Old Folks, Young at Heart,
Have the Original Childish Innocence of Buddha

by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua to Elder Hostel, Oct. 7, 1992
Transcribed by Yi Lin

The world must now unite, all nations must come together as a single family; all people must come together as if one person, and mutually cease from all fighting and greed, from all seeking, selfishness, pursuit of self-benefit and dishonesty. When we can do this, the world will be at peace. People everywhere will live in harmony. It won't be like today, where all we know is to compete and contend, to kill and rob, to deal in drugs… that's how it is everywhere. Since that's the case, shouldn't we detest that kind of lifestyle, and change our direction, alter our lifestyle and modify our behavior and thinking, so that we no longer fight, act greedy, seek, act selfish, pursue personal advantage, or tell lies. If everyone can do this, the world will be peaceful.

Now, why are we people to begin with? What is our inborn duty? Our innate responsibility? We have to be clear about this. If we don't know what our destiny is, what our goal is, what our duty and responsibility is as people, then we will have lived in vain, and there would be no value to our lives.

Everyone must undergo the suffering of being born, growing old, getting sick, and dying. How are we born? Are we born from the heavens? Or from the earth? Are we born from amidst people, or spontaneously? Beyond that, what do we come here for? What is our duty? What is our calling? If we are not clear on this, then we will have wasted our chance as a person. If we do not understand and get old in confusion, and before long we pass on to a bewildered death. Birth, old age, sickness and death cannot be avoided by anyone; only if we can understand them will we not have lived in vain. What is our inborn duty as people? What is our responsibility?

We should live in harmony as a group, and get along with everyone. We should not quarrel or split up, or greedily steal from one another, or seek from outside. We will naturally obtain that which rightfully should come to us. We should just hold to our own position, fulfill our own responsibilities, and not be selfish, self-benefiting, or dishonest. If we can be this way, the world will be at peace. Even if you don't tell it to be at peace it will be. Why isn't it peaceful and harmonious now? It's because people seek outside, and don't know to return the light and reflect within themselves. Every day, they let their six sense organs-the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind-run after sights, sounds smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas, and forget their basic duty as people. That's why all of you young friends, little children as well as those rich in life experience, should clearly recognize your heavenly destiny, your responsibility and calling. Then the world will turn around. There will be an earthshaking change; the atmosphere will be different, and the polluted air will become pure. Then when we have this clean air to breathe, we will become healthy and live a long time.

Just now I talked about not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not wanting personal advantages, and not telling lies. And someone, I don't know if it was a young person or a child, objected, "In the world if you don't fight, how can you survive? If you're not greedy, how can you survive? If you're not selfish, how can you make it in this world? If you don't want personal advantages, how can you survive? If you also don't tell lies, how can you last? This is certainly a problem! So I disagree with what you said, and think only someone with no wisdom would say this." What you say is absolutely right-it's just because I have no wisdom that I speak in this stupid way. Look at a newborn baby-what does he contend about? What is he greedy for? What does he seek for? What is he selfish about? What personal benefits does he want? How can he tell lies? He manifests the original innocence and purity of the self-nature. But as soon as people grow up… "Natures are close:" our natures are close to the Buddha-nature. "Through habits they deviate:" our bad habits and faults sometimes take us far from the Way. Learning to contend, to be greedy, to seek, to be selfish, to want self-benefit, and to deceive others, with such habits we really leave the spiritual Way far behind! If we can always safeguard our primal innocence, and be childlike, we will never grow old or die. That's why I said if you can relinquish the five desires for wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep, then health and longevity will naturally be yours. If you cannot put down these five desires for wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep, if you cannot see through them, then you will run farther and farther away from the Way, running until you become old, until you die-this is what will inevitably happen. If you can get rid of these six faults (fighting, greed, seeking, selfishness, wanting personal benefit, and telling lies), you will always be young, innocent, and pure in appearance. Just like a mischievous old "boy"-although he lives to be eight hundred years old, he is still like a child, not losing that pure heavenly true nature. Although we grow old, we still want to become children, and have the nature and behavior of a baby, in the sense that we don't fight to be number one, or scheme to become rich. What's the point of being number one? What's the use of being filthy rich?

It's said,

Fish jump in the water;
People stir up trouble in the world.
They don't know enough to do virtuous deeds,
But create bad karma with a callous heart.
Pile up gold and silver as high as a mountain,
But when you close your eyes, it's all gone.
Empty-handed you go to see King Yama,
And with a regretful heart, your tears fall.

"Fish jump in the water:" These fish live in the water, jumping and swimming about happily and freely, unaware that they will be caught by the fisherman and eaten for dinner. "People stir up trouble in the world:" People in the world! Now we run off to the south, and now we come back to the north. We go up, we go down, and we don't even know when we will die. Wouldn't you call this stirring up trouble? People cause trouble in the world.

"They don't know enough to do virtuous deeds:" They don't know how to do deeds of wholesome virtue. Actually, in our life we should work for the benefit of others, not for ourselves. One person's strength is limited, but the strength of the assembly is boundless. If you can benefit other people with your work, this is what's known as the Buddha's light shining everywhere, and the rain moistening everything equally. "But create bad karma with a callous heart:" We do all kinds of callous things, such as deceiving, bullying, and harming people, and breaking the law. Isn't this creating trouble in the world?

"Pile up gold and silver as high as a mountain:" We may heap up mountains of gold and silver. "But when you close your eyes, it's all gone:" When we close our eyes and stretch our arms and legs out to rest, everything is gone.

"Empty-handed you go to see King Yama:" With two empty hands we go off to see King Yama. "And with a regretful heart, your tears fall:" Only when we get there do we say regretfully, "King Yama, please forgive me. When I was in the world, I didn't understand how to be a person, so I did a lot of wrong things. Now I know better and regret it, so please don't punish me." But King Yama says, "No way! No way! You still have to be punished."