It's so big here! How's everyone? (Fine!) Please tell everyone to come in. I don't need to eat because I've had lunch. (OK, ask the kitchen team to come in.) I don't need to eat. Everybody, come in. This place is so big! (Thank you, Master.) This is the first time I'm right in front of the men. Usually, it's the women who occupy the front right? (Right.) Today, the women are over there. OK, do I look OK? (Master looks beautiful!) So, I'm here now. What should I do? Just have a look at me? This place is so big! You did a great job renting this place in Taipei. (Thank you, Master.) (It was Master who kept this place for us. I did? We rented this place for group meditation for nine years and moved out five years ago, yet it stayed vacant while we were gone. So we would like to thank you.) Maybe what's meant to be yours, no one can take from you. So it was vacant for five years? (Yes.)
Wow! It's so spacious here! Do people come here to meditate every day? (Yes.) Is today a group meditation day? (Yes.) (It is.) It is? (Every day is.) (We have group meditation every day.) (We have group meditation every day.) Don't you work? (We meditate here at night.) Every night. At night. (We have group meditation.) OK. (We always start at 6:30. So some people haven't arrived yet.) Yes, it's just 6:30 right now. Very good! I'm very happy for you. (Thank you, Master.) This means you've been practicing diligently. OK, good but this is still just on the physical level. You need to practice on the inside. Don't just habitually come and sit, yet not meditate well. Like eating or sleeping, after a while, meditation can become a habit, and then you think that is all there is to it. You just come and don't even concentrate or treasure your time here. Just practice well on the inside, and don't worry too much about appearances, OK? I prefer a remote place without too many people around. But it's so nice here, and you have food to eat. Downstairs, right? (Yes.) Do you have enough food for so many people? (Enough.) What do you have? (Noodles, rice vermicelli, everything.) (Rice vermicelli.) (Master can check it out.) Oh, what? (You can check the place out later.) (Master, we're prepared.) Yes, I saw that big table. But thank you, I had lunch. If I don't have lunch, then I'll eat a little at night. That is if I have time. If not, I wait until noon the next day. I do this sometimes, depending on the situation. I had lunch already, so thank you all. You go ahead and eat. I'm just here to see you. I'm not hungry. Thank you.
Eating is also costly. It's not just about money; it's about karmic burden. If you eat, you pay a much smaller price. But whatever a Master eats, she/he has to pay a high price. Such is the rule. When I have time, I'll read you a list about the things a Master has to do, because quite a few people want to be Masters. These people really don't know what they're talking about. If I read the list, maybe these people won't dare to be Masters anymore. They won't dare even if they're asked to be Masters. Whenever I come to see you, you only see me either scolding or smiling at you, like I have nothing else to do. It's not so. There are a lot of things going on inside. If I take a look at just one person, I accrue more than 9% of extra bad karma, and then when I go back, I'll have to spend 20 to 30 minutes to cleanse it. This is aside from my regular six hours of daily meditation. But if I meet with a lot of people … there is too much bad karma to speak of. For example, if I give initiation to a thousand people, I'll have to spend two, three or four months cleansing the bad karma, and if possible, meditating seven or eight hours a day. But of course I can't do that. And then before I've finished cleansing, more bad karma will come, and I can't keep up. In the meantime, I have to do this and that. I don't have that many hours to do the cleansing meditation. So I'll need two or three months to cleanse it all, and I still have to bear the bad karma that arises in the meantime, for example. When I go out, it's not that I just smile and let people take pictures, or joke around and make you laugh. It's not like that. That's just a tiny part of my outside work. Being a Master is hard work. If you haven't accumulated merits for many eons, you'll collapse after you give a lecture of just a few words, not to mention giving initiation, because you won't have enough time to cleanse people's bad karma. That's why you need to cleanse it with the merits you've accumulated over innumerable lifetimes. Even for me, sometimes it's not enough. Well, I have enough merits, but the bad karma still affects me, like my health and my energy, various aspects.
Are you OK? (Yes!) You've been meditating for so long. Are you OK? (OK.) It's almost 9 PM. (It's all right.) You need to go home. (No problem.) You've worked all day. (We're fine.) And you came here to meditate. So diligent! I am impressed. (Thank you, Master.)
