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Don't go looking for the precepts in the books on precepts.
南无萨怛多 苏伽多耶  阿啰诃帝 三藐三菩陀写 南无萨怛多 苏伽多耶  阿啰诃帝 三藐三菩陀写 南无萨怛多 苏伽多耶  阿啰诃帝 三藐三菩陀写
Na mo sa dan tuo su qie duo ye e la he di san miao san pu tuo xie. Na mo sa dan tuo su qie duo ye e la he di san miao san pu tuo xie. Na mo sa dan tuo su qie duo ye e la he di san miao san pu tuo xie.
Every day before I begin to speak, I recite, "Na mo sa dan tuo su qie duo ye e la he di san miao san pu tuo xie." These lines of mantra text mean, "We take refuge with the inexhaustible, limitless, eternal Triple Jewel of the Buddhas, the Dharma, and the Sangha in the ten directions and three periods of time, pervading empty space and the Dharma Realm."
Why do we want to take refuge with the eternal Triple Jewel? Since we are Buddhist disciples, we should take refuge to the ends of our lives with the inexhaustible, limitless, eternal Triple Jewel in the ten directions and the three periods of time. I am requesting the Triple Jewel to confer aid upon all of you, so that your wishes may be fulfilled and everything may turn out auspiciously. I transfer any blessings I have to all the living beings in this Way-place. I would like to transfer to living beings who are outside as well, but they are too far away to receive my influence. As for the people in this Dharma-hall, I hope their calamities and diseases are dispelled, their offenses are wiped away, and blessings are created. I hope that everything is lucky and just as they wish, that their blessings increase and their lives are lengthened. This is how I pray for everyone when I recite these lines of mantra.
Each of you can also recite this mantra passage and transfer the merit. However, the first requirement is that you refrain from lying. Further, you must not be selfish, pursue personal benefit, or seek anything at all. You must not crave wealth or sex, or fight for fame or profit. If you can refrain from those, you will receive a great response when you recite and uphold the mantra. If you do not follow this path, you will probably not get the response you seek. Therefore, the first step is to hold the precepts.
What is meant by precepts? Precepts refer to not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking anything, not being selfish, not wanting self benefit, and not telling lies. Don't go looking for the precepts in the books on precepts. Precepts can be practiced by anyone. If you can strictly uphold the rules of not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking anything, not being selfish, not wanting self benefit, and not telling lies, then the Buddhas of the ten directions will constantly protect you, be mindful of you, and aid you. Don't think that you can receive the Buddhas' aid just because you understand the rules of not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking anything, not being selfish, not wanting self benefit, and not telling lies. The Buddhas will not aid you for merely understanding and reciting these rules. You have to personally practice them. You have to refrain from breaking these six precepts before you can receive the Buddhas' aid and protection. It is not a matter of just reciting them, or understanding what they mean. It only counts if you really understand them. If you only have a little understanding, you may think it is enough, but it isn't. You must practice them all your life, and even then you will not be perfect.
Before I formally begin my talk today, I will first say something that you don't like to hear. If I were to say what you like to hear first, then you wouldn't have any place to put what you don't like to hear, and you wouldn't be able to listen to it! So now, I will bring up a small condition. What condition? Every time I come to Taiwan, I am very nervous, because the rest of my delegation is never made to feel welcome. People only welcome me and do not welcome the members of my delegation. Why do I say this? Every time my delegation members accompany me, there is never any room for them to bow to the Buddha when we go to a temple, and there is never any room in the car for them. A car was prepared for my delegation, but the group from Taiwan got in first and didn't leave any room for the members of my delegation even to stand, much less to sit. So I feel very sorry for the members of my delegation. Do you mean to bully the people from other places by treating them like this? I don't understand it.
Also, when it was time to bow to the Buddha, the members of my delegation were all squeezed up in the front. Recognizing them as part of my delegation, people chased them away, saying, "This is my place. You can't stand here." They went to the back, but there was no room to bow or stand there either. I feel very sorry for the members of my delegation. They have exhausted themselves coming such a long way with me, hoping to create affinities with the Buddhists of Taiwan. Instead, they were rejected by the Buddhists here. Who are the people who have mistreated the members of my delegation? They are people who went to stay at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and when they came back, they said my people had been too cold to them, to the point that they almost froze to death. That is why they are seeking revenge now that we have come to Taiwan. Do you think I still dare to come?
Also, no matter where I go, it's very inconvenient to walk around. Why? The roads are so crowded that people have to form a human wall to block the crowd. How can those who study Buddhism act this way, with no regard for rules or order?
So this time, because Upasaka You wanted--I won't say invited--me to come, I followed orders and came. Having come, don't you think I'm worried that what happened to our delegation in the past will happen again? This time, I am announcing in advance that my way must not be blocked when I am walking. No one should make an offering to me as I am walking. If anyone tries to do that, I will not accept it. Why? You try to make an offering as I'm walking, thinking I'm greedy for offerings, and that I am happy that you stop me. What I detest most is for people to make offerings to me. Why? Because I have little virtue. My virtue is not enough to influence and transform people. Such a poor monk of little virtue as I am does not deserve to receive people's offerings. Don't think it makes me happy to see that so-and-so's red envelope contains the biggest offering. If I were greedy for red envelopes, I wouldn't need to come to Taiwan. Even though Taiwan is called "Treasure Island," it has changed. Now it seems to be permeated with the odor of horse, pig, and cow manure. "Treasure Island" has turned into "Manure Island."
