On March 29th, after finishing eating in the dining hall, I was about to put my bowl and chopsticks away. There was a young American Upasaka who walked by behind me. He was tripped by my chair and then the next thing I heard was “ta-lung,” his food was all over the floor; besides curry potatoes, there was some unknown green vegetable in it. Because I did not know him, I froze for a short moment and could not decide if I should help him pick up the food. I was thinking, “Maybe he knows how to take care of this properly.” After a short while, he came back with a broom and dustpan. He quickly swept the food away into the dustpan. Few minutes later, I heard the Venerable Master’s voice from the speaker saying, “Treasure the possession of the temple, just as if you would your eyeballs.”
I have been a teacher for many years. The spirit and attitude of students today are not quite the same as those students in the early days. I recall one time there was a student who dropped a ball of rice onto the floor. Because I was a teacher, I did not hesitate to help take care of the matter. Then another student came to me and said, “Teacher, I will take care of it.” He picked the rice up from the floor and ate it right away. Because his action was so quick, I did not have a chance to ask him to rinse it first. I can never forget that incident.
The next day, I was listening to the Venerable Master’s commentary on the Nirvana Sutra at home. There was one section in which he talked about Dharma Master Ji Chan in the Ching dynasty. He was a poet-monk, very good at writing poetry. However, he was originally very unintelligent. When he first started living in seclusion in the mountains, there was an old monk who wanted to teach him how to write poetry. A few years later, he still couldn’t manage to write one. The master was a big eater. He always ate a lot. During that time, the temple raised a lot of dogs. He always fed the dogs with the leftovers. Sometimes there was so much leftover, even the dogs could not finish it. One time, the Abbot saw that the dogs ate rice from a big pot. The Abbot then scolded him, “That’s how you waste th possssions of the ‘permanently-dwelling’. Are you not afraid of karma? Go finish that rice.” Master Ji Chan used water to rinse the rice left in the pot by the dog, and ate it. After he finished eating it, his wisdom suddenly unfolded and was rid of attachment. Since then, he became very good in writing poems. After telling the story, the Venerable Master said, “You need to know how to attain the truth by cultivating the Way. Do not put all your effort into merely getting the false.” As I reflected on these dharmas, I began to feel regretful of my remissness in the past.
We should all ask ourselves, “How can we attain the truth?” Everyone’s response probably will be different. I feel that those who cultivate and bring forth the Bodhi resolve, need to have extreme determination to uphold their practice, whenever facing their own attachments and afflictions. Only then will they be able to align with their initial vow. Otherwise, the more they dwell on differentiations, the less they will be able to bring about the Bodhi resolve.
Here I would like to share a story with you. There was a temple in China. One day, people were having their meal and it was about to end. Most of the Dharma Masters had already finished their meal. There was a guest monk who seemed unable to finish his meal. One of the resident Dharma Masters came to check on him. The guest monk said, “There is sand in the porridge. It’s very time consuming to pick them out from my bowl.” The Dharma Master took the alms-bowl and drank all the porridge. And then he held the empty alms-bowl and asked the guest monk, “Where is the sand?”
Everyday we eat things and we should have a philosophy of eating. In wearing clothes we should have an understanding awareness of wearing clothes. And in sleeping we should have wisdom with respect to sleeping. If you don’t understand these, then it will be easy for you to go to the extremes of having too much or too little. If you are able to do these things in a proper way, it is still a very ordinary matter. Eating, wearing clothese and sleep are the three essentials ofr our daily life, so we should understand them all. However, it’s not for sure that everyone can do them in the right way. Because people do not do them in the right way, they give rise to faults.
─ Venerable Master Hua