While in Manchuria there was a short period during which money and I parted company. I never touched money and for a good reason. Living in the temple where I lived when I left home were forty or fifty bhikshus, but sometimes as few as a dozen. When I first arrived at the temple, the abbot was out begging and none of the bhikshus knew me. "I know the abbot, and I want to leave the home-life," I said, and they welcomed me.
After leaving home, I practiced austerities, but not the ones you practice. You type, recite Sutras, and so forth, but in the big rural temple where I lived, there was a lot of outside work to be done. Sweeping the courtyard alone took an hour. My first job was to clean the toilets, which weren't flush toilets, but pit toilets, and every day the waste had to be removed because the cultivators did not want to smell the odor. They gave this work to me because I had just left home and had not yet cut off my attachment to smells. I did it every day and didn't mind it too much.
I did various chores at the temple, such as sweeping. When it snowed I got up before everyone else; I got up at two in the morning and swept the walkways so that they were clear at four when everyone else got up to go to the Buddha hall and recite Sutras.
When the abbot returned and saw me he said, "So you have come!"
"Yes," I said, "I have."
After I had formally left home, he called a meeting, wishing to elect a manager, a position second only to the abbot. When the abbot retires, the manager becomes the new abbot. Among the several dozen monks, the abbot wanted to choose me. Everyone objected, "He has just left home," they said. "How can he possibly be manager?"
"Very well," said the abbot. "Let's go before the image of Weitou Bodhisattva and draw names." Oddly enough, (Weitou Bodhisattva must have wanted to give me some work to do) they drew three times and my name came up each time. No one said a word because I had been elected by Weitou Bodhisattva himself.
Later, when the abbot wanted to make me an administrator, I thought, "It's too much trouble. If he tells me to do it, I won't touch money. How will he expect me to administrate then?" So I said, "All right, but I will not touch money. Other people must handle and count it. That is my condition." That's how I started holding the precept of not touching money.
Unusual things happened when I held this precept. Whenever I went to the train station near the temple, I didn't bring money to buy a ticket, because I couldn't hold money. I would sit and wait for someone who knew me to come and offer to buy me a ticket. If no one came I just waited, but strangely enough, whenever I went to the station, someone would come and ask me where I wanted to go and then buy me a ticket.