The purpose of establishing a way place is to help everyone achieve in a group practice. It is definitely not to help individuals escape their worldly responsibilities. It is a serious mistake to think this way, especially in the light of all the offering way places receive fro followers and reality that every offering will have to be repaid, if not in this lifetime then in a future lifetime. The manner of living together does not mean that each person has their room. If luxurious and comfortable facilities are available, it will be very difficult to achieve. Why? Because the Earth Treasure Sutra tells us that, “Every single movement or stirring of thoughts on the part of living beings is karma and an offense.” For uncountable eons we have been deluded and confused and have thus committed infinite wrongdoings. Consequently, we have developed and accumulated infinite bad habits. When with others, we usually try to be civilized and behave ourselves. But, when alone, we tend to indulge ourselves in doing whatever we feel comfortable with and easily forget proper conduct.
To counter this, members of the group share sleeping quarters. These quarters in a traditional way place are comprised of one large bed and with a space for each person. Quilts are neatly folded as in an army barracks. Life in a way place was even more rigorous than that of the army and the monks and nuns were even more disciplined than the soldiers are. Only by living in such a disciplined way place, are we ale to mold our temperament and reform ourselves through the Three Learnings of self-discipline, deep concentration and wisdom. This is true cultivation.
However, there are exceptions in way places. For example, the managing monk and the executive deputy chief, due to their responsibilities, have their own rooms, which is usually very small, in order for them to plan and take care of daily tasks without disturbing others. Monks and nuns, who are aged or ill, also have their own rooms. To accomplish our cultivation, this shared living is necessary, even in today’s affluent society.