Good and Wise Advisors! Today each person has spoken of how he or she left the home-life. Originally I was going to speak about my own conditions for leaving home, but it's such a long story that I won't tell it. There is a book about the events of my life, and anyone who wants to know the details can read it. But it only gives a general sketch. Actually, only a very small portion of the things I have done has been recorded. If everything that I have done were to be compiled, the record would be as long as the entire Buddhist canon.
To start off, I'll talk about when I first arrived in the United States. At that time some Chinese people came to hear me lecture. I lectured on the Vajra Sutra. When I lectured back then, about fifteen people came to listen, but I didn't care how many people there were. Whether it was a lot or only a few, I lectured just the same. Fifteen or sixteen wasn't a small number. But after I finished lecturing that Sutra, hardly any Chinese people ever came again. Why not? Because Chinese people are more interested in making money than in studying the Buddhadharma.
After that, I lectured on the Prajna-paramita Heart Sutra. I wrote an eight-line verse to explain each line of the Heart Sutra. Such an explanation had never existed before in all these thousands of years. It was called the Prajna-paramita Heart Sutra Standless Verse Commentary. So the Heart Sutra was the second Sutra I lectured on in the United States. During that period I lectured twice on Saturdays and Sundays, giving four lectures every weekend. Although Chinese people didn't come to the lectures, Americans did, but only three of them. And guess what they did? As I lectured from the platform, one of them lay down on the floor and dozed off, another one sat leaning to one side, and the last one propped his feet on the table. That's how they would listen to the lecture.
Even though they were that way, I put up with it and didn't criticize them. I just let them do as they pleased.
Later on, someone translated my lectures into English. This person wanted to go to Taiwan to study Chinese. Before he left, he would come to meditate every day. I said to him, "You should go to Taiwan to take refuge with the Triple Jewel." When he was about to leave for Taiwan to study, I told him about all the elder, great, and renowned Dharma Masters in the various Taiwanese temples. While he was in Taiwan, he went to pay his respects to them all. But he didn't take refuge with any of them. When I asked him why, he said he didn't have any "red envelopes" (donations of money) to offer, so none of them were willing to take him as a disciple. That's why he didn't take refuge. When he returned to the United States, he asked to take refuge with me. I told him to wait, to take things slowly and look around for someone with more wisdom. After a while, he requested again, but I still didn't give my consent. Later he requested a third time, and I finally consented.
In 1968, he led thirty-odd students from Seattle to San Francisco to study the Shurangama Sutra with me. Some of them were studying for their doctorates; others were studying for their Master's degrees. Others were still undergraduates. There were over thirty of them. I lectured the Shurangama Sutra for them for a period of ninety-six days. In the beginning I only gave one lecture each day. After half a month had passed, I felt that I wouldn't be able to finish in time, so I started giving two lectures a day. After another half month, I still felt I couldn't finish, so I began lecturing three times a day. In the last month, I was delivering four lectures daily on the Shurangama Sutra.
I personally did all the cooking, boiled water, made tea, cleaned the toilets, and washed the dishes. The students were not allowed into the kitchen. They spent their time taking notes, organizing their notes, and studying the precepts. When I wasn't lecturing, I took care of these other chores. I still remember on the very last day when one of the students came into the kitchen to help me take the plates and bowls out of the cupboard. But then--wham!--they all dropped to the ground and broke. So on the last day, no one had anything to eat.
Right now some of you must be thinking, "You promised to talk about the important people and events of this century in China. Why are you talking about these other things?" I know many of you are having such a thought, because I've picked up a lot of your mental "telegrams." And so now I'll return to my original topic.
To be continued