Freezing, we do not scheme;
Starving, we do not beg;
Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing.
We accord with conditions, but never waver;
We remain steadfast, yet accord with every situation.
These are our three great principles:
We dedicate our lives to do the Buddha’s work,
We forge our lives as our basic duty,
We rectify our lives to fulfill the Sangha’s role.
We express our ideals within our daily affairs,
So that within our daily affairs
our ideals shine forth.
Thus we continue unbroken
the legacy of the Patriarch’s mind.
This is our basic duty, and I hope we can encourage each other.
Cultivators should not exploit conditions. Instead, you should have clear, pure minds that aren’t greedy or defiled. As I always tell you, people who have entered the monastic life to cultivate should seek the Way single-mindedly, wanting nothing else and being greedy for nothing. You can’t carelessly give even a mustard seed to other people, nor can you ask people for one. There is an idiom:
Don’t casually give away a mustard seed;
Don’t casually accept a mustard seed from anyone.
You should have a very clear understanding of affinities. You want to purify your affinities and not pollute them. Lack of greed makes an affinity pure. Greed pollutes an affinity. Monks and nuns may accept offerings, but they should not be greedy for them. A person who does not crave offerings is a true disciple of the Buddha.
To decline offerings that you are entitled to accept shows resolute integrity. You didn’t enter the monastic life for the sake of food or clothes. If you wear fine clothes and eat well, but don’t cultivate, what good is that? As for things that are not essential, we should treat them in an ordinary way and not put too much emphasis on them. There is a saying:
“A superior person seeks the Way, not food.” Today I will change it to:
“A superior person seeks the Way, not clothing.” Don’t be greedy for good food; you should be content if you can eat your fill; don’t be greedy for nice clothes; just make sure you wear enough to protect you from the cold. The ancients said,
A superior person feels at ease in poverty;
A wise person understands the will of Heaven.
Monks and nuns should be aware that until one accomplishes the Way, one cannot incur debts. If you have debts, they will bind you and hinder your liberation. Impure affinities in particular will trap you so that you can’t be free. Ordinary monks and nuns, however, like to receive offerings and get bound by impure affinities. If you do so, it won’t be easy to transcend the Three Realms. The rope of polluted affinities will bind you so tightly that you won’t be able to get free. Don’t indulge in these unreal things, and then you won’t have any trouble.
Those who have renounced the life of a householder can be grouped into seven categories.
1. The top ranking renunciates have no burdens. They are not polluted by any dust; all their affinities are emptied.
2. The renunciates who rank second hold cloth bags in their hands, and no one knows what’s in them.
3. The third-ranking renunciates carry their loads with poles on their shoulders; it’s everything they have. It’s a heavy load (about a hundred pounds). But since they can¬not put everything down, they are willing to carry this load wherever they go. (In this country people use backpacks instead of carrying poles, but it’s about the same.)
4. Renunciates of the fourth rank use cars to transport their belongings.
5. Renunciates of the fifth rank use trains.
6. Renunciates of the sixth rank use ships.
7. Renunciates of the seventh rank use airplanes.
This is a common fault of people in the monastic order.
I allowed you to join the monastic life, and I hope you will accomplish Buddhahood soon. If you cannot become Buddhas, you should become Bodhisattvas. In any case, benefit others, not yourselves. Don’t casually give away the temple’s possessions for the sake of establishing relationships. You may think you’re creating merit and virtue, but actually you are stealing from the Sangha. To befriend people and give them private gifts violates the monastic rules. If you have done so, correct your behavior quickly and don’t ever do it again. Be careful about such things.
A talk given on August 15, 1983,
at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas