Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and Dharma friends:
I'd like to share what I saw at the Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth (DRBY) Conference in Sacramento. Two weeks ago at the City of Dharma Realm, DRBY held its third annual conference, and I think around eighty people were there. Not only young people from our Way- places, but also other college and high school students who were interested in Buddhism, although not necessarily Buddhist.
Aside from attending the morning and evening recitations and lunch with the assembly, they had various workshops on different topics about Buddhism and how it relates to science and technology, gender, and social issues, family relationships, and so forth.
I'd like to share especially about one workshop on second-generation Buddhists that I found interesting. This workshop was led by one of the Venerable Master's earliest American disciples, David Rounds. He told the second-generation Buddhists: Maybe your parents are Buddhists, and they practice certain Dharma doors. But Buddhism is so vast, it has eighty-four thousand Dharma doors, and when you grow up, you have to make your own choice about whether you want to be a Buddhist. But you can always find something in Buddhism that makes sense to you and can help you. It can be totally different from your parents' Buddhism. You can define your own Buddhism. You can find something in Buddhism for you that works for you, and so it's really not just inheriting it from your parents.
Upasaka David Rounds talked about his own practice of meditation and reciting the Great Compassion Mantra, which he has done for over twenty years and which has had an imperceptible, positive influence. Students seemed to really like to draw near him when he taught English in a local high school, and he felt it was because of the Great Compassion Mantra. His wife added that since they had become vegetarian, his temper had also improved a lot.
After this, other participants shared their experiences, and one young man who was in college in Canada said that ever since he was little, he really didn't pay much attention to Buddhism. He thought it was superstitious, but then when he was in college, he picked up some of the Venerable Master's books and decided to try out some of the principles in them to see if they really worked. He had always had a very poor relationship with his dad. They never could talk to each other. He read about how the Venerable Master bowed to his own parents, to repent for being unfilial, and then later began bowing to all living beings. When this young man went back to Taiwan, he bowed to his father. At first his father said, "You're just being superstitious, and it's just an external behavior, it's not coming from your heart." But he continued bowing, and he bowed day after day, and at the end of the second week, his father broke down in tears, and then really opened up and the two of them were able to communicate. They had a heart to heart talk, and everything was fine from then on. When this student told this, he was himself crying. It was very moving.
An alumna of the Girls School said that she also had a very strict father who was Buddhist. As a teenager, she had rebelled, and then later on she learned from Buddhism. Although she didn't really have her own practice, she learned about the Buddhist philosophy of compassion, and seeing all beings as one. She tried to empathize with everyone. When she applied this to her own father, she saw her father not just as an authority figure, who made up a lot of rules for her, but as a human being, and as someone who had had been through a lot of hardships in his life. She was able to readjust her perception and improve their relationship.
Another young man who was our schools' alumni shared that as a young boy, he used to go to the temple with his mom, who was a devout Buddhist, although his father was a scientist and not very much into religion. But by the time he was in fourth grade, he started to feel embarrassed about going to the temple and felt others would tease him. To avoid having to go to the temple, he became a Christian. Later on when he came to our school, he learned more about Buddhism and found that it actually made sense. Buddhism also made sense with science, and went beyond science, so now he's become a Buddhist again.
It was really wonderful to see all these young people come back to Buddhism after perhaps rebelling, or not really knowing what Buddhism was about. Because as second-generation Buddhists, or the second generation of any religion, young people go through a period of struggling, of questioning and doubting. When they grow up they need to figure out for themselves, why and whether they want to believe what their parents believed. Thus it was really interesting to see these young people truly wanting to learn about Buddhism of their own initiative. They requested that a Shurangama retreat be held so that they can learn more about the Buddhadharma.
Just now we heard the tape of the Venerable Master lecturing Shurangama Sutra, so we know how the Master taught the parents of this generation of young people. We see how lively, humorous, and applicable to daily life the Master's lectures were. Amitabha.