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Today I would like to share my thoughts about what Cherishing Youth means. To cherish means to have kind fondness for, to care and protect someone or some thing. It implies a gentle, nurturing attitude. To illustrate this we may consider the analogy of the dragon cherishing its pearl. The dragon is constantly mindful and protective of his pearl. He keeps his "wish-fulfilling pearl" suspended before him so it will not be lost or come to harm. He does not grasp it too tightly, but daily polishes it, so it remains pure, bright, and free from any blemish.
What is meant by youth? Usually we think of it as a numerical age category. Americans are said to be worshipers of youth, and to prefer to remain young and attractive and not grow old. That is simply an attachment to outer appearances. While adults wish to avoid the aging process, it seems the young generation today is in a feverish hurry to grow up as quickly as possible, so that whatever age we are, we are dissatisfied with our lot, and vainly seeking for what is impossible to attain; we fail to derive any benefit from the present reality for ourselves and for others.
But youth also implies the qualities of innocence and purity, openness and straightforwardness, spiritual vitality and a sense of wonder--and of hope. Anyone with these qualities, though he may be old in years, will be young in spirit; lacking these qualities, though one may be young in years, one will be lusterless, haggard, dull, and negative, without any hope and without a sense of wonder. How does one cherish and preserve those qualities of youth? Simply by offering up all good conduct, and refraining from all evil.
Today's youth is bombarded from all sides with negative and evil influences from various kinds of media and people. In order to protect their innocence and purity, children must be discouraged from watching television, listening to popular music, viewing films, playing video games, and reading unwholesome literature--all those influences which will destroy their inherent wholesome qualities.
Some people might disagree and say that this modern world is too complicated and sophisticated, and that children must be kept informed, otherwise they would be too vulnerable. But actually, by not doing any evil and offering up all good conduct, by keeping our minds, bodies, and mouths pure and innocent, we invisibly receive the greatest protection from any disaster, great or small.
Why is that? When our minds are still open and full of wonder, we can still see, or at least sense, that which is otherwise invisible. We learn in Buddhism that for every precept we uphold purely, there are five Dharma Protecting Spirits who surround and protect us every moment of the day and night; when we break the precepts, those Dharma Protecting spirits leave us. Some people believe that to understand reality, one must pursue worldly knowledge and experience. But, in fact, as we gain "experience," we lose our sensitivity, and a vast dimension of reality becomes invisible to us, with the loss of purity, our faculties become dull, and we are no longer able to discern reality clearly.
By offering up all good, refraining from any evil, and cherishing the qualities of youth--innocence, purity, open-mindedness, straightforwardness, and a sense of wonder--in ourselves, as well as our young friends, we will all remain forever youthful in spirit, and the flame of hope will remain in this world, shining brightly.
□  By Heng Liang
As I stand here today I am reminded of how far Instilling Goodness Elementary School and Developing Virtue High School have come. Eighteen years ago our school began with only eight students, ages four and a half to eleven. Now we have over 120 students and a full kindergarten through twelfth grade program. However, we still have a long way to go.
We live in a time that is particularly dangerous for children. Although one could say that every generation has complained that the "younger generation" has not reached the standards of the past, it seems to me that these children face an even more precarious and dangerous future. Although all children have had to face the problem of doing what's right when everyone else seems to be doing what's wrong (which makes the wrong seem not so wrong), there is even more pressure now. Everything around them: the media, television, videos, movies, and advertising are constantly encouraging and pressuring our children to do the very things we consider dangerous and immoral.
As teachers, we are in a very difficult position. It seems to our students that we are very hard on them in demanding that they be better and have higher moral standards than "ordinary kids." But if we are to turn the tide and change the negative direction our society has taken, we must raise children who are better than the rest, who can become leaders, because they truly do hold the future of our world in their hands. This, I believe, is what we mean when we say "cherishing youth." Cherishing them so that they can become the very best, so that they can grow up to be special enough to change our world for the better and preserve it for future generations.
□  By Terri Nicholson