I have had a lot of very strange experiences. Once, when I was Manchuria, there were white fox spirits—830-some white foxes took refuge with me. This is probably very scary to hear. They had waited three years. Three years earlier, the fox spirit had told people, “In three years I’m going to take refuge with the Triple Jewel. My teacher is coming to take me as a disciple.” No one knew who his teacher was. He was a fox spirit that helped cure sick people for free. As soon as he treated an illness, the person would get better. So he would say, “In three years’ time, I will be parting company with all of you. I’ll be going with my teacher to cultivate the Way.” Three years later, I arrived, and 830-some foxes came to take refuge. After taking refuge, I sent them to Leita (Thunder Pagoda) Mountain in Manchuria to cultivate the Way.
There are many bizarre incidents, which all of you have forgotten, and I have forgotten as well. While you all are doing a Buddha recitation session, I’m doing an eating session. Yesterday, the dumplings were pretty good and I ate a bit too many. That meal left my belly extremely stuffed, so that I wasn’t able to move about after eating. I just lay there with a very uncomfortable belly for two or three hours, before I could move again. I feel like I took a big loss. Today, I was very careful about what I ate. I didn’t eat as many vegetables or as much rice, and so I don’t feel so much discomfort. Now that I’m getting old, my stomach complains that it doesn’t want to eat so much. Since I had so much trouble yesterday, I was more cautious today. Somebody kept serving me more food, and it was too much, so I got upset and told him straight, “If you all serve me such good food, I’m not coming back next year. That’s for sure. If I come back and eat too well, I’ll have problems. What’s more, I don’t have too many blessings, and so as soon as I eat good food, I’m bound to have problems. At Gold Mountani Monastery, we eat plain boiled cabbage every day. We get vegetables out of the garbage dump, bring them back, cook them, and eat them, and I have no problems. That’s because we don’t eat such good food. Being a miserable person, I have to eat miserable food. The reason I won’t come back next year is that you serve me such good food. I need to stay away from delicious food, rather than staying away from ghosts and spirits while respecting them, as the saying goes! Do you all understand?
You shouldn’t think that when I come back, you should serve me milk and other drinks to make me happy. The more delicious food there is, the less I want to return. Why is it that when you serve me good food, it makes me not want to come back next year? And if I say I won’t return next year, will I come back the year after next? I don’t know, because it’s not yet the year after next; next year’s business can be predicted this year, but you have to wait until next year to predict business for the year after next. Originally I was also willing to eat good food, but the more I eat the faster I will die; if I eat too much good food I will use up all my blessings, and so I will die earlier. That is why I eat one meal a day, slowly eating what I need, so I can live a little longer; although I am not necessarily attached to the attribute of a life span, coming into this world to teach and transform living beings I need this bit of energy to speak to everybody. So I eat well in order to maintain my health. As long I as can survive, that’s good enough. As it is said, “keep a distance from good food.” If the food is too good-tasting, keep your distance from it. The word “good” can be read in the fourth tone to mean “to like,” and so food that you like should be kept at a distance. It can also be pronounced in the third tone, meaning “good” and you should also keep your distance from food that is good; if you don’t distance yourself, the food will not be able to fit in your stomach and you will be unable to move. So as your teacher, I teach you not just Buddhadharma but also worldly dharma. Worldly dharma says not to eat too much! All of my disciples know to eat only until eighty percent full, and not completely full. However when I, who had taught my disciples this way, came to Hong Kong I got snookered and ate too much; so now, when I’m going back, I will be ashamed to face these dutiful disciples of mine in America. For the disciples who don’t listen, it doesn’t matter; but if those who did obey say, “Oh! The Master tells us not to eat so much, and then you go to Hong Kong, you eat until you cannot move!” How disgraceful is that? How could that be done? I am now going to tell all of you honestly, see those American disciples of mine? You can turn to them and say, “Your teacher cannot even limit his own intake of food, don’t you learn this manner of getting cheated and taken advantage of! You better eat your fill!” See if they have faith or not. If they have faith, they will continue to be moderate in what they eat, and eat only eighty percent full, and not a hundred percent.
When cultivating, you must watch what you eat. If you are careless, or eat too much, then you will easily have stomach problems. If you don’t eat enough, you will also easily have stomach problems. When you have problems with your stomach, then your body will not be healthy; when you are unhealthy, no matter how much you try to improve your health, it will be difficult to recover. So all of you cultivators must pay special attention to what you eat, but also not pay attention. How do you pay special attention? Be careful not to eat so much, and not to eat so well. How should you not pay attention? Do not be attached to sight, sound, scent, taste, touch, and consciousness; do not be turned by food. If you are not attached to sight, sound, scent, taste, touch, and consciousness, then there will not be so many distinctions. When there aren’t so many distinctions, eating is like taking medicine, only used to cure the body’s disease of hunger; when this hunger disease is cured, then you can study the Buddhadharma.
If you cannot do without eating, the Buddha ate one meal a day, and right now at Gold Mountain Monastery all of the monastics and the majority of the laity eat one meal a day. Now, constantly studying Buddhadharma, I admit that my Sutra lectures are not good, and they are also incorrect, but there are still many people who are willing to listen to me speak poorly, incorrectly, just like all of you, it doesn’t matter if this teacher speaks well or not, when it is time for the lecture we all joyfully attend. We come to support the lectures as the influential assembly. We come often perhaps not just to hear the Master speak well, but to support the assembly, like all these people. When they speak they all speak better than I do, but they are willing to listen to me speak, and I do not want to speak too much today. In the future don’t stuff me until I am dead in Hong Kong; then you are a filial disciple. But to add a word, also do not starve your teacher to death in Hong Kong, right? If you starve the teacher to death, you are not being a filial disciple.
To be continued