I feel that all of you are very vigorous in your cultivation practice. However, Dharma Master's words seem to imply that you are now neither vigorous nor sincere. I do not think so. I want to be fair to all of you and say the opposite. Probably Dharma Master has forgotten that back then many of you were graduate students coming to the US for advanced studies. During that time, most of you were in your 20's, young and full of energy. Many decades have passed since. The resolve to cultivate the Way is still there, but physical energy has waned. Therefore, do not think that everyone is no longer diligent. That is not the case. All of us cherish and treasure our good roots and causal-conditions to be able to have encountered the Venerable Master and Buddhadharma.
Why do I keep reminding everyone that, whether you are a lay person or a monastic, you should put your mind and effort into rigorously studying Buddhism and cultivating the Way while you are still young? When you get old, you may still have the resolve for the Way, but your energy level is not like when you were young. If you had been very vigorous in your studies and cultivation, and had maintained the same level of vigor to when you reach your sixties, your effort would have paid off handsomely, for you have established a solid foundation. I have always felt that a good foundation is very important. I always tell Guo He Shr that there is no shortage of people studying Buddhism. The real shortage is people who truly cultivate according to the Buddhadharma.
I hope everyone can cherish his/her youth. Now that we are getting old and we do not have the same energy as before, we should not feel discouraged. We should double our effort and sincerity in cultivation.
In the dharma assembly of bowing in repentance, the repentance text describes the myriad of suffering by the hell beings. They ask the World Honored One, "Why are we undergoing such suffering? How can we leave such suffering?" The Buddha said, "In the past, when you were alive in this world, you have committed many offenses. As children, you were not filial to your parents; as court ministers, you were not loyal to your ruler; as superiors, you were not protective of your subordinates; as subordinates, you were disrespectful of your superiors. You were not trustworthy to your friends. You did not uphold righteousness when you should. You did not espouse the nobility of the royal administration. You did not follow moral principles when handling matters. You were upside-down with no bounds. And, so forth." All of these offenses associate with non-observance of the eight virtues, namely: filiality, fraternity, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, and sense of shame.
We are learning from the Buddha. The Buddha kept on speaking the dharma and lecturing on sutras to deliver us from suffering and to attain bliss. I hope we can all abide by the Buddha's teachings in our daily life. Doing so would free us from suffering and lead us to attain bliss.
After listening to the Buddha's answer, the hell beings cried pitifully and implored, "May the World Honored One live a long time to speak the dharma, and to teach us wretched living beings in order for us to attain liberation."
The Buddha said, "If I live in this world for a long time, beings with lesser blessings will not plant good roots. They will think, 'The 'Buddha is still around. There is no rush. I will go listen to his teaching whenever I feel like it. I will plant good roots whenever it suits me.' Heedless of impermanence, they would commit countless unwholesome and unscrupulous acts according to their whims, setting the condition for unwholesome retributions. By the time when they regret of their actions, it would be too late."
The Buddha said, "Good man, it is like a baby who is accustomed to having his mother constantly attending to his needs, the baby takes his mother for granted. He does not realize how precious his mother is. He may even feel annoyed of her. Nevertheless, when his mother is gone, he will miss her. As a thirsty person longs for water, he longs for his mother. When his mother comes back, he rejoices. The Buddha continued, "Good man, I am the same as the mother in the analogy. Since I know the way living beings are, I do not seek to live long in this world. Hence, I enter nirvana instead." I believe the Venerable Master felt the same as the Buddha did.
"Flowing water does not stagnate; raging fire may not forever burn. After rising, the sun will set in time; after a full moon will be a period of waxing and waning. Nobility and wealth are also fleeting. Be mindful of vigorous cultivation. Bow in respect to the Supreme Honored One." All of us should constantly be mindful of impermanence.
Even though we are now older and do not have as much energy as before, we have blessings to rejoice. We can still listen to and understand the dharma. We can still come to the Way Place. We are still mobile. Therefore, we should seize these moments because we may not have the same opportunities in the future. All of us, other than those who are very young, should cherish every moment that we are able to draw near the Triple Jewel and to hear and learn the Buddhadharma. To every Buddha we bow, we reap the benefit of the one bow. For every sutra verse we recite, we accumulate the merit and virtue of reciting the one sutra verse. Constantly remind ourselves of the celerity of impermanence. Be aware that time waits for no one. This is very important.
(To be continued ...)