Buddhism in Plain Terms

Cultivating The True Volunteer Spirit

< Buddhism in Plain Terms < 白话佛法共修分享    

🌟 Volunteerism – Walking the Path of the Bodhisattva 🌟

Master Lu once said, “It’s a blessing to serve”.

For those of you who are already volunteering, we rejoice in you for stepping out of your comfort zone for the benefit of sentient beings. 🎉

Facing resistance, friction and differences is inevitable in our journey, yet these challenges teach us to let go of the Three Poisons and the importance of cultivating forbearance and compassion.

🌱 We hope this compilation of Master Lu’s discourses is able to shed light on:

✅ The meaning of volunteerism,

✅ What should be at the top of our mind as a volunteer, 

✅ The essence of compassion, and

✅ The importance of being tolerant with others but strict with yourself.

Not to be missed is a poignant true story of a fencing master and how he overcame his perceived lack of advantage. 

No matter how inconsequential our volunteering effort may look, each of us has a role to play in sowing the seeds of hope and transformation. 🌱


< It’s Not A Job But An Agent of Change >


Question: If someone volunteers at Guan Yin Hall not out of genuine intentions but for the sake of accumulating merits or just for the sake of doing it, would this cause an outflow of merits (功德有漏)? Is this attitude even appropriate?

Answer: Remember, everyone who volunteers at the Guan Yin Hall comes with an aspiration, and the extent of which will determine the merits garnered by each individual.

Assuming today, you come with the intention of wanting more Buddhist friends to be able to stay focused on their Buddhist practice and recitation at the Guan Yin Hall. By guarding the hall, you are essentially a Dharma Protector. For this, your merits will be immeasurable. Conversely, if you regard it as merely a task that you are obligated to perform, there will indeed be an outflow of merits

Question: Master, could you kindly offer a word or two of advice to correct some misconceptions that we may have so that we feel motivated and be able to truly feel just how much dharma joy (法喜) there is in volunteering at the Guan Yin Hall?

Answer: When Bodhisattva is right before you, would you feel the dharma joy? Similarly, when you act as a Dharma Protector standing beside the Bodhisattvas, won’t you feel the same? In fact, you owe it to your blessing and good fortune to be able to serve as a volunteer at the Guan Yin Hall. Can you imagine the joy you feel when you make it to heaven eventually and stand beside Guan Yin Bodhisattva, while playing the role of a Dharma Protector?

Question: Thank you, Master.

Source: Master Jun Hong Lu’s World Buddhist Fellowship Meeting (Q&A Session), New York, USA, 17 September 2016



Master Jun Hong Lu: The positive energy that you exude can be highly contagious and can make you the role-model that others tend to want to emulate.

The moment someone says, “I want to do this kind deed,” those around him will be inspired and immediately jump in, “I also want to learn to give (布施), I also want to perform meritorious deeds. If you’re doing volunteer work, count me in too”. This is how the volunteer team will grow.

It is this person’s projection of positivity that effectuates a kind of reciprocation from you. It has a contagion effect and this is also the power of influence. I would like to remind all of you that, just as good things can be quickly emulated, so too are the negative ones. As Buddhist practitioners, I hope, all of you will harness the power of positive energy.

Source: Master Jun Hong Lu’s Buddhism In Plain Terms, Episode 26, 29 May 2020


Blessings, Not Burdens



Master Jun Hong Lu: We should not be afraid of having to devote ourselves be it on the path of spiritual cultivation or in helping others to be spiritually awakened (度人).

In this day and age, many people will recoil at the thought of having to invest their energy or time. Whenever you seek their help to get something done, they are quick to give excuses such as, “I don’t have the time because I’m so bogged down and exhausted”. Consequently, things which they ought to do are left undone.

You say, “I’m very busy”. You should know that you will never find time for anything, until one day you find yourself lying in bed paralysed. That’s when you will have all the time in the world.

A person whose merit is immeasurable (功德具足) is someone who is selfless in dedicating his life to helping others. For that, he will surely receive the blessings from the Bodhisattva. This is the principle behind. Therefore, as a Buddhist practitioner, we should not be afraid to make sacrifices.

What does it mean by having ‘immeasurable merits’? It basically means regardless of what you are faced with, you are always kind and you only think of the well-being of others.

In other words, you are someone who only thinks about others and not yourself. If you are such a person, don’t you think the Bodhisattva will shower you with blessings? That’s beyond a shadow of doubt!

