(Editors' Note: At 7 a.m. on February 10, the Venerable Master appeared in the doorway of Wonderful Words Hall in the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas wearing a yellow veil over his face, shocking all the City's residents. Some began to weep in agony. As the Venerable Master ascended the stage and sat down, the four-fold assembly of disciples joined their palms and knelt, with lowered heads and flowing tears. "There is no Buddhism in Asia, so 1 came to America to Promote Buddhism." The Venerable Master used this true and painfully heartfelt statement has the first line of a couplet to be matched.)
I believe that during this Chan Session, because the precept sashes were not worn, many people let their imagination run wild and indulged in false thoughts of lust. They couldn't control themselves. The women especially, were doing walking meditation and thinking about men at the same time. If you say you can still cultivate like that, I cannot imagine how. Even when you wear the sash, your thoughts run wild. If you don't wear the sash, I doubt that you are a Bodhisattva, or a Sound Hearer, or One Enlightened by Conditions, or an Arhat. Can you say you have no thoughts of lust? Once you have a thought of lust, you can meditate all you want, but it's no use.
I have promoted the practice of eating one meal a day to counteract luxury. Americans all like to enjoy luxury. The Dharma I speak is not for Chinese people. I came here to teach Americans. The target of my teaching is Americans; Chinese people are just incidental. I came from Asia, thousands of miles away, to America, all by myself, utterly alone. Coming right into the heart of this territory dominated by other religions, I advocated the practice of eating one meal a day, as an antidote to their comfortable lifestyle. If you can eat one meal a day, then you can leave the home-life. If you cannot eat one meal a day, then you are not qualified to leave the home-life. As for wearing the sash, in China, I cannot tell whether or not those "left-home people" have really left the home-life. I simply do not know. Anyone can shave his head and make a few incense burns and call himself a left-home person. There isn't anything distinctive about their appearance. That's why I require every left-home person at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to wear the sash.
Upon coming to America to teach the Dharma, I promoted the practices of wearing the sash and eating one meal a day. Originally, I asked Dharma Master Ren Yung to host the Chan Session. Although he is not an old cultivator in China, and has only left the home-life for seven or eight years, he has cultivated very diligently. So I asked him to host the Chan Session. However, he has yet to understand the real flavor of Chan. I don't want to put on the airs of an old pro in front of you, but he is still an amateur. Nevertheless, he has come such a long way, so I thought 1 would give him some work.
So one day in the office, we started discussing the issue of eating one meal a day and wearing the sash. What I said was, "Don't force them to not wear the sash, and don't force them to wear it either. As for eating one meal a day, if they want to do that, they can go ahead. If they want to eat more than one meal, let them do so. Why not try it out? Give them a test and see what happens!" Ultimately, those with an iron resolve will remain unwavering under any test they meet. They simply accord with the conditions, but do not change their principles. They will not be swayed by the wind. So I said, "Let them do as they wish. They can do whatever they want. This is a place of freedom."
Before leaving for Taiwan, I already knew that all the principles I had taught from the very beginning had totally been thrown out. Nobody follows them. This is a huge disappointment to me. Ah! I have no face to come back to see all of you, because everything I say turns into empty talk, wasted words. How can I propagate the Buddhadharma? Now I am like a clay Bodhisattva crossing the ocean, finding it hard just to save myself.
At first, I did not intend to come back. But some people wrote me a lot of letters requesting me to return, so I thought of a compromise. I would come back, but I would wear a mask, a veil over the face, so that I wouldn't have to see you with my real face. Let's see how you all react to that!
It makes no difference to me what Dharma Master Ren Yung told you. Why is that? He hasn't been here very long, and without really understanding the situation, he assumed it was the same as in China. I saw a lot of things wrong with Chinese Buddhism, so I came to the United States planning to reform Buddhism into something decent, little by little. That's just a small aspiration of mine. But in all these years, not one of you has really understood me. If you really understood me, would you have been like this? The resolve to observe the precepts must be as firm as steel, as stone, as gold, and as jade, without wavering in the least! It can't be that every time someone new comes along, you try to flatter and please him, and change your resolve.
You should all seriously consider, "What kind of left-home person should I be? Should I just follow the crowd, and do whatever other people are doing?" Think well about this, "What did I come to the United States for?" You Chinese people not only fail to support the temple, you actually come and do as you please, taking food and passing the time idly—what are you up to?
