這個出家啊！不容易的，不要說你自己出家；你就看出家人，這都是有善根才能見著出家人。你看你們美國現在這些個青年人，都是有善根的，才能見著出家人。在這個比你們老輩的人，見得著出家人很少很少的，除非跑到外地去度 holiday； vacation（假日）時，或者見著過比丘。在美國本國裡很少見著的；或者有的見過的，是在 books（書）上看見過比丘的樣子。那麼眞正的清淨比丘，很少的，這個我可以下斷言。那麼現在你們這些青年人，善根都成熟了，所以就有了比丘、比丘尼了。
The Chinese character for jail (囚) looks like a square, which represents the four walls of a house, with a character for person (人) inside the square. This indicates that a person is locked up in a house—a jail—from which he cannot go out. He is prohibited from moving about or leaving. The person is not only confined in jail, but also wears a cangue. I explained this cangue to you before. It is a heavy wooden collar which is worn around the neck so that the criminal cannot run away. The person who is locked up in jail is also handcuffed and chained by the foot. People with families ought to awaken to this and not be bound by these three fetters. Having parents is like wearing a cangue which locks up the neck, while having children is like wearing handcuffs. Don't be elated because you have children. There's nothing to be elated about, for they are like handcuffs which you cannot take off. Lastly, having a wife is comparable to being chained by the foot.
In America, we need left-home people. If someone would like to leave home, no matter what kind of person he is, I will be delighted. He may not have behaved himself before, but as long as he follows the rules after leaving home, it will be okay. I am trying my best to create some American Elders. Their own homegrown Elders don't have good foundations. Their roots have not been planted deeply. I came here to nurture and groom Elders of American Buddhism. All of you who have left home have a chance to become Elders in American Buddhism in the future.
If you know what you are all about, you will not have demonic obstacles. For instance, left-home people should rub their heads in the morning and reflect: "Where is my hair? Where did it go? Why don't I have any hair? Oh, yes, it's because I am a left-home person. Since I have left the home-life, I should not constantly strike up false thinking or behave badly. If I want to misbehave, why did I leave the home-life? Since I've left home, I should follow the rules." Therefore, we should rub our heads three times every day. You may say, "I want to grow my hair long like a certain left-home person in Hong Kong. Many people make offerings to him and he is well respected. He is also a left-home person, but he lets his hair grow. I want to be like him." If you become like him, you will become a hippie. Hippies follow his style, but the more they follow it, the more confused they become. In the end, they will not even know how they die. Why not? Because they will die muddled. Therefore, don't be like that. You should know what you are all about. Now that China and the rest of Asia have entered the Dharma-ending Age, it is time for the Proper Dharma Age to appear in America. Therefore, all of you left-home people should know what you are all about.
Many teachers threaten their disciples, saying, "If you don't do as I say, you will die tomorrow." The disciple will think, "I don't want to die, so I'd better do what I'm told." This is wrong. I would not tell you even if I knew you were dying tomorrow. Why? To change your faults because you are afraid is not genuine. To want to change and become good of your own accord and not because you are threatened is genuine. Then, you will be able to transform misfortune into good fortune. Some people may cheat their disciples into leaving the home-life. They say, "You should leave the home-life. If you don't, something terrible is going to happen to you." The person thinks, "Oh! Something terrible is going to happen to me. I'd better leave the home-life quickly." Intimidating people so that they will leave the home-life is also wrong. I know some teachers have this kind of habit. They always scare their disciples. I don't want to teach people this way. I never force people into doing things. If you want to do it, you can do it. If you don't want to do it, I will not force you. I never threaten people by saying, "You can't be like this. You must do that. If you don't, your father, your mother, and your siblings will all die." Statements like this can make people tremble in fear, because they think what their teachers say must be true. Some people really believe in their teachers. However, they don't believe the true Dharma that their teachers teach; they only believe evil and improper dharmas. But you don't have to worry; I won't use such methods. I won't say anything to scare you.
We should all know the anniversary of Shakyamuni Buddha's leaving home. We should also remember the anniversary of our own leaving home. When we become Buddhas in the future, we should remember the day we left the home-life. We should also know the day we took refuge. Upasaka Guo Zhan regards the day he took refuge as his new birthday. This is quite meaningful. Therefore, we must not forget the day we took refuge and the day we left home. We should not forget the causes and conditions which led us to study the Buddhadharma either.
Let me tell you a strange story. I don't quite know how it happened, but I came into this world on the sixteenth of the third lunar month. My teacher (Great Master Chang Zhi), strangely enough, came to this world on the fifteenth of the third month. The Abbot of my temple, Great Master Chang Ren, was born on the seventeenth of the third month. That's not that unusual, because many people have birthdays near one another's. As for leaving home, I left home on the sixteenth of the ninth lunar month, my teacher on the fifteenth of that month, and Great Master Chang Ren on the seventeenth of the same month. Our dates were right next to each other again. There are many things in this world that we can't really figure out.
Leaving the home-life is not an easy thing to do. Not to mention leaving the home-life yourself, you won't be able to even set eyes upon a left-home person if you don't have good roots. All of you young Americans must have good roots, since you are able to see left-home people. It was very rare for people of the generation before you to see left-home people. If they went abroad on vacation, they might have seen a Bhikshu. But Bhikshus are a rare sight in this country. Perhaps some people have seen pictures of Buddhist monks in books, but I daresay that very few people have personally met one. The good roots of you young people have matured, so we now have Bhikshus and Bhikshunis here.
We are grown ups; we should not be like children. In cultivating, we must use a true heart to make true vows, and we should not forget what we have said. If you do not observe rules on the causal ground, you will suffer immensely in the future. Everyone, don't take what I say lightly. It's been so many years. Some people have been with me for over ten years but they are still muddled. They don't have the slightest understanding of the principle of cause and effect. They are not afraid of the consequences of their actions. This is very dangerous. In cultivation, we must be especially cautious. Don't make mistakes in cause and effect. If you do, you may be off by a hairsbreadth at the beginning, but you will miss the mark by a thousand miles. Don't think of returning to lay life after you have left home. Don't resolve to cultivate on the one hand and yet be reluctant to give up worldly pleasures on the other. If you are that way, you will suffer greatly in the future.
You must recognize very clearly what you are supposed to be doing. If you don't believe me, you may regret it in the future, but it will be too late.