A: DM Yin: Monastic life is really focused, so there aren’t so many outflows. Even in our schools at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas with children running around, it is still really peaceful. I feel very fulfilled by the work I do. Just doing any kind of work for Buddhism is much more fulfilling than when I was working for a computer software company—that made me very afflicted. Now I just feel a lot of joy.
A: DM Sure: It is peeling off another layer. You leave home by getting rid of, by subtraction. You get rid of layers and layers of covering, affliction, ignorance, attachment, desire, false thoughts, concepts, and prejudices, one by one by one. You peel them away. Leaving home is intensely social. You enter a community, and you can go through days where you don’t talk to the person next to you, but there is a bonding [in cultivation].
Q: What is it like without Shr Fu (Venerable Master Hua)?
A: DM Sure: Some say he is not gone. Some have dreams of him. When I am feeling especially mindful, there is a very interesting wind blowing, but it is very funny. The Abbot is very amazing.
Every single person who was near to the Abbot had these amazing stories. The Abbot was very clear about not talking about psychic powers. With infinite selflessness, he gave heart to people. There was a story of the Abbot bowing behind us in the red robe (Three Steps, One Bow). I didn’t see that, but the highway patrol did. Many people have stories like that.
A: DM Chih: I think he knew early on that he had some physical illness. He spent the last decade arranging the systems, and how they would function. He was very conscious of money, because of what he had seen in the past. So he spent a lot of energy teaching us how to handle that in a proper monastic way. He also set up the schools and the training system. He would send us to our “home away” from him, and he would stay in touch with us by being on the phone all the time until we got into our groove, and understood whatever it was.
His leaving was climactic for the whole association. People watched us and figured that we would fall and wouldn’t carry on. But his virtue, hard work, foresight, and dedication allowed us to continue.
Q: How does the regimentation in monastic life help you?
A: DM Liang: Part of joining the community is that you can be a part of the community. However, there is a certain amount of self that you have to give up in order to cultivate. The regimentation sort of takes care of that. It helps to keep you from straying onto some divergent path that could be dangerous for you.
A: DM Sure: Each left-home person has one bowl and three robes. And you don’t change the color of the robe. You look just like the person in front of you—really the same. It is a wonderful system because there is no room for your ego to assert your own little individuality. You can totally relax and let the external go.
Q: How do you survive over the years and not return to lay-life?
A: DM Liang: I think we were able to pass the test.
A: DM Sure: It may have something to do with past vows. It goes from day to day, minute to minute, thought to thought.
A: DM Chih: There are external pressures within the community (or which I perceive), or my internal pressures. I usually use an expedient. I say, “Well, I’ll think about that a year from now and mark it on my calendar, then see how it goes.” If I am still thinking about it a year from now, then I’ll decide. It usually turns out that I forget the anniversary, or I laugh at how big it seemed when it wasn’t really big. Or I would be interested in how it got resolved. So that is a simple technique that I use.
A: DM Sure: Bow a lot.
Q: How do you keep track of all your precepts?
A: DM Chih: We recite them twice a month. A lot of the smaller ones are layered into the five big categories. When we study them, we will make charts and see how they are variations of the same behavior pattern. Also, the community reminds you when you step out of line. We have meetings with each other to examine these. These meetings can also involve the lay people. The idea is to help us remain harmonious.
A: DM Sure: Precepts are liberations, not limitations.
Q: Who takes care of your health? Do you have a doctor? Health insurance?
A: DM Chih: People donate into our medical fund. Voluntary doctors come regularly on a monthly basis to treat us and we can also go to them in between their visits. The only thing we pay for are tests.
A: DM Liang: We have not found one medical plan that fits everyone’s preferences because different people prefer different treatments.