In the Mahayana, the Great Vehicle, there must also be a strong laity. The Sangha and the laity each have their positions and their responsibilities; they work together to propagate the Dharma. The primary responsibility of the Sangha is to cultivate. This includes studying the Dharma, practicing the Dharma, speaking the Dharma, and striving to live pure lives in order to be fields of blessings for the laity. The primary job of the laity is to "Protect the Dharma". This means to support the Triple Jewel by, among other things, taking care of worldly affairs that are not appropriate for monks and nuns to be involved in. It is the responsibility of the laity to supply the basic needs of both Sagely and ordinary Sanghans so that they may live in order to cultivate. The blessings that accrue from this arrangement are dedicated to all living beings. This formula is prescribed most strictly in the Theravadan tradition of Buddhism.
The Mahayana, or "Great Vehicle," on the other hand, is called Great in part because it is more inclusive. In practical terms, this means that sanghans not only serve as a pure field of blessings by practicing the Dharma, but in addition, they follow the Bodhisattva path, a primary practice of which is giving; and it means that the laity not only make offerings and practice all kinds of giving, but they also take every opportunity to practice the Dharma. Though this is true of the Mahayana, we all need to recognize the unique situation--even within the Mahayana tradition--that we find ourselves in at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, with schools, boarding students, and even entire families residing inside its "Mountain Gate"--that is, on monastic grounds. Indeed, another monastic community such as this one would be very hard to find anywhere in the world. And we need to recognize what a great responsibility we undertake in living here. It is certainly not that we come here seeking material support for ourselves. If in this unique situation, the Fourfold Assembly can maintain harmony, each member fulfilling his or her proper role, then the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas can be a great bright light for the world and can continue to create blessings for all living beings in the Dharma Realm--not merely for the people who live under its protection.
When the Venerable Master described how Buddhism degenerated in Asia, he explained that a major reason was the weakening of the Sangha. This was partly because most monks and nuns did not care about secular knowledge and academic pursuits—very few held degrees of "higher" learning. Actually, we leave secular life in order to develop our inherent wisdom and certify to ultimate enlightenment. This inherent wisdom at once transcends and yet incorporates all human understanding. Nevertheless, those who respect worldly knowledge and accomplishments and who do not understand or believe in the Dharma, looked down on the illiterates among the Sangha and in many cases the Sangha fell under the control of the laity.
And so the Venerable Master made a point to establish Dharma Realm Buddhist University. One of the major purposes of this University is to educate the Sangha, in order for the Sangha to be strong and able to carry on its responsibility. Another purpose of the University is to raise the consciousness of Americans so they may gain a proper and true perspective and recognize Buddhism as "higher" learning. The Venerable Master further insisted that monks and nuns take on the responsibility of administrative work, and conduct this work fully in accord with the Precepts.
For the most part, monks and nuns do not particularly like this kind of work. Most of us like to be quiet and to concentrate on Dharma practices. Most monks and nuns prefer to work quietly away from the spotlight and find it uncomfortable to be at the front. The Venerable Master used to say that people who live at the CTTB all like to be lonely. Most of the monks and nuns here would be very content to sit quietly in seclusion all day cultivating and investigating the Buddhist Canon.
Nevertheless, the Venerable Master always insisted that monks and nuns practice the Bodhisattva path, not be selfish, and take on administrative responsibilities. The current President of the Buddhist Association of mainland China is a layman. The Venerable Master called this a sign of the Dharma-Ending Age. And so the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association (DRBA) bylaws stipulate that the President of our Association must be a Bhikshu, not because the Sangha is greedy for power. But because this is how we have been taught and trained in the Dharma, and in order to ensure that the proper Dharma take root and be perpetuated in this country.
Recently a laywoman said to me, "Well, isn't it the case that left-home people and laity are the same? Isn't it the case that but for your shaven heads and uniforms you are no different from us?" I said, "What do you mean by that?" And she said, "Left-home people still have their habits, after all."
Well, of course left-home people still have habits; that is why we need to cultivate. We learn from Buddhist teachings that until we reach the fourth stage of Arhatship, we will still have these habits. We living beings are different from Buddhas only in that we have these habits. Actually, left-home people's habits may seem even more obvious, simply because they do not try to cover them up, but rather try to uncover them in order to recognize them and get rid of them. Anyone expecting ordinary sanghans to be perfect has a mistaken view. Of course, that is our goal to reach perfection and realize Buddhahood; but most of us still have a long way to go.
