matter where we go, we always call ourselves a Visiting Delegation, not
a Dharma Propagation Delegation. We are going to learn from others.
Disciple:Master, this time the Dharma Propagation Delegation isn't bringing much...
Ven. Master:This is not Dharma propagation. We aren't qualified
to propagate the Dharma, and we can't just recklessly call it
"propagating the Dharma." We are just visiting. We are going around
learning, not "propagating the Dharma." None of us are qualified to
propagate the Dharma. We are all students, and when we see virtuous
people, we should emulate them. When we see unworthy people, we should
reflect on our own conduct.
Who is doing the recording? Someone should be assigned to take care of
the recording. On this trip, if reporters come to interview us, we
should all participate. It shouldn't be that one person does all the
talking. If one of us says something wrong, the others should make a
correction on the spot for the reporters. This is just explaining, and
it is not arguing. If we did not do this, then if someone said something
wrong, there would be no way to correct it. When we are all together,
everyone will know what is being said. If a point has been poorly
expressed, we can clarify it. Do you understand? [Everyone: "Yes."] This
is not disputing or picking on each other's faults. We are simply
filling in what the speaker left out in order to make things clear.
If there is any article or
publicity about us in the news, we should keep a record of it. We should
collect these news items and make a journal of the trip. We shouldn't
totally ignore the media as we did in the past, because this time our
delegation is quite large. It includes forty-four people. Do you agree
with my suggestion? [Everyone: "Yes."]
If a reporter wants to take our
picture, everyone in the group should be in it. Don't run away and
refuse to be photographed. That's not right; it shows a lack of team
spirit. In public, whether we are seated or standing, the men and the
women should not be too far apart. We must move as a unit. Don't walk in
single file. Instead, the men should walk two by two, and so should the
women. That's how we should walk. Wherever I go, I always walk in back.
I don't want to be up front, so everyone should walk in front of me. It
shouldn't be that each person looks at the others and no one dares to
walk; then our movement becomes disorganized.
Our delegation should be like an army, with everyone alert and
on-the-ball. You can't be dozing off when we're about to board the
plane. We have to board the plane quickly and also get off the plane
efficiently, but don't run. We must be solemn and dignified. We don't
want the laypeople to think we're hippies! No matter where we go, the
men should walk on my left and the women on my right. We should also sit
this way. There are rules for all of this. Don't sit a mile away, so
that I don't even know where to go looking for you. Yesterday when we
were boarding the plane, everyone just looked at each other and no one
dared to walk ahead. What were you all doing? Do you all understand the
situation? [Everyone: "Yes."]
We're not the same as hippies.
When we go to the morning and evening ceremonies, we should go as a
group. It shouldn't be that one person goes first, and another goes
later on. Everyone should go together. [Disciple: "We should line up."]
Yes, it should be very orderly. People shouldn't straggle in at
different times. Within the delegation, the left-home people should
protect the laypeople, and the laypeople should also protect the
left-home people. Does everyone in the delegation have a nametag?
Disciple: Yes. Last time the nametags were all made in Taiwan,
and they said "Dharma Propagation Delegation." Now we've changed them to
say "Visiting Delegation from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas."
Ven. Master: None of us is qualified to propagate the Dharma. You
shouldn't be arrogant and say you're propagating the Dharma when you
are still new to Buddhism. What do you think you're propagating? How can
you propagate the Dharma when you haven't even got your own life in
order? If the nametags say we're a Dharma Propagation Delegation, we
won't wear them. We don't want to call ourselves a "Dharma Propagation
Delegation." You should all know this; I shouldn't have to teach you
this. We left-home people should be especially careful not to be
arrogant. We are not qualified to propagate the Dharma, and we cannot
fake it. I know I'm just learning. I don't know about you, but I'm not
qualified to propagate the Dharma. We are a Visiting Delegation. We go
around visiting, calling on friends, seeking knowledge. We cannot
shamelessly boast that we are a Dharma Propagation Delegation. There's
an attitude of arrogance in that. Do you understand? [Disciple: "Yes."]
