When a typhoon comes, we have to take them down so they will not be blown away. This kind of roof lasts longer. This is an ephemeral world; everything comes and goes. Nothing comes, then nothing goes!
This is a "sun plaza." Others have religious centers, we call ours the "sun plaza." The sunshine here is free for you who come. Bathe in the sun as much as possible. In the West, people have to pay a lot of money to get some sunshine. That you already know. Don't you? (Yes.)
Now, I will tell you a story so you know how immensely blessed you are! As long as I am at the center, you can all drive your cars up here. We may have only parking problems.
In ancient times, if you wanted to spend one or two days at a temple, or enter through its gate, you had to pass a test. You had to answer questions. You did not have to do anything marvelous except answer them well.
That was because Zen teachers liked to test people's IQ. Understand? Therefore, they created lots of difficult topics or koans to test the people. It was so tough that people sometimes committed suicide! That was terrible. Understand?
People were so immersed in koans that when they did not gain enlightenment, they slashed open their stomachs. Understand? Such terrible things don't happen here. The most you do here is open your third eye.
A long time ago, there was a temple somewhere. Anyone who wanted to go in had to answer questions. Even monks who had left their homes for spiritual practice were not exempted. Only if they answered the questions right, then they could stay overnight or spend two or three days at the temple.
In India, anyone can stay in most places of spiritual practice or temples. You won't be asked any questions. But you have to pay a small fee for the maintenance of the temple. You can stay there for three consecutive days at the most. After three days, you must take a walk around the neighborhood before returning for another three days' stay. You just can't stay for more than three days at a stretch.
This story is about our ancient Japanese Zen temples. Why do we say Zen temples and other kind of temples? In other temples, like that of the Amitabha Buddha, all the people had to do was recite "Amitabha Buddha" and they could just rush in.
To differentiate it from other temples, it was called a Zen temple. The Zen temple was a place for meditation. People meditated and contemplated koans all the time. You could not come and go freely, or bother the people there. Understand?
That was why those rules were set up. They were to test travelers to see whether they were sincere practitioners or not. Understand? And whether they were sincere enough that they could understand why those strict rules were set. To an ordinary person, those conventions seemed strange, or they might have been unheard of.
Travelers who wanted to stay in the Zen temple were tested to see if their IQ was high or if they were mentally sound. That was one way to avoid trouble. Understand? That was at one of the Zen temples. If they failed the test, they could not get in and had to go somewhere else. That was the rule then.
There were two monks in this temple. One was senior, the other was junior. The senior one was clever while the junior was new to this temple. Usually if we don't understand a story, it seems boring. Zen stories can be boring if you do not practice the Quan Yin Method or are unenlightened. We won't understand what they are about. Right? We wonder why these stories are great. To completely comprehend, you should reach for the inner meaning.
Okay, there were two monks living in that Japanese temple. One was very intelligent, enlightened, dignified and good-looking. The senior monk was quite distinguished, good-looking, enlightened and smart.
In contrast, the junior was less attractive and intelligent - at about the astral level. He had only one good eye. He was probably frugal because he once wondered why he should bother having two good eyes when the world looked pretty much the same with only one eye open. Also, it was sometimes tedious to put eyedrops in both eyes rather than just one eye.
One time the senior monk had been so busy all day long that he needed to take a break and meditate for the rest of the day. The junior, who had only one good eye, was asked to take care of the "sun plaza," the temple where they lived.
A wandering monk from a distant place came. He wanted to spend the night at the temple and have a vegetarian meal before leaving the next day. But rules are rules. This junior monk was at the astral level, or the first realm, which was nothing much, but a rule was a rule. He had to give this monk a test.
He seldom had a chance to be the “abbot.” The senior monk had fallen asleep and the junior one could take charge of the temple. He had to test this wandering monk, so he took out the Master's table covered with a saffron cloth and sat on it, asking the monk to come over and sit on the ground.
"Where have you come from?" asked the junior. "I came from Tokyo," replied the monk.
