All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, teachers, and fellow students, good evening.
My name is Angel Yang; I'm a senior this year at Developing Virtue Girls' High School. Being a senior is a lot of fun, since you can enjoy life while ordering people around. For every "up," there's also a "down." It's like how when there's good food, seniors get first pick, but if there's something that needs to be done, we are also the first to be called. We need to set a good example for our "little sisters," you know. So, today, I'm the first one from the dorm to give a "Dharma" talk, half-forced and half- volunteered. I am not going to talk about my feelings about this place; I'll keep that for my graduation speech. Rather, I am going to tell you a story, it's called: "The Most Beautiful Heart."
One day a young man was standing in the middle of the town proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered and they all admired his heart for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it. Yes, they all agreed: it truly was the most beautiful heart they had ever seen. The young man was very proud and boasted even more loudly about his beautiful heart.
Suddenly, an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said, "Why, your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine." The crowd and the young man looked at the old man's heart. It was beating strongly, but full of scars. Some of the pieces of his heart had been removed and other pieces put in, but they didn't quite fit all together and there were several jagged edges. In fact, in some places there were deep gouges where whole pieces were missing. The people stared and thought to themselves: how could he say his heart is more beautiful?
The young man looked at the old man's heart and laughed. "You must be joking," he said. "Compare your heart with mine: Mine is perfect, and yours is a mess of scars." "Yes," said the old man, "yours is perfect looking but I would never trade with you. You see, each scar represents a person to whom I have given my love - I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them, and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart, but because the pieces aren't exact, I have some rough edges, which I cherish, because they remind me of the love we shared. Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away, and the other person hasn't returned a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty gouges - giving love is taking a chance. Although these gouges are painful, they stay open, reminding me of the love I have for these people too, and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting for them. So now do you see what true beauty is?"
When the young man heard this, he stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart, and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man with trembling hands. The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his old scarred heart and placed it in the wound in the young man's heart. It fit, but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges. The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but still somehow, more beautiful then ever, since love from the old man's heart flowed into his. They embraced and walked away side by side.
This is by an unknown author, and I got this story from a close friend. I felt deeply moved by this piece of writing, because it gives a very good reason why we should be good to other people. Often in the past, I've tried to be nice to people and opened up my heart to them as well, but over time, I began to feel that there were too many woes in my heart. And I started to wonder: Should I always give out my heart to people and just let them ruin it or leave all this hurt behind? Then I realized that to have these doubts about giving was really wrong. This story gave me a strong, definite answer about what should I do. If the old man in the story didn't give other people parts of his heart, his heart wouldn't have been so ugly in appearance. It would have been nice and beautiful like the young man's. But this elder understood what was a truly beautiful heart—it is a heart that you can cherish, a heart so full of memories that you can't forgot, and a heart that will stay with you forever and ever.
Last semester in my English class, we read Walden, by the famous American writer, Henry David Thoreau. Our teacher, Heng Gu Shr, picked out some quotes for us to write our comments on, and one that really touched me was: "Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?" People nowadays are too scared to give their heart or to show affection towards people around them. These days, people are only willing to give and invest their time, energy and effort if they expect to get something back. Men and women are all wearing fake masks, with layers of make-up to cover up their true selves. People hardly put forth any sincerity to do things. I've seen people change their facial expressions and emotions very quickly or pretend to be friends with their enemy just after they badmouthed them behind their backs. It is so hard to trust people and thus be willing to give out your heart. People are all afraid to be hurt by others. But there must always be a person who's willing to extend a hand first before two people can even shake hands. So it's the same as giving out your heart first to let other people exchange it. An acquaintance once told me her definition of what it means to be a friend. She said, "In Chinese, friends are also called 'those who know each other's heart.'" In order to know each other's heart, you need to give out your heart first, truly open yourself up and be sincere to make friends with people. Once you've done that, you can begin to develop a good friendship.
So now, I don't worry if I have given too much to other people and forgotten to reserve some for myself, because I have really found some friendships that will last for a lifetime. I'll always remember those to whom I've given my heart, and those from whom I've received a heart.
Personally, the old man in this story reminds me of the Bodhisattvas. Every Bodhisattva practices joy in giving. In the story, the old man enjoys giving out his love, just as Bodhisattvas enjoy saving living beings or even giving up their lives for us. So if someone doesn't take the first step by giving out something, what will happen afterwards? Nothing. Thus don't be shy or scared to give out your heart first, because you'll earn something you'll never regret and you might also become someone with the most beautiful heart.