Then why did you call yourselves a Dharma Propagation Delegation? I
don't know about you, but if I see the name "Dharma Propagation
Delegation," I know I don't have that kind of status. On our first trip,
we were called a Visiting Delegation. The second time, we were also
called a Visiting Delegation. As far as I know, on the few trips we've
made, we've always been called a Visiting Delegation, not a Dharma
Propagation Delegation. We go to each place to learn from people.
Haven't you heard? Every place I visit, the first thing I say is, "I
have come to inquire and learn from all the elders and the noble and
virtuous Sangha members."
When we visit other places, we shouldn't become reckless and arrogant.
Don't be like one of my left-home disciples. When he went to Malaysia,
everyone wanted to take refuge with him, so he accepted them as
disciples. Even after he had conducted the Taking Refuge ceremony and
taken them as disciples, he still didn't know what sect we belong to or
how to give them Dharma names. He had absolutely no idea. When the
people who had taken refuge asked for Dharma names, he had no choice but
to call me on the phone to ask what sect we belong to and what names to
give them. How embarrassing! When those elder monks saw that, the City
of Ten Thousand Buddhas really lost its reputation. Seventy or eighty
people took refuge with him, and it turns out most of them were juvenile
Disciple: This time probably there won't be an opportunity for
everyone to speak the Dharma. Nevertheless, I hope we can still have a
meeting beforehand, the way we did in the past, to discuss the content
and schedule of the lectures, so that there won't be any overlap.
Ven. Master: There are several topics we should cover in our
lectures. First, we should emphasize education, because all over the
world, education is going bankrupt and civilized culture is being
trampled into the ground. If we don't try to reverse this trend, then
each generation of humanity will be worse than the last. For example, in
American schools, they are giving contraceptives to eleven- and
twelve-year-old students. Doesn't that amount to killing the children?
Second, we should promote respect for the elderly. Nowadays, no one
takes care of the aged, and they get sent to homes for the elderly. The
homes for the elderly don't take good care of them either, and the
elderly may even die of cold or hunger there. We should mention this
issue, for it's a way to save the world.
Third, we should speak about the problems of young people. How should
people in old age, youth, and middle age conduct themselves? We should
explain the "Sutra of Human Life" for everyone. How to be a person--this
is the most important thing to know in studying Buddhism. If you cannot
be a good person, how can you become a Buddha?
Fourth, we should put emphasis on
not eating meat. Actually, we were supposed to talk about why abortion
is bad, and why homosexuality is bad, but you all are too young and not
suited for speaking this Dharma. When you're older, it's all right.
[Disciple: "So young people shouldn't talk about abortion and
homosexuality?"] If you talk about abortion and homosexuality, no one
will believe you, and they will not want to listen to you.
The theme of education is very important, and so is respect for elders.
Did any of you attend the recent Celebration for Honoring the Elderly?
[Disciple: "Yes."] What impressions did you have?
Disciple: What I feel is, if we have this kind of gathering for respecting the elderly every year, it will remind...
Ven. Master: This is not
just every year; it should be every day. It should be promoted in every
moment, at all times. If you do it only once a year, what use is that?
We must advocate it in thought after thought. Even when we advocate it
constantly, people may still forget about it. If you just advocate it
once, they will forget about it as soon as it's over. Honorable
Professor Yang plans to write an article. Those of you who have opinions
on this can also write articles for Vajra Bodhi Sea or other magazines.
You should all practice writing essays. Just make an honest report for
the world, and don't be overly elaborate. This is a fundamental kind of
education, a basic principle, and you should all do your best to carry
it out. At all times, we must promote education. At all times, we must
promote the idea of honoring our elders and cherishing our young people.
That was the wish of Confucius.
Once Confucius said to his disciples Zi Lu and Yan Hui, "Tell me what your wishes are.
