During the past six years of teaching Chan and Pure Land, I’ve noticed that there are four kinds of people that come to us:
1. Competent and un-virtuous: this is the majority of the people. They are smart and are quite successful at getting what they want while getting away with cutting corners and compromising their morals if need be.
They consider themselves superior and sophisticated people of the world. They pride themselves on being able to recognize value and what is beneficial to them. Life for them is the perpetual pursuit of fame and/or profits. As usual, they grab what they can and leave when better opportunities present themselves.
The only trouble is that they fail to recognize the true value of cultivation. As the Chinese put it: “they came to the treasure trove and left empty-handed”. The most pitiful fact is that: they are not happy because of their overwhelming fear of failure.
Had they persevered even though they failed the tests, they become
2. Competent and virtuous: these individuals are quite remarkable. They patiently endured the tests that were sprung on them and managed to hang on without quitting.
For example, we wish to support those left home people who sincerely wish to learn how to cultivate. That’s why we try to create an environment for cultivators: they need to only concentrate on cultivation without worries about rent, pocket money and basic necessities. The temple, even though quite small, does not engage in commercial activities such as selling food or begging for financial support (such as fund raising activities). We live modestly and learn to get by with whatever support we deserve for our cultivation. For newly arrived left home people, they need to go through at least two months of trial period before they are formally accepted into our order. Believe me, that’s two long months for the current residents as well!
As to the lay people, we are quite proud and fond of them. They learn to be better fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and neighbors and members of the community. They become more filial, pleasant to be around and dependable. These are superior individuals who are the true pillars of our society.
3. Incompetent and un-virtuous: this represents the majority of those who only come to the temple hoping to get something out of nothing.
Some come to us crying about relatives who are suffering debilitating diseases that they have nowhere else to turn to for help. Some come looking for a miracle that will make their troubles go away so that they can continue creating offenses.
When told that they need to make changes and that miracles can happen if they are sincere enough, they can’t bring forth the faith. Or perhaps, it simply won’t work for them because they need to change their ways. Besides, aren’t left home people like us supposed to be the virtuous ones who practice unconditional giving?
They are quite right: we do practice unconditional giving to the virtuous ones.
They can be spotted a mile away. They may be driving Mercedes but have an insecure look about them, perhaps because deep down they know that people disapprove of them. They are so unhappy because they feel unwelcome everywhere. They can’t be helped.
4. Incompetent and virtuous: These people have potential. It takes longer to teach them but they eventually blossom and unfold their wisdom.
They are secretly quite critical of others, especially of left-home people whom they hold to quite strict and high moral standards.
Once they are convinced that we measure up to their standards, it still takes years for them to bring forth the faith.
By the way, most left home people fall into this category. If they have faith and concentrate on cultivation, they can attain sagely fruitions. This is what is so special about the Buddhist left-home training program (Dharma doors).
Lay people who manage to hang on, ALL become healthier and wiser. They also do become more competent.
Over all, it has been a most fascinating learning experience for me.
The obvious question is: which one(s) do I prefer?
The answer is … None of the above.
You tell me why you deserve to be helped.