Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, fellow cultivators and students:
Many of you know me as an alumna, who lived and studied at the CTTB for six years and am now returning after getting my college degree to teach at the Girls' School for the next four months. Many of you may also have expectations of and opinions about me, such as why I came back and what kind of model I should be for the students. However, tonight, I don't want to speak on your opinions of me; I would like to speak openly and simply share my thoughts and experiences.
At the time I was a student here, I felt that life here in the CTTB was ridden with difficulties. These difficulties that I talk of are the mental kind, though of course it had its share of physical and emotional challenges. Some people may be mistakenly led into thinking that because the CTTB is a place for quiet contemplation and cultivation, they can escape from the "evil" outside world and solve their problems here. But it takes both courage and wisdom to realize that the matter of solving one's own problems lies not in changing external conditions or the environment, but in changing oneself. In fact, the Venerable Master was not kidding when he said that life here can be a harsh training for the mind, especially so for the ego. Looking back, however I still feel no end of gratitude on my part towards my parents for sending me here to study.
Over the years, I have learned more about myself than I wanted or ever expected to learn—the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's very easy to distract yourself from looking within and understanding who you are when you live in a materialistic society such as ours today. There are many distractions, such as entertainment and fun that can lead you astray. Seeking out these distractions to solve your problems doesn't really work. In actuality, it is not knowing yourself that can be the source of your problems. That is not to Bonnie Lin in the classroom. say I don't like to play and am a very serious person! Being young, I also like to play but I know my limits. With everything, we should strive to open-mindedly follow the Middle Way and not become attached to extremes.
*課室中的林內華 Bonnie Lin in the classroom.
My collective experiences here have helped me to keep this balance by developing what I like to call an inner core of values and beliefs that is not easily influenced or changed by external factors. Ironically, much of what I have taken from living in an isolated Buddhist monastery can be applied to every aspect of my everyday mundane life, not just once, but over and over again. I have a poem here that I first read when I was a tenth grader here at Developing Virtue School and it has impacted me very deeply. Actually, it represents my attitude and approach towards everything in life, which I've learned from living as a Buddhist. The following poem is by the famous author Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the Jungle Book.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!
Our school may be placed within an isolated Buddhist monastic community with none of the frills of modern consumer society, but it was here that I learned to cut to the heart of what matters the most to me in life. It was here that I first learned how to build an inner core of strength and self-confidence necessary to get me through the obstacles I would be facing. It was here that I learned all the necessary skills and values to help me succeed in life and most importantly, to succeed as a person. I remember that there was a time when I was perhaps 16 years old and thought all my problems would be solved if only I could go to public school and be like all the other teenagers my age. Now, in retrospect, I feel that it was the difference that made all the difference.
Bonnie Lin (Nei-Hua Lin) graduated from Developing Virtue Girls School in 1997. Bonnie Lin lived in the City of 10,000 Buddhas with her parents for six years before relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area when she began college in 1997. Her mother Mrs. Jennifer Lin—Upasika Guo-xiu Sun, developed curriculum for the Standards for Students text used in the elementary and secondary schools at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Her lessons have been published in Vajra Bodhi Sea and have been well received.
Bonnie is expecting her B.A. degree in May from the University of California, Berkeley, in Interdisciplinary Studies. Her area of concentration is "Industrial Organizations & Globalization," which is a combination of studies from Business Administration, International Relations and Sociology. She recently returned from a fall semester study abroad program at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan, where she studied International Business Management and Chinese. She is currently working as a volunteer teacher at Developing Virtue Secondary Girls' School, teaching Social Living, ESL and SAT/TOEFL Prep, and living as a dorm supervisor. Her efforts include co-founding the Developing Virtue Alumni and the Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth Group. Bonnie enjoys learning, traveling and interacting with people.