Source: Master Jun Hong Lu’s Buddhism In Plain Terms, Volume 9 Chapter 41


Compassion is Always Golden 


Question: When managing administrative tasks at Guan Yin Hall within our practice group, how do we know when to view things through the lens of worldly wisdom (人间法) or Buddhist principles? Being too stringent may stir up dissatisfaction among volunteers, yet being overly compassionate may put us in a position where it becomes difficult for us to efficiently resolve issues.

Answer: Remember, when we are at the Guan Yin Hall, we are the Bodhisattvas. Regardless of who comes over, they are all our Buddhist friends, and we must strive to assist them, and make them feel the compassion of Bodhisattvas.

So, it’s really important to stay patient and embrace a Bodhisattva mindset. Don’t make a fuss over minor matters. No matter what the Buddhist friend may say, just smile and respond by saying, “Thank you”.

In the event that they behave inappropriately, you may politely say, “Please do not visit us anymore”, when you send them to the door. Conversely, if a Buddhist friend is well-behaved, you may say, “Do visit us more often”.

I’m not kidding. The Guan Yin Hall is a sacred place hence, it is necessary for you to send the troublemakers away.

Source: Master Jun Hong Lu’s Public Talk, Singapore, April 2016


Fortifying the Sangha Spirit


Caller: The third rule of the “Code of Conduct for Disciples” (弟子守则) states, “Disciples should respect each other and work hand in hand with the Master to propagate Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door. As disciples, you should help people become spiritually awakened, be free from suffering and attain happiness”.

The first two phrases, ‘to respect each other’ (相互尊重) and ‘to work hand in hand’ (相互团结), emphasise ‘respect’ (敬) and ‘unity’ (和), respectively, which are two of “The Six Principles of Reverent Harmony” (六和敬).

If there’s a fellow practitioner within a group endeavouring to mediate conflicts among members, striving to resolve discord among fellow practitioners, in order to foster unity within the group, can we consider that this fellow practitioner is also performing a meritorious deed?

Master Jun Hong Lu: Absolutely! As long as he promotes positivity, his efforts are commendable. If what he does is not to inject positivity, but merely being skillful at maintaining good relationship with people (他就是做人), it goes without saying, it is a lower virtue (做人就是档次低了). It’s only when you do it the Bodhisattva’s way, you are deemed to be of a high virtue (要做菩萨才档次高).

Caller: Am I right to say that when we go about mediating others, our goal should be focused on bringing people together to the Guan Yin Hall so that everyone is able to  work towards the direction of spiritual cultivation?

Master Jun Hong Lu: That’s right!

Caller: Got it. Master, you’ve once compared the ‘Code of Conduct for Disciples’ to making a solemn oath. Coming back to the third rule, it is stated that as disciples, it’s our duty to earnestly safeguard the unity within our practice centre. Am I right?

Master Jun Hong Lu: Exactly! Because you must remember the principle of ‘fostering harmony in Sangha’ (和合僧众). Even though we’re not monastics, it’s still crucial for us, as Buddhist practitioners, to be united among ourselves. This is in itself ‘fostering harmony in Sangha’. Do you understand?

Caller: Yes. Thank you, Master.

Source: Wenda20191227 52:07, Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program



Caller: In a practice group that is committed to right faith and mindfulness, the spirit of conformity is the prerequisite for unity within the group. Am I right to say that such a characteristic is essentially the spirit of selflessness?

Master Jun Hong Lu: What defines the spirit of conformity (服从的精神)? It’s about aligning oneself with the needs of sentient beings (随顺众生). Only by doing so would your effort pay off.

Conversely, if you are someone who is unable to accede to the request of sentient beings, what can you achieve? What this means is you must learn to go with the flow (随缘).

In fact, life’s fate is predetermined by one’s open-mindedness. If you are someone with an erroneous understanding of the meaning of fate, while grasping and avidly seeking good outcomes in life, you are bound to bring obstructions upon yourself.

Source: Wenda20191227 01:03:03, Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program


Be Tolerant With Others But Strict With Yourself


Question: It’s not uncommon to find some volunteers incorporating personal opinions that do not adhere to Master’s advice when taking questions from Buddhist friends at the Practice Centre.

Separately, there are also volunteers who habitually turn up late for their duty. After being reminded, they improve but after a while, the same problem will crop up.

In this regard, I’d like to ask Master as to how we should address these issues tactfully.

