During the summer lecture series, thirty some American college students came to attend. Some of them were studying for their master degrees and, others were doctoral students. They all came to listen to the
Shurangama Sutra lecture series. During the ninety-six days of the session, the daily schedule lasted from five o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night. The only break during the week was Saturday afternoon. Otherwise, there was not even five minutes of rest as the sutra was being lectured. In the beginning, I lectured once a day. After ten or so days, I felt that I would not be able to finish lecturing the
Shurangama Sutra at this rate, so I began giving two lectures a day, each lecture being two hours long for a total of four hours a day. After another ten or so days, I felt that the
Shurangama Sutra was still too long and I would not be able to finish, so I started lecturing three times a day. During the final month, I still felt I couldn’t finish, so I gave four lectures a day. I myself gave four lectures each day. Throughout all of history, probably no Dharma Master has ever lectured on a sutra four times in a single day. The reason I worked so hard giving four lectures a day was that I had to finish lecturing the
Shurangama Sutra in the ninety-six days of the summer session. After the session was over and the sutra had been completely lectured, all the students returned to wherever they came from to resume their studies. Later, some of these students who had been studying in Seattle transferred to other colleges in San Francisco and took up residence at the Buddhist Lecture Hall. That way they were able to listen to the sutra lectures every day and make offerings. Eventually, some of them left the home life to become monastics. In the first group there were five monastics: three Bhikshus and two Bhikshunis. In 1969, they all went to Taiwan to receive the precepts.
Those who left the home life with me do not gain any advantage. They all have to undergo suffering. If you want to leave home with me, you may do so if you are not afraid of suffering. If you fear suffering, you had better not leave home with me. If you leave home with me, first of all, you may not have food to eat. Sometimes there may be no food to eat, or no robes to wear, or no place to live. If you are afraid of not having enough food, clothing, and shelter, you should not leave home. If you are not afraid of going without food, clothing, and shelter, you may leave home with me. My disciples who left home with me in the United States all eat one meal a day, wear clothing of very poor quality, and dwell in very simple and so-so quarters. They do not have nice places to live. However, they are able to live that way.
I accepted those disciples who felt that these conditions were okay, and so five people joined the monastic order. Previously, on New Year’s Day of that year, there were 30 some people, mostly Westerners, and since I planned to hold a lecture series on the
Shurangama Sutra that summer, I said, “This year, American Buddhism will blossom. How many flowers will bloom? Five lotus flowers.” At that time, most people did not know what I meant, but after the five people entered the monastic life, they exclaimed, “Oh! Our teacher announced on New Year’s Day that five lotus flowers would bloom in Buddhism. Now we have five monastics, so they must represent the five lotuses.”
After that, more people came to join the monastic order, little by little. Everyone who enters the monastic order under me must eat only one meal a day. They don’t eat in the morning or evening. After they are able to endure this first condition and not be afraid of hunger, the second requirement is not to fear cold. In addition, I did not allow them to rest during the daytime. We rose at 3:30 in the morning to do morning recitation at 4:00 a.m. They could not retire until 10:00 p.m. This kind of lifestyle occurred the same everyday. After morning recitation, they would sit in meditation for two hours, and after that they would all study the sutras and work on translating the sutras from Chinese into English. At 5:30 in the evening, they would attend language class. There were different language classes everyday. Sometimes there would be a Chinese class, sometimes a Japanese class, sometimes a Sanskrit class, sometimes a German class, sometimes a French class, sometimes a Spanish class, sometimes a Portuguese class. In general, we had plenty of language classes. Why did we want to study so many languages? This was the preparation for developing talented people who would be able to travel to various countries to propagate the Dharma in the future. From morning to night, there was no idle time and no time to rest.
That’s why, if people wrote letters to me when I was in the United States, I did not write back because I simply had no time. My way of teaching differs from that of other Dharma Masters. No matter where I go to give a lecture or a Dharma talk, I always insist on having my disciples or those younger than me talk first, and I speak at the end. Why? I wish to promote young people and give them an opportunity to improve.
