Sunday noon, November 5, 1972

On Laypeople’s Role as Dharma Protectors

Ven. Master Hsuan Hua  


Lay Buddhists are also called Dharma protectors. Their responsibility is to protect and support the Triple Jewel, to draw near and make offerings to it. As Dharma protectors, they must not destroy or slander the Triple Jewel. They cannot come to the bodhima a and find fault with everything, causing trouble and spreading gossip in a place that was originally free of trouble and gossip.

A couple of my lay disciples who basically know very little about Buddhism have decided they want to boss the Sangha around by having lay people take charge of temple affairs. They contend that all articles published in our monthly journal have to be written by laypeople, and that left-home people should not be allowed to write. I don’t understand who taught them this approach. They also maintain that the journal should be given free to people.

Now if you were the founders and sponsors of this publication, then you could select whatever content you wanted. But, frankly, you haven’t paid a single penny toward the journal’s expenses, so what right do you have to suggest to be given away free? Why should the journal be given away free? You don’t understand the least bit about the Buddhadharma, but you rely on your personal whims and opinions and want to become the managers of this monastery and to boss the monastics around. Such an attitude greatly displeases me.

These two people asked another disciple to run copies of my lectures. Initially, they invested $20 in the making of those copies. Then they turned around and charged other disciples $12 per set, and insisted that the $12 be handed in to them, that others are not allowed to take care of this business. Think it over: Is this fair or not? They say that the journal should be given away for free, yet they charge money for copies of lectures.

Now the lectures printed on those copies are delivered by me, a monastic, not by these lay disciples. To charge money for their own lectures would be reasonable. But they spend $20 making copies of someone else’s lectures, and then charge people $12 per set. That’s a pretty good business! I myself wouldn’t have thought of a way to make such a big profit.

I didn’t want to talk about this, but I notice that other laypeople are being influenced by these two, so I have no choice but to bring up this matter. All of you should reflect on the principle involved. They don’t live in the area and hardly ever come to the monastery, but when they do come, they find fault with everything here. They complain to other disciples, who get confused by the ‘spell’ they are chanting and don’t know how to answer their questions.

All of you pay attention: In monasteries established by me, I won’t allow laypeople to run monastic affairs. This particular couple thinks they want to take over our monastic management. I believe that if they were actually in charge, they’d be so overwhelmed with the responsibility that within a month they’d be running 108,000 miles away. Why do I say that? Well, this monastery is just getting established; it doesn’t yet have a solid foundation. Three months ago, we borrowed $1,400, and last month we scraped things together and paid back $700. If they were to take over, they’d become so nervous trying to make the monastic accounts balance that they wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

On Friday three of my monastic disciples are going to Hong Kong to propagate the Dharma. In 1969, when five of my disciples went to Taiwan to receive the precepts, many people chipped in for their travel expenses. The most that someone donated was $300, while others gave smaller amounts.

The second time, when four of my disciples went to Taiwan to take precepts, not a single layperson donated any money for the trip. However, one of those four monks told people in Taiwan that laypeople had paid their airfare. That shows his utter ignorance. Which layperson contributed to those transportation fees? What do you mean by going to Taiwan and exaggerating about laypeople that way?

This time, the three monks going to Hong Kong are a little more fortunate than those who went to Taiwan last time. Someone gave them $5 each, and I, borrowing their light, also got $10. Actually, their airfare and their expenses have all been provided by me.

You laypeople can stop speculating about whether the monastery paid for these monks. The fact is, I myself borrowed money to buy them round-trip tickets. Lay people, pay attention to what I’m saying: if you find fault with the monastery every time you come, you are making a mistake.

Timely Teachings. Page 172 - 174.