Okay! I've finished speaking. If you would like to match couplets, I'll ask the Honorable Professor Yang to take the trouble to correct your work, because I cannot see clearly.
(Editors' Note: With the veil still covering the Venerable Master's face, nobody had any heart to match the couplet. They could only repent deeply. There was no better way to confront this unprecedented great test. In the melancholic atmosphere, Dharma Master Heng Jan could not bear to see the Master, and yet not be able to see the Master's face! Heedless of the offense he would incur, he boldly and recklessly ran up to the stage and tore off the Master's face-veil. Immediately, the Master's staff, which he used for teaching and transforming, came down on Dharma Master Heng Jan's body...)
Ven. Master: You are too unruly. If you had any sense, then knowing that I have spent so many years of painstaking effort here, why did you force people to eat more than one meal a day? Have they become enlightened after eating multiple meals? Just what advantages are there to eating many meals a day? Speak up! What are your reasons?
Yang Gwo-syin: This is Dharma Master Kai Sying (Dharma Master Jan)!
Ven. Master: Dharma Master Kai Sying! Why did you remove my veil? You shameless fool, how can be such a rascal? You even made me break my staff in hitting you. Ah, you really have guts...What's the matter? Has someone died? What are you crying for? After my toil and sweat of so many years, it's all been changed. Each person changes one thing. I didn't have that many rules to begin with, but if they've all been altered and are gone, can the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas still be called the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas? You have too much guts, taking away my face-veil like this. What did you expect to gain after taking a good beating?
Heng Jan: I hope the Venerable Master will come back.
Ven. Master: You're looking for trouble where there's none. My business had nothing to do with you, so what did you run up here for? No one can be such a rascal with me. I won't take it. If I took this, I wouldn't dare come to America. Do you understand? Do you know that I didn't wish you to take away my face-veil? I can put on another one, for I have five prepared.
Heng Jan: I'll take it off again.
Ven. Master: I have five veils in the colors of blue, yellow, red, white and black. You've taken off my yellow one, but I still have a red one!
Heng Jan: I'll take it off, too.
Ven. Master: Oh! What? Take it off too? Then I'll give you another beating.
Heng Jan: It doesn't matter, you can beat me to death.
Ven. Master: If I beat you to death, then I beat you to death. What then?
(Editor's Note: At 2 p.m., wearing a black veil over his face, the Venerable Master gives a lecture in the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.)
Ven. Master: You want me to beat you to death? Why were you so foolish? This matter didn't concern you at all, yet you came crying and wailing—what were you up to? I was wearing the veil over my face without any trouble; what did you tear it off for?
Heng Jan: I don't know.
Ven. Master: When you started crying, I told you to go outside to cry. You should have recognized the situation. Why did you then come back again? You should consider this: did you have my permission to rip off my face-veil?
Heng Jan: But I really didn't want to see the Venerable Master that way.
Ven. Master: Even if you don't want to, you still have to take a look, and have a little patience. This is not a joking matter! This is not something to cry about. This is a way to solve problems. You should know, if I hadn't covered my face, this group of people were ready to fall into the hells. Do you really want these people to go to the hells? You only looked at me; why didn't you take a look at this group of people and see what retribution is in store for them? After being here for just a short time, they casually change the rules I established. They casually change my traditional style—is there no offense in this? Did you think of that? Also, since my face was covered, I didn't know it was you. Listening to the sound of the crying and talking, I thought it was Ren Yung. Ren Yung hasn't come to me kneeling, but I don't blame him, because he doesn't understand things. So this matter has been concluded without any concrete results. It sounded like him crying and talking, and then I thought it was he who came up and tore off my face-veil. What sense is there in that? Weren't you quite crazy? How could you be so treacherous?
Heng Jan: I must have been possessed by a demon!
Ven. Master: Possessed? Then the beating I gave you, not only shattered my cane, it probably chased away your demon too!
Heng Jan: Right!
Ven. Master: You have to be clear about this Way-place. It is no way you don't believe it.You have to believe that where the Buddha is, there are demons as well. The demons came on purpose to mingle in and make trouble in the Way-place. They don't listen to what the demons say. OK, you should take good care and nurse your wounds. You poor child!