Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and good advisors, Amitabha!
My name is Lau Guo-Fu, and I would like to share with you some of the things that I have learned at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB).
Before I came to CTTB, I had a friend who was afraid of getting fat. He knew that when people get fat, they might get sick. Consequently, he read a book. After reading the book, he started telling everyone, “Don’t be too thrifty with your food; you should know that wasting food is good. When you throw away the food on the table, you should feel very comfortable.” This was what he said to people.
When I came to CTTB, I received a series of trainings from my good advisors. When I first started to work, I followed a layperson named Guo-Jian. He told me, “The Venerable Master once told me this, ‘When you work, do not waste nails. Otherwise, when you work in the future, you’ll have everything but nails.’”
Some time ago, someone told me that he often went to see buildings like the Auto Shop, Laundry Building, etc., in CTTB, where a lot of valves, pipes, and other pieces of junk, wood, and metal are stored. He said, “You know what? Do you know how CTTB has survived? It’s because of all these things! It’s because of all these rusted junk and broken metal pieces!” I thought, why didn’t anyone want to buy the property before the Buddhist Association did? It’s because this property is too old! It is difficult to maintain CTTB, because many things in CTTB are old-dated. Old-dated things are so hard to buy nowadays; you can’t find them in the stores. So, how do we maintain CTTB? We use these old things to replace the broken parts. If you wanted to replace them with new parts, you may have to change the whole system and buy or construct new equipment or structures. Therefore, CTTB relies on all this junk. This was told to me by Mr. Kellerman.
Two days ago while listening to a taped lecture, I heard the Venerable Master ask about who had thrown away his paper cup. Someone admitted that he had thrown it away. The Venerable Master told him that that was wrong, because if someone needed a cup, he could have used that paper cup. Guo Sun Shr told me that he had seen the Venerable Master use a wax cup for two years. Later on someone threw it away. The Venerable Master told that person, “I have not finished using it!” The Venerable Master also talked about how in the past [at the original Gold Mountain Monastery on 15th Street in San Francisco], we got all our food from the discarded food meant for the trash bin from a grocery store. Although we don’t have to search for food from the trash bin anymore, we are not supposed to be wasteful in any case. I think this was a very meaningful Dharma talk.
At CTTB, there are so many good advisors who have followed the Venerable Master for so long, and know CTTB’s tradition. This tradition of not wasting, of being frugal, can be our tradition, because the Venerable Master’s conduct and deeds are our role model.
To some people, a piece of rusted metal is a piece of junk, but to some people, it is a treasure. When I was in the City of the Dharma Realm, I saw an example of this. There was a box on the roof that was part of the fire-fighting equipment. The Fire Department told us, “This box is broken; you have to replace it. However, you cannot get a new one like this anymore. Therefore, you have to replace the whole safety valve. It will cost you approximately $900 plus tax.” I thought, this was too expensive, so when someone said to me, “Let’s try making one ourselves!” I made a box out of scrap metal and showed it to the Fire Department and they approved it. So we used that handmade box to replace the broken box. Using that piece of junk, we saved $1,000!
Similar situations often happen here at CTTB. By using the broken junk and rusted metal, we’ve saved a lot of money.
There are a lot of people here at CTTB who work to recycle trash. This has greatly lessened the amount of trash in CTTB. However, we must not only recycle, but we must also reuse! Reusing things is also a good way to keep us from wanting new things and detesting old ones. That attitude would cause our desire to become insatiable; we’d want to buy this and buy that, and that is not good.
I think that the CTTB represents the Proper Dharma; it is the Proper Dharma within the Dharma-Ending Age. There are two causes for the Proper Dharma to remain in the world. First, the four assemblies should sincerely cultivate and strictly uphold the moral precepts. Second, we must utilize our resources wisely. Why must we do this? Because we want to prolong the life of the Proper Dharma.
CTTB has to ration the amount of money used each day, because the money from donations does not come easily. We cannot take advantage of situations, or else we will lose our principles; so, the best way is to not waste anything at all, and wisely use the resources we have. If we can use something, then let’s use it to its full extent. If something is ours, and we waste it, that will use up our blessings. Wasting the monastery’s property is essentially equivalent to destroying the Proper Dharma. This is my view as a layperson. Amitabha!