Venerable Master, Dharma Masters and friends in the Dharma, tonight is Heng Yin's turn to practice tying Dharma affinities.
Yesterday, we heard one of Venerable Master's senior, early lay disciples commented that 'right now is the most exciting times,' he thinks, 'for DRBA since the Master's Nirvana, because right now we have a promising group of trainees and novices that are going to become future, fully-ordained Monastics, and we also see Dharma Realm Buddhist University starting to really developed'. Just now in the tape, we could see Venerable Master in the very beginning, thirty something years ago, painstakingly teaching even the most simple things such as when to put your palms, when to put them down. So giving that the Master had been not physically with us for a while, it's really heartening to see that we are still able to continue his missions and his traditions.
This being my 20th year as a left home person, it's also good time to look back. One thing I can say is that being a monastic under the Venerable Master in DRBA, there is never a boring day. There is never an idle day. We all probably wish that we had 48 hours in the day to accomplish everything we would like to do. And I consider myself among the younger ones, but I see even Shr Fu's old disciples, some twenty, thirty years older than me are still going strong and tirelessly practicing and working on the Dharma, which is very touching and inspiring. .
You may ask why we spread ourselves so thin. Why do we wear so many hats? Take on so many jobs and then do a sloppy job in every single one of them. Well, I guess in the very bottom is because of Venerable Master's vision. His vision is to bring Buddha Dharma, the proper Dharma to the West and then back to the East too. Under that, there is a fourfold mission--to establish the Sangha on the American soil, to translate the Buddhist Cannon into the world's languages, to promote ethical education as a foundation for our practice, and to outreach to other religions as well as science and philosophy to exert influences in society. This compelling vision is what causes us to push ourselves beyond our normal limits, physically and psychologically. And everyone who comes here has a share in this, but it can be a challenge to balance, to balance our work and practice.
We all know that the practice in DRBA is pretty strong in the sense that the Venerable Master set up a very daunting daily schedule, many hours of practice. Practicing as a group generates a collective proper energy. When we are in the Buddha Hall, we just tend not to have false thoughts so much. And this kind of energy can carry us throughout the day as we interact outside and keep us in equilibrium. Nevertheless, I often find myself torn between being in the Buddha Hall, which I would very much like to be more often, and the responsibilities that I took on. So if the balance isn't there, if I overwork, then that leads to, not only me but in general, if one overworks that leads to burn out, to being emotional, to making mistakes, poor decisions and automatically hurting other people. However, if I just say 'okay, well let's forget the work; just don't think about it. Let's just spend the day in the Buddha Hall, then I started feeling really irresponsible and negligent, and I can't focus when I am in the Buddha Hall because I'm thinking of all the things I should, I'm supposed to be taking care of. But that's just the cause of tension we have to live with because this is the environment where by being so busy as designed to minimize our false thinking. We have no free time to false think. And at the same time by doing various kinds of work and various kinds of Dharma practices, we can create blessings that are foundations for practices. Many people might think "oh, it's so much easier to just practice at my house. Nobody to bother me, and I can go as long as I want. No schedule but my own that I set", so forth. But when we are working together with others, or practicing together, it really is a good opportunity to develop our patience, our compassion or empathy in our virtue.
Just like the Venerable Master said when he named the school 'Developing Virtues', he wasn't just talking about students; he was talking about everyone who works at the school. They will definitely get a chance to develop their virtues. And this whole community is a huge school. In the school, we are all interacting with each other on the constant basis. And we definitely are bond to make mistakes, but that's exactly how we learn. We learn through making our mistakes and then we have to forgive one another and ourselves, because Master, you know, said "Everything is a test. Everything is a test to see what we'll do. Not recognizing what's before us, we have to start anew". But that's okay. When we make a mistake, we learn and we start over, and next time maybe we won't make the same mistake. And another important thing to remember is that all of these we are doing are basically like being in a play or a dream, so we shouldn't take it too seriously, or too attached to what is the right way, what is my way, and there is no other way.
A lot of people had shared about their Chan session experience this year, and in the last twenty years, I actually haven't done that many sessions, nor have I been very diligently in the Buddha Hall in general, which I really regret. So I hope other people will not follow that, but will really cherish the sessions. Living at CTTB, we always think 'oh well, these sessions will happen every year, we'll get another chance'. But time really flies! The sessions are really an opportunity for self-transformation and to make some progress in your cultivation. I think it's been probably 15 or more years since I actually did a full-time Amitabha session and then two weeks of Chan before the school started. And I really took back the words that the Venerable Master said during the hundred-day-Chan talk that we heard, such as 'being a living dead person'. I hope I can remember this during the whole years, so that no matter what pressure or disaster happens, I can take it and stride.
Another thing he said was 'the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are in the Vajra Sea of Enlightenment, or Vajra Bodhi Sea,' not the magazine but the actual Sea of Enlightenment, 'watching us how vigorous we are, or how we retreat. Day and day, they are watching and patiently waiting for us to join them'. So that's comforting to know. And I have to say that my Chan session was 99% false thinking at least, but at least the 1% was worthy of clarity. It helped me to realize more though how everything is arises from conditions and it's a construct.
I think the challenge is to try to do Chan in ordinary time as Master quoted Song of Enlightenment "In talking or silent, moving or still, the mind is at peace". He said that means you are investigating Chan whether you are talking or silent. It's easier for us when we were sitting in the Meditation Hall silent. We can investigate, but how can we investigate 'who' when were talking to people, or working. So that’s how we have to remember we are in the dream, we are a dead person, we are in a play, and don’t just completely be wrapped up in your work. That's a challenge.
The other thing is, I only realized now that the hundred-day-Chan or 98-day-Chan was the first Chan session held by the Master in the US, and he started out with that 21 hours a day schedule that we had our traditional schedule. He didn’t start with something easier for those beginning Westerners. No, he really wanted to just set that up for us. And he said that having it in the 21-hour format is very important. It’s important to not talk, to sleep less, not just to walk and sit all those hours. When I first came, I could do the 21 hours, but this time I really slack off, and I had to sleep more. But sometimes when I tried to push myself, I found out even though I was tired, it also helped my false thinking to slow down. So maybe I was false thinking at 50% speed. But it showed me that even though my body and mind were tired, at least I can get clarity that way. So last, but I guess I just conclude here that even though our cultivation here is nothing compare to the ancient cultivators, I think it’s just tremendously wonderful that we have this chance to practice in a place set up by the Master with the Sangha, with the guidelines that we have, with like-minded people to practice together.
I'm going to start another topic for the last four minutes. In the recent years, I started another master degree in the DRBU. When I first left home, I kind of push away all academics and thinking, reading or writing, everything, just wanted to empty my mind. Now I realized it’s really important to study, and to keep studying and learning, and also especially if we are going to bring the Buddha Dharma to the West, we have to understand where Western thinking and philosophy come from, which I have no background in. So recent years, I have just been learning a little bit of basic knowledge. I remember Shr Fu’s spirit of wanting all the Easterners to learn about Western culture and languages, and all the Westerners to learn about Eastern languages and culture. So I really encourage everyone to take classes. We have such a wonderful opportunity having a university right within the monastery that we can study. In the beginning, yes, we have to focus on basic Dharma cultivation, but when we want to share Dharma outwardly, and then we want to understand the living beings, where they are coming from. So to be able to speak Dharma in the West, we have to not just know the words, but also know the culture behind it.