I arrived at CTTB on August 31, 1993. On the second morning, I rushed to the school to teach the classes. That was the first day I became a volunteer teacher at CTTB. Time certainly flies. It has been 16 years since then. Before I came to CTTB, I had been teaching for 17 years in Malaysia. Thus in this life, I have been a school teacher for 33 years.
If you ask me how do I feel as a school teacher all the way through this life? My answer is that I am thankful about it because it is most meaningful to be a school teacher. If it was back then when I was still young, I may have a lot of responses. Now that I am getting older, I knew that life is suffering and have experienced the 4 elements that generate life are disintegrating, and impermanency is coming really fast, my responses are getting less and less. In simple words, I am 100% thankful to the kindness of our Venerable Master. It has been 3,000 years since Sakyamuni Buddha came to the world and I am still hanging out there in this Svaha World. It was because I met our Venerable Master that I followed him back home to the CTTB.
I am thankful to Venerable Shi Fu who is like my second parent, instills a second life in me, leading me to meet the Buddha Dharma again, and return to the CTTB. He helps me to experience the Buddha Dharma and the meaning of life. When I look back at my old friends and colleagues, they are retired. They have beautiful houses and big cars, but their hairs are turning grey. They appear to be lost about what is life. They do not want to talk about what it will be at the end of this life because death is filled with fear. On the contrary, I have found the true refuge.
There is a saying in Chinese, "Contented, your heart is constantly joyful; Seek for nothing, your character is most lofty." Living in CTTB for 16 years, I gain a deep insight into that verse because the monks and nuns in CTTB are like a mirror reflecting its meaning. They are living a simple non-contending and non seeking life. Silently, their lofty way of life became contagious to the lay people. If you live in the world outside, it is very difficult not to seek and fight. Even one is cultivating the Buddha Dharma; one can easily be torn apart by the flip-flopping of first thought of satisfaction and the second thought of greed. The first thought just says okay, I am satisfied, I am not going for anything, but immediately a second greedy thought would arise telling him to seek for this or that. When the first thought appeared, he was truly lofty and contented, but when the second thought arises, everything is gone.
Sixteen years ago when I first came to CTTB, I was filled with Dharma Joy. I told myself that I have to cultivate seriously. At that time my experience about the Buddha Dharma was still shallow. That continued for a period of time. In CTTB, it is a common thing that one person would do the jobs of many persons. The strangest thing is that if you sincerely offer your energy, yet you rejoice in all the Dharma activities in your heart, you will surely be blessed by the Dharma. Silently, your greed, anger and stupidity would gradually diminish day after day. Your heart would become more and more serene. Gradually it becomes easier for you to observe the moments in your thought. In between the arising thoughts, you notice when you became attached and when you let it go. When you gain this insight to reflect deeply what is going on in your mind and improve yourself in awareness, it is another way of experiencing the Dharma. It is like drinking a cup of water, you know it is cold or warm. And then, you realize that your seeking and contending mind also diminish.
If someone says, your thought is still flip-flopping, even you are cultivating, it is just the same as you are not. I was thinking in the same way at first. But in my experience, the thought of cultivating and not cultivating is just an attachment. The Heart Sutra says, forms, feeling, cognition, formation and consciousness are not produced nor destroyed, not defiled nor pure, and not increasing nor diminishing. But in actuality, the thought (or consciousness) of common people are constantly produced and destroyed, so one has to contemplate on the constantly produced and destroyed thoughts to realize what it meant by either produced nor destroyed. And investigate the process by which one can experience inner ease and serenity. Thus cultivating or not cultivating, one should not use the discriminating mind to evaluate, but give an opportunity for the producing and destroying mental processes to settle down. And you try to experience peace and serenity by not discriminating. You try to experience the tranquility through the process of neither having no attachment, nor letting go of thoughts. Apply effort diligently on the eyes, ears, nose, body and mind. It is really meaningful by applying efforts this way.
The wonder of the Dharma is very difficult to explain with words. Not only that, even the worldly dharma is difficult to explain with words. As a teacher, it is common to notice that you may repeat the same thing for tens of hundreds times, yet there are students who are still not clear about what you say. Or may be he is clear now, but is confused again later. We ourselves were students once upon the time, and we experienced the same thing as well. At time, we were clear but later on we became confused again. This is so common.
