If we want to practice the Dharma for transcending the world, we must select a wise teacher with clear vision. Who can be considered a wise teacher with clear vision? There are four criteria: the person is not greedy for money, fame, or sex, and isn't selfish. We should use these four criteria to determine whether a teacher has wisdom and clarity. We should see whether the person has ulterior motives--does he seek to make a profit or advance his own position, or plotting for his own personal benefit?
Drawing near a wise teacher does not mean hanging around him every day. It means following his teaching. Of course, you can ask for guidance when you run into problems, but you don't have to see your teacher all the time to be "near" him. When you go to see your teacher, you should request instructions in a very respectful manner--not laughing and joking and being totally unserious. Don't give your teacher unnecessary trouble. First find out if he is free. If he is, then you can ask for guidance. If he is busy, then you should not persist and say, "I must see him. My business is very important!"
A good teacher never thinks of his own benefit. Some people have asked me, "The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is already very big. If someone built another temple for you, would you accept it?" I most certainly would. "Well, then, aren't you being greedy?" Yes. I am extremely greedy, but not for my own sake. I want to establish an international headquarters for Buddhism that can propagate the Proper Dharma. Everyone who comes to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, regardless of what he or she thinks, is really coming to protect the City. Even if they slander the City, they are in fact helping the City. I am not afraid of being scolded or slandered. I wouldn't have come to America if I were. No matter how much people may slander me, it's perfectly fine with me.
In studying Buddhism, we have to learn to take losses. Great Master Yongjia said,
Contemplate vicious words as merit and virtue; Then vicious words become one's good advisors. Do not let abuse and slander arouse enmity. How else can one express the power of compassion and patience with the nonarising of dharmas?
People who scold us are in fact helping us in our cultivation. Therefore, we must advance vigorously in favorable as well as adverse circumstances, and allow neither praise nor slander to sway us. There is no need to feel resentful when we are slandered. We should treat friends and enemies with equal kindness. Otherwise, how can we express the compassionate strength that arises from patience with the nonarising of dharmas?
A talk given on November 6, 1979