Do Not Harbor Greed in Offering Incense and
Worshipping the Buddha

The Venerable offers incense during a Dharma Assembly in Taiwan, 1993

The Venerable Master offers incense during a Dharma Assembly in Taiwan, 1993.

The incense is a token of our respect. If there is some in the censer already, we don't need to light more. Incense is very expensive nowadays. Why should we be so wasteful? You should look into this well. In any matter, we want to understand the principle behind it, not just blindly follow others, thinking, "Everyone else is rushing to offer incense, so it must be a good thing." Actually, such people are creating offenses in Buddhism. Why are they so unreserved about showing the Buddha their greedy hearts?

- Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

It's totally superstitious to insist on personally offering incense to the Buddhas. If there is already incense burning in the censer, you can simply bow a few times to show your sincerity; don't light more incense. If you light too much incense, the smoke chases the Buddhas away without your knowing, and your retribution for causing this is to become an animal.

I am very annoyed by such superstitious people. Burning so much incense amounts to defecating on the heads of ten thousand Buddhas. You wouldn't like such an experience, so how much less would the Buddhas? How do you expect a Buddha to endure so much smoke?

The "rule" that "everyone must light incense" doesn't apply here, because it's too vulgar. My rule is that you cannot fight to offer incense. This is a new beginning for Buddhism; we're different from other Buddhist temples. Such behavior may be acceptable in other places where people don't know any better, but no one is allowed to be so superstitious here. People who don't follow the rules are not welcome here.

Excerpt from a talk given by
the Venerable Master on November 4, 1979
"In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Vol. III"