Today I have some feelings, and I would like to tell you what has been on my mind. If you want to listen, fine. If you don't want to listen, you may leave. What is it I want to say? I have been in the United States for over thirty years, which is not a short time. Both Americans and Chinese people have expressed the hope that I change my nationality and become an American citizen. They say that having an American passport makes it convenient to travel anywhere in the world. Americans are respected all over the world. But it's different with a Chinese passport. In these thirty-some years, both officials and civilians have suggested this to me, but I am still a Chinese person.
I came to the United States in 1962, and in the beginning I lived in a basement. The basement had a door but no windows; it was dark in the daytime and even darker at night. It was just like living in a grave. So after coming to the United States, I made fun of myself and gave myself the name "The Monk in the Grave." Why did I take this name? Because I don't wish to compete with others for fame and profit, nor do I wish to triumph over them. I was just like someone in the grave. In Manchuria, I had another name after I left the home-life, which was “The Living Dead Person." This is because although I was alive, I did not contend with others for fame and profit. I didn't contend with people, nor was I greedy. In all my life, no matter what work I do, I have never asked for pay nor taken any money. That is why I was called “The Living Dead Person." Although I was alive, I was just like a dead person. After coming to the United States, I called myself "The Monk in the Grave." When I was invited to deliver lectures at universities, I used the name “The Monk in the Grave."
After some time had passed, around 1965 or 1966, I met one of the members of this delegation—Professor Epstein, Dr. Epstein, Upasaka Epstein—I don't really know what I should call him. Later on, he came to Taiwan to study Chinese. I told him to look for a Good and Wise Advisor in Taiwan and to take refuge with the Triple Jewel, because he was Jewish. I introduced him to several Dharma Masters in Taiwan, and he visited them, but felt no affinities with them. It wasn't because of the people that he felt no affinities, it was because of the money involved. He said that in Taiwan, all the Buddhist activities require money. No matter what teacher he wanted to take refuge under, he was expected to give a donation (in a red envelope). Since he didn't have that much money, he ended up not taking refuge. He returned to the United States and requested to take refuge under me. I told him, "You ought to take it slowly and wait a bit."
Later on he brought more than thirty people from Seattle, including some Ph.D., Bachelor's, and Master's students. Some people who were not students also came along. He has pretty good affinities with Americans, and he invited them to come listen to the lectures on the Shurangama Sutra. I lectured on the Shurangama Sutra for ninety-six days during the summer vacation. Later, some of those students, including Dr. Epstein, transferred their studies from Seattle to San Francisco.
When they moved to San Francisco, I began lecturing on the Sutras and speaking the Dharma on a daily basis. My vow is that as long as I have even one breath left, I will use it to lecture on the Sutras and speak the Dharma. When I have no more breath left, that's when I will stop speaking. So even though I am sick right now, I am still putting forth my greatest effort to speak the Dharma for all of you. I know that all of you don't necessarily want to listen to the Dharma I speak, but I cannot keep silent even if the majority of the people don't want to listen. As long as there is even one person who wants to listen, I will speak the Dharma. And even if no human being is listening, I will still speak for the benefit of the ghosts, spirits, and all other souls. That's my general wish.
I saw in the newspapers that they are saying, "Hsuan Hua is a vagabond." That's right, I am a vagabond now, because the Republic of China may not care to have me as a citizen, and mainland China doesn't necessarily want me as a citizen either. That's because I am not a significant addition or a significant loss to the country either way. However, I am a Chinese person, and I care about my roots. I am a person who cannot forget the past, so I wrote a few simple words, which cannot be considered poetry. I have come to Taiwan from the United States, but not to lecture the Sutras or propagate the Dharma. I have come to visit and to learn from all the Venerable Sanghans and Greatly Virtuous Ones. I myself am neither a Venerable Sanghan nor a Greatly Virtuous One. The newspapers have given me those names, but I do not deserve them. In my youth, I wanted to start a revolution, but I never succeeded in doing it, and afterwards I paid no more attention to the political situation. I was already a living corpse and a monk in the grave, so I couldn't match up to ordinary monks. Ordinary monks are virtuous and understand the Way, and they propagate the Buddhadharma. But I am not qualified to propagate the Buddhadharma, so I am just learning from everyone else. Now, to conclude my talk, I would like to speak a bit about the simple lines that I wrote.
China has been in turmoil for decades.
Anguished by the affairs of the times, my tears flow like a river.
I regret that in this life, I haven't been able
to turn the tide of events.
In the past, I failed to play the lute of the setting sun.
The roads of the world twist and turn,
as people and ghosts deceive each other.
The sea of politicians surges and rolls, as they mutually contend.
Though I've left the home-life,
I haven't forgotten my heart's allegiance.
Not changing my nationality,
I trace my roots back to their source.