"I'd like to stay here overnight because I have to rush to a funeral tomorrow," said the monk. The junior monk replied, "You are most welcome, if you are smart enough. If you can answer my questions, you may stay as long as you want. I may even give you an ID!" The wandering monk said, "Of course, I understand the rule. So please go ahead!"
The junior monk realized just then that he didn't know what to ask. He had attained such a “high” level, the astral or the first realm. The level was too “high.” The first! The first level doesn't mean first-class. You all know that, don't you? What is the lowest level here? Which realm? (The first realm.) The first realm. Well, the junior monk didn't know what to ask. Understand?
However, he thought that it was best done in a Zen manner where no words were necessary. The monk would surely lose. Any guess he made would be wrong. Whether the answer was right or wrong, the junior monk could say it was wrong.
After a speechless question-and-answer session between them, the monk who had come from afar ran to the senior monk and said, "I have to leave. I have lost. I have come to say hallo and good-bye. I am leaving now. The junior monk is superb. He is amazing. I am very sorry that I can't pay you a visit or study with you because I have lost. You must be even greater than the junior monk, who is already amazing. However, I can't stay with you because I have lost and must abide by the rule."
The senior monk who had rested enough asked, "What really happened during the question- and-answer session? How could you have lost anyway?"
The monk replied, "He let me ask first. So I raised one finger like this as a metaphor of the almighty respectable one in the whole world, the Buddha! It indicates a completely enlightened being. So, I raised one finger. The junior monk responded immediately by raising two fingers, so I lost. I knew what he meant. I realized that the Buddha sitting by itself without preaching the Dharma (true teaching) or doctrine is useless.”
The Buddha alone is useless. He has to preach and lecture, understand? We must have both the Buddha and Dharma (true teaching).
“So there was no doubt that I lost. I admire him very much for this. Then, in an attempt to turn things around, I raised three fingers like this to indicate the Buddha, the Dharma and the assembly of monks, respectively.”
Understand? It is perfect only when the three become one. Many practitioners live peacefully together as though they are one. There is only one Dharma (true teaching) and there is only one Buddha who is the most precious in the world. The Dharma is unique and nothing but the truth. The many practitioners are all one. So this is what the three-finger metaphor is all about.
“The junior monk then surprisingly responded by putting his fist on my nose. Well, he almost hit me right there, but not quite. This definitely indicates that a person becomes enlightened immediately just like that.”
What he meant is that the Buddha, the Dharma (true teaching) and the assembly of monks are meant to bring immediate enlightenment in one lifetime.
“A single blow brings immediate enlightenment. This was beyond me! After realizing just how amazing the junior monk is, I have come to you immediately to offer my apologies and pay my respects before I leave." So the monk left the temple.
Meanwhile, the junior monk ran over and asked his senior, "Well! Where is the monk from afar? Where has he gone to?" The senior monk replied, "Oh! He was beaten by you and ran away. You are terrific! You are really terrific! I didn't know that you were so enlightened. I am sorry that I have underestimated you recently, and for so many years too. Now I know that you are so marvelous! Well, well! He has left."
The junior monk said, "When did I win him? I just wanted to beat him and he ran away." "Oh?" said the senior monk, “Why do you want to hit him? He said that you won. Why do you want to hit him? Tell me your dialogue. What did you talk about? Why do you want to hit him?"
The junior monk said, "You don't know that that man is very arrogant. He challenged me. He challenged me as soon as he came here. He made fun of me as soon as he came and saw I had only one eye. He held up one finger immediately in mockery of my having only one good eye.
However, I remembered that you told me to practice humility. No matter how others beat or scolded me, I had to be patient. Being a monk I had no other choice but to put up with it.
Then I remembered what the Buddha said about repaying hatred with kindness. Right? Don't repay hatred with hatred. Therefore, I praised him. I tried my best not to be angry with him and did not insult him in return.
I praised him by holding up two fingers to indicate that he was really blessed to have two eyes. It was great for him. Still, he was not contented. He was not satisfied. He knew that I had yielded, so he continued to insult me."
The senior monk asked, "How did he insult you? He is a monk. Why would he insult you?"
The junior monk replied,“He held up three fingers. He meant that the two of us together
How could I not be angry? Well! By that time, I couldn't stand it any longer. I raised my fist at him, and luckily for him, he fled. I ran after him but he got away before I came here. Otherwise, I would have hit him with my fist some more."
Now you understand! Well, that's the end of the story. That monk ran away. Otherwise, there might have been more stories. This story is, of course, very funny. But you know there are some solemn principles behind the story.
I often tell you fun stories, that is not just to make you laugh and that's it. Right? You know there are some underlying principles, don't you? Almost all the stories I tell have some underlying principles, whether I explain them or not.
Sometimes, with explanation, you understand one aspect, but you understand more angles when you go home. Sometimes, without explanations, you understand in your own way and you explain them at your own level of enlightenment. We understand things based on our level.
There are some implications in this story. Namely, we spiritual practitioners at different levels see things differently. Is that not so? If we are simple, pure and positive inside, we see things positively, comfortably and beautifully. If we are not simple but are negative inside, we find everything bad. Is that not so?
Sometimes when we are so devoted to spiritual practice that we forget our outer appearance and wear any kind of clothes, just to devote ourselves to spiritual practice for a while.
After attaining or understanding the Tao, we have to relax and not always be so tense, understand? Some people perceive it this way, but alas, some don't. So the same thing seen by people from different perspectives leads to different conclusions.
Likewise, why do we have to practice? It is because after we practice, our wisdom opens up and our thoughts are more open. Only then can we have a non-biased view of everything. That's all.
Given the same thing, we see its true image. We do not misunderstand nor are we confused by illusion, or deceived, or askew by our biases. That is why we become happier living in this world after we have practiced for a while.
Our house is as shabby as before, our debt still needs to be paid, our children are as naughty as ever, our husbands may even chase after “butterflies” outside, but we are in a different state of mind, aren't we? Well, we think differently.
For example, our children have to be naughty to be smart. Well, because he is too clever, he is naughty. For example, like that. Or we may think, “Well, every child is naughty! He will be serious after he grows up. That's okay.”
Or when our husbands are looking for another “rose,” we may appreciate God's arrangement to give us more time to practice. Right? You get it? You have had the experience.
You see, I just say anything and it hits the nail right on the head. Don't say that I have magical power. I only speak casually but it hits the mark.
On the contrary, those who don't practice are very depressed, understand? Given the same circumstances, they couldn't bear it. Sometime they'd even think of some evil way to solve their problems. So you read about very awful events.
For example, a wife or a lover hurts another wife or lover. For example, she throws acid on her rival to destroy her beauty. The person who throws the acid doesn't meet with good consequences either. She is jailed and suffers the rest of her life. She can't see her husband. How is that? She is jailed for life and can't go anywhere. There is no one to take care of her children. Something like this.
She also wastes her youth and she can't see her husband or lover. Her lover is also very angry at her and hates her. Even if she is not in jail, he doesn't want to be with her anymore. He is afraid of this kind of person, isn't he? What good can she get out of it?
Such incidents will occur less frequently if more people practice spiritually in this world. We can think things out clearly, it's not that we won't. But we won't have the vicious mind of hatred.
We understand that the world is ephemeral. We also know the karmic relationship of this world. For example, I owed him
before and he owed you, or this person was that person's wife in a past life and has come back in this life wanting to have him as her husband again; or perhaps they were enemies. One can't be sure.
It's not necessarily bad for us when people take away our possessions. We will understand this much better after we start practicing and get enlightened, right?
We have read the story about an old man losing his horse, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We have read many others like this one but we don't practice what we learn. We have too many theories already. We have plenty of religious theories, right?
There are thousands… millions of Buddhist sutras, right? You cannot finish reading them. There are so many dogmas in Confucianism and Taoism. We can't memorize them all, right? We don't put the theories into practice.
Therefore, countries, that is, some countries, are in chaos because their governments do not follow the ethical codes passed down by our ancient sages in governing the people and the country. People also live their lives carelessly and are abused. Generation after generation, kids follow their parents' footsteps and live in ignorance.
Hence, after thousands, millions, and billions > of years, the world writes the same history over and over. We wear two sets of clothes, eat two or three meals a day, and work eight hours, or even more than ten, twenty hours a day. We work our lives away to sustain this physical body.
Most people don't know what they are doing in this world, understand? Circumstances force them to do things they don't like. They treat each other maliciously and sometimes act against their own will.
This is because everything is in theory only; it cannot change people's minds. If we don't meditate quietly every day to digest the teachings and theories that we know, we cannot put them into practice. That's how we learn, think, and then forget. Very few can really incorporate the sages' teachings into their lives, isn't that so?
Shakyamuni Buddha advised people to be vegetarian, right? Take the history of Buddhism, for example. Buddhism teaches people to be vegetarian, not to kill, to gain more merits, and so on. Can most Buddhists do that? (No.) They can't, right?
Some of them are vegetarian on the first and fifteenth of each lunar month only. Perhaps they think that's enough to be a Buddha - twice a month. Perhaps they are afraid of getting occupational diseases or whatever if they are Buddhas for too long. So they are vegetarian for two days only.
Some people say that two days are too few, so they keep a vegetarian diet four or six days a month. I wonder what they do for the remaining 24 days. Some take “morning vegetarian”!
After their vegetarian breakfast, they wait until noon, and on the dot, they go to eat meat. Therefore, they want to be morning Buddhas. It doesn't matter what they become in the evening. This is not too bad. It's like changing professions. It's like some people who have two or three jobs, right?
Perhaps those morning vegetarians or first-and-fifteenth-day vegetarians think the same way.
Why did people respect monks and priests in ancient times? Do you know? What made them different from us? It's still the same today. We think that monks and priests are better than us, right? Most do. I mean, most people do.
I am not talking about we Quan Yin Method practitioners. No. Why? Does anyone know? Kindness! Not necessarily. They must be kind, sorry. Why are they kind? They are on a higher spiritual level.
(Keep precepts.) They keep precepts. (Worship God every day.) They worship God daily. (Peace. Nobility.) Peace? Nobility? Anything else? (Love.) Love. They have? (Don't get married.) Not get married? Don't get married. (Renunciation.) Renunciation. Really? Renunciation of everything. What else? (Deliver sentient beings.) Delivering sentient beings, is that right?
(Spread God's Word.) Spreading God's messages. (Word.) Oh, God's Word. The Word! (A pure mind.) A pure mind! (Reciting sutras and worshipping the Buddhas every day.) Reciting sutras and worshipping the Buddhas every day.
So it's so easy to be a monk. To be respected by people you need to have a pure mind, recite sutras and worship the Buddhas every day, be single, be kind, and spread God's Word. What else? That's about it.
That's too easy! Too simple. Simply find a widow who is kind, recites sutras and worships the Buddhas every day, keeps a vegetarian diet, reads the Bible out loud, then she can become a nun. People will respect her.
Is that okay? Enough? (Not enough.) Not enough. But why do we think it is enough? Why do ordinary folks respect the monks and priests of different religions? Because we believe that they have more time. Understand?
They are professionals. They don't do anything else, nor do they think of mundane things. They just think of God, the Tao (the Truth) and that aspect always. That's what we think! Because of that, we think they communicate with God or Buddha more easily.
Perhaps God doesn't understand us when we want to say something. We must go through him so he can translate our messages to God before Hes can understand. Just like this, right? The important part is right here - time and concentration.
If I were in the United Nations, I would advise all the countries, immediately start organic vegan. And all the subsidies that they use for the meat industry, the extra money that the governments give, just give them to turn to vegan, organic. Yes, it's very easy.
We are a miracle of the universe; we can do anything we want.
* Join us for Words of Wisdom on Supreme Master Television on Tuesday, January 25, for the interview with Supreme Master Ching Hai by Televisa TV, the first major television station in Mexico.
Tune in to Supreme Master Television today for our program “Interview with Supreme Master Ching Hai by Televisa TV” on Words of Wisdom.