It is not easy to live in a monastery. When you work in a big institute or a big company, what they look for is your talent, your knowledge, your ability, your Ph.D., and your management skill. But in a monastery like our Wayplace, we emphasize virtue, following rules, and benefiting the community. We are here in order to end birth and death and that is why we request the Dharma every night.
Of course the Buddhadharma is not separate from worldly Dharma, but it is not enough just to learn worldly Dharma. Recently someone from the Midwest came here and I asked him, "How long do you plan to stay?" "The longer the better. This is such a fine place." But in order to attain the "fruit" of staying here for longer periods of time there must be a "cause." One must prepare for it. Or your wish might just not be realized.
It is said, "Barracks are made of iron and soldiers are like flowing water." Perhaps we can also say, "Temples are made of bricks and the residents are like flowing water." I often see people coming and going; some stay longer and some shorter. Those who stay longer usually have a good foundation for a prolonged stay. Other than following rules, one must offer some service to the temple as a way of making a contribution.
When the Venerable Master was with us he often called the office and asked, "Any newcomers?" We would answer, "There is a so-and-so and he is very capable, but he wants this and that." The Venerable Master would say, "When someone first comes here, before he has made any contributions to the Wayplace, you can just tell him, 'Wait for a while. Be content with what you have for now.'" The Master felt that, "When one comes here, one should first learn the rules and understand the situation. Generally, one should be here for six to twelve months before going to the podium to speak so one will not waste people's time." It is also best that newcomers not talk too much, especially about left-home people. Left-home people should managed their own affairs, and lay people should not gossip about them either openly or covertly. Neither should they gossip about other lay people. In addition to following the rules, one must offer some service to the temple as a way of making a contribution.
The Venerable Master was not the only person who said this. In the Venerable Master Guangqin's instructional talk, he too says that newcomers should do outdoor work for the Wayplace for two or three years as a form of training. They should first observe before they get involved in doing other things." That will be beneficial for their future practice. In Chinese history, during the Tang Dynasty, when Prime Minister Pei Xiu's son came to Elder Master Weishan's monastery to study the Buddhadharma, he was put to work as water carrier. He carried water for everyone in the Wayplace for three years. Some of us may come from a top-ranking official's family, but if we plan to stay here for longer periods of time, we should work on our foundation for a long term stay The longer you wish to stay here, the better foundation you should build. When the Buddha was in the world he took care of sick monks personally He threaded needles for his blind disciple. Even though the Buddha was already replete with blessings and wisdom, he didn't forgo any opportunities to cultivate blessings.
When the Venerable Master was young, he left the home-life at Three Conditions Monastery in Manchuria in northeast China, where snow is common in the bitterly cold winters. The monks had to walk through the deep snow to get to the recitation ceremonies in the Buddha Hall. Their cloth shoes would get wet, and of course they felt cold. The Venerable Mater said he would get up earlier, before the morning recitation, and shovel the snow on the path leading to the Buddha Hall. He quietly did this on his own without letting anybody know. He didn't go around telling everyone in order to promote himself. The Buddha was that way and so was the Venerable Master. Quietly they made their contributions. That is how we cultivate blessings, which are like our capital in cultivation. Just as worldly people must have money in order to sustain themselves, cultivators must have blessings in order to cultivate.