Dharma Talk to Berkeley Students
by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

 March 5, 1994

To all elderly Good and Wise Advisors, all Good and Wise Advisors in the prime of life, and all young and promising Good and Wise Advisors: A Good and Wise Advisor is one who knows what is proper Dharma and what is improper Dharma. Knowing what is proper and improper, we should follow what is good and change what is bad. If it's the Way, we should go upon it. If it's not the Way, we should retreat from it. We must have the vision to discriminate the Dharma, and we must have proper knowledge and views. Having proper knowledge and views means we should do what is beneficial to people, and avoid doing what harms people. Not only should we be this way towards people, we should be this way towards all living beings. If we can do this, then we haven't been people in vain. If we can't be this way, and recognize true principle, then we have been people in vain. Why? Because we don't know the root of being a person, and how we should live. We live in the world in order to help others and forget ourselves. We want to benefit all people, living beings, the country, the family, ourselves, and the entire world. We want to benefit others, not ourselves. Why? Because benefiting the self is a small scope. Benefiting all people and living beings is helping the whole substance. If we only calculate for ourselves, then we can probably get by without doing much of anything. We ourselves cannot consume very much food or wear that many clothes. As for a place to live, we main have a mansion with a thousand rooms, but at night we only take up eight feet of space. We may have ten thousand acres of fields, but we can only eat three meals a day.

At the CTTB, the left-home people eat one meal a day, and so do some of the laypeople. Why do they do this? Because there's not enough food in the world. We wish to reduce the amount of food that we eat, and leave some more for the other people in the world. You might say, "Even if you don't eat that food, others may not get to eat it." Whether they get it or not, the food doesn't disappear. If we eat less and save more for others, we are helping the world. You say, "I can't do this." Not only you, but other people can't do this either. Why not? Because people are all selfish--everyday, they have to eat their fill and wear enough to be warm. If they suffer a little bit, they feel they've taken a loss. But actually, living in this world, "To suffer is to put an end to suffering." It's because we have suffering that we suffer. How do you know you have suffering? Ask yourself if you have a temper, ignorance, and afflictions? If you have these, it's because you don't have enough virtue.

That's why you are ignorant, you get angry, and you become afflicted. So the Buddha said, "All kinds of ignorance are the roots of suffering." Ignorance, anger, and afflictions are the root of suffering. "When the roots of suffering are eradicated, what's left will be roots of goodness." Once you put an end to the roots of suffering, good roots will grow. Therefore it's said, "Enduring suffering puts an end to suffering. Enjoying blessings uses up blessings." If we have blessings, we should share them with all living beings, instead of enjoying them by ourselves. If you enjoy all your blessings, then you'll use them up and you won't have any more. If you share your blessings with others, it's like if you have food, and you give it to those who are hungry. It's not known how many people starve to death every day in other countries. In many countries, people don't have clothes to wear. We can be more frugal in our own clothing, and transfer the benefit to all the suffering living beings in the world.

Then we are benefitting the world. Even so, we shouldn't get attached to our merit. We shouldn't say, "Since I did this, I have merit and virtue." "Good deeds which are done hoping others will see are not truly good. Evil done fearing others will find out is great evil." Good refers to filiality. As for evil, it's said, "Of the myriad evils, lust is foremost. Don't walk this road to death." Licentious behavior is deviant and evil, but nowadays everyone is running down this path. They all find ways to indulge in lust. So the morality of the world declines everyday, and people's hearts do not follow the example of the ancients. Each day is worse than the day before. In ancient times, people's hearts were all good, and there wasn't so much deviant and evil behavior. Therefore, there weren't all these strange diseases such as cancer and AIDS, which have no cure. People still haven't realized why these diseases occur. It's because people are too deviant, evil, and immoral. That's why these calamities happen.

If we take a look at the manmade and natural disasters in the world, there are too many to speak of. After a deluge, there comes a great fire. After a fire, there's a hurricane. After that there's an earthquake. All kinds of perverse disasters are occurring. It's because people's hearts are too malicious. We should wake up quickly ourselves, and then wake up all the people in the world. We must follow the good, and change the bad. Follow the Path, and retreat from what is not the path. We must have proper knowledge and views, and the vision to judge the Dharma, so that we can discriminate black from white. Don't be so muddled and confused that you let your life pass in vain. That would be a great pity.