We all live in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB), yet how big is the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas? I don’t know if everybody knows. Since I work at the front desk in the Administrative Office, visitors often ask me this question.
Another question they ask frequently is: “How many people can live at the CTTB?” My answer is that CTTB is about 488 acres, and most of them would respond, “Oh, that’s very big!” However, most people still don’t have a clear idea of how big it really is.
In 1994, a visitor came and the Venerable Master told me to take him on a tour. He asked me the same question, “How big is CTTB?” I told him that it’s 488 acres. He asked, “How many people can live here?” I told him, “When it was the state hospital, there were a few thousand in total. Now, there are 200 or so.” After the tour, I asked if he thought CTTB was big. His answer, which was given from a different perspective, was quite interesting. Even after ten years, I still remember his answer. He said, “The size of CTTB depends on the capacity of the residents here. If people have a big ego, then with even less than 10 people, they could fill up the entire CTTB.” In that case, others cannot come in to cultivate as there would be no space left for them. He continued, “Don’t think that CTTB is a big piece of land — 488 acres, and many buildings that can house lots of people. It’s not necessarily the case.”
After the tour, when I had a chance to see the Master, I asked for his comments. The Master said, “What he said was right.” Throughout the years, I always tried to reflect on myself and found that a lot of the time I had a big ego and was convinced that my own thoughts and opinions were right. Then the capacity of my mind became smaller and smaller until I could not include others. I found fault with and looked down on others. In those instances, I think I made it very difficult for others to come to live here.
At the end of 1984 during my first visit to CTTB, the first sentence the Master said to me was, “You know, people at CTTB are all small-minded.” For the past twenty years, I have heard and pondered that comment clearly in my mind. The Master said, “I’m a little ant, or a little mosquito.” If every one of us is like a little ant or a little mosquito, then how many people can we house in CTTB? Many indeed. However, if we can’t tolerate others’ faults or include others, then CTTB will be able to accommodate just a few.
There is an old Chinese saying, “One can row a boat in a prime minister’s stomach.” This means that the measure of his mind is so great that a big boat can go on a voyage in his stomach. Maitreya Bodhisattva also said, “My big belly can endure all the unendurable things in the world.” Thus, Maitreya Bodhisattva has extremely broad tolerance for others too. The Master said that if we always look at others’ faults, it’s actually our own karmic suffering that has not ended.
In my college years, I majored in architecture and had to do designs for homework. Every time when a design was done and put on paper, I would feel very good while looking at it. However the next morning, when I looked at the same drawing, I would feel, “This is not good. This needs to be changed. It looks ugly.” The more I looked at it, the more corrections I would need to make on the same drawing. This happened every time. Similarly, I found that what I felt was right in the previous year, would not be so right the next.. Given this situation, I sometimes reflect: “Why should I argue with others? What I think is right today, may not be right the next day.” Our thoughts change.
We work together with the great assembly. Mostly, I think my opinions are right; it’s not okay for others to not agree with me. Therefore, when doing things I have attachments and try my best to get others to do things my way. If they are not willing to do things my way, then I get upset, because they don’t agree with me. That’s not right, actually. Working together, we should cherish the affinities we have and work together as a group. We should practice tolerance, respect, and understanding for the others who are working with us. As it says in the Analects of Confucius: “A friend is someone who is straightforward, trustworthy and knowledgeable.” I believe that if every one of us can expand the scope of our mind, then the CTTB will become truly great!