No one talks while we are having meals at Gold Buddha Monastery. Why is that? It is because we do not strike up false thoughts but concentrate on eating. Everybody should understand that if we do not know how to eat, we will get sick. When you know how to eat, you are free from illness. By eating right, you avoid disasters and prolong your life. Your blessings and wisdom also increase. But if you do not know how to eat, you may become incurably ill. Nowadays a lot of people suffer strange illnesses, because they do not know how to eat. That's pretty serious, wouldn't you say? They engage in too many idle thoughts during meals. You may not consider thinking to be a big deal. Once you start thinking, however, the food and your idle thoughts combine to produce something like a chemical reaction. If you have beneficial thoughts, the reaction probably won't affect you. However, unfavorable thoughts can produce a toxic reaction.
For instance, if you have the following thought: "I have no money, but I could probably get rich if I sold opium, marijuana or other drugs." As soon as you entertain such thoughts during your meal, a toxic vapor will form. That poisonous vapor is like an electric current, invisible to the eye but travels quickly. Once you have such a thought, you attract that harmful vapor to yourself. If you have that thought every day, in time you will develop a strange illness. You can get cancer or other kinds of illness because you do not know how to eat.
What does it mean to know how to eat? We should calm our mind and spirit and not entertain idle thoughts when we eat. Instead, we ought to practice the Three Recollections and Five Contemplations.
What are the Three Recollections? First, when I take this food, "I vow to cut off all evil." You eat only after you have stopped all immoral deeds. Second, "I vow to cultivate all good." You are willing to practice wholesome acts. "To cut off all evil" means that no matter how small a bad deed is, you do not do it. On the other hand, "to practice all good" emphasizes that we should not think a small wholesome deed is insignificant and neglect to do it. Do not think a tiny good act is not important and fail to do it. "Mount Tai does not scorn a mote of dust, for high mountains are accumulated from small particles." We should know that although a mote of dust is minute, when a lot of dust accumulates, a mountain can form. The same applies to good deeds.
The third recollection you make after you refrain from bad deeds and practice wholesome acts is, "I vow to save all living beings." You aspire to liberate all living beings. We should observe these Three Recollections because they can benefit people. If you do no evil, you will not harm people. When you do wholesome deeds, you benefit others. Furthermore, we want to liberate living beings and help them to end suffering and attain bliss; this is the attitude one should have in cultivating the Bodhisattva Path. Today I'll just talk about these Three Recollections.
If you understand how to eat, then you will practice these three recollections to "cut off all evil, practice all good, and save all living beings." When you recollect these during meal, how would you have time to talk idly? You would not even strike up idle thoughts. When you have eaten the food, you will certainly have averted any impending disasters, your life span will be lengthened, and your blessings and wisdom will also increase. When you come to Gold Mountain Monastery, do not think, "Oh! The rules are so strict that we cannot talk during mealtime. I feel as if I have come to a jail." That is not the case. You are just asked to truly cultivate in accord with the Buddhadharma.