Sowing Seeds in the West

What does having self-mastery mean? It means not being deluded and not cheating oneself. It means possessing the virtues of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.

The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association was established in 1959, and Gold Mountain Monastery in 1970, with the purpose of bringing Buddhism from the East to the West so that it can blossom and bear fruits here. Although Western society is advanced in terms of industry and material comforts, its competitive consumerism creates insatiable desires in people. This leads to an unwholesome outcome. Buddhism emphasizes the importance of spiritual concerns over material ones. It teaches us not to be selfish or concerned with personal benefit, but to learn to be like Bodhisattvas.

The Flower Adornment Sutra tells us to practice the Bodhisattva Path, while the Brahma Net Sutra speaks of the Bodhisattva precepts. Every precept is aimed at saving and benefiting living beings; none are for a selfish purpose. In modern times when our desires for material things are so overpowering, Buddhism is the wonder drug that can save our spiritual natures. The seeds of Bodhi have already been sown in the West, and now it is time for them to sprout and grow. In the near future they will blossom and bear Bodhi fruit, and the lost and confused living beings will be rescued, so that they can escape suffering and attain bliss.

At Gold Mountain Monastery, everyone should cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, which are as precious as real gold. With these three kinds of power, we will be able to spread the Buddha’s teachings throughout the entire world. Otherwise, if we cannot shoulder the task, the future of Buddhism will be bleak indeed! Left-home people and laypeople alike should pay attention to this. Gold Mountain Monastery specializes in training people to propagate the Dharma. It is the best place for choosing a successor. Anyone who truly upholds the precepts, genuinely cultivates samadhi, and perfects his wisdom is qualified to be the chairperson of Dharma Realm Buddhist Association and the abbot of Gold Mountain Monastery. I have long since wanted to pass these two positions on to someone else, but after all these years I have yet to find a suitable person. Today, we must choose a virtuous and learned good advisor to be the abbot of Gold Mountain Monastery.

Shakyamuni Buddha transmitted the Dharma-door of “sealing the mind with the mind” to the First Patriarch Mahakashyapa, who in turn transmitted it to Venerable Ananda. The Dharma was transmitted from generation to generation in India up to the Twenty-eighth Patriarch Bodhidharma, who took the Mind Dharma to China. In China, the Dharma was also transmitted from patriarch to patriarch. The Fifth Patriarch of China, Great Master Hong-ren, transmitted the Mind Dharma, plus the robe and bowl, to Great Master Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch, who was illiterate. The robe and bowl symbolised that the recipent of the Dharma was a Dharma Master who was able to teach and transform living beings. Actually, whether or not he had the robe and bowl was not important, what mattered was that he had attained self-mastery.

What does having self-mastery mean? It means not being deluded and not cheating oneself. It means possessing the virtue of precepts that comes from truly holding precepts, the virtue of samadhi gained through genuine cultivation of samadhi, and the virtue of wisdom derived from real wisdom. Being replete with the three virtues, one offers up everything to Buddhism and propagates the Dharma to benefit living beings. One is neither selfish nor greedy for personal gain. One never schemes, “How can I become more famous in Buddhism? How can I reach a higher position and gain more benefits?” Nor does one think, “I want to build the biggest temple. I want to make the best vegetarian food so all the laypeople will come to my temple and the donations will roll in.” Here at Gold Mountain, we only want to make living Buddhas, living Bodhisattvas, and living Patriarchs to continue the wisdom life of the Buddha and glorify Buddhism.

The Mind Dharma of Proper Buddhism, after being transmitted to the Sixth Patriarch, split into the five sects of Weiyang, Linji, Caodong, Yunmen, and Fayan, which have been transmitted to the present time. [Note: The Venerable Master Hsu Yun, as the eighth patriarch of the Weiyang Sect, transmitted the Dharma to the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, making him the Ninth patriarch.] Observing the conditions, I saw that it was time to bring the Mind Dharma to the West.

Whether you are a left-home person or a layperson, if you can resolve to devote your life to the propagation of Buddhism, you may write a verse expressing your understanding within the next seven days. I want to see if any one of you have seen your own nature. If so, then you will be my successor. But don’t be like Great Master Shenxiu, who was so nervous [when the fifth Patriarch gave a similar test to his disciples] that he couldn’t sit still, eat or sleep.

A talk given October 15, 1974