Part Two: Dharma Discourses

Chapter Two: The Way of Propriety


5. The attendant asked again, “According to common custom, when conducting the rites for a wedding, a sixtieth birthday, a funeral, or an ancestral memorial, etc., it is regarded as the honor and duty of children and relatives to do as much as they can to create a splendid event and to prepare abundant dishes in order to host many guests. But in our Order, we are instructed to give precedence to simplicity and frugality in all ceremonies, and to donate the money we thereby save to the Buddha altar to be used for the Order’s tasks. Isn’t this a little too insipid in actual practice, and might it also be misconstrued as a means of raising money in the Buddha’s name?”
The Master replied, “In all rites, to create a splendid event and prepare abundant dishes may be extremely impressive at the moment, but those are nothing more than one-off events. Moreover, for those who are poor, such events may bring about future destitution. Thus, the aim is to conduct these rites without jeopardizing our livelihoods by performing them simply and frugally in accordance with our means; also, if those who are well off use the money on such public-welfare activities as edification, education, charity, and so forth by reducing those wasteful, one-time expenditures, wouldn’t that be a truly eternal memorial, while at the same time helping to accrue blessings for the deceased in the other world and benefitting society as well?
“If the sponsor’s donation is spent by the officiant for his own private use, then that would just be obtaining personal gain in the Buddha’s name. On the other hand, if the donation is used for the public welfare, then that would be benefitting oneself and benefitting others and would create unlimited merit. However, you must understand that even frugality is a matter of the proper degree: necessary expenses should be spent; only wasteful or extravagant items should be reduced. Furthermore, if those who are frugal economize only out of miserliness and have no thought of making offerings or donations for thepublic welfare, then that contradicts the principle of propriety. Additionally, if the officiant of a rite, in using the donations on public tasks, spends even a little on private matters, then that would be accumulating transgressive karma. Also, if those receiving education or benefits through others’ donations do not possess faith and public-spiritedness or make no contribution to the public welfare, then they would be accumulating a gigantic debt. These principles must be clearly understood.”