Answer: First and foremost, we must remember that everyone has moods and family matters to take care of. As volunteers, they have a good intent to help, so we must be grateful towards them. He may turn up late, but still, you must show your concern and ask, “Is everything fine? Feel free to take leave if there is a need to attend to something. We can always look for a substitute”.

Alternatively, you can arrange to have two volunteers so that one of them can step up in the event that the other one is late. With this, you bring harmony in solving this problem (这样就圆融地解决这些问题了).

Question: What about the question relating to volunteers incorporating their personal views when answering questions from other Buddhist practitioners?

Answer: If the personal opinion they offer is well justified (比较正的), that’s not a problem. But, if he starts to get out-of-control, (讲得太过分了) and his reply is deviating from the correct direction (有一些偏了), that would be unacceptable. It’s best to stick to what I have said before. Even if you want to add some embellishments (添油加醋), you should not overdo it, otherwise, it becomes distorted.

Source: Master Jun Hong Lu’s World Buddhist Fellowship Meeting (Q&A Session), Singapore, 18 May 2018




Caller: Some long-practising Buddhist practitioners seem to be taking a nonchalant attitude (不是太关心) when handling questions raised by a new Buddhist practitioner. For some reason, they don’t seem to put themselves in others’ shoes and hence, they are unable to stay patient when answering questions.

In this regard, I’d like to ask Master if we are able to exercise patience in offering the appropriate answers and guidance to a new Buddhist practitioner so that he has the right faith and right mindfulness to begin recitation of Buddhist scriptures, the merits generated are comparable to those garnered from introducing Buddhism to a brand new person?

Master Jun Hong Lu: I’ve said this before when teaching to those Buddhist class teachers in Malaysia. The Practice Centre must look for those who are patient, and assign them to purely focus on addressing those long-winded questions raised by Buddhist friends. This would be an opportunity for them to perform merits.

On the flip side, you can assign tasks that require speed to those who lack patience. This is how it should be.

Caller: I see. Am I right to say this is because every person is different? After all, every deed is meritorious.

Master Jun Hong Lu: Absolutely! Take a look at those people who have been assigned to answer phone calls downstairs. Actually, I may slowly do some reshuffling in future to make sure that only those with patience can answer calls at Oriental Radio. If there is one who is extremely patient, the other one is moderately patient and the last one is impatient. How is it possible for them to do a good job? Sooner or later, you must reshuffle their roles unless these people make the conscious effort to change. Failing which, just switch their roles.

For those impatient people, who are reluctant to remain cool-headed when answering questions, you must remove them from their roles. There is no point in letting them stay on to carry out such a meritorious deed. Give them something else to do.

Caller: I see.

Master Jun Hong Lu: Why is it that different Bodhisattvas have different temperaments? Do you think Dharma Protectors have patience? They will not hesitate to act when they need to.

Caller: The Dharma Protectors are extremely strict.

Master Jun Hong Lu: Can you see my point now? Why is it that some Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are so earnest (苦口婆心) in Their quest to guide us? The spiritual state of every Bodhisattva differs. In fact, Their spiritual foundation from which They attain Buddhahood varies.

There are some who do so by focusing on helping others (度人), while others focus on performing meritorious deeds, or the giving of wealth, fearlessness or sharing the dharma (财施、无畏施, 法施). This is why there are so many different Buddhas. Do you understand?

Caller: I do. Thank you, Master, for your explanation.

Source: Wenda20160103B 21:39, Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program  


Finding the Equilibrium 


Question: When performing volunteer duty in Guan Yin Hall, some fellow practitioners are still very concerned about fulfilling their daily recitation and the recitation of the Little Houses. Due to divided attention, they often neglect and make mistakes in their work. How do we choose between doing volunteer work and finding time to perform recitation?

Answer: It’s quite straightforward. When volunteering, commit fully to the task; when reciting Buddhist scriptures, devote yourself entirely to that. There’s no need to prioritise one over the other (不要取,不要舍). 

Cultivation of the mind and putting the teachings to practice should be done concurrently.  It will not work if you are only into mind cultivation but do not put the teachings to practice, nor will it work if you only do the practising part but do not cultivate your mind. Thus, both aspects must be pursued concurrently.