In the process of cultivating the Dharma, it is not a good thing to have nothing to do. It is even better to be occupied endlessly. Thus Venerable Shi Fu generated many things in CTTB for people to do. The founding of the schools in CTTB is one example. With things to do, it helps you to forget about the self. It helps to forget the external I. Forget about what I like to do, or what I do not like to. Forget about I am better than someone, or he is more talented. Forget to contend to be number one. Forget about who is better or who is not as good. Forget about the external me. Forget about what is produced and what is destroyed in the mind. In the process of flip-flopping of mental states, one may see the inner self, the unmoving mind. In between the disappearing of first true thought and the arising of second false thought, give yourself a chance as a common person to investigate the true self.
This is the encouragement Venerable Shi Fu said to volunteer teachers, "You educate the children for the sake of education. You educate every child like you are educating your own child. You must fulfill your natural duty in teaching them the academic as well as educate them to be good people. As long as you have done your very best, you do not have to think about how the children turn out to be." What does that mean? I realize that fulfilling one's natural duty to educate for the sake of education means doing the job without attachment and discrimination. A teacher naturally fulfills his duty to educate the children to be filial, humble, loyal, honest, respectful, righteous, creditable, and to understand shame for wrongful actions. A teacher would practice the same virtues and have the same character he educates. The students learn how to be good people from the teachers while the teachers learn to be truthful and naive like the young students, and thus through educating the students, a teacher could also explore his own "original true face" or his inner self. Over the time, good character is nurtured in students while virtue is also cultivated in teachers. Venerable Master vowed that whoever comes to CTTB, he will become Buddha in the future. There is saying that when one becomes a perfect person, he would become a Buddha. Thus in the future when the students cultivate and become Buddhas, the teachers would cultivate and become Buddhas as well. This is the strength of the vow made by Venerable Master.
For educating the next generation, Venerable Master also started a tradition of celebrations of Honoring Elders Day and Cherishing Youth Day in school. Talking about honoring the elders and cherishing the youths, I remember what Venerable Master use to say, "People have to fulfill their natural duty. Honoring the elders and cherishing the youths are the natural duties for everyone. When one fulfills his natural duties, one is cultivating his blessing and virtue. It has to come from one's inner heart and practice everyday." Why then do we need to have those specific days of celebration? How do we relate the students' talent shows, and the special lunches for the elders, the guests, the students and the four fold assembly with honoring the elders and cherishing the youths? The connection is that when teachers, students, and the four fold assembly are putting in the efforts in doing it, the concepts of honoring the elders and cherishing the youths became strongly rooted into their minds, including the guests.
On one hand, we like to make the school a good school. On the other hand, the effects of the school on students, teachers, parents, four fold assembly, society and the world is deep and profound. Also, it is said that Buddha saves those with affinity. Why there are so many living beings that Venerable Ｍaster would cross over and save them? From what we know, those are the dharma affinity created in the past by him with expedient and good efforts. In this life time, Venerable Master continues that same effort; he erected the way places, founded the schools, promotes honoring the elders and cherishing the youths, harmoniously makes connection with all the religions, etc. We can also learn from Venerable Master, expediently use our good efforts to make dharma connection with living beings. It is known that bodhisattvas have to fulfill myriad practices of the six Paramitas in order to attain bodhisattva-hood. When a bodhisattva practitioner generates good dharma affinity with living beings in the cause ground, he generates the connection and the conditions for his myriad practices of the six Paramitas. If he makes bad affinities with living beings, it will be difficult for him to fulfill the practices of myriad virtues. Well, if one is not inspired to practice the bodhisattva ways, he can choose to practice the self delivered arhat ways. But, it is important to understand that creating bad affinities may easily end up with facing bad states of conditions. Thus one has to be very careful.
Finally, I like to share this inspiration. Venerable Master brings us through the gate of the Buddha Dharma. One will need to apply himself in cultivating his mind. Every thing is created by the mind. One has to take care of himself on walking his own path ahead.