When you practice good deeds, you should do them in a genuine place.
Everyone, put your palms together and close your eyes. Don't look at me. Look into your own heart, and see if your Buddha-nature is there. What kind of nature is inside you--a Buddha-nature, a human nature, a ghost nature, or an animal nature? Shine your light within, and seek within yourself. Don't look at me. I'm not even up to a ghost, and it's useless for you to look at me. Look at yourself, and see whether you are a Buddhist disciple who does not fight, is not greedy, does not seek, does not pursue personal gain, and does not tell lies. If you can practice these Six Great Principles, then you have more or less fulfilled your human role. Yet you are still far from Buddhahood, and you have to start from these Six Great Principles to become a Buddha. If you continue to fight, to be greedy, to seek for something, to be so selfish and self-benefitting, and to tell lies, not only are you not a disciple of the Buddha, you cannot even be considered the disciple of a ghost.
All of you who have studied Buddhism for many years, have you worked on not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal gain, and not lying? If you have worked on these, then you are close to Buddhism. If you have not, then you are far from even satisfying the conditions for being a person. If you fail to meet the conditions for being a human being, because you are so aggressive, so greedy, always seeking outside, being selfish and self-benefiting, and always lying to yourself and others, and saying untruthful things, then you do not have what it takes to be a Buddhist disciple.
I don't talk about anything else, just this--no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuit of personal gain, and no lying. At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, people hear about these ideals and principles every day. Have we been able to practice them? No! And that includes myself. Although we haven't been able to practice them, we wish to follow these guidelines to learn how to be good human beings and how to be Buddhists. We are willing to learn, and to improve ourselves.
What is my purpose in coming to Taiwan this time? I have come to bring you blessings. If any one among you can act according to these Six Great Principles, you will obtain limitless blessings and virtue. If you do not embrace these Six Great Principles, then no matter what lofty and esoteric principles I speak about, it is just "forsaking what is near to seek afar, renouncing the roots to chase after the branch tips."
If you wish to go far away,
you have to start from what is near.
If you wish to climb up high,
you have to start from what is low.
If you start by meeting the basic requirements, then you can certainly aspire to become a Buddha. If you haven't met them, then you must work hard, and not let this opportunity pass you by.
I have to come Taiwan to give you blessings, but whether or not you accept them depends on you yourselves. What is meant by the giving of blessings? For example, when you practice good deeds, you should do them in a genuine place, not in a phony place. In a genuine place, whether the good deeds you do are great or small, you will still obtain some merit and virtue. However, if you practice good deeds at a temple full of fighting, greed, seeking, selfishness, self-benefiting, and lying, it is all in vain, like a tree that blooms but bears no fruit. You should all recognize what is true. I'm not saying that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is good in any way. There are left-home people at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas just like anywhere else. However, both the men and the women who have left the home-life there eat one meal a day. You won't find another place in the world like that.
Furthermore, whether they are walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, the left-home people at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas always wear their precept sash. They all have the requisites of three sashes, an almsbowl, and a sitting cloth, as prescribed by the precepts of Buddhism. Nowadays, people have unconsciously adopted the habit of not wearing their sash, so that those who don't wear their sash are considered authentic, while those who wear it are considered fake. Those who wear their sash are criticized by others as being strange, yet in the past the Buddha himself always wore his sash and owned three sashes, a bowl, and a sitting cloth. The Buddha's disciples did the same. When Buddhism spread to China, the sash alone was not warm enough in the colder climate, so they put on extra clothing underneath and wore the sash on the outside. Some say that there was no clasp and ring sewn on the sash in those days, and left-home people simply wrapped the sash around themselves in the same fashion that Theravada monks wear their robes now. They still wore the sash at all times. However, in China the left-home people had to farm and do a lot of other work to support themselves, and they found it inconvenient to wear the sash. As a result, they took off the sash when working, and only wore it when they were not working. After a while, they didn't wear the sash even when they were not working, and wearing the sash came to be considered incorrect. If you do not even understand this basic principle, you cannot be considered a Buddhist disciple.
There is a story about when the students from mainland China first came to Taiwan. Because they were fleeing for their lives, none of the students, except maybe one or two, remembered to bring their diplomas. When they applied for college in Taiwan, they were at a loss when asked for their diplomas. So they searched everywhere to find a sample diploma. When they found a real one, they forged copies. They submitted the counterfeit diplomas to the Department of Education, and were then allowed to take the entrance exams and enroll in college. However, when someone submitted his authentic diploma to the Department of Education, they thought it was false. They said, "Everyone else's diploma is clean and well-kept. Why is yours all creased and torn up? You must have forged it and made it old and dirty-looking on purpose so that people wouldn't be able to tell." So they refused to accept it.
All of you, think about this: The fake ones were considered real, and the real one was thought to be false. Now, left-home people everywhere do not wear their sash, thinking that is what left-home people should do. They just wear the robe with the arched collar. These robes were the standard dress of the Tang Dynasty. Both the left-home people and the laypeople wore these robes, and the left-home people wore sashes over them to distinguish themselves from the laypeople. Laypeople dress differently now, but left-home people still dress the same as before. The robe with the arched collar is the traditional dress of the Tang Dynasty and not the special attire of left-home people. If you are not even clear about questions of external appearance, how much less will you understand the underlying principle. There is no way you would see the true principle. Therefore, you students of Buddhism, don't take the false to be real. I am not claiming to be the real one. I may also be a phony, just putting on an act. However, even what is phony no longer exists. That is, people have unknowingly turned an incorrect practice into the custom.
We should look into history and trace back to the source to find out the truth about Buddhism from the time it was transmitted to China until the present. Although I am not against people who do not wear their sash, they do oppose those of us who wear our sash, which is very puzzling to me.
Coming to Taiwan, I have been boycotted by the Buddhists of Taiwan. Their teachers threatened them, saying that if they came to my Dharma assemblies, it would be the same as falling into the hells. Did you all know about this? That is why I assert that I am teaching living beings in the hells. Although I say that I have come to Taiwan to bring you blessings, I shall return in the greatest defeat.
A talk by the Venerable Master Hua
in the afternoon of January 9, 1993,
at the Taipei Society of Fellow Cultivators