When I lecture for you, and when you study Buddhism and take refuge with the Triple Jewel, you have to make a sincere resolve. Otherwise, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will pay no attention to you. You have to put your true heart into it. What is the true heart? It is an attitude of not fearing suffering and not fearing hunger. If you are afraid of going hungry, your heart is not yet true. It’s okay if you are afraid of not being able to eat. When we hold a Buddha recitation session, each of you should bring forth the resolve of a Bodhisattva. It shouldn’t be like in the past when you ate several meals a day. You come to a Buddha recitation session and yet you aren’t the least bit sincere. You must bring forth your true heart. When you do so, then you will no longer be hungry. What are you afraid of? What’s the big deal if you eat one meal less? Eating one meal less won’t hurt you that much. Eating one more meal won’t make you that much fatter. Even if you get thinner, you can offer your flesh to the Buddha! You can offer your blood to the Buddha! That’s what I call being true!
During those six years, I had no robes to wear, because my robes became so tattered. When I went to the United States, I didn’t get any new upper garments made, nor did I get any pairs of shoes, nor did I get any robes made. Thus I had no clothes to wear. During those first six or seven years, I just got by with whatever I had. After I arrived in the United States, I changed my name to “The Monk in the Grave.” “Du Lun” was dead. (The Venerable master was known as Master Du Lun in China and Hong Kong.) Only I could talk about him, but as you can see my disciples don’t know who he is because I stopped using that name after I got to the United States. I changed my name to “The Monk in the Grave” and used that name for six years. Later the Elder Layman Jie Jun-ru went to the United States to look for me. The first time he asked where I was, I paid no attention to him. He asked, “Is Dharma Master Du Lun here?” I told him, “He died.” He exclaimed, “What? When did he die?” I said, “He died four years ago.” Looking as if he was about to cry, he said, “Alas! I have no affinities with him. I wished to come see him, but now I cannot. What is your relationship to him? Are you his disciple?” I said, “Yes, I’m his disciple, or you could also say I’m his teacher. What do you think?” I continued, “I teach him English, he teaches me Chinese, so both of us are both teachers and disciples. We do not discriminate between ourselves.” As there was going to be a Buddhist ceremony the next day, I invited him to come for a vegetarian meal. A vegetarian meal in the United States is not like a vegetarian meal in Hong Kong or Taiwan. It is half raw and half cooked. We cook a dish of vegetables and tofu all mixed together, without any seasoning. I invited him and his son to a meal. During the meal, the son saw my picture with the words “Dharma Master Du Lun” written across the top. After he looked up and saw this, he said to his elderly father, “This is Dharma Master Du Lun!” Only then did his elderly father realize who I was. After that he treated me very well and whenever he came to the United States he would come to visit me. The first thing he would do was to visit me. He didn’t go anywhere else.
And so when I first came to the United States, none of you knew my whereabouts. In 1968, you heard that many Americans had come. After they came, I lectured the
Shurangama Sutra for them.
When I first started lecturing the Shurangama Sutra, I gave one lecture a day. After more than ten days, I felt that at that rate I would not be able to finish lecturing the sutra within the 96 days of the summer vacation. I had planned to finish the sutra over the summer because that was when everyone was on vacation. However, after ten or so days, I compared the number of days to the length of the sutra and did not think I could finish the sutra in that time. And so I began lecturing twice a day for a total of four hours. Later on I felt I still didn’t have enough time, so I started lecturing three times a day. During the last month, I gave four lectures a day. All of you only think, “Our teacher has taken many American disciples!” It wasn’t so easy to take them. In order to inspire them, I had to do what others could not do. In 1968, the day after New Year’s Day, at a time when there were no American monks or nuns, I announced to everyone, “Buddhism is going to blossom in America this year! What kind of flower will blossom? Five lotus flowers will blossom. Starting with these five, in the future there will be thousands and millions of lotuses, all of which will emerge from these original five.” After I made that announcement, people waited to see these lotuses. When fall arrived and the summer session was over, five people entered the monastic life—two Bhikshunis and three Bhikshus—and then everyone understood: “Oh! The five lotuses meant five people who would enter the monastic life and get ordained.” I didn’t pay any attention. They could say whatever they wanted. They could say they were peonies, or chrysanthemums, or whatever, but those were the causes and conditions.
To be continued