THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Q : As your disciple, how do I cultivate wisdom?
A : You can cultivate wisdom by not being deluded. You become wise once you throw away your delusions. Your Dharma-nature appears when you see through ignorance. It’s as easy as flipping your hand.
Q : Master, before you came here last year, I dreamed of at least seven Honored Ones wearing red precept sashes and hats embroidered with the images of five Buddhas descending from the heavens. Even though I have dreamed of Buddha and Bodhisattvas before, I had never dreamed of so many at one time. Please kindly accept my sincere bow and give me your explanation.
A : Since you know about wearing the hat with the images of Buddhas, why don’t you wear it now?
Q : Your disciples in the Gaoshong area really need your guidance. May we ask the Venerable Master to build a monastery at Gaoshong?
A : I do not have the capability to build a monastery. If anyone of you will be building a monastery, I can be a construction worker.
Q : Does everyone have the affinity to become your disciple?
A : You have the affinity if you are sincere. Affinity will become no affinity if you’re insincere. No affinity will become affinity if you’re sincere.
Q : What health condition is ill-suited for bowing to the Buddhas?
A : All animals and hungry ghosts are suited to bow to the Buddhas. I don’t know what kind of condition you have.
Q : What can we say to show respect?
A : You don’t need to say anything, just do it.
Q : The Youth Good Wealth visited 53 different teachers, so why can’t I have a few more masters?
A : The Youth Good Wealth’s teachers personally sent him off to his next teacher. He didn’t disobey his previous teacher and sneak off to take refuge with other virtuous Dharma Masters whom he had been admiring.
Q : What are some guiding principles for our Dharma-propagation delegation?
A : Do not accept invitations to meals or banquets. Starve if there are no offerings. You have to suffer when you go out with me. Don’t bother with any personal business because this tour is for a country.
Q : We must bow to the Buddhas 10,000 times to take refuge with the Venerable Master. Must we finish those 10,000 bows before we take refuge or is it okay to do the 10,000 bows over time after we have taken refuge?
A : You can do 10,000 bows gradually after taking refuge. After you finish 10,000, you can bow 100,000 or 1,000,000 more. There’s no limit.
Q : Buddhism talks about affinities. The Buddha doesn’t save anyone with whom he has no affinities. Is it that most people who have no affinities with him just drift along and continue to be lost in the six paths of transmigration? Or can they just learn bits and pieces from the books by the Good Man in the Mill?
A : What kind of books are those? Ask your question bluntly and directly. There’s no need to write an essay on it. “Just because you can string a bunch of words together, that doesn’t make you a scholar.”
Q : My parents have been dead for many years and I have participated in crossing over ceremonies many times as their son. May I know if my parents have been crossed over to the other shore and in which destiny have they become reborn?
A : Ask somebody who knows. I’m somebody who doesn’t know. I can’t answer this question of yours. I don’t have that kind of knowledge.
Q : Please explain, “One’s character is naturally noble when he seeks nothing. All the
victories that have been won since ancient times happened solely because of patience.”
A : Don’t expect anything from people. Patience means that one bears what one cannot bear. However, a master cannot be completely tolerant of his disciples, he has to use both kindness and strength. He spoils his disciple by being too patient with them.
Q : Will you be our master once we leave the householder’s life?
A : I’m already your master without you having to ask! If you think I can be your master, then I’m your master even if you don’t ask. However, if you don’t cultivate, I’m not your teacher even if you ask.
Q : Are you my teacher from lives past?
A : If you believe, why do you ask? If you ask, it means you doubt.
Q : The Venerable Master says that if we eat too much, we cannot develop our wisdom. So why is one of the Buddhas so chubby and has a big stomach?
A : I’ve never seen the Buddha. I don’t know.
Q : I’m really scared that the Master will scold me.
A : Have I ever scolded you before?
Q : Not yet.
A : If anybody scolds you, you should laugh.
Q : Master, so and so will be leaving the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
A : We don’t try to keep people even if they are Bodhisattvas.
Q : The Master arrived earlier today because of the way I drove you back to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
A : Don’t drive too fast. Don’t be too fast or too slow in everything that you do, and then you will be in accord with the Middle Way.
