III. The Traditions of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Emptiness and existence are non-dual: this is the mystery of all mysteries.
Carefully ponder the meaning within this.
Living beings have been asleep for limitless eons;
Buddhas awaken in the space of an instant.
Draw near to wise teachers, and cultivate the Proper Dharma.
Stay away from nonbelievers [icchantikas],
and eliminate unwholesome desires.
With the great power of patience, you reach the other shore (Paramita).
Unmoved by the eight winds, you are at Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain.
--Composed by Venerable Master Hua on May 20, 1978
Eating One Meal a Day before Noon and Constantly Wearing the Sash
Two of the distinguishing features of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are that Sangha members (monks and nuns) always wear their kashaya sashes and they eat only one meal a day and only before noon. These practices are part of the City’s tradition. The Venerable Master said,
Eating one meal a day at noon is also a rule set up by the Buddha. If you eat and drink less, then you’ll have less desire. With less desire, it’s easier to cultivate. Therefore we shouldn’t eat nutritious food. That’s the way we do things at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Even though it’s far from perfect, we hope everyone will work hard to improve.
The Sangha members at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas wear their kashaya sash at all times and eat only one meal a day, and that before noon. At night most of them sit up and rest, not lying down to sleep. They have no social life. Men and women do not intermingle, but instead work and dwell separately, strictly upholding the precepts. They would never go outside to perform Buddhist rituals or chant scriptures in order to obtain an income. Some Sangha members choose to maintain the vow of silence. They wear a sign saying “Silence” and do not speak with anyone. There are monks and nuns who maintain the precept of not owning personal wealth and not touching money, thus eliminating the thought of money and increasing their purity of mind. What’s the point of cultivating in such a diligent and careful manner? The Venerable Master constantly reminded his disciples,
In cultivation, we have to stick to our principles! We can’t forget our principles. Our principles are our goal. Once we recognize our goal, forward we go! We’ve got to be brave and vigorous. We can’t retreat. As long as we are vigorous and not lax in ordinary times, we could become enlightened any minute or any second. So by no means should we let ourselves be confused by wealth, sex, fame, food, or sleep, or idle chatter and false thoughts, and miss the opportunity to get enlightened.
The Six Great Guidelines
The Six Great Principles of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas: no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuit of personal advantage, and no lying. Wherever the Venerable Master goes to propagate the Dharma, he always tells people to follow these six principles. The Master said,
We have to do our best to help this world take the path towards peace and light. Don ’ t always be unable to forget yourself. Each one of us should not fight, not be greedy, not seek, not be selfish, not pursue personal advantage, and not lie. If everyone can be this way, then there won ’ t be any more wars in the world, nor will there be any more plundering or robbing. In general, contention and greed turn people topsy-turvy. If we can all be devoid of thoughts of fighting and greed, then the world will be at peace. Therefore, no matter what field or profession you belong to, you should fulfill your own obligation and responsibility and do something to help the country and the people. Therefore, whoever can follow these six great principles, regardless of whether they are in this place or another place, they can all be considered the owners of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
The Three Great Principles
The Venerable Master composed a matching couplet to express his principles. The first line says,
Freezing to death, we do not scheme.
Starving to death, we do not beg.
Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing.
According with conditions, we do not change.
Not changing, we accord with conditions.
We adhere firmly to our three great principles.
The Venerable Master said,
I don’t understand anything except how to take losses. For that reason I don’t accept personal offerings of any sort. If you want to make offerings to the monastery or to the public fund, that’s fine. I’m helping to obtain food for everyone, not for myself. If it were only me, I could starve to death and it wouldn’t matter. When I purchased the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, everyone saw that it was such a huge place and feared that I might solicit funds from them, so they were scared away. Even so, I have never complained to anyone about the hardship. When I work, I don’t seek any compensation and I certainly wouldn’t ask other people for help. I just put my nose to the grindstone and toil by myself.
The second line says,
We renounce our lives to do the Buddha’s work.
We take the responsibility to mold our own destinies.
We rectify our lives as the Sangha’s work.
Encountering specific matters, we understand the principles.
Understanding the principles, we apply them in specific matters.
We carry on the single pulse of the patriarch’s mind-transmission.
The Venerable Master also practiced not taking food on any day that he did not propagate the Dharma. During the course of a great Dharma assembly with several thousand people in Malaysia in 1978, the Master made this deeply moving declaration:
I vow that in life after life, I will work strenuously for Buddhism! I will toil for Buddhism! Even if I have to give up my life, I’d do it. I don’t want to have even the tiniest trace of selfishness. If I have even a hairsbreadth of selfishness, I’m willing to fall into the hells forever!
A great man does not speak frivolously. That is his great courageous spirit of wishing to rescue people and save the world.
In this age of advanced scientific technology and great material progress, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is unable to keep up with the latest trends in terms of material lifestyle. The buildings in the City lack the old-fashioned style and flavor of traditional Chinese monasteries and also lack the comfort and convenience of modern Western-style architecture. Yet this does not influence the City’s unique spiritual atmosphere and pure tradition of cultivation in the least.
The goal of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is to develop an international religious community where the followers of all religions unite together regardless of age, wealth or poverty, nationality, ethnicity, or religious denomination. Everyone can uphold the six great principles of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, sincerely investigate the truth, honestly practice, and diligently carry out the sacred task of purifying the hearts of people and benefiting mankind. So the Venerable Master said,
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is not a private institution. Rather, it belongs to all the Buddhists of the world, and even to the followers of all religions in the world.
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a place where outstanding people of genuine virtue and wisdom gather together. As it is said, “From a thousand miles around, dragons come here to take up residence.” At the City there are no distinctions between religious denominations. Communication is established between Northern and Southern traditions and the various teachings. Chinese and Western cultures are integrated. Whether in the country or abroad, people all think of this place as their refuge. As it is said, “Of all the wisdom in the world, none does not flow forth from the Dharma Realm. Of all the ingenuity in the world, none does not return to the Dharma Realm.” The spiritual state of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is the Flower Adornment state, which exhaustively fills empty space and pervades the Dharma Realm!