In Cultivation, it Is Best to Keep the Precept Against Holding Money
by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, August 19, 1992
We left-home people are burdened by wealth to the point that we fall into the hells, turn into hungry ghosts or become animals. This is simply because we are confused by riches and thereby err in cause and effect.
The power of sexual desire is truly formidable. When people's desires are unleashed, it is like the saying, "The audacity of a thief is as great as the skies." There is nothing he fears. Many left-home people die from sexual desire. They may not violate this precept in public, but they will secretly break this precept in private for it is not easy to subdue the thoughts of sexual desire. If there were another force as powerful as this, then no one would be able to realize Buddhahood. But since there is only one, you can get rid of it. Most people are unclear about the causes and effects behind wealth and sex. They spend money at random. Money is unclean. That is why it is called an "impure thing."
There are a lot of germs and contagious diseases on bills because they have been counted and handled by countless people, and there are germs on everyone's hands. You do not know what kind of germs each person has. There are even germs from AIDS, pneumonia, etc. And as soon as you touch this money, you will be contaminated by it. This happens invisibly. So it best for left-home people to keep the precept against holding money.
When you hold the precept of not touching money, you will not have so many false thoughts. If there is money then you will think, "Oh, I have such-and-such an amount of money; what shall I do with it?" to the point that you cannot even fall asleep. Sexual desire also has such power. Wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep are the five roots to the hells. So, if we want to cultivate purity, we should keep the precept against holding money.
In a Way place, if everyone has food to eat, I will eat. If no one has food to eat, I will go hungry too. If you can be like this, it is very easy to accomplish the Way and you will not strike up so much false-thinking.
In the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we also respect all people. We should respect the elderly. For instance, if a child says that he is already old, we should also respect him. Why? Because we want to respect the old and nourish the young. We should also treat children well: we want to provide them with a good education and teach them how to be a person. This is our goal in education.
Left-home people should keep the precept against holding money. When they are unwell, the monastery will be responsible for the cost of treating their illness. No matter how much it is, the Way place will pay for it. Everything will be provided by the Way place. One only needs to settle down, reside here and apply effort in cultivation.
If those not keeping this precept against holding money become ill, then since they have their own money, they should pay their own medical expenses. This is the special consideration we render to those who keep the precept against holding money. This is not to bestow some favored treatment, for we want to protect those who keep the precept against holding money. So those who intend to keep the precept of not holding money should register their names. In upholding this precept, you should also refrain from handling gold, silver, precious gems and so on. You do not want to hold such things anymore.
When the eyes don't see, the mouth will not water. When the ears don't hear, the mind will not be moved. If you do not touch money, you will not strike up false thoughts. Your mind will be purified and you can develop samadhi. This is a fine situation for cultivation.
When I was in Manchuria, I kept the precept against holding money for several years. Why did I uphold this precept? During that period I was a novice. The abbot of the temple asked me to be the head of the assembly. Why did he ask me to be the head? Because I was practicing filiality and I had a false name Filial Son Pai. The abbot had also practiced filiality and honored this virtue. So, although I was a novice, he told me to head the assembly. The head of the assembly is the position next to the abbot's. Then there is the third seat, the fourth seat, etc. I received such favorable treatment when I was a novice.
So later, feeling that it was not enough to make me head of the assembly, he wanted to appoint me as the manager too. But a manager has to count money; money often has to pass through one's hands. Because of this, I began observing the precept against holding money so that no one could make me a manager. If I had declined when the abbot asked me to be the manager, it would have been disrespectful. But if I uphold the precept against holding money and thereby count money, then I obviously will be unable to become the manager.
Because of this, I upheld the precept against touching money, maintaining it for two or three years. I did not bring any money with me when I needed to take the bus. I did not request anyone to accompany me to buy me a bus ticket either. I just went and stood at the bus stop. But, in less than two minutes, someone would always buy me a bus ticket. When I needed to get on a train, it was the same. I just went and sat at the train station without paying any attention to other things. However, many people knew me for I had aided them before. When they were in difficulty, I saved them. So out of gratitude they would jostle with each other to buy a ticket for me.
At that time, I did not ride airplanes because there were few planes, and the places I went were not too far. So, no one bought me plane tickets. When I went to Taiwan, someone did buy me an air ticket, but this was not during the period when I was upholding the precept against touching money.
However, I hope that someday I will again uphold this precept of not touching money. When my hands do not touch money, I will certainly not be infected by contagious diseases and germs. But, up to now, I've had to maintain this Way place to support these people and I simply cannot ignore their subsistence.
Temporarily, I will be unselfish. I will serve the public. I will make offerings of food, clothing, bedding and medicine to everyone. But I need to specify that if those left-home people who are not keeping the precept against holding money fall sick, the Way place will not pay their bills. Why? Because this Way place is not very well-off. This Way-place will be responsible only for the medical expenses incurred by those who uphold the precept against touching money.