You Formosan (Taiwanese) People honor the men more, right? You let the men sit in the front, which I approve of. I haven't seen men sitting in the front for a long time. Usually about two-thirds are women, and they always sit in the front. Men are all squeezed at the side. I rarely see men. Why is it so hard for men to practice? That's why we call men nan-hai-zi. [pun: nan (man) is a pun for "difficult."] Why don't we change the way we address men? Instead of calling them "nan," let's call them "da-zhang-fu" [noble gentleman]. (OK.)
OK, take a few looks at me. I was about to leave, but they asked me to come up and take a look. "We prepared a room for you." So I couldn't say no. That's why I'm sitting here now. Oh, then they offered me some stinky tofu, to which I couldn't say no either. I haven't had stinky tofu for a long time, so it was very tempting. Ordinarily, if I had lunch, I wouldn't have dinner.
Truly, we can get by with just one meal a day. I'm setting a good example. It's true. But no need to be so strict, Especially sometimes when you have health issues. In the Buddhist scriptures, it's recorded that monks usually ate only one meal a day. Those monks who followed Shakyamuni Buddha ate only one meal a day, except Buddha's son, Rahula, who complained to Buddha, saying, "One meal a day is not enough for my young belly." So, as a father, Buddha gave him a good scolding and said, "Look at this bowl and tell me what it's for." The son replied it was for washing feet. In the old times, monks walked barefoot, so when they entered an ashram, they had to wash their feet. Buddha asked him, "So can you use the same bowl for washing your feet to hold soup or food?" The son answered, "No, we can't use it for food because the bowl is not for that purpose." So Buddha said, "Do you want to be like that bowl? It cannot be used for higher purposes. So be a better disciple. Don't slack just because you are my son." To this extent! So strict! Luckily, we're not Buddha's children. At night we can sneakily eat some food.
Buddha didn't know there was such a delicacy as stinky tofu. But if he had tasted some, he would have wanted more. When I first came to Formosa (Taiwan), I happened to pass by a place where they sold stinky tofu and thought, "Oh, what's this stuff?" I instantly covered my nose and quickly ran away. "Oh, my God! What is it that they're eating? My God! What is it that the Formosan (Taiwanese) people are eating? That kind of thing, they eat it?" For years I never touched the stuff. Then I traveled to New York and came back, and then I went to India and came back. Then I started to have disciples. Many years passed, and I never ate that stuff. Then one day, I went for a secluded retreat, and I didn't bring any food with me. Later, some disciples came and brought some stinky tofu, wrapped in small plastic bags. It looked totally innocent. It looked just a little like pickled vegetables and some yellow triangular-shaped tofu, maybe the deep-fried kind. I was very hungry after a long hike up the mountain. On those mountain paths, we couldn't drive. So, the disciples had me talking and eating the tofu. I wasn't thinking, and I didn't smell anything either. I was talking to them, so I wasn't thinking, and I ate it. And the rest is history… I like the taste.
I planned to just sit here for a while and leave, but they told me more of you were coming, some from other centers, so I didn't have the heart to leave. And then there was a good excuse ― the stinky tofu. Usually having dinner is not very good for us. If you want to eat dinner, recite the Holy Names more, and go home and do more meditation. Let me elaborate: from 2 or 3 AM to 2 or 3 PM, the yang energy is strong. From 2 or 3 PM on, the yin energy is strong, which is dominated by the negative power. Also, when you go home at night, you're tired and under greater stress. Plus the negative power is stronger. Luckily we have the Quan Yin Method to help us cleanse the bad energy if we eat at night. So do more Light and Sound meditation to cleanse it.
