Sunday noon, November 5, 1972

On Laypeople’s Role

Ven. Master Hsuan Hua  


A couple of my lay disciples who basically know very little about Buddhism have decided they want to boss the Sangha around by having lay people take charge of temple affairs. They contend that all articles published in our monthly journal have to be written by laypeople, and that left-home people should not be allowed to write. I don’t understand who taught them this approach. They also maintain that the journal should be given free to people.

Now if you were the founders and sponsors of this publication, then you could select whatever content you wanted. But, frankly, you haven’t paid a single penny toward the journal’s expenses, so what right do you have to suggest to be given away free? Why should the journal be given away free? You don’t understand the least bit about the Buddhadharma, but you rely on your personal whims and opinions and want to become the managers of this monastery and to boss the monastics around. Such an attitude greatly displeases me.

These two people asked another disciple to run copies of my lectures. Initially, they invested $20 in the making of those copies. Then they turned around and charged other disciples $12 per set, and insisted that the $12 be handed in to them, that others are not allowed to take care of this business. Think it over: Is this fair or not? They say that the journal should be given away for free, yet they charge money for copies of lectures.

Now the lectures printed on those copies are delivered by me, a monastic, not by these lay disciples. To charge money for their own lectures would be reasonable. But they spend $20 making copies of someone else’s lectures, and then charge people $12 per set. That’s a pretty good business! I myself wouldn’t have thought of a way to make such a big profit.

I didn’t want to talk about this, but I notice that other laypeople are being influenced by these two, so I have no choice but to bring up this matter. All of you should reflect on the principle involved. They don’t live in the area and hardly ever come to the monastery, but when they do come, they find fault with everything here. They complain to other disciples, who get confused by the ‘spell’ they are chanting and don’t know how to answer their questions.

All of you pay attention: In monasteries established by me, I won’t allow laypeople to run monastic affairs. This particular couple thinks they want to take over our monastic management. I believe that if they were actually in charge, they’d be so overwhelmed with the responsibility that within a month they’d be running 108,000 miles away. Why do I say that? Well, this monastery is just getting established; it doesn’t yet have a solid foundation. Three months ago, we borrowed $1,400, and last month we scraped things together and paid back $700. If they were to take over, they’d become so nervous trying to make the monastic accounts balance that they wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.


(Timely Teachings, Ch. 1 Part I, page 118, following paragraph 1)