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A Symposium on Education with a Focus on Asian Youth in America: "Connecting and Communicating" (continued)

A talk given by Bhikshuni Heng Chih Shi at Gold Wheel Sagely Monastery on Sunday, October 11, 1998
*呂黛麗 中譯 Chinese translation by Daili Lyu













On the other hand, the things your mother throws up to you if your Asian are the Confucian virtues, the Daoist virtues, and the Buddhist virtues, and most of them are stuck in the Asian language. They are in the Asian culture and in the Asian language.   

Recently I went to the Philippines and discovered that the young generation doesn't know Chinese or English; they only know Tagalog. Why? Because their yaya raised them. Who is their yaya? It's the thirteen-year-old girl their parents brought in from the Provinces who doesn't have any education. She acts as their mother. What is their real mother doing? She's busy making money. And so, if you want to talk about instilling Asian tradition in kids, we've got to look at language and culture as another gap, and language is very fundamental. Most ABC (America-born Chinese)'s don't know Chinese, because it's not "in" to know Chinese. It's only "in" to know Western languages. They don't learn their language. And Chinese have been very, very slow to translate their virtue traditions into other languages; they keep them in their own language, because it is beautiful in their own language.  

Once in the Philippines I visited a very rich Buddhist household. They had been Buddhists for five generations and vegetarians for five generations, but the sixth generation didn't know why they should be Buddhists; they didn't know why they should be vegetarians; they didn't know what was being recited. They got bored. They hated to come to the temple. Their mother had to bribe them, "I'll give you $5 to go to the temple." There's a problem there. It has nothing to do with America or Western society. It is an Asian problem. Asians have not found a way to communicate the Asian culture to their Westernized kids.  

You say, "Well when I was young I read the Analects." I say, give it to your kids in a language they can understand. Language is another major gap.  

The third major gap I see is in governing and structuring our lives. And I see this as a serious gap. Most Asians are coming out of countries that are socialist, communist, or that even contain remnants of feudalism, into a democracy. Somehow we are going to have to deal with that: the authoritative father and the submissive mother. Coming into Western society, the woman suddenly finds out she has a life of her own. She can make her own choices. That's breaking down the family structure, because women never had a life of their own (in China). They were under the total authority of the male figure. In fact, they still are. The kids see that, but at the same time they receive a different message from Western culture. Now, I do not defend the Western culture.   

Too much of either one is going to be disastrous. Too much indulgence, or too much of waiting till the kid is ready--either is disaster.   

What's it like coming out of a Communist tradition, with some quirks like the Cultural Revolution? Or a totally socialist structure where everything is dictated from the top, as in Taiwan and other countries. Somebody decides and everybody follows. We don't do that here; we start at the bottom and go up. We start with local people making decisions. The governing structure is grass-roots oriented. And so somehow your kids are caught between all of that. They see and sense it. They may not be able to name and define it, but the governing structure of your family--what you perceive as a good government--is somehow the opposite of the government you are living with and in now. Somehow those problems that you perceive must also be solved in your children's life. You need to solve them and help your children to somehow solve them. I see the governing and structuring of our lives as a very serious problem.  

And so the three major gaps: the generation gap, how do we connect; the governing gap, how do we resolve the differences; and the language-culture gap, how do we communicate. How can they sustain the best of both cultures, both languages, both governing systems? How can they put in proper perspective what's so easy for them to pick up in Western languages but which lacks the substance of Eastern culture which they aren't experiencing. Here in the West they aren't receiving any direct impact from their own culture. Much of it isn't available to them. Much of it isn't translated, or is so antiquated that they aren't interested.

The structure of the family and society were important to both Confucius and Lao Zi. We usually associate concerns about society and family with Confucian philosophy, but Lao Zi talked very fundamentally about "one yin and one yang make the Way." And he talked about the family structure and about the role of the siblings in the family.  

To be continued


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