(Continued from last issue)
Master: When laypeople correspond with left-home people, they usually write on the envelope either "Open in respect" or "Open in purity." If you write "Open in purity," do you wish the recipient to be pure, or yourself to be pure? It's ambiguous. If you wish the recipient to be pure, that means you know he's not pure, so you want him to become pure. Isn't that right? As for "Open in respect," are you asking people to respect the writer? Or does it mean that you, the writer, respects the people who read the letter? It doesn't make a lot of sense. Whether you write "Open in respect" or "Open in purity," it is not grammatically very correct. However, many people use these phrases. In fact, most of the people who write to me use them. They don't even understand such superficial things as the etiquette of address. Also, left-home people often write letters ending with "Palms joined." But any left-home person who understands etiquette should know that when left-home people write to one another, they should use "Bows in respect" or "Bows." When writing to his equal, he should use "Bows," not "Bows in respect." When left-home people write to laypeople, they should not even say "Palms joined." Just a simple "Yours" will do. If you join your palms for a layperson, you are violating the precepts. Of course, when laypeople join their palms first, you may return the gesture. But in writing a letter, you don't know whether or not the recipient has joined his palms, so it doesn't make sense to say "Palms joined." Even people who have studied for many years still fail to understand these fine points. Professor Yang also has another alias, Jin-chyau (literally "warning to woodcutters"), which means he is telling people not to come to his mountain to cut firewood. You can also call him by that name. If we live into old age, we should also keep learning into old age. We must continue studying. Don't say, "I've learned enough. I'm satisfied with what I know, and I don't need to study anymore." If you think like that, it's all over. When you write "Open in respect," you are telling the recipient, "Before you read my letter, you should first respectfully bow several times." Isn't that what it means? Or, "Before you read this letter, you must first take a bath and put on clean clothes." That's what "Open in purity" implies, don't you think? What do you think of my reasoning?
Disciple: Well, what should we write then?
Master: You can simply write, "Personally open" or "Please open," and that will do. You cannot tell people to "Open in respect." In the past, one disciple always wrote "Open in respect" or "Open in purity" on his letters, but that's contradictory. Ordinary people may not think so, but anyone with learning would see how awful this is. You might study in school for eight or ten years without ever getting to attend a class like this one!
Heng Jung: What about the opening phrases, "For your wise inspection," "For your enlightened inspection," and "For your kind inspection"? How are they different?
Master: Those are fine. There's no problem. "For your wise inspection" says that he has wisdom. "For your enlightened inspection" says that he has enlightened to the Tao. "For your kind inspection" says that he is kind and compassionate. There's not much difference. If you think he has great wisdom, use "For your wise inspection," telling him, "Please use your wisdom to inspect my letter."
Heng Fang: When a junior Dharma brother writes to his senior, should he use the ending "Bows" or "Bows in respect"?
Master: He should write "Bows in respect," because juniors should respect seniors.
Heng Fang: Well, what about when a senior Dharma brother writes to his junior? Should he write "Bows"?
Master: Uhh...After we get to Taiwan, we should fix a time, preferably in the morning when others are having breakfast, to evaluate the previous day's mistakes. Everyone should be frank. We should also discuss that day's activities, and how we can make up for our shortcomings and make the best of our strong points. This is called "Using our strengths to cover our weaknesses." Everyone must work hard. Don't give the impression of being half-asleep, or so hungry you can't even lift your head. When we go out in public, we must walk briskly and stand tall. If we hunch over and hang our heads, people will say, "No wonder they're like this -- they only eat one meal a day!" Haven't I told you before that we must be: "Freezing to death, I stand and face the wind. Starving to death, I stick out my belly and walk on." In propagating the Buddhadharma, we must have a warlike spirit. We must be braver than the army. We must have a courageous spirit.
Master to a disciple: Don't lose your temper anymore. Don't get mad when you talk to people. Just speak in a reasonable way, and don't get upset. Use reason to persuade people, rather than threatening them with anger. We always say the temper is smelly, not fragrant. As soon as you blow your top, you start to stink. When you scold and nag at people in anger, it's like you're releasing a foul odor. Let's not talk about you. If I were to scold you people everyday, and get mad at you, you would also run away. I do scold people and bring up their faults, but I do it entirely out of compassion. That's why you are not afraid.
Heng Jan: The Institute of Industry and Technology has already fixed lecture topics for us. One is "Contemporary Human Mind, Morality, and Behavior," and another is "The Progress of Science and Philosophy."
Master: Everyone should study this and talk a little bit. (A letter arrives from President Bush's Public Liaison, Mr. Clayton Fong.) He personally mailed this letter. He also sent a letter when we had the Celebration for Venerating the Elderly, but it seems to have gotten lost in the mail. (See page 48 of the January issue of
Vajra Bodhi Sea for letter.)