These eight unpolished, simple lines explain my way of thinking, my conduct, and my resolves. I shall now explain them briefly.
China has been in turmoil for decades. This is saying that the Chinese people, not realizing that they are living in deep waters and hot fires, still do not know to be loyal to the country. I say that Taiwan is sitting on a pile of eggs; do you know why? Because every person is out for himself, and we are not united. The business people who have struck it rich and made a lot of money should loyally do all they can to repay the kindness of the country. But none of them believe in the country. What proof is there? They invest all their money in other countries, thus scattering the wealth of their own country abroad. So the business people are not loyal enough. Even if you're as wealthy as everyone else put together, if you have no sense of patriotism, then you are still a poor person! You are a person who does not understand principle, who does not love his country, and who only knows to be selfish and self-benefiting. That's one point. Although the people are said to believe in Buddhism, there are still many who do not believe, and that is a great loss to the country. If the ordinary citizens truly believed in the Buddha, bowed to the Buddha, and understood cause and effect, they wouldn't go out to murder people, set fires, rob, or deal in drugs. They would not speculate or play the lottery or stock market. They wouldn't engage in such activities. The fact that they do is an inauspicious sign for the country. Moreover, the students have totally forgotten about serious education and are only concerned with superficial things. They have pushed the teachings of Confucius to the back of their mind. No one advocates the values of filiality, fraternity, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, a sense of shame, and patriotism to the country. Instead, everyone puts his efforts into the pursuit of fame and profit. That is another unfavorable sign for the country.
People do not cherish their own lives and wealth; they are wasting them recklessly. This is also very unfortunate for the country. It is said, "The people are the foundation of a country. If the foundation is solid, the country will be at peace." But the current trend is unfavorable and unbeneficial for the country in many ways. That's why I have said that Taiwan is sitting on a pile of eggs; it's very dangerous. I'm not exaggerating just to arrest your attention or to make you afraid. That's not my aim. Of all the people who have made great fortunes, who has been able to donate all his wealth and assets to the country? Those who have small assets don't count. I'm talking about those who have great assets. In Taiwan, I haven't heard that anyone has contributed all his assets. Everyone is out for himself, selfish and self benefitting, and leaving his wealth to his children and descendants. Actually, "If the son is as capable as the father, why should the father leave wealth for the son?" If your son has more ambition and skill than you, then he must be able to make even more money than you, so why should you leave so much wealth for him? It is also said:
Your children have their own blessings.
There's no need to be a slave for them.
No matter how much money you have, you can't take it to the grave when you die. Everyone knows this, but no one pays any attention to it. Everyone has forgotten it, and just goes on contending, being greedy, seeking, being selfish, pursuing personal gain, and lying. I'm talking about the vast majority, not just a few people. Don't say that there are those who are willing to give all their wealth to the country. Such people are rare, not many at all.
That's why I say, China has been in turmoil for decades./ Anguished by the affairs of the times, my tears flow like a river. Saddened by the times, I lamented the affairs of the world. Many intelligent people do not do intelligent things. Instead, they do muddled things. Many muddled people want to do intelligent things, but they don't know how. This is a regretful situation.
I regret that in this life, I haven't been able to turn the tide of events. In this life, I have no way to turn back the tide of destiny. If I did, I should want to enable both the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China to know how to govern the country and deal with the world, and how to have the manner of a great country.
In the past, I failed to play the lute of the setting sun. I used to want to start a revolution. I shouldn't have just watched as China was invaded by Japan. That was too unjust, so I wanted to organize a revolt against Japan. But I was never able to carry out my plans, so later I put the world's affairs behind me.
I also saw that the roads of the world twist and turn. In this world, the roads are crooked and hard to travel. It's very dangerous. As people and ghosts deceive each other. The Chinese people would cheat the foreigners any way they could. The foreigners learned the trick from the Chinese and cheated the Chinese in turn, “taking a tooth for a tooth." Everyone cheated each other, and the world became a place of mutual deceit.
The sea of politicians surges and rolls, as they mutually contend. The politicians formed cliques and excluded those who held different views. They promoted those of their own clique, out of selfishness and pursuit of personal gain. Those of other cliques would be left out and frustrated in their attempts to realize their aims. So the sea of politicians surges and rolls, as they mutually contend." The politicians were harassing one another.
Though I've left the home-life, I haven't forgotten my heart's allegiance. Although I've left home, I haven't forgotten my loyalty to the country; I cannot change my convictions. My conviction is that I am a Chinese, and I'll always be a Chinese. In every life, in every place, I am a Chinese. When China truly becomes great and strong, I may or may not be around. But whether I am still living or not, I hope that throughout my life, at least I will not change my nationality. I am not greedy for any conveniences.
Not changing my nationality, I trace my roots back to their source. Not only will I not change my citizenship, I will not forget my roots.
Now you probably have a general understanding of these simple lines.
→To be continued