YOU CHILDREN TRANSLATE ANCIENT WISDOM
By Kuo Ts'an Epstein, Principal Gold Mountain Instilling Virtue Elementary School
At a time when the quality of our schools is severely questioned, when teachers and students both feel that even their safety is threatened and we find high school students who are unable to read, one begins to wonder if maybe there is some basic underlying principle that is missing from our method of education. In San Francisco alone last year approximately $2,450.00 of the taxpayers money was spent on each school-age child for education. Yet even with all of this money and program after program which is instituted to improve our schools, the results are far from impressive. It seems that all of these attempts to improve our children's education do not penetrate to the root of the problem but instead, desperately grasp at only the branches.
At Gold Mountain Instilling Virtue Elementary School even the very youngest children are taught those fundamental principles which enable people to live together peacefully and cooperate to make our world a better place, yet their other studies which include both Mandarin Chinese and English are by no means neglected. These principles, though they are simple enough for even young children to understand, seem to have been forgotten by the rest of the world or at least their importance is no longer recognized. What are these magical principles? They are nothing more than respect and compassion for all living beings learning to be giving and to benefit society.
The older children in the school, ranging in age from eight to twelve years have now begun the important task of learning to translate from Mandarin Chinese to English. They are certainly among the youngest translators being trained in the world. Their first project is an essay entitled, “Repaying the Kindness of Your Parents,” written by Ch'an Master Hsuan Hua, The principle of filial piety, respect and reverence towards one's parents and teachers, is an ancient principle which was the foundation of Chinese society; yet it is not totally foreign to American society either. Other principles, however, those of success and profit and above all apathy, have obscured our vision so that as a society we have forgotten even the kindness of our parents and teachers to whom we owe our very lives.
You may say that these are old-fashioned, out-dated, ideas, but these children have found meaning in them and, with the help of new skills, hopefully they will use their own words to translate them into something that is meaningful for other American children. If they begin this training now and remember the principles they are being taught, they have the opportunity not only to grow up to be great translators, but also to give a great gift to our society. They will be able to open up communication between East and West, to bring the wisdom of each culture to the other, planting the seeds of world peace and harmony.
Below appears the translation of Lee Bradley, age 11.
REPAYING YOUR PARENTS' KINDNESS
IF YOU WANT TO BE A PERSON, THE VERY FIRST THING YOU OUGHT TO KNOW IS THAT IF YOU COMPARED YOUR PARENTS' KINDNESS TO THE SEA IT WOULD GO EVEN DEEPER. IF YOU COMPARED IT TO THE SKY IT WOULD GO EVEN HIGHER.
IF YOU DON'T THINK TO REPAY THEM, YOU SHOULD TRULY FEEL SHAMEFUL. OTHERWISE, IT IS USELESS TO CALL YOURSELF A PERSON. BUT, ON THE OTHER HAND, IF YOU DO PLAN TO REPAY THEM, YOU MUST FIRST LEARN TO HAVE VIRTUE AND TEACH LIVING BEINGS TO CULTIVATE THE ORIGINAL WAY. IN OTHER WORDS, IF ONE CHILD OBTAINS THE WAY, THEN NINE GENERATIONS WILL LEAP OVER BIRTH AND DEATH. NOW, HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO BE LAZY?
THERE IS A PROVERB THAT SAYS, "OF ONE HUNDRED WAYS OF BEING GOOD, BEING FILIAL IS THE VERY FIRST." IF YOU CAN BE TRULY FILIAL, THEN YOU ARE REPAYING YOUR PARENTS' KINDNESS. YOU OUGHT TO WATCH WHERE YOU PUT YOUR FEET AND PUT THEM ON REAL GROUND. YOU SHOULD MAKE PROGRESS FORWARD INSTEAD OF GOING BACKWARDS AND BEING LAZY. THAT IS JUST WASTING PRECIOUS TIME, IF YOU DO WASTE TIME, THEN IT'S VERY HARD TO REPAY YOUR PARENTS. NOT ONLY THAT, IT WILL BE VERY HARD TO BECOME ENLIGHTENED YOURSELF.
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Others’ faults are just your own—
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-Composed by Ch’an Master Hua