Bhikshuni Heng Yun: Hello, elders of various monasteries and Buddhist friends! The
Flower Adornment Sutra is recited daily at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB). The state of this Sutra is perfectly interpenetrating and unobstructed. CTTB is heading in that direction. How is that?
First, CTTB is an international monastic community with cultivators from countries around the world. There are more than six nationalities in the Sangha alone. Although everyone has a different background and distinct customs, Westerners have accepted some Asian traditions while Asians have accepted some of the traditions in the West. Everyone gets along amicably.
Secondly, there is equality in education. Everyone is each other’s student and teacher. There are Ph.D’s who know four languages and there are those with very little education, including cultivators who have not had elementary education. Those with more advanced education teach the less well-educated, while the less well-educated share their life experiences and skills with the community. I might be the teacher in one course, but a student in another. We are all teachers and students and help each along the path of practice.
Third, there is no hierarchy at the City. Whether big or small, young or old, rich or poor, there is equality in what people eat, wear, use, live in, and work on.
Fourth, CTTB integrates the strengths of the cultures of the East and West. Seeing their technological achievements, Asians admire the material civilization of the West and wish to learn from them. However, they only emulate the superficialities and fail to adopt Westerners’ diligent scholarship and their forthright and impartial spirit. On the other hand, Westerners are tired of the alienation and hollowness of materialism. They want to learn from Asians. Unfortunately, they seem to misconstrue what they learn. For example, their interpretation of Laozi was to live like hippies. They put their energy into superficialities. At CTTB, the essence of Chinese culture, the principles of ethics and virtue and Confucian ideas, have been truthfully introduced to the West. Personally speaking, I feel that being surrounded by these ideas about virtue and ethics has taught me so much more than my formal schooling.
Fifth, CTTB is very accepting. CTTB is a Way-place that allows people to improve themselves and correct their shortcomings. You are welcome as long as you are a cultivator who sincerely studies Buddhism, obeys the precepts, and follows the guidelines. Not only does CTTB not discriminate against other religions, it respects them. I believe people rarely see a Catholic priest perform Mass in a Buddha Hall, but that occurs at CTTB.
Of course, CTTB isn’t perfect. Since we have very few eminent and senior Sangha members (in terms of years since ordination) to guide us, we inevitably fail to understand some of the traditional ceremonies and rules of Buddhism. In addition, we don’t have enough people. Thus, many things are not done perfectly. We’re all still learning and still need to improve. We’re only able to be there because of the Venerable Master. If we have made any mistakes, please let us know so that we may improve and become even better.
Although I am a monk, it matters to me that the country has good policies and is well governed, so that we may store away all artillery and “let the war horses graze on the southern mountains.” It would be best if we can influence this country so that it would be like it used to be during the days of [sage emperors] Yao and Shun: “A draft blows every five days, and downpour falls every ten days. The wind doesn’t make a sound, and the rain breaks nothing.” Ordinary citizens begin work at sunrise and rest at sunset. I dig a well to drink and till the fields to eat. How does imperial power affect me?” Wouldn’t it be fine if we could influence this country so that it would be that peaceful and everyone would live and work happily.
Unfortunately, we are too caught up in our battles for power and gain. This is a bad sign. We must change this negative situation into a positive one. “The source of muddiness is clarity; movement contains the potential for stillness.” Any trend that reaches its limit will reverse itself. Any misfortune at its extreme will turn into fortune. We shouldn’t forget the virtue of the Chinese, to be frugal and serve our country. Don’t be so wasteful and extravagant. It’s quite pathetic to be extravagant. The money you have earned by calculating day and night and through any means possible is soon lost—spent on drugs, or wasted on lavishness. It’s wrong to be so extravagant. What I say is very important, and I hope that you all will tell your relatives and friends to save a bit. Let’s leave some blessings and leave some things unsaid. To undergo suffering is to end suffering; to enjoy blessings is to end blessings. If you have lots of money, save it to help those who are poor. Don’t be overly lavish. “One meal at a millionaire’s mansion is half a year’s worth of food for a poor man.”
