Most people I meet are excited and enthusiastic when they hear the teachings of Buddhas, and ask, "How come I've never heard this before? Why don't you have schools and colleges and more teachers? This stuff is really fine!" Whoever teaches children touches the future. The Sutras urge us to "purify Buddhalands, save living beings, and serve limitless Buddhas." All of this can and must take place inside a classroom.
So do we recite Guanyin's name hoping to get a Mercedes Benz, or as a lucky prayer for winning the California
Lottery? "Please, come on, Guanyin, give me the right number!" If so, then we have listened to the wrong sounds of the world, and to a false Guanyin image of our own making. We should listen inside for our own Guanyin Bodhisattva and call up our own great compassion. "Hey, Guanyin, do I hear me?" Reciting Guanyin's name is to remind us that we ourselves are Guanyin Bodhisattva. When we invoke that name, we are activating that heart; just that is cultivation.
Then, every state we meet is a potential chance for cultivation; every living being, a future Buddha to serve. Instead of begging Guanyin for this and that, we might say, "I'm Guanyin Bodhisattva, and these walls (of the temple) are illusory obstacles. In fact, these walls don't exist; the whole world is the Way-place and nothing is an obstruction to my cultivation. I can sensitively respond to all living beings. When I teach children, I'm just trying to find a way to bring out that Buddha-nature inside each child, and thus bring out my own.
To me, this is what the Avatamsaka Sutra means when National Master Ching Liang writes in the Preface:
The vast and great can enter where there is no place;
Dust motes and hairs envelop with nothing left outside.
Everybody and everything, every place and all the time is cultivating the Dharma. I think also that this is part of what the Venerable Master meant in his verse:
The Dharma Realm is my substance; nothing falls outside.
Empty space is my function; everything fits inside.
That is why teaching is such satisfying work. It's all cultivation. Children are very close to their own true nature. It is right there beneath the surface, at that age. I have worked in psychiatric wards and in hospitals. Adults are slow to change. You have to wait a long time before you can see any signs of improvement, and often you never see any progress or cause for hope. But kids are amazingly responsive and resilient; they light up right away when you reach out to their nature. They respond to kindness and wisdom immediately, faster than we adults do. Their sincerity and "bright virtue" (ming de 明德) is still vital and intact.
So in conclusion, I'm hoping that at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and wherever we go, we will establish schools; that we will remember the bigger Dharma and not forget to make the Great Bodhi Resolve to cultivate the Way of Great Compassion.
→To be continued