Proper Dharma Seal I
Chapter 1: Xue Er (To Learn)
(14) The Master said, “An exemplary person does not crave for satiety when eating, nor seek comforts in dwelling. Prompt in action and cautious in speech, he approaches those who are well-versed in the principles of morality in order to correct himself. Such a person can be said to be keen in learning indeed!”
The Master said, “An exemplary person”. Here, ‘exemplary person’ refers to a moral person with principles. Does not crave for satiety when eating. What is the reason for this? It is because ‘eating and sex are two fundamental aspects of human nature.’ Not only are people fond of eating good food, they also want to gorge themselves full; otherwise, they will feel that they are not doing justice to this stinking skin bag. However, people who wish to cultivate the Way should not crave for satiety nor eat delicious things. Since ‘an exemplary person strives for the sake of the Way and not for food,’ he does not always think of eating delicacies. Well, what should be done? Apart from just having simple fare, it is also not necessary to stuff yourself. Does it mean you should go hungry then? That is also not right. In this case, how should you eat? At every meal, stop eating when you are about eighty percent full! As for the remaining twenty percent, share it with those people who have nothing to eat so that no one in this world will die of starvation. You might say, “If I saved on my food, would they be able to have it?” Do not be concerned about that! As long as you do not consume the rest of the food, you are not acting like a rice weevil. By not wasting the world’s resources, you have already fulfilled your responsibility. When it comes to eating, people generally say, “Just eat your fill and let it be.” Now, as exemplary persons who cultivate the Way, not only must we refrain from eating until we are full, we must also not seek to satisfy our appetites. By this, it means that we ‘basically have no intention of eating until we are full’ so that we always ‘have a touch of hunger on our face’ and ‘leave some room in our stomachs.’
Nor seek comforts in dwelling. The character ‘居’ (jū) means ‘dwelling’, a place where people live. In this respect, do not seek any manner of comforts or any fancy high-rise building. This is because ‘one may own a grand building with a thousand rooms but occupies merely a space of eight square feet when sleeping at night; one may possess ten thousand acres of fertile fields, yet one can only eat three meals a day.’ Now, here in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we are doing even better because we only eat one meal a day. Therefore, do not seek comforts in dwelling. As long as we have a place to stay, that is sufficient. Take, for example, Yan Zi (a disciple of Confucius) who subsisted on ‘a bamboo dish basket of rice and a gourd dipper of drink.’ He ate his food from a bamboo tube and used something like a leaf sheath to drink water. He did not possess a teacup or a teapot or, for that matter, anything else. As for Chao Fu (Father Nest/Elder Nest), he built a sparrow’s nest on a tree and lived there. He did not even use a gourd dipper for drinking but merely used his hands to scoop up the water. Someone gave him a ladle and he hung it on the tree, but it created a din ‘bing bing bang’ whenever the wind blew. Hey! He hated it and promptly threw it away! Chao Fu was such a character! The ancients did not want any material things. This is the meaning of not craving for satiety when eating, nor seeking comforts in dwelling.
Prompt in action. The character ‘敏’ (mǐn) means to do things promptly and not procrastinate. If you want to translate the sutras, go ahead and do it. Do not wait and say, “Oh, I’ll get to with it in a week’s time.” After one week has passed, you say, “Oh, let’s wait until next week.” After two weeks have passed, you say, “Oh, it’s fine to delay for three weeks.” In this way, three weeks have passed and you haven’t done anything. During this period, what have you done? You have been dragging your feet, so much so that you fall asleep once you sit down to meditate. Yet, you still think that it is very good to do so. That is not correct! When you are prompt in action, you carry out all your tasks very promptly no matter what. If there is anything that you ought to do, act on it fast. However, do not be too eager! Overzealousness may hamper your efforts as the idiom goes too much is as bad as too little because you become nervous. That is also wrong. Therefore, do things at the right pace, being neither overenthusiastic nor slack.
Cautious in speech. Be very careful with your words and don’t simply say things perfunctorily. As the adage goes: ‘One word can make a country prosper but can also bring about its ownfall’. If you speak carelessly, then you are not being cautious in speech.
He approaches those who are well-versed in the principles of morality in order to correct himself. If there is anything that you do not understand, you must draw near to a moral person who cultivates and upholds the Way, or someone with the necessary skills and knowledge. In short, it means somebody who is better than yourself. The term ‘正焉’ (zhèng yān) means ‘to seek rectification.’ Approach others and seek their advice: “Am I right or wrong to do it this way? My own wisdom is insufficient and that leaves me no choice but to come and request for your guidance!”
Such a person can be said to be keen in learning indeed! This is the attitude of someone who truly wants to acquire some skills; be it the pursuit of knowledge, morality or wisdom, such a person is genuinely interested in learning! This was what Confucius said.
「敏於事」：敏，是「敏捷」，對什麼事情要做的，不要拖拖拉拉。你要翻譯經典，就翻譯經典，不要等著：「喔！我要拖一個禮拜之後再開工。」等拖一個禮拜：「喔！下個禮拜再說了。」又兩個禮拜，兩個禮拜後：「喔！拖三個禮拜是不錯的。」又拖了三個禮拜，也不幹事情。那麼這期間幹什麼呢？就是在那兒拖泥帶水；拖泥帶水，一打坐也睡著了，覺得這很好。這是不對的！這「敏於事」，對什麼事情，很敏捷去做：『應該做的，我快點做』。也不要太著急了！你太著急了，「過猶不及」，你 got nervous（緊張起來），那一樣也是錯誤的。所以要做得事情正對，也不「太過」、也不「不及」。