(Continued from last issue)
"In the Chan Hall, you don't have to recite the precepts because there is no chance to violate them." I was used to such tyrannical teachings. As I rebel, I suffered regularly. Many people, in complying with others, consequently lose their own ideas and views, and it is difficult to activate the inherent wisdom of their nature. It is said, "If you are not beaten, you cannot become a Dharma Vessel. If you are not hit with the board, you will be drowsy and be unable to sit." The board is good for getting rid of drowsiness. But I don't like it because cultivation cannot be forced by others, you must be self-motivated -- you have to become a Buddha yourself. Now I know why the Venerable Master never applied the board in all these years.
The temptation in the Chan Hall was so powerful, and the instructional talks were so oppressive, and the wonderful meaning of Chan was so misconstrued that even eating was considered wonderful. Therefore, many people took this opportunity to indulge in eating and drinking. Many recently ordained people lacked samadhi and were tempted to eat in the afternoon. I would have broken that rule, too, had I not remembered the Venerable Master's instruction, "The only requisite for leaving the home-life with me is to eat one meal a day." The Buddha also clearly established the Shramanera's Precept of not eating after noon. Maybe what saved me was the fact that I have regularly recited the Venerable Master's eighteen great vows, the fifteenth being: "I vow to follow the Buddha's regulation to eat one meal a day at noon."
If anyone voiced a slight objection to eating three meals a day, the Session Host would spend a whole hour of meditation cackling instructions at us, until it seemed that only eating three meals a day and not wearing the sash was in accord with the Dharma. When the slogan "The mind of a cultivator should not be disturbed" was brought up, even people who knew what was going on had nothing to say. Unable to bear it, I talked to a Dharma brother, who actually said that I had no cultivation and was talking about people's faults. At that point, I almost swallowed my "No talking" tag. In reflection, she was right—I who lacked virtue. I almost went insane in the last few days, but I kept going in order to keep up a 100% attendance record. Many people requested the Session Host to keep the Hall open after the Session, but I only wished the Venerable Master would let me get out of this mixed-up Chan Hall and return to the Gwan Yin Hall to meditate with my sash on.
Without the instructions of a good and wise advisor, we always take the false as true, the wrong as right. People often say that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a pure and sagely place where people have little chance to break the precepts. "The thief in the family is hard to defend against": having violated the rules inside family, we would be even worse outside. At first I didn't realize the seriousness of not wearing the sash. Only when the Venerable Master became ill from distress did I start reflecting... Although we say we are not wearing the sash "for the time being," once it becomes a habit, we will take it off whenever we please, and in the future people will take the sash even less seriously. This is probably why the Venerable Master got so angry. He said, "Anyone who does not listen to Dharma Master So-and-So will have to leave the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas." People did listen, and instead it was the Venerable Master who left the City. Only now after taking this loss do I understand the meaning of that sentence. The Venerable Master only asked us to listen to him; we didn't have to follow him. Now I have left the City to go to a branch temple. I saw the Venerable Master, who was so kind and did not scold me. The time was not right for me to repent, but I will find a chance to beg the Master's forgiveness.
Having been through adversity, I know myself better. Adverse states help us cultivate. If we never err, we will not learn caution. After this mistake, I will hold the precepts more carefully to avoid greater mistakes. This was my own fault, and no one else can be blamed. When I used to be rebellious, I would look for loopholes in the precepts so I could violate them casually. Only now do I understand the benefit of upholding the precepts! I remember last year the Venerable Master declared, "The Eight Dharmas of Respect do not hold at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas" and "Do not follow unreasonable orders." The Venerable Master compassionately allowed women to be their own masters and decide what's right and wrong in times of disorder.
Exhausted from enduring the aching of my legs,
I was still vigorous as I waited for the energy to penetrate and connect.
But with so many false thoughts of eating and drinking in the Chan Session,
The efforts of these three weeks have all been in vain!
I wrote this when the Session Host asked us to write verses based on the Chinese title of the Chan Session. While others got a full fifty points, I only got thirty. I am unreserved and honest, and do not mind if my bluntness offends him. Those four lines truly express my experience in the Chan Hall. Seeing my fellow cultivators make mistakes, I didn't do my best to exhort them, perhaps because I lost my temper first. Thus I just followed blindly along with the others. I believe after this big lesson, the assembly at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas will follow our traditional rules more strictly, and remember the Venerable Master's earnest teachings. Regretfully, we learned the lesson at the cost of the precious health and vitality of Venerable Master. Even if we disciples smashed our bodies and shattered our bones, it would be difficult to repay our teacher's great kindness.
(Editor's Note: The Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas held its Winter Chan Session from Dec. 30, 1992 to Jan. 19, 1993. Since the Ven. Master was heading a Delegation in Taiwan, China's Ren Yung led this session, which differed greatly from past sessions.
In past sessions: Left-home participants wore their precept sashes and ate one meal a day. The daily schedule from 2:30 a.m. to 12 midnight included fourteen sitting periods and one hour of instruction. The sitting periods began and ended punctually as scheduled. Inside the Chan Hall, there was no talking or looking at others. Each person concentrated on his own cultivation.
This time: Precept sashes were not worn. Four meals, three tea breaks, and dumplings were taken each day. The daily schedule from 3:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. included an unfixed number of sitting periods which did not follow the scheduled times. Lengthy lectures were given at random times. The Chan Hall was disorderly, with men and women chatting and laughing casually.)
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