Regular people like you don't have to pay too high a price if you eat some food. For a Master, oh, the price is very high! For example, if you eat, you accrue 1 or 2% of the bad karma. You can't avoid it. We have to share some of the bad karma with the farmers who grow our food. We also share our merits with them, but just a little. The price a Master has to pay is sky high. So I can't eat too much. I can, but afterwards I have to meditate a lot. As a Master, I normally meditate at least six hours a day, plus more hours for the disciples. If I've been out, I have to do more meditation. In a word, for everything I do, I have to pay a very high price. Sometimes I only talk to an assistant for an hour and I also accrue a high percentage of bad karma. Such is the rule. Ordinary people don't have to pay so much. The rule was designed for Masters on purpose. The cost is very high. So, normally I only have lunch or one meal a day. If I eat enough for lunch, at night I won't eat if I'm not hungry. Yesterday and the day before I didn't feel like eating, either. But I can eat if I want to. How odd! Even though I don't want to, I can still eat. That's why whether we eat or do anything else, it's mostly just a habit. Or, we get tempted by some outside forces. If I had gone back earlier today, I would have done some meditation and gone to bed. Instead, I said, "OK,I'll sit here for a couple of minutes." And now I'm still here. Then when I go back, I'll have to meditate all night in order to cleanse off this stinky tofu because I ate it past the proper time. If I eat beyond the time of positive energy, and if I see you a lot, wow, then I'll have to make it up with two or three days' meditation. If I don't do enough meditation during this period, I'll have problems both on the inside and the outside. I won't tell you what they are because it will scare you. You have all wanted to be a Master, right? That's why I don't dare to scare you.
When I have time, I'll read you a list, so you'll know what it's like to be a Master. You incur karmic debts from whatever you do and whomever you meet. When you eat out, later you have to meditate several more hours. Eating at a disciple-run restaurant also affects us, not just eating at non-vegan ones run by outside people, which is worse. In those run by outside people, they say they've washed the utensils well, but they're not that clean. I can still smell the fish and meat. Even though the dishes have been washed in a dishwasher with 100°C hot water and detergent, they still smell. But the smell is not the worst. It's the bad karma that sticks there. Can you imagine that? The smell of fish remains on the dishes and the surroundings even though they were cleaned well, not to mention the bad karma. We can't see it, that's all. So if we go out, we'll suffer when we come back.
In this world, nothing is free. Nothing you enjoy or like is free; everything costs a high price. It may be OK for ordinary people or spiritual practitioners. But a Master is just not allowed to enjoy anything. He or she will suffer to the very end. "If you don't want to suffer, then leave and don't come back again. In our realm, we have our own rules. Who told you to come down here?" The rules were set already. If Masters don't come down, the rules won't affect them. But if they do come down they have to abide by these rules. For example, in Formosa (Taiwan), people are very free, and the government is really nice in allowing them freedom unless they violate the law. Here no one monitors you or spies on you, and no one troubles you.
That’s why you shouldn’t take this country for granted. If the government is good, we have to support it. And don't cause any trouble for the government. If everyone causes a little trouble, the government will have no end of trouble. It's uncomfortable to punish everyone, but it can't be ignored completely, either. So if everyone causes some trouble, the country will be in chaos. The government won't have time to consider bigger issues such as foreign affairs, prosperity, and development. Do you see what I mean? (Yes.) So we practitioners have to be very careful. We have to be careful about such things. It's not that we're afraid of anything; We just have to be good citizens and do good things.
When the country is peaceful, it's good for our spiritual practice. If it weren't so free in Formosa (Taiwan), we couldn't have such a big crowd here. In many other countries, we can't have such a gathering. I'm saying this out of sincerity. If you don't believe me, go visit other countries, a neighboring or any other one. Understand? (Yes.)
So, how did I get to this topic? (Stinky tofu.) Stinky tofu. I know, yeah. I'm saying that I can quit eating altogether now, but eating some food helps me establish some affinity with the world. It wouldn't be a problem for me to stop eating. After we start spiritual practice, we don't feel that eating is important. Even when I eat, the food is very simple: rice, some greens, and some soy sauce, then it's OK. And then some fruit. Or if I have instant noodles it's the easiest. They're not the fancy kind of instant noodles. They're very simple rice noodles, made in Formosa (Taiwan). They come in small bags, and they're mildly flavored, without spicy sauces. I have this just for the salty taste that I'm used to. It stops me from thinking too much about it. It allows me to do other things. Otherwise, if I don't eat anything, I'm still fine. I can just have some fruit and that's all. If I eat fruit first, I'll feel full, and I won't have much appetite for the instant noodles. However, tonight the stinky tofu was really tempting. This Formosan (Taiwanese) stinky tofu is irresistible. So if you want to stick to one meal a day, at night you must not pass by a stinky tofu vendor. OK. It's also all right. It's OK if you want to. It's just best not to eat too much at night. But if you aren't used to skipping dinner, and you can't sleep without eating some food, then eat some. Sometimes I can't sleep at night.
