Master Chin Kung has often spoken about how he began learning from his teacher, Mr. Li Bingnan, who was a student of Great Master Yin Guang, the Thirteenth Patriarch of the Pure Land school. “Years ago, when I wanted to study Buddhism with Mr. Li Bingnan and to formally become his student, he put forward three conditions: ‘First, from today on, you can only listen to my lectures. You are not allowed to listen to any other Dharma masters or lay practitioners. Second, from today on, you are not allowed to read any book, be it a sutra or any kind of book, without my permission.’ The first condition blocked my ears, and the second covered my eyes. ‘Third, what you have learned from others does not count with me. You are to forget it all. From today on, you start anew with me.’
“These three conditions were very harsh. When I first heard them, I thought that this teacher was very autocratic and unreasonable. Nevertheless, after consideration, I accepted his conditions and became his student. I did not know then that these conditions were precepts meant to help me cut off my afflictions. The more one sees and listens, the more afflictions one has; the less one sees and listens, the less afflictions one will have. When one does not see or listen, one will have no afflictions.
“After I followed his teaching for six months, my wandering thoughts indeed became fewer, my mind became purer, and I acquired more wisdom. I gained true benefits. Therefore, I am very grateful to Mr. Li. Although he had asked me to follow his rules for only five years, I voluntarily followed them for yet another five. I abided by these three rules for ten years and thus laid a solid foundation for learning Buddhism.”
Master Chin Kung has further explained that these three rules are traditional in Chinese Buddhism. Thus, they are also the foundation for study and cultivation at the PLLCA. So whether the students are coming to cultivate or to learn to be a teacher, they learn by listening only to Master Chin Kung and the teachers he recommends.
If students are invited to learn to lecture, they begin by giving the teacher’s talks. Again, this is the traditional way of learning to lecture in Buddhism. Giving the teacher’s talks ensures that the student does not make any mistakes. Mistakes will have very serious consequences for both the listeners and the lecturer. The listeners would be told something wrong and the lecturer would incur serious karmic consequences for having told something wrong. So to protect both listener and lecturer, the student lecturer follows the traditional method of giving the teacher’s talks, which were based in turn on his teacher’s talk. This procedure can be traced back to the time of the Buddha, when the Buddha’s students repeated his lectures.
It is this essential tradition that makes listening to the teacher’s talks vitally important. The student absorbs the teachings to the extent that the teachings become second nature to the student. Over the years, as the student’s understanding and cultivation deepen, he or she will gradually add their own understanding to their teacher’s lectures.