(Sunday noon, October 29, 1972)
13. On Language Classes
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
My monastic disciples who are going to Hong Kong are preoccupied all day long with the thought that they are going to Hong Kong. “We’re leaving for Hong Kong on Friday. I can’t wait.” They daydream about their forthcoming trip morning and night. Guo Meng has even given up his study of Sanskrit and does nothing but think about the impending trip. That’s really useless. He says it’s too much for him to handle studying Chinese as well. Why is it that when you eat, you like to eat a variety of foods and you never think there are too many kinds, but when it comes to studying, you complain that it’s too much? At lunch, you have bread, rice, butter, cheese, apples, bananas… After you finish one thing, you want to eat something else. After you finish that, you want to try the next course. You want to taste whatever food there is. But when it comes to studying, how come you can only study one subject and not another?
There’s a saying, “If you don’t study hard when you are young and strong, you’ll regret it bitterly in your prime and old age.” I know this from experience, because when I was young, I didn’t have an opportunity to study. I wanted to learn, but didn’t have anyone to teach me. That is true misery. Now that all of you have someone who is willing to teach you, you’re really missing a good opportunity if you don’t study. Once you learn something, you can use it. Of course, you can understand something and choose not to apply it, but you cannot apply something without first understanding it.
For example, you say you study Chinese at Gold Mountain Monastery every day. Do you understand Chinese? You say you don’t. What about Japanese? People boast about how they study Chinese and Japanese, but you say you don’t understand Chinese. Do you know Japanese then? “No, I don’t know that either,” you say. What about Sanskrit? “Sanskrit? Oh, we’ve had so many lessons on that.” What about French? “I wouldn’t want to learn French—it’s the worst language.” How can you say things like that? Why do you have that attitude?