In the Buddhist scriptures it's recorded that Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciples ate only one meal a day. There were many reasons. First, they survived by begging for alms, so if they had to go out all day to do it, when could the Buddha give lectures, or when could they meditate? Also, they didn't have street lights, so they couldn't see well at night. That was why they ate just one meal a day. Suppose people came to offer food to them, they couldn't stay and cook three meals a day for the monks. Then the Buddha wouldn't have had time to give lectures or initiations or do other things. Those were two of the reasons. Third, this was an ancient Indian tradition handed down to the monks. Fourth, maybe Buddha also knew that at night the yin power, or the negative power, was strong. So if we eat at night we pay a higher price than we pay for eating lunch.
Actually, we're OK if we just eat one meal a day. It's truly a habit. Today, if I hadn't gone to the hospital and then gotten invited here, I would've gone back early. I would never have thought of the stinky tofu, fragrant tofu or whatnot. I would never have had such a thought. When I'm back, I'll be busy with internal or external matters, and I don't think of anything else. Having just one meal a day doesn't mean I'll miss food at night. I feel very light. Unless I get sick sometimes, or I'm too busy and I skip lunch, or I'm traveling and have nothing to eat, then I eat a small dinner. Of course I have to pay the price and meditate more.
According to the Buddhist scriptures, if the monks were traveling, they wouldn't know when they would encounter some villagers who could offer them food, so they were allowed to eat at any time. You just need to know that in this world, you have to pay a high price for everything. The price for eating dinner is higher than for lunch. For the Masters that price is many times higher. But it's all right because they can dissolve the bad karma. It's just that it's not very good to eat at night, so if she/he doesn't feel like eating, it's best not to eat. The Buddha didn't forbid his disciples to eat dinner; it was just inconvenient for many reasons. Monks couldn't go out and beg for alms all day long, so they went out in the morning to beg for food and came back and ate it for lunch. Then they bathed, brushed their teeth, washed their faces, and took a rest. In the afternoon, there were lectures, Dharma sessions, meditation, or other things to do. So they couldn't go begging for alms all day long. Sometimes people came to offer food to them. For example, once it rained for three straight months, and the Buddha had his monks stay in one place because they didn't have enough clothes. If they went out to beg for food, they wouldn't have had any clothing to change into. The rain would have gotten them wet. So Buddha had his monks stay in one place, and other disciples came with their offerings. In those days they didn't have trucks like we do to bring them vegetables or rice, nor could they transport food very fast. At best, they could cook one meal a day for the monks. The circumstances were different in those days. But if you want to follow the Eight Precepts and eat one meal a day, you can. It depends on your physical energy or whether you want to do it. I won't force you to do it. Just know that you should eat less for dinner and meditate more.
The Quan Yin Method can dissolve some of the bad karma, but don't take advantage of it and eat too much. For one thing, many people have no food to eat at all. Islam has a month long Ramadan. People fast from sunrise to sundown. They eat after sunset. Maybe because, first, in those days, Prophet Mohammed was chased by people, and he had to run and hide. When they had Ramadan, they gathered many people together. During the day, they couldn't cook because it was inconvenient. They hid and meditated or something. At night they would cook. They didn't have electric or gas stoves in those days, so when they cooked, there would be smoke. Plus, they had so many people. That was why they had such a tradition. Second, the Prophet wanted to teach his disciples empathy for poor people who had no food. Even in today's world, there are still tens of millions of people who go to bed hungry. All day they go without food, including the children. If you watch TV or browse the Internet, you'll know.
By the way, you have to pay a high price for watching TV or browsing the Internet. So don't be glued to them. Only watch if you have to. I don't watch them at all. They put a small TV inside my cave, but I never watch it. They put TVs everywhere, but I haven't watched any at all. I have neither the time nor the interest. Also, if I do watch, I have to meditate more because the price is also quite high. For you folks, the price is smaller, but you still have to meditate for more hours than usual to dissolve the bad karma because people on TV or the Internet, experience a lot of worries, competition, and stress. So when we watch them or their actions, we're communicating with them, and a channel opens up, allowing the negative power to enter. That's why sometimes you have nightmares or chaotic dreams. Sometimes you can't meditate well. Watching a little bit is OK, like half an hour to an hour. If your job involves viewing them, then recite the Holy Names more and meditate more.
