I remember Maitreya Bodhisattva had a verse that was spoken very well. I’d like to introduce it to you. What did Maitreya Bodhisattva say? He said:
The Old Fool wears tattered robes,
Fills his belly with tasteless food,
And mends his clothes to fend off the cold-
Letting things take their natural course.
Should someone scold the Old Fool,
The Old Fool says, “fine”.
Should someone hit the Old Fool,
He lies down to go to sleep.
Spit right in my face,
I let it dry by itself.
I thus save my energy,
And also give you no trouble.
This kind of Paramita,
Is the most precious of wonders.
Knowing this news,
Why worry about not attaining the Path?
He said I am an old fool wearing tattered robes, which have been mended again and again as it was being worn out. However, these tattered robes shield me from the cold regardless of how bitter the weather is. So, it says,
The Old Fool wears tattered robes, / Fills his belly with tasteless food. He says that eating is merely to cure the sickness of hunger. As long as this illness disappears, it is not necessary to eat flavorful or tasty food. That’s why it says, “Fills his belly with tasteless food.” Tasteless food here refers to white rice. Fills his belly indicates that he just eats enough food to get his fill.
And mends his clothes to fend off the cold. I mend the rips in my clothes to ward off the cold.
Letting things take their natural course. I take things as they come, and let them go when they pass.
Should someone scold the Old Fool, when someone comes to reprimand the old fool, the Old Fool says, “fine”. He says, “Very good, very good, you did a good job berating me.”
Should someone hit the Old Fool, he lies down as if to go to sleep. He lets the person hit him all he wants.
Spit right in my face, I let it dry by itself. If you spit in my face, I will not wipe it off with my hand or a towel.
I thus save my energy, I just let it dry on my face to save the energy of wiping something off my face.
And also give you no trouble. You don’t have any more trouble. When you see that I don’t even care when you spit on me, you cease to be afflicted. Therefore, it then says:
This kind of Paramita, / Is the most precious of wonders. This is a jewel within the wonderful.
Knowing this news, if you know about this, why worry about not attaining the Path? If you have this kind of strength from patience, you will for sure realize the Path and become a Buddha.
Due to this verse spoken by Maitreya Bodhisattva, the Bhikshus at Gold Mountain Monastery in America are willing to cultivate
dhutanga, ascetic practices. Dhutanga is a Sanskrit term that means “striking up one’s spirits” – which is to diligently practice observing the moral precepts, meditative concentration and transcendent wisdom in order to rid oneself of greed, anger and delusion. Because of this, the people in Gold Mountain Monastery only eat one meal a day, which is taken at noon time; no breakfast or dinner are consumed. This one meal is not hearty or tasty like the various kinds of dishes we had today or yesterday. At Gold Mountain Monastery, we only have one dish, which is neither Chinese nor Western. We only put in a little salt and oil; the Chinese vegetables we use are only half-cooked so that it is a bit like salad. However, the vegetables, prepared in the Chinese style, are very plain. Thus, it is said, “Napa cabbage simmered with plain water is bland and tasteless.” This is what we eat once a day. I don’t care if you laugh at me. The vegetables we eat are discarded by the market and later, salvaged from the garbage can by us. We bring them back, wash them and eat them. Why do we do this? We don’t do this intentionally or perhaps it’s done on purpose. It could be because of economic reasons and time constraints, since we are too busy. Due to these factors, we eat this kind of tasteless food.
What I just said implies that American monks have no food to eat. I will tell you another case that American monks have no house to live in. When we first started at the Waverly Place, the monastery was small and only one story. It was about 50 feet by 20 feet. How many people lived on this floor? More than thirty. How could one floor fit so many people? It’s because Americans take delight in cultivating ascetic practice. Everyone had a wooden box that was situated on the roof-top of the building. At night, they would sit in the wooden box to sleep. This is the case that American monks had no house to live in. Behind our Buddha Hall, there is an area that is about 3 feet by 6 feet. He (Heng Yo) built a hut there and lived in it for three or four years. Therefore, people nicknamed him “Immortal”. Don’t you think it’s funny? These are American monks who have no place to live.
There is another funny story. What is it? It’s that American monks have no clothes to wear. You say you don’t believe it since America is abundant with material goods and money. How is it possible that American monks have no clothes to wear? I am telling you the honest truth—no lie. Why didn’t American monks have clothes to wear? Not only do they not have clothes to wear, but also no pants, either. You see, how pitiful they are! There is actually a reason for this. The causes and conditions came together because Heng Ju resolved to do a pilgrimage of “three steps, one bow”. Heng Yo was his dharma protector, who did not only carry the luggage but also would walk one hundred steps ahead and continue bowing in place right there. After one hundred, two hundred, three hundred or five hundred bows, Heng Ju would catch up with him. He would then shoulder the luggage, walk another one hundred steps, and continue bowing in place again. They bowed in this fashion for a few days. When they set out for this pilgrimage, they didn’t prepare extra clothes or pants. What they wore at ordinary times was already ripped and mended to start with. After a few days of bowing, he told Heng Ju, “I can’t continue my work.” “What? You can’t continue? You mean you are going on a strike?” “No, it’s my pants. They are useless now since they are ripped,” said Heng Yo.
To be continued