their sash everyday, and there are still a few who haven't taken off their sash to take part in the Chan Session, but the great majority no longer wear their sash now. That's the most important reason that I have no face to go back to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
As I am telling you this story, relating how it happened, everyone should think about how for so many years I have toiled and sweated, and now each person who comes makes a little change. Ten people come and change 10 things, twenty people come and change twenty things; a hundred people change a hundred things. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas didn't have much to begin with - just the custom of eating one meal a day, and wearing the sash regularly. Some people also sleep sitting up and keep the precept of not touching money. I don't know what wind has blown over these cultivators who used to claim that the eight winds couldn't blow them over.
All you lay-people should think about this: What use am I here in America? I'm useless. As I tell you this, my heart really aches, because I'm a petty-minded person. I'm not that forgiving, generous and I cannot tolerate seeing people break the rules, and not keep their word. When they left home under me, they made a vow, promising me they could eat one meal a day. Now, more than ten years later, how can they go back on their word? If it's like this when I'm still alive, I don't know what will happen after I die. This is what really pains my heart. Now I'm telling you those disciples to see, that I am making a mask, and if there's a need for me to go back to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, I will wear that mask to show those disciples. If I didn't wear a mask, I wouldn't have any face to go back.