Q : My power of concentration is poor.
A : You haven’t any to speak of.
Q : 1. We must bow ten thousand times to the Buddhas to take refuge with the Master. Do we have to recite the repentance text when we bow to the Buddhas? Is it okay that we only bow and not recite sometimes?
2. When I met the Master in 1988, I actually sobbed uncontrollably. What is the reason for that?
3. May I ask about the possibility of my leaving the householder’s life?
A : 1. Bowing to the Buddhas is about getting rid of your arrogance. It’s also a form of exercise that makes you physically healthy. It’s the best way to prevent you from taking too much medication.
2. You were probably hit.
3. As long as you do not kill, steal, commit sexual misconduct, lie, drink alcohol, and take drugs.
Q : How long should we wait until someone has been dead before we can cremate the corpse?
A : I’ve never died before, I wouldn’t know how long to wait.
Q : When I first joined the profession of nursing, I had compassion, plenty of forgiveness, and diligence that never quit just as I did when I first got a taste of the Buddhadharma. But once I truly and deeply entered nursing, I had feelings about sickness and suffering that could not be resolved. That refreshing feeling for the Buddhadharma also disappeared for me, which became a frustrating quandary that sat in my heart. I’m too weak to be able to comfort living beings completely. I don’t seem relieved by reciting the Buddha’s name either. What is this all about?
A : Don’t be a clay Bodhisattva [who takes on more than he/she can handle].
Q : If one of your disciples were to make the great vows of Earth Treasury King Bodhisattva, would that delay the Master’s realization of Buddhahood?
A : What does this have to do with you that you need to ask?
By a reporter : The Chinese Americans in San Francisco all know that those at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are a bunch...
A : Were you about to say “freaks”?
Reporter : No. They say that this is a place for Buddhas; it’s where a bunch of monks and nuns practice asceticism (literally “practices of sufferings” in Chinese).
A : We don’t suffer at all; conversely, we’re doing quite well.
Q : Lots of endowments are required for you to have founded so many monasteries and schools. What kind of begging did you do?
A : Beg? I will starve to death before I beg. Consider that when I first arrived in the United States, most people did not understand Buddhism at all. If I were to have gone on alms rounds from door to door, people would have been scared off before they knew anything about Buddhism! So our monks here never beg. People have to come looking for us.
Q : Master, I really admire you.
A : Who admires?
Q : What principles should we use to guide us when we build the Great Heroes Jeweled Hall in the future?
A : Conserve labor. Easy maintenance.
Q : Master, the other car traveling with us is going the wrong way, so I’m going to follow him down the wrong road too.
A : You can’t follow him and go wrong just because he has!
Q : I would like to start an association to attract more members.
A : I as the teacher have to be responsible for the effect of the mistaken causes that my disciples have sown. You would also have to face the effect of the mistaken causes that you have sown. Don’t ever violate the law of cause and effect if you want to cultivate. Don’t be greedy.
Q : If the Master doesn’t agree that I should establish a certain association, then could we get more people to come and make donations?
A : If monastics can just keep the precepts and cultivate, people will naturally make donations.
Q : I am really upset! Somebody criticized the Master!
A : Did you thank him for me? How can we cultivate if we can’t even let go of that ego?
Q : Why doesn’t the Master allow us to notify the newspapers about your donations to various agencies? That way everyone will know that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas also makes contributions frequently.
A : Do cultivators still pursue fame?
Q : How should disciples cultivate once the Master leaves?
A : Follow the Six Great Guiding Principle. Don’t forget the traditions of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Don’t try to take advantage of others by developing relationships with them.
Q : The world is a mess right now. In every corner, either a natural or man-made disaster is occurring. Those victims are so sad!
A : How can you be concerned about the world when you haven’t done what is right yourself?
Q : Master, may I leave the householder’s life?
A : There wouldn’t be too many with you; there wouldn’t be too few without you.
Q : What is an arhat? What is the Venerable Master?
A : It’s impossible for an elementary school student to know the book that a Ph.D. is reading!
