I don’t have any special dharma to speak to you. Even if I spoke something, it would be useless. I would like to talk about making dumplings because Dharma Master Chao-Chen suggested that we make some dumplings today. So, I’d like to tell a story about eating dumplings.
There was once a man whose wife was really good at making dumplings. He invited two guests over to his house for a meal of dumplings. Everyone enjoyed the dumplings and had their fill. Not only did they put the dumplings into their stomach but also “ate them down to the outside of the stomach.”
What is meant by “eating to the outside of the stomach”? They packed the dumplings in a bag and took them home without the host’s permission. One of the guests went home and showed the dumplings to his wife, “Take a look! Try it and see how great the dumplings taste.” The wife ate the dumplings and said, “I know how to make this, too. You should also invite some guests over. I will make dumplings for them!” Consequently, this person also had a few guests over since his wife promised to make dumplings. There were a total of four guests and each was served one dumpling. How big were the dumplings? Each dumpling was as big as a piglet! Including the wife’s share, there were five dumplings. When the dumplings were served, the husband saw them and exclaimed, “Oh, my goodness! My goodness! My goodness! How can you be so stupid; the dumplings are way too big! My friend’s wife’s dumplings were small. Why are yours so big?” His wife heard the words wrong and replied, “Biased? I am not biased! Everyone gets one dumpling!” [Note: The word for “my goodness” rhymes with the word for “biased”.] The husband sighed and said, “Oh, you! You!” The wife thought the husband meant she had no dumpling and replied, “Don’t worry about me, there is one more in the kitchen for me!” The husband exclaimed, “Alas, my destiny, my destiny!” His meaning was, why did his life turn out like this: “I have such a stupid wife!” The wife misunderstood and said, “The dumplings are hard! My dumpling was broiled; it’s even harder than yours.” [Note: The word for “destiny” rhymes with the word for “hard”.]
When we eat, we are done with the food after having had our fill. We should not pay attention to whether the food tastes delicious or not. There was an old cultivator who also wanted to eat some dumplings. He had a dialogue with himself,” O.K., you want some dumplings? I will make you some dumplings!” He used rice bran to make the dough and cilantro as the filling. After he was done, he cooked the dumplings in a steamer. While eating the dumplings, the dialogue continued, “They don’t taste good? Who told you to crave this thing? You craved it and now you think it doesn’t taste good. You will have no more dumplings in the future. I am giving you special treatment and that’s why I made dumplings for you.”
If you don’t take delight in eating and are not so arrogant, you then have some skill in overcoming your desires and disciplining yourself so that you don’t follow your cravings for food. Consequently, you will then not be attached to the forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch and dharmas. You must remember that an Arhat of the first stage does not cling to forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, or dharmas; he is not influenced by the six sense objects.
Anyone who knows that the food tastes good today has not realized the first stage of Arhatship. If you only know that the food fills your stomach and are not aware of its flavors, you have realized the first stage of Arhatship. I will certify you. If you are not at this level, I will not certify you. I will not speak too much today. Whatever food we have today, we will just eat our fill. In Gold Mountain Monastery, people eat only one meal a day. We are done when we eat our fill. We don’t pay attention to what flavors the food has.
To all great virtuous ones, elders, wise teachers and all young old friends!
Why do I address you as young old friends? It’s because you will become old someday and not stay young like this everyday. If you are young like this everyday, I will not address you as young old friends.
When people are young, they should understand that this world turns and turns – it means that we start from birth; then we grow, become mature, get old and then eventually die. Shakyamuni Buddha realized that life is meaningless because he witnessed birth, old age, sickness and death. Because of this, he resolved to renounce the crown and went to the Himalayas to cultivate the Path. I hope all of you young people will make a great vow to serve the world and Buddhism in the future. What I have expounded to you today is Buddhism for youth. Do we eat to live? Or do we live to eat? These are my two questions. Please answer me; then I will say more later...
This great virtuous one had the same opinions as I. Therefore, I don’t need to repeat them. This Dharma Master spoke to you with such great energy. So, I can talk in a lower voice to save some energy. This is what this Dharma Master helped me with.
No one understands very clearly the issue of whether we eat to live or live to eat. Due to a lack of clear understanding, people engage in many deluded activities. If we clearly recognize this issue, we will no longer be confused and deluded in anything we do. This question can be answered easily: people eat to live. If you don’t eat, you will not live. The purpose of living is not simply to eat.
