The secret of being a cultivator is to eat less. When one eats less, one's desires will lessen. With fewer desires, one feels content. If one is content, one will always be happy. When one is happy, one won't have afflictions. With no afflictions, Bodhi arises. When Bodhi arises, one attains liberation. Once liberated, one will be free, free from birth and death. One will attain wisdom and self-mastery. In short, one will be free from everything. We should encourage one another to take this path, which every cultivator must walk.
A cultivator must be patient. No matter what state appears to test us, we must grit our teeth and bear it. After we have crossed the three barriers, the wind and waves will calm down, and peace will naturally come. At work, we should patiently do the things we don't like doing. Eventually we will get used to them. At all times and in everything we do, we must have peace of mind. We can't become lazy or negligent. If we have the thought of “being a monk for a day, hitting a day's bell,” this is doing a perfunctory job and going against the Way. If we just rely on Buddhism to provide us with food and clothing, we are simply wasting time and acting spineless.
Throughout my whole life my motto has been ‘patience’. I never give up under any circumstances. I practice patience with body and mind. When I was in my hometown in Manchuria, I could bear both cold and hot weather. On the coldest days, I would walk on the ice with bare feet. When my feet hurt from the cold, I bore it. Once I did, they stopped hurting. On the hottest days--when just walking made people dizzy because of the heat, and the earth and sky seemed to be spinning, and they couldn't see straight—ordinary people would lose their heads. But I thought it was okay, as long as you sat and rested for a while. I have always used patience as my Dharma treasure to overcome all difficulties, to bear both cold and hot weather, bear the wind and rain, bear hunger and thirst, to bear everything, never giving up.
After I left the home-life, I cultivated the Dharma-door of patience. If someone scolded me, I would either not listen or else pretend the scolding was a song. As a result, nothing ever happened. If people hit me, I would never return the blow, but would just accept it peacefully. I was also patient with the morning and evening recitations. When it was time for morning recitation and I was sound asleep, I would get up immediately as soon as I heard the wooden boards being hit, then I would wash up and go to the Buddha Hall to wait. I was always five minutes early and never once late.
Ever since I left the home-life, I've been using patience to deal with things. When I was traveling and visiting Way-places as part of my studies, I was never even one minute late for morning and evening recitations, Sutra lectures, or meal offerings. I was always there early. Today I am telling you about my past, presenting my personal experiences as part of the Dharma.
In order to truly cultivate, one cannot be lazy. When it comes to working, we should strive to get ahead. We should not lose patience. No matter how unbearable things are, we should endure them. “To bear all things” is a motto for cultivators. Patience is especially important during the period of learning. We must even bear things that are truly unbearable.
Be patient for one moment,
And the wind and waves will calm down.
Take one step back, and you will discover
The vastness of the ocean and the emptiness of the sky.
We shouldn't lose our tempers easily. We should realize that “the fire of ignorance can burn up a forest of merit and virtue.” This is a famous saying, and these are also words of experience. Remember them and be careful not to lose your temper! All of you, don't lose your tempers easily or constantly feel that nothing is right. Don't see everything as incorrect and all things in this world as going against your wishes. If we can just take one step back and think, “Patience, patience, got to have patience,” then everything will be all right and there won't be any problems.
We cultivators must do everything in earnest and not be lazy or remiss. We must strictly abide by the rules of the Way-place. Your coming here every day to listen to the Sutra lectures doesn't mean that you can be lax with other things. This kind of thinking is totally wrong. Be it for meal offerings, morning and evening recitations, or Dharma assemblies, we should all arrive at the Buddha Hall early, so that the future reward will be perfect. If you are late for every occasion, you'll have the retribution of losing the opportunity of getting enlightened. If you are late for everything you do, you won't be able to attain perfect merit and virtue, either.
We cultivators shouldn't keep justifying ourselves, acting as our own defense attorneys. We reap what we sow. Planting a good cause yields a good effect; planting an evil cause yields an evil effect. This is a natural law. If one plants a perfect cause, one gets a perfect effect; if one plants half a cause, one gets half an effect. We must truly understand this, and not let it go in one ear and out the other.
A talk given on May 1, 1983