Q : What does it mean to make vows? Why should we make vows? How do we make vows?
A : If you want to make vows then you make them. If you don’t want to, then don’t. Why ask me?
Q : Is the accumulation of hidden virtue in the worldly sense the same as “merit and virtue”? Is merit and virtue related to the so-called “good deed”? Is there really merit and virtue in the human realm?
A : If you were to deny cause and effect, then you wouldn’t need to believe in anything.
Q : Why is there a registration fee for the precepts for the deceased? What should we do if we don’t have any money?
A : Why do you have to eat every day? You don’t have to receive the precepts for the deceased; nobody is forcing you.
Q : Why couldn’t this disciple have met the Master earlier in life?
A : Because you didn’t make big vows in your past lives.
Q : Master, how did you teach your disciples?
A : I’m interested in education, wishing to nurture the next generation and teach young people and children how to be good people. Both adults and children nowadays don’t know how to be people, so they have made our society become disorderly. It’s painful to watch.
Q : Many visitors to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas feel that this place is cold, in the sense of being inhumane.
A : There’s no need for social chatter in a monastery, but we don’t need to be as cold as ice either.
Q : Venerable Master, I have finally decided to never play the guitar. I want to give it to the Master.
A : If you have really decided to not play, why do you keep it around?
Q : What kind of attitude should we have to repent and bow the ten thousand bows after we take refuge?
A : Be without a mind. No mental attitude. Don’t think about anything.
Q : Could I become enlightened?
A : Are you scared to die?
Q : Could this disciple help?
A : You want to run before you even know how to walk. It’s too soon.
Q : Am I enlightened?
A : Do you still have sexual desire?
Q : I remember once when the Venerable Master was giving a Sutra lecture upstairs, you said a certain Dharma Master gave money to people.
A : You remember things very clearly.
Once in a car ride from San Francisco to Gold Wheel Monastery, [Los Angeles,] a disciple was looking at the scenery and telling the Master how pretty it was there and how nice it was here.
Master : I don’t look to the outside.
Q : Many people teach their disciples mudras to earn more money. Is that a legitimate practice?
A : To do that is to exploit people’s greed. Just because they practice mudras, it doesn’t mean that all of them will have the power to make every business transaction a success.
Q : Somebody said that the Venerable Master has already gone.
A : He’s revealing to you how his level of cultivation is beyond that of others!
Q : The Master often instructs us that we must accept no remuneration for using the Buddhadharma to heal people, but is meals at a restaurant okay?
A : That is also a form of greed. My true disciples take advantage of no one.
Venerable Master : How do we propagate the Buddhadharma in the United States?
Disciple : To end greed, anger, and delusion. To diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.
Venerable Master : Elaborate. That’s too vague.
Disciple : To not fight, not be greedy, not seek, not be selfish, not pursue self-benefit, and not lie.
Venerable Master : Right, that’s it.
Venerable Master : Tell me, is it better to write with a piece of white chalk or black chalk on the blackboard?
Disciple : White one.
Venerable Master : Should we use a larger or a smaller piece of white chalk?
Disciple : One of average size.
Venerable Master : Who else would say that? Why do you say a piece that’s of an average size? Tell us!
D isciple : A large piece breaks easily. A small piece is difficult to handle. We can write with a piece that’s medium in size.
Venerable Master : Do you see me with a large piece or small piece every time I write? Or do I use a medium-sized one?
Disciple : A small piece.
Venerable Master : Then I must not write well?
Disciple : No! It’s just that the Venerable Master wants to be frugal.
V enerable Master : And what does that mean? It means to cherish and use anything that can still be used. Only when something cannot be used anymore do we stop using it. We do not waste anything.
Venerable Master : Do you know why you’ve got a hunched back?
Disciple : I don’t know.
Venerable Master : Because you’re always thinking about other people’s reaction to everything that you do.
Q : Uh oh, so-and-so is leaving, who is going to be translating in the future?
A : No one is indispensable. It’s never the case that only one person can do some thing.
A disciple asked an inappropriate question.
A : Gee, you wasted a lot of your gasoline!