Living to eat is considered very lowly according to this Dharma Master and many other people. The view that we live in order to eat is wrong. It is true that we live to eat; but we also have other work to do. What work is that? We have a great and holy assignment, which is to benefit the entire world. We people eat to live and at the same time, we live to bring benefit to others in the world. We seek to benefit our youth so that they have good jobs and goals. We must create merit for the world, be virtuous towards people, and benefit the entire world. This is the goal for our lives; it is the genuine meaning of our lives. I must tell each of you about this point first. Every one of you young people should clearly recognize your own goal, and then you can create merit, be virtuous towards people, and benefit the whole world. This is my shallow opinion and viewpoint.
We have a saying in Chinese that goes, “the rise and decline of a country is every man’s responsibility.” I would like to change it so that it reads, “the rise and decline of the world is every youth’s responsibility; and the flourishing and decay of Buddhism is the obligation and responsibility of every young person.” Every young person here is entrusted with the responsibility for everything good and bad in this world. All of you young people should see your goals clearly so that we do not just live to eat. Eating is only one part of life and one issue we ought to deal with. However, we ought not to project all of our hopes in life onto eating only. Ordinary people may think that monastics’ sole purpose of life is eating and that they are parasites of society, which is basically a meaningless life. If you can really benefit the world, the human race and all the youth in the world, then life contains genuine meaning and value. Young people should recognize this goal very clearly so that they will not do deluded things. You will not be selfish or self-absorbed. Instead, you will feel obligated to serve the public.
Times have changed. We are in the scientific era where everyone has scientific knowledge, which is not the old-fashioned thinking of the past. If you told people five hundred years that in the future there would be airplanes flying in the sky, everyone would have thought you insane. If you further stated that there would be telephones, television, radio, recorders, and cars and ships powered by gasoline, a few people might have believed you, but certainly the vast majority would not have.
In the present day, even if you don’t declare that we have ships, television, radio and so on, these things are all visible and people will believe this fact. I now want to tell you something that people will not believe.
In the future when the world is more developed, people will be able to travel to the moon without a rocket. People will be able to communicate outside of their houses without telephones. In addition, we will have omnipresent television throughout space in the Dharma Realm; so it will not be necessary to purchase a television, either. Whatever you wish to watch, even from tens of thousands miles away, you will be able to see it. Many people do not believe what I am saying right now. When this fact manifests in the future, you will believe it even if no one tells you to.
“Don’t wait until you’re old to cultivate the Path. The solitary graves are filled with young people.” My young friends, now that you have now learned the Buddhadharma, you should proceed to cultivate. The Verse of Exhortation from Universal Worthy Bodhisattva says, “This day is already done. Our lives are that much less.” He meant that a day has gone by and our life has decreased that much. “We are like fish in an ever-shinking pond; what joy is there in this?” Just like fish in water which is evaporating day by day, what happiness can we feel? When the water dries up, the fish will die! “Great Assembly! We should be diligent and vigorous, as if our own heads were at stake.” We should all cultivate industriously as if we are protecting our heads from being cut off. We should also worry about saving our heads as if they were on fire. We should quickly extinguish the fire. Hence, “Only be mindful of impermanence and be careful not to be lax.” You should always be mindful of impermanence and do not disregard the rules.
Speaking of this, I remember that in the past, there were three elders of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. They had a meeting about birth and death. There was a scholar about fifty years old; a Taoist practitioner about sixty years old; a monk about seventy years old. They gathered in a meeting to discuss the issue of birth and death. Everyone expressed his opinion.
The scholar being really genteel said, “We meet at this year’s banquet; who knows who will be missing next year?” They had all gathered to have a vegetarian feast and drink wine. Everyone ate vegetarian food and did not mention anything about eating meat. It was not sure who would die next year. The old Taoist practitioner said, “When I take off my shoes and socks today, who knows if I’ll be around to put them on tomorrow.” When I go to sleep tonight, I take off the shoes and socks. I don’t know if I will live to wear them tomorrow or not, implying that birth and death comes quickly. The monk then said, “What you said is simply too far in the future. The time frame you mention is too long.” “How would you put it then?” the Taoist replied. “As for me, when I exhale this breath, I am not sure if I can inhale another one.”
Therefore, I say that birth and death is in between breaths. We should think about it. Don’t assume that you will not die today. “Don’t wait until you’re old to cultivate the Path. The solitary graves are filled with young people.” I am repeating what I just said. The solitary tombs are those of young people, who do not have wives, husband, sons and daughters. Therefore, an instant of time is an instant of life. Don’t let the time pass by in vain. You should work hard since the future belongs to you. Do not forsake your responsibilities. I now have the affinity to meet all of you. Despite the language barrier, through translation, I hope we can understand each other.
To be continued