At CTTB we eat vegetables that the market has tossed away. We pick them up, rinse, and eat them. You say, “You cultivators may do that, but we who aren’t cultivators can’t do that. That’s not hygienic.” Won’t you die whether or not the food is hygienic? Monastics at CTTB eat only one meal a day; the food that we renounce is for those who are suffering from hunger. We really do wish to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. What happens to us doesn’t matter. Everyone eats the same vegetarian dishes at CTTB. There are no special dishes for anyone. In addition, many people don’t eat oil and salt. Upon coming here to participate in Guanyin’s Great Compassion Dharma Assembly to Protect the Country and Quell Disasters, several of my disciples complained, saying, “Master, you’re really going to kill us.” I asked, “How?” They said that they don’t get enough to eat and not enough sleep. I said, “How come?” He said, “There’s so much oil and salt. It’s been a long time since we’ve eaten oil and salt. We all vomit and have diarrhea from eating this stuff. Also, we don’t sleep enough and lots of other things that I don’t dare tell you.”
Think about it, everyone. These are clay Bodhisattvas who can’t stand a little hunger, a little thirst, and losing a little sleep. How can we possibly protect the country and quell disasters? How can we hold Guanyin’s Great Compassion Dharma Assembly? That’s so sad. So I told him, “Just grit your teeth and bear it. You might as well starve to death.” We freeze to death standing against the wind; we walk with our chest high while starving to death. Don’t give in to your stomachs. Try to withstand the hunger. The person said that he would try. We’ll try and barely pass to make this Dharma assembly a good one. That’s why I say we’re all clay Bodhisattvas who can’t compete with Taiwan’s local vajra spirit, who is so powerful. We should be ashamed and apologize to everyone in Taiwan because we don’t have the ability, yet we pretend we can quell disasters. I have to stand up for these clay Bodhisattvas, though. At least they can last for a little while before dissolving in the water.
I don’t claim to know how to speak Dharma. I only know how to scold people. Today I talked about how abortion is wrong, playing the lottery is wrong, buying stocks is wrong, being rich is wrong and so is being poor. What’s right, then? There’s nothing that’s right. To me, you’re all correct and I’m wrong. How can I be correct when I only talk about others’ mistakes? Right? We must seek within ourselves. “If others do not return our kindness, we should reflect on ourselves. If we respect others but win no respect in return, we should reflect on our respect. Anything that we do unsatisfactorily, we must reflect and seek within.”
Who understands me? God knows why I say the things I do. Perhaps God doesn’t even want me to speak, thinking, “Really, you’re too stupid. Why do you only say things that people don’t want to hear?” God says, “You’re all good kids. Love God; love everyone. Everyone will also love God.” He says to pray to God, “God, you’re in my heart and I’m in your embrace.” What is this for? This is to be spoiled. Rather than depend on God, we must stand on our own. We have parents, but we shouldn’t depend on them to create our success for us. We must work on it ourselves. We should know how to be good people. I don’t know who’s unhappy with the things I say, but now I would like to invite those people to come up and talk. Whoever isn’t satisfied with me may come up and tell me. Let’s talk face to face.
When we had the United Religions Conference at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, I had suggested that all government officials work for free. That would be the best thing for the world, for the country, and for the populace. The officials would not be corrupt and would avoid bribes. Any country that has officials that are corrupt and accept bribes will not survive, not for long anyway. Everyone knows that a well-managed country has a national government that is fair and unselfish, just and nondiscriminatory, and a leader who is intelligent and wise, whose kindness extends to all citizens. We hope that in the 21st century, Chinese officials will serve as role models for leaders around the world. The Chinese talk about the eight virtues: filial respect, brotherhood, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, and a sense of shame. These eight virtues are fundamental to being human. If we do not forget the eight virtues, then our country will definitely prosper, and we will truly protect the country and quell disasters. If we act according to these virtues, we can be sure that our characters are in good order. Since we deceive no one, no one will deceive us. Still the same line: Do not do unto others what you would not want done to yourself. Don’t place what you don’t want on others. Don’t act like Mao Zedong who believed, “You must do unto others what you would not want done to you.” He would be irked by this.
To be continued