Zi Lu said, "I wish to have a
plump steed to ride and a light fur coat to wear. I would share them
with friends, and if they got ruined, I would not be upset." His meaning
was, "I'd ride a mighty horse and wear light, warm fur clothing. My
friends could also ride my horse and wear my clothes. I'd share them
with a friend, so two people could use them. Even if they got ruined, I
wouldn't regret it." This was the answer that Zi Lu hastily blurted out.
”Yan Hui said, "I wish to refrain from bragging about myself and speaking
about my own merit." He said, "My resolve is to avoid praising myself
and boasting about my good points. No matter what help I render to
others, I will not make them feel indebted to me, or say that I am
benefitting them, or say that I have done a meritorious deed."
After they had given their answers, they said, "May we ask what the Teacher's wish is?"
Confucius replied, "To console the elderly, to be trustworthy with
friends, and to cherish the young." He said, "I will make sure the old
people are peaceful, happy, and free from anxiety. In associating with
friends, I will not cause them to lose faith in me. I will always keep
my promises. As for children, I will treat them all as my own sons and
daughters and care for them compassionately."
敢问子之志，敢问夫子您的志愿。子，这是尊称，这是夫子，敢问夫子您的志愿是什么？不是说“你”。这有读过书的人，不能对尊长就说“你、你的”，没有这口气的。不像你们美国人叫爸爸都叫“你、你的”，叫妈妈叫“她、她的”。你说 you you，这就是不恭敬的话。
The word zi 子 is a respectful form of address, used in fu zi 夫子[a title
of respect for one's teacher], as in "May I ask what the Teacher's wish
is?" In addressing one's teacher, one does not use ni 你 [the informal
"you"]. Educated people do not address their elders using ni. They
cannot use that tone of voice. This is different from Americans who
address their fathers as "you" and refer to their mothers as "she."
It is important to know how to
address people. In general, laypeople should not call one another by
their official names. They should use a style name. For example,
Professor Yang's official name is Fusen, but he gave himself another
name, Lichi. By calling him Lichi, you show your respect for him. You
cannot call him, "Fusen, Fusen." Not to speak of left-home people, even
laypeople have this etiquette.
The son must not say his father's name. For example, suppose someone
wants to make an apology and asks who your father is. You should say,
"The son cannot say his father's name, but since you asked, I will tell
you what my father's name is." There are rules of etiquette for all of
When laypeople correspond with left-home people, they usually write on
the envelope either "Open in respect" or "Open in purity." If you write
"Open in purity," do you wish the recipient to be pure, or yourself to
be pure? It's ambiguous. If you wish the recipient to be pure, that
means you know he's not pure, so you want him to become pure. Isn't that
right? As for "Open in respect," are you asking people to respect the
writer? Or does it mean that you, the writer, respect the people who
read the letter? It doesn't make a lot of sense. Whether you write "Open
in respect" or "Open in purity," it is grammatically incorrect.
However, many people use these phrases. In fact, most of the people who
write to me use them. They don't even understand such superficial things
as the etiquette of an address. Also, some laypeople write letters to
left-home people in which they close with the phrase, "Placing my palms
together." But when a left-home person who understands etiquette writes
to left-home people, he will use the more respectful closing, "Bowing my
head to the ground" or simply "Making a half-bow." When writing to his
equal, he should use "Bowing my head to the ground," not "Making a
half-bow." When left-home people write to laypeople, they should not
even say "Placing my palms together." They may just use a simple "To be
opened by so-and-so." If you place your palms together for a layperson,
you are violating the precepts. Of course, when laypeople place their
palms together first, you may return the gesture. In writing a letter,
you don't know whether or not the recipient has placed his palms
together, so it doesn't make sense to say "Placing my palms together."
Even people who have studied for many years still fail to understand
these fine points.
