This situation happened in the time of Buddha, when India was one of the richest countries in the world. It was called The Golden Bird. It was not difficult for India, to provide all that was needed for a few thousand sannyasins. Joyfully, people did it. But as times changed, and the whole of the East had fallen into poverty, had been exploited by the West, sucked completely…
In Thailand, where one person is a sannyasin in every four persons, the burden has become too much. The Thailand government had to make a law that nobody can take sannyas without a government license. That is to prevent people from taking sannyas.
This seems to be very strange. You cannot even be a sannyasin without government permission. Even sannyas is not free anymore, but has become mandatory because a poor country and so many sannyasins…And now it is no longer a joy to contribute to their welfare, to their monasteries. They have become almost a heavy burden on the poor societies.
The same is the situation in India, but the Indian government has not taken any step, just because of the fear that if Hindu sannyasins have to take a license from the government, the whole of the Hindu society will go against the present-day rulers. In a vote they will be thrown out.
Half of India’s population is undernourished. One fourth of India’s population can manage only one meal a day, and if you see that meal, you will be simply shocked – what a meal! And all the predictions of scientific sources are that by the time of the year two thousand, India will have the biggest starvation problem that has ever happened in history. Fifty million people are predicted to die in that year. That means for every two persons, one person will die. All around there will be corpses.
In this situation of poverty you cannot afford sannyasins who are depending on social charity.
Hyakujo’s introduction of work and productivity was certainly a great revolutionary step. Society must have opposed him, and the monks must have opposed it because they were enjoying complete free time and all kinds of luxuries.
But Hyakujo was a very strong man. In his monastery he managed it that everybody worked. It did not mean that he was taking you away from meditation. The work was not very strict, but very flexible, depending on your intelligence – whatever you could contribute to the monastery. If you could work in the field, or chopping wood, or carrying water – whatever you could do. But the necessary thing was that everything should be done with a meditative mind.
Work should be a meditation. Just as you sit for meditation, Buddha introduced walking also as meditation. Then why should working not also be associated with meditation. There is no reason. Only when work and all kinds of movements of your body, are followed by a meditative silence, can you really be a buddha. And certainly a buddha should not be dependent on charity.
We cannot understand how great the step was. For centuries monks have enjoyed a complete freedom from any activity, and all their welfare was taken care of by the society.