We Hold Firmly to Our Three Great Principles

Ven. Master Hsuan Hua

Good and wise advisors: Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, Independence Day. The Abbot-in-training will be assuming the Abbotship. The new Abbot is quite vicious. Before he assumes the position, he wants to kill a few people as a sacrificial offering to the Dharma. Whom is he going to kill? Thieves! Former thieves and future thieves will be beheaded in public. The new Abbot wants to set rules.

Why didn't I set rules before? Because I am a Dharma slave, and my attitude is, "Everything is OK, no problem." However, this new Abbot is more autocratic. He wants to slay thieves, the more the better. There's a saying, "Wipe out all the thieves in Buddhism, sparing only lofty monks of great virtue." One translation of the word "Arhat" is "killer of thieves." Another saying goes, "Weed out the wicked ones so that the law-abiding ones can live in peace."

Your attention please, all lay people! Don't think that you can be a good Dharma protector by flattering the new Abbot. In fact, you'd just be a stumbling block, obstructing the development of Dharma affairs. The Abbot should not carelessly praise or slander people either, nor should he be influenced by praise or slander. If you're looking for praise, there will certainly be people who will slander you. This is a natural principle.

I was rather easygoing before: I didn't mind if people scolded me, and if people praised me I just forgot about it. Since you are the Abbot-in-training you should maintain the principle of neither praising nor slandering. If you don't want people to praise you, then you should start by not praising others. If you don't want people to slander you, then you should first not slander others. As it's said, "Do not do to others what you don't want done to yourself." Take care not to plant impure causes.

If laypeople see the new Abbot and immediately want to offer him some extra delicious food to eat, they are in effect destroying Buddhism. If they weren't trying to ruin Budihism, they wouldn't do such a superfluous thing. The Abbot is not going to starve. And if he did, it would be right because it'd mean that he didn't have any cultivation. Besides, dying for Buddhism is a real honor and is truly meritorious Therefore, our creed has always been:


Freezing, we do not scheme.

Starving, we do not beg.

Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing

We adapt to 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 Buddhas'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.

In this way, we continue unbroken the legacy of the Patriarch's mind.


[To the new Abbot:] Anyone who makes offerings to you alone is trying to get in your good graces and exploit their relationship with you. Do you understand? Since you are a young man, you should be especially clear about this. I'm old, "o1d and useless," as they say. But you young people should not let yourselves be surrounded by filthy things. You should have the attitude that "even if we're freezing, we stand upright against the wind; even if we're starving, we walk without hunching over." Be like a strong candle in the fierce gale, like pure gold in the blazing fire - fear nothing!  

"Freezing, we do not scheme." This is an apt description of my life. When I was in Manchuria , I wore the same three layers of clothing in winter as well as summer. There was one layer on the bottom, and the layer on top of that was sewn in patchwork. Was I cold at that time? You bet! Why did I insist on living like that? Because I didn't want to scheme for things, even if I was freezing!  

"Starving, we do not beg." Once, when I was living in Guanyin cave at Hibiscus Mountain in Hong Kong , I went without food for two consecutive weeks. I just sat in the cave meditating and waiting to die. A layman named Lao Kuansheng, whose nickname was "Local Dharma Master," lived at the foot of the mountain. This man saw Weitou Bodhisattva appear three times in his dreams and say to him, "There is a Dharma Master named An Ci (An Tzu) in Guanyin Cave . You should go and make offerings to him." So the layman hauled a sack of rice that weighed about 30 catties (40 pounds) up to the cave and offered it to me, along with about seventy dollars. Three or four months before this happened, the layman had been bitten on the leg by a dog. Both Western and Chinese Joctors had treated the injury for months without success. They couldn't do anything for him. Weitou Bodhisattva likes to mind other people's business, so he told the man, "If you make offerings to the Dharma Master in Guanyin Cave , your leg will heal." The man believed him and brought over the rice and cash. At that point I was just waiting for death in the cave. But I've never said to anyone, "Have mercy! I haven't eaten for many days!" This is called, "Starving, we do not beg."  

"Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing." When I first went to Nanhua Monastery to draw near to the Venerable Master Hsu Yun, I was penniless. I didn't even have stamps to mail letters with. Even so, I never asked for anything from lay-people. And so there are reasons for these Three Great Principles of mine. They are not just empty words. Now that the new Abbot has come, no one should try to develop a special friendship with him, hoping that he will think especially well of them. If you want to make offerings, make them to the entire assembly. Don't make offerings to just one particular individual. If you do that, you are just harming people and destroying the harmony of Buddhism.  

Left-home people should adhere to these Three Great Principles. Don't get discouraged. You should be teachers of gods and people and go to battle with demons of the ten directions. Someone may ask, "Don't you teach your disciples to use the Four Measureless Minds of kindness, compassion, joy, and giving? Why are you telling them to fight? Isn't that just holding on to hatred? How could they be teachers of gods and people?" Well, it's just for the sake of being teachers of gods and people that we should teach and transform the demon armies!


A talk given on July 3, 1986


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