Disciple: All fellow cultivators and good and wise advisors, everyone in a Way-place must agree to and maintain a policy on the Sangha's way of life. That is the best insurance policy for us. Nonetheless, individual differences occur, difficulties exist in application and timing, and we are oblivious to how to accord with the Dharma in several areas so that everyone may peacefully cultivate in this Way-place. Therefore, I would like to raise some difficulties that we typically encounter and ask the Venerable Master, all fellow cultivators and good and wise advisors to instruct us. I hope that everyone will willingly follow the rules we establish. In this way, the laws that the Venerable Master devise will sustain over a long period of time rather than disappearing after two or three days, a week or two weeks.
We have often let our thoughtful teacher down with these habits. Furthermore, we develop different styles in a group, which negatively affect the individual and the collective. Consequently, the Venerable Master mentioned earlier that we must line up for the morning and evening ceremonies.
The Venerable Master: You must participate in reciting the Flower Adornment Sutra too. You can't refuse to participate, even if you've been around for 800 years. You're just stirring up trouble within the Bodhimanda. Since you don't acquiesce to the group, you can't do any of your personal business either. This is much too embarrassing.
Why don't you think about why I am scolding you? Do I enjoy scolding people? I am the least in favor of reproach- ing people because it disheartens me. Do you know that I choke back my tears when 1 admonish you? Yet you're still shameless, uttering, "The more the Master scolds me, the better." Can you lose more face than that? Where will you head if not the hells?
Furthermore, some people openly use my name to oppress everyone, claiming whatever is said as what the Master said. If it is reasonable, why do you need to declare that I said it? Why do you insist that the Master said it though the same principle applies regardless of the speaker? You're emulating Mao Zedong's disciple when you name the teacher to oppress people. Buddhism is concerned with principles. This is no "One Word Hall". My words are not Venerable Master's Dharma Rain carved in stone. You don't need to mention my name constantly to mislead others, approximating criminals in a monastic community.
Disciple: Since the Venerable Master has instructed that we line up ten minutes earlier for the morning and evening ceremonies, we currently convene everybody except for the incense master and the two people who hit the great drum and bell at dusk. Should the rest of the group still line up? Some fellow cultivators may be meditating in the large hall. If they're meditating. . .
The Venerable Master: They can't do that. If you want to meditate in the large hall, you must line up and go until the group is dispersed. Only then can you do whatever you want. You can't be so lax as to do whatever you want. That would be an example of standing out from the crowd.
Disciple: What if there are fellow cultivators who are ill at times, or who have chronic diseases?
The Venerable Master: You can't deal with chronic diseases here. Go and stay at a hospital in that case and pay for yourself. This is no care unit. It's okay for those who are really sick; but those who pretend to be sick on a protracted basis will not do. This also depends on one's age. If you're young yet unwell all the time, that's impermissible. How come others are healthy while you're the only who is unhealthy? What does that mean?
Disciple: So there may be exceptions if some practitioners really experience physical discomfort.
The Venerable Master: It's okay if they're really sick.
Disciple: He can follow along slowly; but he still walks along.
The Venerable Master: [sighs] If he has problems with his legs, for instance, then it's okay to not walk-as long as it's a genuine infirmity and not a pre- tense. I see lots of people who fake illnesses though they're not really sick. If the Communists told you to kneel on broken glass, all your ailments would disappear.
Disciple: Also, we have Universal Bowing from five to six o'clock in the morning, the hour right after Morning Ceremony. Most of the women stay to bow to the Buddhas except for the Shramanerikas [novice nuns] who are in high school and use this time to do homework. However, there are fellow cultivators who essentially never bow.
Venerable Master, is Universal Bowing a part of the entire assembly's work? Should everyone bow together? What if there are special cases?
The Venerable Master: If there are special activities, you must ask for leave. Personal business doesn't count. This is public business. If you eat here and live here, you must go along with the schedule here.
Disciple: Also, some cultivators eat breakfast in the morning. Should they coordinate with the kitchen? What time should everyone eat and conclude that meal? That way they don't run off to eat after seven o'clock or so.
The Venerable Master: You can't go alone. You must go and eat together. No one will serve you if you go alone or are late.
To be continued