In this society, many people do a lot of talking—so much talking that people do not really pay attention to what's being said. Why? Because it has become the norm within society that people dare not be truthful with each other. No one likes to listen to the truth. This is also the case with the Dharma. The dharma that most people like to listen to is the dharma of flowers and leaves; but when you get to the actual fruit, people don't want to hear about it.
Take fruit trees, for example. When they're in bloom, they exude an alluring fragrance and people enjoy smelling the blossoms even more than eating the fruit. By the time the fruit ripens, they are no longer as interested. This is an analogy for people in the world who only like to hear false things and don't like to hear the truth. The false talk is like flowers. If you embellish and speak pretty words that have no real substance, many people are willing to listen. But if you tell them the plain truth, such as how to hold the precepts, how to follow the rules, how to avoid greed and contention, how not to seek, how to be unselfish and not be self-indulgent, how to be a real Buddhist and so forth, not only do non-Buddhists not want to listen, but even Buddhists find it irritating and feel uncomfortable. True words are hard on the ear; when people hear them, they feel that they can no longer act as they please.
For these very reasons, when Shakyamuni Buddha was on Vulture Peak and his disciple Shariputra implored him to speak the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, the Buddha said, “Stop! Stop! Say no more. My Dharma is wonderful beyond conception.” Although the Buddha refused to speak, Shariputra entreated him three times. Finally, the Buddha, moved by his sincerity and out of great pity for living beings, “opened up the provisional and revealed the actual.”
He told Shariputra, “Pay attention and listen well, for I shall now explain in detail for you.” But right after the Buddha said this, five thousand people walked out of the assembly. Take a look. Some of them had followed the Buddha for years, while others were new disciples, but none wanted to hear the wonderful Dharma the Buddha was about to speak, so they left.
From this incident we can see that people don't want to hear the truth, but are quite willing to accept what's false. Therefore, what I have spoken to you today is all false. You can forget all about it. Just remember the Dharma that you wish to hear, and then cultivate according to it.
Anyone who comes to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas must follow the rules of this Way-place. Whether you are a resident or a visitor, you have to eat vegetarian food while on the premises, and not smoke, drink, or use drugs or intoxicants. Moreover, you can't say “thank you.” Those two words are small talk and have no place in the holy ground of this City. There's no need for frivolous speech here. I hope that all of you will cut down on the small talk. That's what I wanted to say today, whether you care to hear it or not.
A talk given on June 26, 1983,
at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas