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Questions & Answers


Q : If the most important aspect of education is moral development, and if morality is our inherent wisdom, then isn’t that concept the same as the Confucian idea that human nature is good?
A : You are inherently good if you don’t do anything evil. If you do any evil, then, “Though our natures are similar, our habits are by far dissimilar.”

Q : “It is better to study nothing for a day than it is to study wisdom for a thousand days.” What does this quote mean?

A : “Not knowing when to quit the studying of different terms, we only trap ourselves by counting sand in the sea.” Who is learning wisdom for a thousand days? Who is learning nothing for a day? We should not keep on doing others’ laundry.

Q : What is the difference between learning one character a day and studying one character all day?
A : What is the difference between eating a meal and the meal which is being eaten?

Q : How can we bring peace to our society?
A : We should start with education, teaching children to be filial to their parents and to be loyal to their country.

Q : Can teachers go on strike?
A : Teachers can’t go on strike. The pilots of an American airline went on strike once, and the public suffered. Educators should keep their conscience clean. Do the work of developing people for generations to come. If teachers readily go on strike, how can they be role models for students? How can they educate the next generation?

Q : How should parents encourage their children to cultivate? Should they start cultivating at a young age or should they wait until a certain age before they begin to cultivate?
A : “We become red around rouge; we be come dark around black ink.” If you do what is good, then children learn that; if you do what is bad as parents, then children learn to be bad too. For instance, if the parents were to think about selling drugs all the time, the children would definitely smoke dope because they’re too close to it.

Q : The Buddhadharma encourages people to not fight or seek. Is it a form of fighting and seeking to want to be the best student or the most outstanding employee?
A : Live up to your responsibilities. In the reach of your intellectual capacity, you might as well read more books and do your assignments well.

Q : I just want to learn more.
A : You have to empty your brain if you want to learn more. If you don’t empty your brain and all that falsehood in it, you will not be able to put any Dharma in there.

Q : You could just put it in my brain if you would.
A : You expect too much. When we build a house, we must lay the foundation well. Unless the foundation to the house is well-built, the house will not be solid. Of what use is a house with a collapsed foundation?

Q : Now that I have taken the first step, what is the second step?
A : Take it slow. You don’t even necessarily understand everything that I am saying right now. When you understand what I’m saying, then you will also understand why I don’t say anything.

Q : The youth that I teach don’t listen to me. It’s impossible to teach them. I have used everything. What are some methods can I use to make them listen? What kind of mantra should I recite?
A : Be patient, be patient, so po he.

Q : I feel that I am really lazy. I find that many of my friends have the same problem. I often encourage them, as well as myself, to study, but I always feel that I have wasted too much time. I struggle internally when I admonish them. If I can’t even admonish myself to change, how can I admonish my friends?
A : Just study hard! There’s an antidote to being lazy. This is not about reciting a mantra. To not be lazy, you have to become inspired. “The person who is committed will be successful.” Let’s not talk about being lazy. People who are committed and willful can achieve anything.

Q : I am a freshman at Berkeley. My parents are in Taiwan. Sometimes when I call home, I hear that Mom or Dad is sick or something. Yesterday, for instance, when I heard that my father was in the hospital for a surgery, I was in a very bad mood.
A : Just don’t call. Don’t worry about this and that when you are studying. Forget everything. Don’t use your emotions. To call home is to use your emotions. They give you problems when they call you; you’re not looking for problems. However, if you were to call them, then you would be looking for problems. Why can’t you let go? You’re the one who can’t let go if you call home often. If you can let go, then even if there were problems, things would turn out fine. Don’t be concerned. Just remember to be mindful of the Buddha.

Q : When I first heard about the Six Guiding Principles that the Master talks about, I thought they seemed difficult. They’re hard to learn, especially true altruism. I believe that’s very difficult. Does the Venerable Master have some class or school that we can attend, or some method to teach us to be unselfish?
A : Although people need to be taught this, they can begin with some small things, start from the beginning. If you teach kids how to be good people, how to interact with others, how not to compete to be the best and earn big bucks, then as selfless kids, they will not be crazy when they grow up. Some people say, “I can’t learn that, I’m too old already.” Some other people say, “I never learned it when I was young and I cannot learn it now. Now I just want to earn more money or get a promotion. I only know this much.” Well, I still think people can change. Although the childhood of those in the prime of their life and those who are senior has long since passed, they can still retain the mentality of youth. You can start over with your actions. As it says, everything is a test to see what I will do, to see what you will do, to see what he will do. If you do not recognize the situation, you will have to start anew.

Q : What recommended antidote does the Venerable Master have for our bankrupted education?
A : The best medicine for education in this country is a wonderful prescription. It can solve the problems of every young person in the world, and that is: filiality and brotherhood. If teachers could behave as models and teach students to listen to their parents and to respect their teachers and elders from the start, then most of the dangers that we face now would never occur. The important thing is that if we don’t know to teach young people the value of filiality, then any other things they learn will only take care of the symptoms and not the source. The prescription won’t fit the illness. With regard to this issue, my proposed solution is that teachers should be role models and teach the foundation of every virtue--filiality.

Q : May I ask the Venerable Master how a student in school now should study the Buddhadharma?
A : Students should focus on their schoolwork. You may try to soak up some Buddhadharma when you’re not studying; but it would be wrong to focus only on the Buddhadharma and not your coursework. You must balance the two so that you don’t overemphasize one aspect. Young people often make the mistake of neglecting their studies to study the Buddhadharma.

Q : Is it in accord with the Dharma for monastics to stand up and greet lay teachers for class?
A : It’s okay with elder teachers. If you want to stand up, stand up. If you don’t want to stand up, don’t stand up. It’s okay to sit and greet them with your palms together, too.

Q : I am a sophomore at the University of Berkeley. Recently, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure in studying. It’s so competitive. I can’t find a way to freedom and contentment. I wonder if there’s any advantage to studying at this university. I don’t know what to do.
A : Be calm and serene when you study. Don’t think so much. Don’t worry about what is good or bad and don’t be concerned about loss and gain. Who gave you that pressure? You gave it to yourself. If you don’t let the pressure get to you and just let things develop, then you will experience no pressure.

Q : There are some duties that volunteer teachers at the schools are not able to do, is it okay to hire people for these things?
A : Yes, but the volunteer teachers are the bosses. The hired help has to listen to volunteer teachers.

Q : Recently I read that a province in Canada is developing a curriculum on morality. However, I find that their content lacks some essentials. Although they discuss self-respect and self-love, they have basically forgotten that the most fundamental value: filiality to parents and respect for family values. My personal difficulty in teaching is that I have discov ered that many young people live in harsh environments. Such as? Their families are broken; they may only live with their father or mother, or with their homosexual parents. So when I talk about being filial to parents, such youth have a hard time accepting this concept in their heart of hearts and difficulty applying it at home. Some parents even reject it when their children do their best to put it into practice at home. Will the Venerable Master and other instructors please tell me how teachers and elders can make a deep impression of the basic moral principles of filial piety and respect on the minds of children?

A : Every teacher needs to use wisdom. One should know how to apply skillful means . For instance , everyone has a different kind of family; some families are functional while some are dysfunctional. We cannot treat bad families the way we treat good families. This requires expedient means and compromises. Expedients must be applied appropriately. There is no fixed sequence to when and how an expedient is used. Everyone should come together to study these issues and apply effort to solve them with collective wisdom. These are not difficult issues. Filiality is for the average family. We have to use other means for families that are different and complex. There are typical methods and there are atypical - expedient - methods. The typical methods are more common while the expedient methods are skillful means for particular times and situations.

The Tao contains both the typical and the expedient,
and they should both be used;
Phenomena separate into substance and function,
and they should both be understood.

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