So there's nothing fun in this world. Everything costs us dearly. Even our food is toxic. It's not just the chemicals, or polluted soil, or toxic water. Most of the water on Earth is dead water; it has no spiritual energy. It's lifeless water. We drink it because we can't help it. But that's not all. Many vegetables contain toxins, so eating too many of them is not good for us. Also, when we eat a great variety of foods, all mixed together, our stomachs can't separate them, and later we have problems. But most people are used to eating a lot, and they can't do without. They cannot do without a lot of food. So try to eat just the right amount. Eating too many kinds is not necessarily nourishing. The more variety and the more foods that are mixed together, the more toxins there are. Sometimes certain foods are not compatible with one another. When we mix them, it magnifies the bad effect. Then we get diseases or aches and pains and we don't know why. But we're just so used to eating rice and vegetables. Not every kind of vegetable has toxins, and not every kind of fruit is non-toxic. Some fruits contain toxins too. Also, not every kind of grain is good. Rice is one of the grains that are OK. I know a lot more, but I don't feel like talking about it now. If I do, you'll stop eating and you'll blame me. "I lost so much weight because I don't dare to eat." "Master says everything is toxic, so I dare not eat." It's all right; just meditate more.
Communicate with the inner Master power at all times. Don't mind the Moon or the stars; they will automatically bless you. Don't pay attention to the outside physical things, because the Master power is always with you. Sometimes the Moon and stars are covered, depending on the season. But the Master power is with you 24/7. We depend on that power because it's the power of our True Self. It's not the power we borrow from others. Shakyamuni Buddha has the Buddha power, and we do, too. It's our original Self. We have to dig the power out, develop it, and polish it, so we can use it. It's best to rely on this power because whether it's Master power, Buddha power, or Christ power, it's one and the same; it's inside us. At initiation, it's awakened and revealed, so we can start to communicate with that great Master, that great Universe. That's why it's most reliable. If the stars or Moon or Sun can bless us, all the better. Just a little bit of help from them is enough.
Plus we eat some simple, nutritious food, and it's enough. Some people eat a lot, but they don't grow strong. They remain sickly. But eating one meal a day doesn't make you a Buddha, either. Otherwise those who starved to death could have become Buddhas. For example, if a snake swallows an elephant, it will have to lie there for weeks or a month to digest it. It doesn't have a digestive system like ours. It can only dissolve food slowly with some kind of chemical solution. I'm just joking. How can a snake swallow an elephant? And you're sitting there quietly, agreeing with me. If I say something reasonable, you can believe me; otherwise, don't. You know I'm kidding. OK. This is from the book called "Le Petit Prince." The Little Prince was a little boy. He drew a line with a big bulge on top. He asked an adult, "Are you afraid of this?" The adult said, "Why should I be afraid of a hat?" The Little Prince thought adults were so lacking in imagination. That's right. You folks, don't swallow an elephant. You'll take a long time to digest it.
If we eat simple foods, it's easier for the stomach to digest them. And don't eat too many kinds at one meal. For example, eat one or two kinds today and another one or two kinds tomorrow. Eat this kind for lunch and that kind for breakfast. But if you're really hungry and you keep thinking about bread during meditation, then please go eat it, OK? I eat one meal a day because it's possible for me, and I don't think of food anymore. But if I do, I'll just go ahead and eat some. I'm not that serious about it. But I don't think about food, except when you tempted me with stinky tofu today. You really know ... what tastes good. So, if you really want to eat then eat; otherwise don't force yourself. That's all.
You've all seen me. I'm going back now. It's 9 PM already. (Thank you, Master.) Strange, when I say "I love you" in Chinese, it sounds different than saying "I love you" in English. I love you, guys. (We love you.) Thank you. (Thank you, Master.) Thank you for your love. (Thank you, Master.) Thank you. I love you. (We love you.) Bye-bye. (Thank you, Master.) Thank you. Bye-bye. (Bye-bye.) Thank you.