Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master,
Dharma Masters, and Good Advisors:
My name is Yang Li-jun, and I would like to tell you a story
that my daughter's friend shared with her.
During her time management class, the
professor placed a bottle on the table. He then took out a
fist-sized marble that could just squeeze past the opening
of the container. When the professor placed the rock into
the container, he asked his students, "Is the bottle full
"Yes," the students answered
"Really?" the professor asked with a
smile on his face. He then took out a bag of pebbles from
under the table and poured them into the bottle. After
shaking the container a bit, he poured more in. He then
asked his students, "Tell me, is the bottle full now?" His
students didn't dare to answer too quickly this time.
Finally, one student hesitantly responded
in a faint voice, "Maybe it's not completely full." "Very
good!" the professor commented and took out another bag of
sand and slowly poured it into the bottle. After he was
finished, he asked his students again, "Tell me, is the
bottle full now?"
Everyone answered confidently, "It's not
full." This time, all the students had learned their lesson.
"Excellent!" The professor complimented the students. After
the compliments, the professor then took a large glass of
water from under the table and poured it into the bottle
that seemed already full of a marble, pebbles, and sand. The
professor asked the student in all earnestness, "What
important lesson have we learned from the above?"
After a period of silence, a student who
thought himself intelligent answered, "No matter how busy we
are and how busy our schedule is, if pressed, we are able to
do more." The student was pleased with himself, thinking,
"This is a time management course after all."
The professor nodded and smiled at this
answer, "Not a bad answer, but this is not the key message
that I was trying to relate to you."
At this point, the professor purposely
stopped and looked everyone in the eyes and said, "The most
important message that I want you to know is that if you
don't put the large marble into the bottle, you may never
have a chance to put it in again."
Have any of you thought about the marbles
in your life? Is it to have an enduring relationship with
the one you love? Is it your religious belief? Education?
Dreams? Goals worth striving for? Being role models for
young people? Preserving some worth-while memories for the
next generation? In other words, we are all great at filling
our container with small pebbles, sand, and water; however,
we always neglect that large marble that is our lifelong
After I heard the story, I thought, "On a
larger scale, this is about planning your life well. On a
smaller scale, this is applicable in every interaction."
With regard to cultivation, I have drifted along for the
last several years so that I have lost my focus. Pebble,
sand, pebble, pebble, marble.... It looks as if I should do
some re-planning before I hit the road!
There's still some time, so I'll talk
about some incidents at the bookstore that left a deep
impression with me. In the last few years, Taiwan has
published and is selling a lot of Buddhist storybooks for
children that are rich with pictorial illustrations.
Currently, there are about twenty in circulation, such as
The Life of the Buddha, Liberating Life, The Buddha's
Teachings fr his Disciples, A Simple Explanation of the
Buddha Speaks the Amitabha Sutra, The Story of the Great
Master, the Sixth Patriarch, and so on.
Once an Argentinian laywoman purchased A
Simple Explanation of the Buddha Speaks the Amitabha Sutra.
She didn't understand Chinese but as she flipped through the
book she happily told me, "Such beautiful illustrations. My
family and friends will enjoy the stories just by looking at
During the Chinese New Year, many
laypeople from San Francisco and San Jose selected many
illustrated storybooks. One customer who had made a purchase
said, "The kids like it." He picked out more than a dozen
books, saying that these were the best gifts for children.
Since kids don't have too many opportunities to read
Chinese, these allow them to learn about the Buddhadharma
and practice Chinese (with the help of phonetics). They're
One day, a Westerner came wanting to
purchase images of the three sages. He had lived and taught
English in Taipei for more than twelve years, He was fairly
fluent in conversational Chinese, but had some difficulty
reading Chinese. He had studied the Buddhadharma for many
years and wanted to find a good teacher with whom to
undertake monastic training. He took refuge with several
good masters, including the Venerable Master at Banqiao,
Taipei, in 1993. He said that he really respects and admires
the Venerable Master. He had been to the City of 10,000
Buddhas once, but the Venerable Master Hua had already
entered the stillness by then (I told him that the Venerable
Master is present everywhere). He really likes the Venerable
Master's teachings and wondered if I could help him with
learning more about Buddhism.
He helps to translate at another temple.
He found the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association's simple
explanations of Sutras in English immensely helpful. He
believes that the publications of these books are of
terrific help to Westerners in learning the Buddhadharma. I
introduced some new books to him, which he took away with a
smile on his face .