Somebody asked me how many Buddhists would attend this celebration of Guanyin Bodhisattva's Accomplishment of the Way. I said, “Well, maybe three or four!” Today I counted about four hundred people in attendance. The same person asked me again, “Did you take a hundred for one?” I said, “I don't understand.”
This year, people who attended the Guanyin Dharma assembly were more sincere than in previous years. In the earlier Dharma assemblies, people talked during meals and didn't follow the rules of the dining hall. A lot of leftover food was thrown into the garbage, and people left after the meal without finishing the Dharma assembly. This year the situation has improved a lot. Not only was there no talking during meals, but food was not wasted, and very few people rushed back to San Francisco. This is very good.
In the future, whenever there are Dharma assemblies, we should remind people not to talk while they are eating, and not to waste food. We should cherish our food. An ancient verse says,
As the farmer tills the field
Under the midday sun,
His perspiration falls upon the soil;
Who understands the toil involved
In producing each grain of rice on the plate?
Most people do not realize how much toil it takes to produce every single grain of rice, so they waste food carelessly. You should understand that people who have nothing to eat now are undergoing the retribution for having wasted food in past lives. I'm telling you this simple principle, so you won't be wasteful.
Those who manage the kitchen should use wisdom in preparing food for the assembly. They should prepare nutritious food in a hygienic manner. By serving the assembly in this way, they can create boundless merit and virtue. The refrigerators need to be checked every day, and perishables should be consumed first. Things that do not spoil easily should be carefully kept. Don't waste food or throw it into the garbage. That is truly creating offenses. Please be careful about this.
If the assembly's diet is prepared properly, this will result in merit and virtue. But if it is handled in a sloppy manner, this will result in offenses. If things are done properly and in accord with Dharma, there will be merit; otherwise, there will be offenses. Whether one creates merit or offense depends on oneself. Conserving food creates merit; wasting it creates offenses.
A talk given on July 24, 1983 at
the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas