Sunday noon, October 22, 1972

On Following Rules
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua

Itís been almost two years since we moved to Gold Mountain Monastery. Since coming here, I have seldom talked about rules, so some people become very casual. Itís not that people are deliberately lax; itís because I havenít mentioned rules for so long, you have tended to forget about them. I feel remorseful that the laxness in reminding you has been with me.

So, once again, you should all realize that:

This day is already over,
And our lives are that much shorter.
We are like fish in an evaporating pond:
What joy is there in this?
Great assembly! Be diligent and vigorous
As if saving your own head.
Be mindful of impermanence, and
Take care not to be lax.

You donít know what day the ghost of impermanence will arrive. Donít casually fail to observe the rules.

Gold Mountain Monastery a first in the West [Editorís note: to have Westerners forming an orthodox monastic Sangha]; it is the fountainhead of Buddhism. You could say that everything we do is first in the world and first in Buddhism. We must resolve to make the Proper Dharma last a long time. In order for this to happen, everyone must observe the rules. We canít act as if there were no rules. Monastics and laypeople must both conduct themselves well. ďWithout a compass and a T-square, one cannot make circles and squares.Ē If there are no rules, we cannot accomplish our work in the Path. Therefore, I will now review the rules of Gold Mountain Monastery as a reminder to both monastic and lay people.

In the Buddha Hall, we must be absolutely respectful. We should contemplate that the Buddhas are surrounding us; they are right above us, to our left and right, in front of and behind us. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are watching us at all times, wherever we are. Therefore, we should not chat casually or be lax. If people have proper business that needs discussed, you can go to the sitting room upstairs. But donít have a noisy conversation as if you were in the marketplace or at a theater during intermission.

Itís essential for people to abide by the rules and behave with decorum here. If you yourself donít want to cultivate, fine; but donít hinder others from cultivating. If you chatter nonsense instead of cultivating, other people will be influenced. People are not sages, and even if there were sage among us, others would still be affected. Therefore, no matter what, we should protect, support, and respect this bodhima‹…a, and not do things to undermine or harm it. Everyone should pay attention to this point.

All of us here are intent upon cultivating the Way. We donít come here to discuss business. If we truly wish to study and practice the Buddhadharma, we must do it sincerely. Donít just idle your lives away. We only have a few decades of life, and they pass by in a flash. If you lose this opportunity, next time around you may not even have a human body. If you donít apply yourself in this life, youíll be sorry in the next life. All of you should take note of this.

(Timely Teachings, page 134)