If we do not do a good job as human beings, we cannot become Buddhas. Therefore, we must lay the foundation. What is the foundation for being a human being? It is: filial piety, fraternal respect, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, justice, modesty, and a sense of shame. These eight principles are the basis of being a human being. Confucius said: "The superior person devotes himself to the foundation. Once the foundation is established, the Way comes forth. Filial piety and fraternal respect are the foundation for being a human being." To have the basis for being a human being, first of all you must be filial. Respect the elderly and the worthy. Regard all elderly people as your own parents, all middle-aged people as your own siblings, and all young people as your own children. If you have this attitude, then you understand how to be a person. Thus, the ancients said, "I take care of my own elders and children and extend the same care to others' elders and children as well." Respecting the elderly, honoring the worthy, and venerating those who have attained the Way--these are the basis for being a human being.
The Chapter "Great Commonwealth of Peace and Prosperity" in the Book of Rites says, "People cherish not only their own parents and children, but cherish the parents and children of others as well. The elderly live their last years in happiness; able-bodied adults are usefully employed; and children are properly raised. Widowers, widows, orphans, the childless elderly, the crippled, and the ailing are well cared for." In ancient times, all the sages, worthy kings, and virtuous emperors governed the nations in this way. When King Wen implemented policies with kindness, he always first gave aid to widowers, widows, orphans, and the childless aged. Therefore, the people of the Zhou Dynasty enjoyed peaceful times. King Wen was able to regard the country as one family and the world as one body. Thus there were no distinctions between you and me, between near and distant relatives, or between those who were close and those who were far. That was the beginning of a commonwealth of peace and prosperity.
We should study Buddhism with this kind of spirit. If you are studying Buddhism with such a magnanimous spirit and resolve, the Buddha will surely protect and support you. If you do not have this kind of spirit--if you recite the Buddha's name and bow to the Buddha, yet constantly lose your temper, then you will not be able to obtain any benefit from Buddhism.
I do not know how to speak about lofty theories. I simply hope each one of you can give away your temper. That is true giving. If you cannot give away your temper, you will not be able to practice the Buddha's path effectively.
Today is the first time I have come here to talk to you. Since I didn't sleep on the plane, didn't get any sleep last night, and had a lot of visitors today, I feel very tired. I will say no more. If I said too much, you would all forget and it would be useless. If I say less and you can remember even just one sentence and truly put it into practice--sincerely practice the virtues of filial piety, fraternal respect, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, justice, modesty, and a sense of shame, as well as not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking, not benefiting yourself, not being selfish, and not lying--this would be the first step in studying Buddhism. The second step is to work hard and advance vigorously. I hope you all attain Buddhahood soon!
A Dharma talk by Venerable Master Hua at the Dharma Realm Buddhist Book Distribution Association in Taiwan on January 4, 1993