Even though I see the deplorable state Taiwan is in, I cannot abandon the sincere Buddhists in Taiwan. I have been very disappointed in coming here. Taiwan is caught up in superstition. These people don't know what authentic Buddhism is, nor do they know what phony Buddhism is. When they hear that someone has a famous reputation, they think he must represent Buddhism. Buddhists should not do business. Even if they say, "I am self-sufficient," doing business in Buddhism is not the ultimate way. All kinds of problems are involved in planting this kind of blessings. You should not take the false to be true. Don't listen to false advertisements by people who just brag about and praise themselves.
Let me tell all of you, I am a person with no virtue, so I do not welcome offerings from people. However, since it is the custom in Taiwan to make offerings, I do not make an exception for myself. I make myself accept some offerings, so that those who want to make offerings will not be disappointed. I want to make it clear that all the offerings we receive go to support and maintain the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The money is not used by the individuals who receive it. I make myself accept people's offerings, but it's not something I like to do.
Most of my disciples hold the precept of not touching money. They don't need money, and they don't touch money. They stay away from money. How did I manage to charm them to the point that they would give away all their money to follow me? The reason is that when left-home people have no money, they can cultivate. As soon as they have money, they absolutely cannot cultivate. I guarantee this. You can look into this. We talk about poor Taoists and about poor monks, but never about rich Taoists or rich monks. There is no such thing. If you take your money and make offerings to "rich monks" of "the Way of wealth," you are creating offenses. What I've said will upset a lot of people. Even though they will be upset, I must speak the truth. I cannot remain silent and refrain from telling everyone the truth.
When I come to propagate the Dharma, I refuse to accept gifts from anyone. My disciples are not allowed to receive presents on my behalf either. "Presents" include such things as money, food, and commodities. If any disciple does not understand my rule and recklessly accepts people's gifts, in the future I will not bring him or her along to learn. Some of them know, and some don't know.
Now that you know that I decline all presents, I hope you will not bribe the people I bring along with me. Do not destroy their concentrated resolve for the Way, so that they cannot cultivate. If you do that, you are just creating offenses. Now I've told you very clearly. Don't just do superficial work. In Buddhism, you should be serious and do some solid, real work.
You say, "When you were a poor monk, and you told people you were poor, you must have asked for money." I asked for money, it's true. At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, there are several hundred people who have to eat every day, including students, teachers, left-home people, and laypeople. They are all there living on my support. It is also the merit and virtue of all of you faithful donors that is supporting these cultivators of the Way. At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, no one accepts presents or offerings from people. Do you all hear and understand?
Therefore, in coming this time, I made an agreement with Upasaka You that when I'm walking, people cannot come up to make offerings. We should all be very pure and clean, and not the slightest bit careless. You shouldn't try to prove your sincerity by blocking my path to make an offering. If you hinder my freedom of movement, you probably won't gain any merit and virtue. So I want to tell you in advance. I said to Upasaka You, "I'm afraid to come to Taiwan, because these people go crazy, fighting to make offerings to me. They think I am a monk who is infatuated with money. They think that makes me happy."
I'll be honest with you, and I'm not afraid if I stop the flow of money again. At the opening ceremony of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, I said, "All of you wealthy people, pay attention. You should know that I am a monk who will never bow to money my whole life. I look down on all of you rich people, including the newly-rich upstarts. If you made your money in a proper, law-abiding way, that's acceptable. If you struck it rich by dealing in contraband or drugs, your activities have harmed people. The offense of harming all those people far exceeds the merit of making an offering to me. However much wealth you have, that's how much karma of offenses you have following you."
Some Dharma Masters heard me say this, and exclaimed, "Dharma Master, what a fool you are! With that one sentence, you have blocked all the money." I said, "That's the best. I'd rather be poor than rich." So in the thirty or more years that I've been in the United States, I haven't dug up a single piece of gold. Wouldn't you say I'm extremely stupid? I don't know any clever schemes. I am being very honest with you.
I've said a lot, but it doesn't have much principle. It's just a waste of your time, and you'll find dry and boring. Even though it's dry and boring, if you asked me to talk about something profound, I wouldn't know how. If you asked me to talk about something esoteric, I wouldn't know how either. I can only talk about some very basic and ordinary principles, in order to create Dharma-affinities with you, or you might call them affliction-affinities. If you get afflicted after hearing what I say, that was not my intention. What I would like is for you to listen to my words and use them as a mirror to reflect on yourself.
一九九三年一月十三日晚间 开示于台湾板桥台北县立体育馆
A talk by the Venerable Master Hua in the evening of January 13, 1993, at the Taipei County Stadium in Banqiao, Taiwan