Actually, though, it is beneficial to the laity to respect the Sangha. It is not that the Sangha benefits from being respected. In fact, receiving the respect of the laity is a great responsibility, and if we receive respect and yet do not cultivate and are not pure fields of blessings for the laity, we will have to undergo unbearable suffering in the future. And so what benefit is there in that, other than to urge us on in our cultivation?
Respecting the Sangha involves maintaining a proper degree of formality when interacting with them. We have not left the secular world seeking casual friends to chat and socialize with. You should know that being too nice to Sanghans will ruin their cultivation. Those of you in this Assembly tonight who are novices about to receive the full precepts should pay special attention to this point. You need to understand that once you receive those precepts, you will be different from before you received them. It is difficult to explain, and difficult perhaps to perceive, but nevertheless it is true. Therefore, all of you who will take the full precepts should respect yourselves. How was it that these people have encountered the opportunity to receive full precepts? Well, maybe it is from having a profound respect for the Sangha and what the Sangha represents. It was out of such deep respect for the Sangha that I myself wished to draw near to them, to live like them, and to try to be like them.
As for the laity living in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, you are in a very honorable position. It is not easy to encounter the causes and conditions for living here, and you must all have very deep good roots. Therefore, you should also have respect for yourselves, because you are very special people. Having respect for ourselves means that we want to study the precepts and try our best to uphold them. Failure to uphold the precepts comes about largely because of a lack of self respect--that is, respect for one's own spiritual nature.
When the Buddha was in the world, the precepts came about one by one as a result of certain situations. Moreover, the Venerable Master used to say that the Dharma is alive; it is living, it is present. We should live the Dharma and breathe the Dharma, and it should be part of our lives. The rules for the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas came about in a similar way as when the Buddha was in the world. And these rules and regulations keep the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas alive; and they keep our Dharma body and our wisdom life alive.
Right now, I would like to review them because maybe all of us are so busy, sometimes we forget. If we don't pay attention to them, then we fall into our habits, as Dharma Master Lyu just said. I will only read the list of rules and regulations that anyone who wishes to stay at CTTB must sign. This is like a contract. This is your agreement for being here. All of us who
live here have agreed to abide by these rules. In the world, if we do fulfill our agreements--if we breach a contract--it is a legal offense. How much more of an offense is it to break our word in a holy place like this, where we base our daily lives on the precepts.
I'll start with the regulations regarding personal conduct.
First of all, "the use of drugs, tobacco, meat, and alcohol is strictly prohibited. Gambling, dancing, and sexual misconduct are strictly prohibited. Attire must always be modest and neat."
This first regulation covers the precept against intoxicants as well as the eight "vegetarian" precepts, which include no dancing, no wearing perfumes, etc. It also covers the precept against sexual misconduct, which involves how we dress, as well as how we act, how we walk, where we walk, who we talk to, and in what situations we talk to people.
In a monastery, a man should have another man with him, and a woman you should have another woman with her, whenever it is necessary to talk with someone of the opposite sex. This helps us maintain perfect comportment, focus on our cultivation, and not be scattered or have a lot of false thinking.
This regulation also includes not eating meat. Although it is certain that no one here in this Buddha Hall eats meat at the CTTB. However, this regulation also includes abstention from garlic, onions, and eggs. Those things don't belong here at all, and if you see anyone bringing them here, please ask them to get rid of them in some proper way. Sometimes the lay residents have more contact with visitors. You can help to teach them and show them what is the right thing to do in that case.
Second, while in residence at the CTTB, whether on or off the grounds, you are always expected to act in a responsible manner as a lay resident by conducting yourselves in accord with the goals and regulations of the CTTB and DRBA.
I was told that not too long ago, one of the Bhikshunis had to be up late doing some work and saw a single young boy drive out of the CTTB in a car, and another single young girl drive out of the CTTB at midnight. You might ask yourselves, "What are they doing?"
Whenever we go out into the community, most of us, even the laity, are recognized as being from the CTTB. The kind of impression we make on our neighbors will cause them to either respect or disrespect Buddhism, to either support or oppose the CTTB. So we have a certain responsibility.
Maybe some people here don't know about a rule that the Venerable Master made, so I'll remind you that women are not suppose to leave the grounds alone without another lay woman accompanying them. Even within the grounds, the Master made the rule that we're not even supposed to go to the Administration Building without another woman accompanying us. This applies even more for left-home people. I hope that all of you understand how important this is. It's important for our safety.
To be continued