Source: Master Jun Hong Lu’s World Buddhist Fellowship Meeting, Milan, Italy, 23 September 2017



Caller: How are you, Master? On certain special days, we are allowed to recite 21 or 27 times of theEighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance (LIFO). But, this may not be possible for volunteers who have to be on duty on those special days. Undoubtedly, what they do is meritorious but how about in terms of the elimination of karmic obstacles? Would the degree of elimination be the same as those who are able to kneel down to recite LIFO?

Master Jun Hong Lu: It’s for sure they are able to eliminate their karmic obstacles but it also depends.Assuming everyone is of the same spiritual foundation, I would think those who have the time to recite would be able to eliminate more karmic obstacles compared to those who don’t. 

Caller: But, it is equally important for the Practice Centre to have enough volunteers, right?

Master Jun Hong Lu: Yes, that’s why everyone can take turns to perform recitation. You can’t be saying, “I am  on duty at Guan Yin Hall, so I am not going to perform any recitation”. If you do not recite the Buddhist scriptures, how are you going to become a Bodhisattva?

Caller: Right. For example, during the eve and first day of Lunar New Year, some people will visit the Practice Centre to offer First Incense. This is also the time when one is allowed to recite many times of LIFO. Those who are not on duty can happily prostrate and recite LIFO throughout the day, while those on duty will have to assist visitors and guide them to offer incense. Am I right to say that the latter too can eliminate a lot of their karmic obstacles?

Master Jun Hong Lu: What you have just said is basically looking at Bodhisattva from the worldly perspective. Let me ask you, what’s the difference between Guan Yin Bodhisattva and Wei Tuo Bodhisattva (韦驮菩萨)? Wei Tuo Bodhisattva protects the dharma while Guan Yin Bodhisattva propagates the dharma. If both tasks are done well, there is surely merit to be had. (护法护得好,也是功德;弘法弘得好,也是功德)

You are protecting the dharma by doing a good job in safeguarding the Practice Centre. So, why do you still need to differentiate it (你还要有什么分别心)?

If you go all-out to safeguard the Practice Centre on the first day of the lunar month, by all means, you can stand there and who is going to reprimand you for performing recitation? Even if you have no time to recite LIFO on the day itself, why can’t you make it up by reciting a bit more on other days? If you add the merit from volunteering during Lunar New Year to the merit from your recitation, don’t you think you have generated immense merits for yourself?

Caller: Yes, Master.

Master Jun Hong Lu: This is an absolute joke.  Clearly it shows your lack of wisdom.

Source: Wenda20170120 01:20:17, Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program


Consistency in Action


Master Jun Hong Lu: The fourth is, “Right Diligence” (第四个正勤”). It is about “nurturing pre-existing goodness for it to flourish” (已生善令增长). What this means is you know that this is a kind deed, so you must motivate yourself to do it.

You should tell yourself,

“It doesn’t matter whether today is my duty day or not, as long as time permits, I will do the cleaning, assist others or help them carry things. Even if I’m not on duty, I’ll do it nevertheless”.

You must remember: If something wholesome has taken root in your heart, you should let it flourish. Let the kindness within imbue your entire being and over time, you will be filled with more and more positive energy.

Source: Master Jun Hong Lu’s Buddhism In Plain Terms, Episode 24, 29 May 2020


Create Our Own Opportunities


Master Jun Hong Lu: In ancient times, there was a fencing master. When asked who and what was the one unforgettable thing that had benefited him the most in his life, he said it was something his mother once said to him. At that time, he was just 18, young and vibrant and had just started practising fencing.

He used to complain that every time before his sword could touch his opponent, the other party’s sword was already on him. So, he confided to his mother, “It’s all because my sword is too short!”

To this, his mom responded, “No, son. Remember this. Go ahead, step forward as that’s when your sword is lengthened”.

We should never blame or accuse others as our destiny is actually in our hands. When an opportunity knocks on our door, why don’t we take a step forward and grab it?

Do not be jealous of others because their success is nothing but a function of their diligence and hard work.

We must seize the opportunity that comes to us. But, when there is none to be had, we should create the opportunity by putting in the effort. If you are someone endowed with a strong spiritual foundation (根基好) and you have the spiritual means (有条件), you must plough along with diligence so that you can eventually return to be with Guan Yin Bodhisattva.

Conversely, if you are faced with adverse conditions, you need to recite the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance to sincerely repent; strive hard to transcend the cycle of rebirth to return to the warm embrace of our heavenly mother in this very lifetime.

Source: Master Jun Hong Lu’s Public Talk, Jakarta, Indonesia, 12 March 2018


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