Professor Yang also has another
style name, Jingqiao [literally "warning to woodcutters"], which means
he is telling people not to come to his mountain to cut firewood. You
can also call him by that name. If we live to an old age, we should also
continue learning into our old age. We must keep on studying. Don't
say, "I've learned enough. I'm satisfied with what I know, and I don't
need to study anymore." If you think like that, then it's all over for
When you write "Open in respect" [an opening phrase used in Chinese] on
the envelope, you are telling the recipient, "Before you read my letter,
you should first respectfully bow several times." Isn't that what it
means? Or, "Before you read this letter, you must first bathe and put on
clean clothes." That's what "Open in purity" implies, don't you think?
What do you think of my reasoning?
Disciple: Well, what should we write then?
Ven. Master: You can simply write, "Personally open" or "Please
open," and that will do. You cannot tell people to "Open in respect." In
the past, one disciple always wrote "Open in respect" or "Open in
purity" on his letters, but that's contradictory. Ordinary people may
not be aware of this, but anyone with learning would see how awful this
is. You might study in school for eight or ten years without ever
getting to attend a class like this one!
Disciple: What about the opening phrases, "Please inspect with
your wisdom," "Please inspect with your virtue in the Way," and "Please
inspect with your kindness." How are they different?
Ven. Master: Those are fine. There's no problem. "Please inspect
with your wisdom" says that he has wisdom. "Please inspect with your
virtue in the Way" says that he has attained the Way. "Please inspect
with your kindness" says that he is kind and compassionate. There's not
much difference. If you think he has great wisdom, use "Please inspect
with your wisdom." This is telling him to use his wisdom to examine your
Disciple: When a junior Dharma-brother writes to his senior,
should he use the closing "Making a half-bow" or "Bowing my head to the
ground"?上人：写顶礼就可以。师兄弟，师弟应该恭敬师兄。Ven. Master: He should write "Bowing my head to the ground," because juniors should respect seniors.
Disciple: Well, what about when a senior Dharma-brother writes to his junior? Should he write "Making a half-bow"?
Ven. Master: Yes, that is correct. After we get to Taiwan, we
should set a time, preferably in the morning when other people are
having breakfast, to evaluate the previous day's mistakes. Everyone
should be frank. We should also discuss that day's activities and how we
can compensate for our shortcomings and emphasize our strong points.
This is called "bringing out the good points and making up for the
shortcomings." Everyone must work hard. Don't give the impression of
being half-asleep or so hungry you can't even keep your head up. When we
go out in public, we must be stately and dignified. If we hunch over
and hang our heads, people will say, "No wonder they're like this--they
eat only one meal a day!" Haven't I told you before that we must follow
the motto: "Freezing to death, we stand firm in the wind. Starving to
death, we stick out our bellies and walk on." In propagating the
Buddhadharma, we must have a warlike spirit and be even braver than the
army. We must have great courage.
Ven. Master: [to a disciple] Don't lose your temper anymore.
Don't get mad when you talk to people. Just speak in a reasonable way,
and don't get upset. Use reason to persuade people, rather than
threatening them with anger. We always say the temper is smelly, not
fragrant. As soon as you blow your top, you start to stink. When you
scold and nag at people in anger, it's as if you're releasing a foul
odor. Let's not talk about you; if I were to scold you people and get
mad at you every day, you would also run away. I do scold people and
bring up their faults, but I do it entirely out of compassion. That's
why you are not afraid.
Disciple: The Institute of Industry and Technology has already given us
the lecture topics. One is "Mind, Morality, and Behavior of Modern
People" and another is "The Progress of Science and Philosophy."
Ven. Master: All of you should look into these topics, and each person can speak briefly on them.[A letter arrives from President Bush's Public Liaison, Mr. Clayton Fong. A disciple reads it aloud.]
Ven. Master: He
personally mailed this letter. He also sent a letter when we had the
Celebration for Honoring the Elderly, but it seems to have gotten lost
in the mail.
Excerpts from the Venerable Master's instructions
given during a pre-trip meeting of the delegation to Taiwan
at Long Beach Sagely Monastery on January 1, 1993