I will try to give you some brief answers to some of your questions where I feel I can offer my humble opinion.
First of all, I am very glad to hear of left home people who have aspirations to cultivate the BuddhaDharma.
I explain sutras because I want to repay the kindness of my teachers and the patriarchs. I was most fortunate in having received the teachings of many good knowing advisers and therefore know of only one way to pay back their kindness: practice according to the teachings and explain the teachings so as to make sure the future generations can also benefit from the teachings. I really have no Dharma of my own. I just elaborate the sages’ doctrines and methods.
In my humble opinion, you lack concrete goals in your life. Clearly, to leave the home life is a most commendable undertaking but the majority of the left home people tend to lose track of one of the goals of becoming a monk or nun.
The first small goal of a sanghan is to end birth and death. Today, I’ll only address this small matter and will elaborate on the bigger goals on another occasion.
To end birth and death means to attain Fourth Stage Arhatship.
Then how does your planning to go to Thailand, India etc… help toward your achieving this goal?
Just like many sanghans of your generation, you have ideals but lack the proper guidance.
Allow me to speak frankly without beating around the bush in the interest of time.
You seem to be not greedy for fame and profit. You don’t seem to aspire to have a big temple for yourself. Since you are already ahead of the game, you should resolve to attain liberation this lifetime in order to repay the kindness of your teacher.
Personally, I do not believe that obtaining a degree (like many present days left home people aspire to do) will bring on liberation. Why not? If you want to end birth and death, you must seek out someone who has done so to learn from him or her. I have yet to meet a university professor who has put an end to birth and death. They can teach you the knowledge from books but cannot teach you methods to help unfold your transcendental wisdom. That is why I advocate not going for doctorate degrees but rather invest our time and efforts in unfolding our Prajna Wisdom.
That is why I advocate seeking the guidance of a clear-eye, good knowing adviser. The ancients have a saying: “the lamp light can eradicate one thousand years of darkness of the room”. If you cultivate without the proper guidance then it’s no different from searching for your way in the dark. Conversely, having a good knowing adviser is like obtaining a light to illuminate the way.
Two years ago, a Vietnamese Bhikshuni came to the United States for a visit. She came to our temple to take a look because she heard that we practice Great Master Xuan Hua’s dharma. She also found out that we also practice Chan and Pure Land in parallel. She was enamored with Vipassana (a famous Hinayana meditation method). She confessed to me that she was never impressed with Pure Land. In the past, she often asked the monks who practiced reciting the Buddha’s name: “(If reciting the Buddha’s name is that great), show me your recitation gongfu”. When she met me, she suddenly forgot to ask me to recite the Buddha’s name for her to see. She later admitted that she used to be tongue-tied whenever she saw me.
Why is it that we sanghans who are challenged by others, often fail to inspire respect from the Buddhist disciples? It’s because our gongfu (samadhi) is too low. Her gongfu was pretty good because she had been practicing Vipassana for quite a while. Her teacher’s gongfu is quite good too and that was why her method was not bad at all. Originally she planned to visit us for only a few days. A few days turned into a few months because she discovered that her meditation methodology had significant drawbacks. She decided then to remain at the temple to cultivate because she found out that reciting the Buddha’s name was far better than Vipassana. Two years later, her wisdom began to open up: she decided to take refuge and wished to learn the secrets of Mahayana cultivation. She switched from seeking the small (obtain liberation) to devoting her life to the big task: unfold her Prajna Wisdom.
I hope that you too will encounter a good knowing adviser who is willing to guide you. They are quite demanding. Should you get interviewed by any of them, please make sure not to say that your goal is “no ranking status at the temple, no obligation, and no attachment to anything in this world whatsoever; only one thing left to do is to provide sutra lectures.”
Finally, since you do not understand meditation yet, why would you want to teach meditation? Those who understand Mahayana meditation (Chan) would not teach Vipassana at all. If you meet with people who like to meditate, you should impress on them the importance to seek out a competent meditation teacher. Westerners could use Great Master Xuan Hua’s English books as reference. You are right, most other books are not helpful because the authors have not accomplished the Dharma yet and decided to teach prematurely.
Moreover, those who have the aptitude should be taught Chan instead of Pure Land.
Allow me to make one last suggestion: resolve to practice Mahayana. Each day, you should do something to create Mahayana blessings. You could bow 300 times to Great Master Xuan Hua. Afterwards, kneel and pray for his guidance to help you locate a good knowing adviser. The more sincere you are the sooner you will obtain a response. Many have obtained his help in that fashion.
I wish you the best of luck in your quest.