It's because the Way and virtue are a person's foundation. Once we have the Way and virtue, we can stand on our own feet.
Time is like an arrow; the days and months fly by like a shuttlecock. The waves in the river follow one after another. Glory fades quickly. In the world, youth is followed by old age. In this way, we gradually return to the decay and extinction of old age and death, leaving no trace or shadow. Clearly, everything is impermanent.
Since everything is impermanent, we should quickly find a refuge. All of you can count yourselves lucky, for you have searched around and finally come to believe in the Buddha. Faith in the Buddha enables us to attain the ultimate happiness of permanence, joy, true self, and purity. Therefore we should believe in the Buddha. But it's not enough to say that we believe. We also have to cultivate according to the Dharma. If youbelieve but don't cultivate, it's like talking about food without eating it, or counting the wealth of others-it doesn't benefit you in the least. So the ancients said:
The Way must be practiced.
If it is not practiced, what use is the Way?
Virtue must be cultivated.
If it is not cultivated, from where does virtue come?
We should personally practice, always hanging the words "birth" and "death" on our brows, and putting the words "Way" and "virtue" beneath our feet. Maybe that's hard to understand-why should we put the words "Way" and "virtue" under our feet? Because the Way and virtue are a person's foundation. They are to us what roots are to a tree. Once we have the Way and virtue, we can stand on our own feet. But with no base under our feet, we have no place to stand. We are in a fix, unable to advance or retreat, and we cannot accomplish anything. If we can actually practice these two things, then we can establish a good character and naturally be successful in whatever we do. So it's said, "The Way and virtue are the foundation of being a person." The Analects of Confucius also say, "The superior person attends to the root. When the root is established, the Way comes forth." Only when the fundamentals are tended to can the Way come forth. This is wise advice from the ancients.
As mentioned earlier, the days pass as swiftly as an arrow, but we don't notice it. As for the days gone by, just let them go. Only the future is worth pursuing. We should set guidelines for the future, so we won't let the time pass in a muddle.
Western Bliss Garden Monastery has always promoted the Pure Land Dharma-door and exhorts everyone to vigorously recite the Buddha's name. Every year, on the nineteenth of the sixth lunar month and the seventeenth of the eleventh lunar month, we will continue as usual to hold Dharma Sessions for reciting the names of Guanyin Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha. However, everyone should certainly not just casually "attend as usual," not taking it seriously and letting it pass lightly. Rather, each year we should be more vigorous than the year before; we should work intensively. During these seven days, no matter when and where we are, we should diligently be reciting the Bodhisattva's name and never become lax.
We should be mindful of the Bodhisattva; it's not that the Bodhisattva should be mindful of us. Why don't we want the Bodhisattva to be mindful of us? If you are nominally participating in this session, but in fact a lot of idle thoughts are keeping you from being diligent in reciting the Bodhisattva's vast name, the Bodhisattva of Great Kindness and Compassion will certainly take pity on you, this poor living being, and be worried because you are not sincerely participating in the session. Therefore, everyone should earnestly and sincerely recite, and go a step further by nurturing kindness, compassion, joy, and renunciation in your mind. If you can do that, then I guarantee that the Bodhisattva will aid and support you.
Moreover, everyone has come to the session of his own free will; Western Bliss Garden Monastery has never sent invitations to anyone. This shows that everyone is certainly not lacking in sincerity. This spirit of initiative is very commendable. Therefore, we shouldn't let this sincerity go to waste. We should all vow to recite until "stones peep out from the receding water" (the truth is brought to light), until the Bodhisattvas appear before us to speak the Dharma; then, we will not have come to the session in vain.
This is the first day of the session. On this day, I bless you all and wish you success this year. If you don't have any success, I will have to settle accounts with everyone. And if your account isn't cleared up, you will be sorry. I won't chatter too much; we had better recite the Bodhisattva's vast name some more!