October 26, 1973, Friday evening
135. On the Necessity to Actually Cultivate
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
All of you laypeople and monastic disciples here at Gold Mountain Monastery should be courageously vigorous, because this is the beginning of Buddhism in the West. There is a need for people to become enlightened and realize levels of sagehood. If there are people who become enlightened and reach sagehood, then it will be easy for Buddhism to spread far and wide.
The two monks who are bowing once every three steps are not the only ones who have the potential to become enlightened and realize sagehood. The other three monks here also share that potential; the nuns as well. That’s because in this country it’s “ladies first,” so now you nuns should be first in becoming enlightened and first in realizing levels of sagehood. Right now we need to examine and select such people of talent.
There is a layperson—I don’t know whether it is an Upasaka or an Upasika—who is displeased. That person is thinking, “Are monks and nuns the only ones who can realize sagehood and become enlightened? Why hasn’t there been any mention of laymen and laywomen?”
Now I’ll correct the omission: Laymen and laywomen also can become enlightened and realize sagehood, but they have to cultivate. Without cultivation, even a Buddha wouldn’t be a Buddha. But if you do cultivate, then even though you aren’t a Buddha right now, you can realize Buddhahood. It all depends on whether or not you cultivate.
(Timely Teachings - Ch. 1 Part III, page 346, following paragraph 2)