November 16, 1972 | Thursday evening
On Practice being the Icing on the Cake
Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
At Gold Mountain Monastery, lectures are given twice a day, except on Saturday, when there is only one lecture. When sutras are being lectured, not only do people attend, but all those of the eightfold division of gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits come and listen. Therefore, we must stay on schedule.
If people call and ask about our schedule, tell them that lectures are given from 1:30 to 3:30 in the afternoon, and from 7:00 to 9:00 in the evening. There’s no need to tell them that we recite ŚÁkyamuni Buddha’s name or that we recite the sutras. Although the lecture itself begins at 7:30 , the time for the evening ceremony, which starts at 7:00 , is included within the sutra lecture. In fact, reciting the sutras and the Buddha’s name is the most essential, indispensable part of the entire program—it’s the actual practice. It is even more important than listening to the sutra lecture.
It’s a lot like eating. When we eat bread, we put a spread on it. When we eat rice, we put some vegetables with it. You don’t eat plain rice without vegetables or plain bread without butter. You put some butter on it, and if there’s cheese, that’s even better. In the same way, reciting the sutras and the Buddha’s name is the icing on the cake—it’s actually the most important part of the schedule. That is why we include it within the time for the sutra lecture.
When people call on the phone or come to inquire, don’t tell them that we first recite the sutras for part of the hour prior to the sutra lecture. When you draw the picture of a person, you don’t have to draw in the intestines. If you insist on drawing the intestines, then they will appear to be outside the belly. Originally they are inside the belly and invisible, so there’s no need to depict them. Everyone should pay attention to this point.
Timely Teachings, pages 259 - 260.