At this point, I think I'll talk about the situation in Hong Kong. Do you want to hear? Do you prefer to listen to the
Flower Adornment Sutra or hear about the situation in Hong Kong and Taiwan?
[A break in the tape] The Fruit Monk is from Fujian Province. His temple is called Chengtian Monastery. His practice is especially rigorous: He never lies down or eats cooked food. He eats only fruit. When I was lecturing on Sutras in Taiwan, I mentioned him three times, which caused quite a flurry. People said, "Don't talk about him so much. None of the monks in Taiwan like him. The Dharma Masters disapprove of him, saying that he is an illiterate, a mute sheep in the Sangha who is of no benefit to Buddhism." Take a look. He abstains from cooked food and cultivates diligently all daylong, yet he gets accused of being useless to Buddhism.
However, he is actually very useful. He had a refuge disciple who was planning to take a vacation. He told that disciple not to travel for forty-nine days. His disciple waited for forty-eight days and then figured that it wouldn't matter if he went out on the last day. As soon as he went out, he was in a car accident that left one of his legs broken. Someone told the Fruit Monk, who responded, "The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas were pretty kind to him. If he didn't work for Buddhism and believe in the Buddha, he would have lost his life." That disciple later told others, "I didn't listen to my teacher. My teacher told me not to go out for forty-nine days, but I thought it would be okay to go out after forty-eight days, and so I lost one leg."
Think it over. Before anything happened, the Fruit Monk was able to warn his disciple to stay home for forty-nine days. Since the disciple didn't listen, he endangered his own life. Despite the diligence and caliber of this monk's cultivation, all the Dharma Masters slander him and try to ruin him. However, their attempts are futile. The lay people in Taiwan still want to take refuge with him and bow to him as their teacher. Taking refuge with him is fairly easy and as a result he has many disciples, all of whom respect him greatly. Despite all the Dharma Masters' efforts to ruin his reputation, the lay people can judge for themselves and still want him to be their teacher.
Ah! Just think of this: Having nothing better to accuse him of, the Dharma Masters allege that he eats on the sly. What does he eat? Rice gruel. Someone came up to me and whispered, "Don't tell anyone else, but people say that he drinks rice gruel on the sly. He says he doesn't eat cooked food, but he's lying."
Even if he does drink rice gruel, that's not an offense, is it? What's wrong with that? As I said in Taiwan, he has every right to choose whether or not to eat cooked food. He has total freedom in that respect. There's no rule in Buddhism that says one can't eat cooked food, or that one commits an offense by doing so. Why do those people accuse him of eating gruel on the sly? They have nothing better to do and they are afraid everyone will believe in him, so they spread rumors to slander him. People who lack wisdom might lose faith in him after hearing such rumors, but wise people would not care in the least. He eats gruel— so what? If he wants to eat gruel or rice, he can do so. Whether or not he eats gruel or rice or cooked food is his own business. No one can force him into it.
Before I discuss the situation in Hong Kong and Taiwan, I have some news to tell you, which I hope you will take into consideration. What is this news? Guo Qian, in Hong Kong, has come to the realization that typing Sutras on the typewriter is not a good idea. Why not? Because it makes him go through the Sutra too quickly, like a galloping horse, before he has time to ponder it over and investigate it. As a result, he is a bit muddled about the principles in the Sutra. What is he going to do about this? Instead of transcribing the Sutra lecture directly on the typewriter, he is going to write it out by hand. On the one hand, he can practice his handwriting and learn to write faster; on the other hand, he can reflect on the principles as he writes the text down. And so, instead of typing it out quickly on the typewriter, he is going to write it out manually.
I told you a long time ago that tape recorder is a terrible thing. Since we have a tape recorder, no one takes notes anymore. Everyone depends on the tape recorder. People don't even think it matters whether or not they listen to the lecture anymore. They think they can doze off during the Sutra lecture, because the tape recorder is turning the great Dharma wheel, recording all the Buddhadharma. They figure they can listen to the tapes later. First, people don't take notes. Second, they become dependent on the recorder and start dozing off at lectures. Those are two disadvantages.
Then, they let the tapes sit there for a long time without listening to them, and as a result they forget all the principles that were lectured. When they finally have time to listen to the tapes, their memory is already quite foggy and they can't figure out what their teacher was talking about. Therefore, the tape recorder is not that helpful to students who truly want to investigate the Buddhadharma. It is helpful in a small way, since it can help people fill in what they missed in their notes from not being able to write fast enough. When you miss something in your notes, you can leave a space in your notebook and then listen to the tape to find out what was been said. The tape recorder is helpful in this small way, making your notes more complete. If you really want to understand the Buddhadharma, you should regularly write it out by hand. That is a very good method.
When I arrived in Hong Kong on February 10, I received a letter from Phuong Guo Wu inviting me to visit Vietnam. Before returning to Hong Kong, some people in Taiwan liked to listen to my lectures while others got mad. Some were willing to listen because they had never heard such principles before. Others got mad because I pointed out their faults. After my talk, Ma Feiyang, Upasaka Qiao's wife, asked me about a passage of the
Flower Adornment Sutra, "peeled off his skin for paper, split his bones to fashion brushes, drew blood for ink" in order to write out copies of the
Flower Adornment Sutra stacked as high as Mount Sumeru. I asked them if they had any questions to bring up for discussion at that point. Do any of you have questions on this passage? I have explained this passage here before, and now I want to hear your judgment. Guo Yi, what do you make of it?
Guo Yi: [Cut in tape.]
All of you have your own opinions, like the blind men who each felt a leg or perhaps the trunk or belly of the elephant. This is an excellent way to investigate the principles.
Each person applies his wisdom and expresses his opinion for others to consider. However, at that time, I didn't have that many people to study the question with, so I answered it by myself. I said, "First of all, the Buddha was speaking hypothetically, supposing that there might be a person who'd make such a great resolve and use his bones to fashion brushes. He could have made brushes out of other material. Why did he use bone, which is not usually used to make brushes? It was to show his sincerity. Why did he use skin to make paper instead of using some other material? It was also to show his sincerity towards the Sutra. Using his blood to write out the Sutra was another way of demonstrating his sincere resolve, which made him unafraid of pain, suffering, and hardship.
Although bone cannot be made into brushes, he was going to do it. Skin basically cannot be used as paper, but he used it as such. Blood is not used for ink, but he used it that way. He undertook ascetic practices that others could not do. The text says "bone," but that doesn't mean he used all the bones in his body. Just now Guo Zhan said it would be enough to chop off a finger. He's right. A brush made from the bone of a single finger can be used to write many characters.
As for skin, he did not peel all the skin off his body to use as paper. Perhaps he peeled the skin off one arm or one leg. Since he has two arms and two legs, he can peel his skin four different times, sometimes peeling in one place and sometimes in another. After the skin is peeled off, the wound will slowly heal.
When the skin is peeled off, one naturally bleeds. That blood can be used to write out the Sutra. Why would the person not die? This is only a hypothetical situation, but if a person really did those things, he would not die, for he is not using up all the skin, blood, and bones in his body.
Ma Feiyang, the person who asked this question, agreed with my explanation. I said that this was merely a hypothetical case; there is no such person in reality. The Sutra brings up this principle to encourage people to bring forth the resolve for Bodhi by thinking, "Someone may use his bones to make a brush, his skin as paper, and his blood as ink. If he can undergo that much pain, what about us?" This thought exhorts them to resolve their minds on Bodhi.
To be continued