Chapter 9 - On Work Ethics

1. Whatever you do, do it willingly and joyfully; otherwise, your wisdom cannot grow.

2. Do whatever needs to be done, irrespective of whose responsibility it is. As long as you do it willingly, you will earn merits for yourself. Do not criticize others for not doing their jobs. Bad-mouthing will only create negative karma. Remember, you are working for no one else but yourself in order to eradicate your karmic obstructions.

3. Think (and plan) carefully in whatever you do and be your own master. Do not follow blindly what others say or do, make your own judgments. Practice means cultivating wisdom through the tasks we perform and the mistakes we make.

4. Perform your monastic assignments dutifully. If you simply want to enjoy a good life and neglect your duty, your merits accumulated in previous lives will soon be used up. By then, you will be under the full swing of your karmic obstructions and it will naturally be difficult for you to hold on and continue your practice in the monastery.

5. Concentrate on your assignments and do your best. Do not try your hands on everything and end up doing nothing well.

6. Through carrying out daily chores in the temple, we may discipline our minds to become sharp and deft. The way a person performs his/her duties reflects the degree of dedication and concentration of his/her mind. Those who carry out their tasks with an undivided mind can also concentrate on their practice. That's why we should try to comprehend the essence of practice through performing monastic duties. Thus, when you carry out your assignments with utmost sincerity and concentration, your mind will be as pure and clean as the bright moon, and your wisdom will fully unfold. By then, you will know clearly as to what needs to be done or where has to be cleaned, even a grain of dust on the floor will not escape your eyes. As everything becomes apparent and crystal clear, you will not feel bewildered at the tasks assigned to you. Such a state indicates the revelation of wisdom.

7. Cheerfully accept instructions and advice. For example, the Master might ask you to wipe again the chair you just cleaned. Your spontaneous reaction might be: "Why? It is clean enough!" If so, you still react like a lay person rather than a practitioner, and vexations will arise. As a practitioner's mind is straightforward, you should just answer: "Fine, I'll wipe it again." This will test your proficiency in practice and gives you an opportunity to train your mind.

8. In addition to perseverance, an attitude of "non-attachment" is also necessary to do a job well. "Non-attachment" does not mean indifference or carelessness, but rather you should do your best and not worry about the results. If your mind lingers on the task after it is done, it is a sign of attachment. Such attachment will obscure your wisdom, generate vexation, and even spoil your accomplishment.

9. Be patient in performing all your tasks. For example, when you are sweeping the floor, not only should you clean the floor but also purify your mind. You can recite the name of the Buddha while working. Don't let your mind become slack or diffused. Practice disciplining your mind through work so as to purify your deeds, words, and thoughts.

10. Be patient while working. Also, recite the Buddha's name and free your mind from vexations. By so doing, you will naturally attain a certain level in your practice.

11. "Treat everything of the monastery with care, as if protecting your own eyes." Plan carefully before taking any action, rather than doing it at will and carelessly. Use the most proper and flawless way to take care of the possessions and affairs of the monastery.

12. Do your best on your daily chores and practice diligently with an undivided mind. Were you able to do so, even sweeping the floor can lead to enlightenment.

13. Work can train our minds to concentrate and make our reactions deft. Therefore, it's better that we have something to do lest we should be overrun by erroneous and illusive ideas and waste our life in vain.

14. "Don't think too much" does not mean that you should not use your head and make plans when carrying out a task, but that you should not dwell on it once the job is done. Lingering not on past successes or failures lest your vexations should increase.

15. Don't be stubborn and insist on a certain way of doing things or cling to any specific principle; flow with circumstances! For example, when someone does you a favor, if you feel uncomfortable because you either think you are unworthy or fear it might cost you some merits, then you are rigidly clinging to a principle. In fact, if you wish others to gain merits, you yourself have to acquire abundant merits and wisdom, and attained an impeccable level in your practice. Only by then can you persuade others to follow you, to plant the field of blessings thereby increase their positive affinity with Buddhism. And such efforts are in accord with the bodhisattva vow that quests for self-elevation while benefiting others.

16. At times, those who are in responsible positions in the monastery may reprimand us or correct our mistakes. They do so because they care about us. Regard them as our valuable mentors; don't be upset or be vexed upon hearing any reproach.

17. Put the Master's words into practice: recite the name of the Buddha while carrying out your daily chores about the temple; get rid of your clinging to both "the sense of self" and "the Dharma." By so doing, you can gradually unfold your wisdom. However, wisdom is formless and colorless; you might not even realize that it has unfolded. But when it does, you can naturally figure out the most adroit and flawless way to handle any problem that emerges.

18. You should incorporate recitation into your daily routines, i.e. recite the Buddha's name while working to the extent that your mind becomes tranquil and untainted, and you can hear distinctly every word you recite. "Recite with the essence of your mind and listen with the same" until the mind is "undivided and unperturbed."

19. Recite the name of the Buddha with an undivided mind. But when you concentrate on your work and are free of illusive thoughts, your mind is also undivided. In that state, you would have no thought but how to benefit others and whatever you do would be based on lovingkindness and compassion; also all your understandings would naturally be right views hence your mind a buddha-mind.

20. Work can help discipline and keep our minds from being distracted and dispersed. Therefore, to monastic practitioners, the meaning of work is not the same as that to lay people because their inspiration and goal are not the same. Lay people work to earn profit, monastic practitioners to enhance their practice. Maybe there seems not much difference as monks/nuns, like lay people, also need three meals a day along with proper clothing and housing, but the essence is completely different.

21. How can we carry out a task successfully? It requires complete cooperation and communication among all involved. It won't work if someone within a group would only give orders. For example, when working on a garden, if someone is unfamiliar with the task, those who do should show him how to do it. Otherwise, not only things can't get done, animosity may be generated within the group.

22. Monastic practitioners ought to be merciful and compassionate. Do not try to command people according to lay principles. Put the Dharma into practice so that, by our virtue, we can convert other sentient beings naturally.

23. "Don't do anything that is immoral, and do all things that are right." Practitioners should unconditionally do whatever would benefit other beings. And, instead of being resentful, endure all hardships with a pure and joyful mind. Fill your heart with senses of lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity and carry out your daily tasks with a bodhi mind. Keep on these practices and you will eventually comprehend their true virtue and your wisdom will unfold.

24. Instead of criticizing others, we should try our best to do things others would not do, or to complete tasks others could not finish. Otherwise, we would be acting like a lay person.

25. "Alms come from the ten directions (i.e. different places) should be returned to the ten directions." People from the ten directions offer alms to the temple, believing they are planting the field of merit. We who receive such alms should practice diligently so that their offerings would not be given in vain. Then, we should transfer our merits acquired through practice to all beings of the ten directions. By such transfer of merits, we should wish to repay the grace of our parents, of all beings, of the state, and of the triratna (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) and to relieve the suffering of those in the three evil divisions of rebirth (beasts, hell, and hungry ghosts), and hope that all beings can escape misery and attain happiness.

26. As a lay practitioner working in the secular world, you should always keep your promises, avoid greediness, and do your best in all endeavors. If you are devoted to your tasks, your supervisor will hold you in high regard. It is the same with being a Buddhist: if you truly believe in the Buddha, the Buddha will bless you.