They take no delight in raising young disciples, Shramaneras, or children, and they do not take pleasure in sharing the same master with them.
They take no delight in raising young disciples. "Take no delight" means that they don't want to raise them; it doesn't necessarily mean that they don't raise them. If there are unusual circumstances, it's permissible to do so, but not to take delight in doing so. If they were to delight in it, then they'd be making a mistake. It would mean they were fond of children, of young disciples, thinking, "I'm getting old, and I don't have a son or daughter at home to take care of me. I can leave the home-life and accept a young disciple who can serve me. That would not be a bad idea." But that kind of thinking is incorrect.
Left-home people who cultivate the Bodhisattva Way aren't supposed to enjoy themselves and have people cater to their every need, or to work on their behalf. Practicing the Bodhisattva Way is very inconvenient—there are many things one is not supposed to do. One who practices the Bodhisattva Way cannot get away with being sloppy or casual. One cannot even take delight in having small disciples. Under special circumstances, it might be all right.
Why is one not supposed to accept young disciples? It's because young disciples are sometimes disobedient and very often naughty. Haven't you noticed how enraged parents get with children who will not listen to instructions? Even though the parents get upset, still they have no way to control the children. Now suppose you were to accept such a child as your disciple. From morning to night you'd have trouble. Therefore, we are advised not to take delight in raising young disciples.
If the child were obedient and good, then it would be permissible. If when told to cultivate, the child cultivates and when told not to get into mischief he doesn't play around, then the child can be accepted as a disciple. We must apply the teachings in the Sutra to our lives in a dynamic way and not assume the texts are completely inflexible. The point here is that one should not take delight in raising young disciples, and not that one absolutely cannot accept any.
"How can you know if a child is good or not?" you ask. If you don't know, then don't flirt with danger. Don't accept the child. Wait until you are sure before you accept him as your disciple. If you are certain that a child is good-natured and has some foundation in cultivation to stand on, then you may accept him.
In Manchuria, I had several young disciples who were only twelve or thirteen years old. However, they were exceptionally obedient. I heard about a child named Zheng De. He was a very unusual child. From the time he was five years old, he bowed to his parents every day. When I heard about that child, I was ashamed, because I didn't know enough to bow to my parents until I was twelve. I certainly wanted to meet that child, who knew to practice the filial way from the time he was five. He was such a filial child and took such good care of his parents, that they never had a care or a worry.
One day, when conditions were ripe, I went to his house in Wuchang County, about thirty miles from my home. He was twelve years old at the time. Before I visited him, many externalist teachers had been intent on converting him to their various religions, because the child was already famous as a "filial son." All the externalist teachers wanted him for their disciple, but when they went to convert him, they couldn't out talk him.
The child would ask them, "What do you cultivate?" They would answer that they cultivated the spirit in order to become immortal.
The child would ask, "How do you cultivate to become immortal?" They would answer that one needs to meditate and that one should be filial to one's parents.
Then the child would ask, "Were you filial to your parents before?" When asked that, the externalists had nothing to say, and the child would dismiss them saying, "Right now I am busy practicing filial piety. After I have finished my filial duties, I will cultivate the Way. My father and mother are living Buddhas right here in my home. I will not renounce what is near to seek what is far." None of the externalist teachers had been able to convince him to embrace their beliefs. Many had tried, but they all ended up leaving without accomplishing their aim.
To be continued