Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and all good and wise advisors, Amitofo!
My name is Stacy Chen. Ever since two months ago when a Dharma Master asked me to speak, I have been afraid of tonight. I kept telling myself, “I don’t want to go up and speak in front of so many people. I know very little about Buddhadharma.” However, one of my Dharma friends in DRBY (Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth) said to me, “You should go practice doing what you do not know how to do, especially speaking the Dharma on the podium and helping to translate. You shouldn’t feel like running away. One learns from practice. Only through practice, can you eventually learn and help with speaking the Dharma and translating sutras.” That is why I’m here today to practice.
I called my mom just now before I came to the Buddha hall. I told her that I’m going to speak the Dharma tonight. She laughed at me and said, “Ah, it’s finally your turn to speak now.” And then she mentioned, “Why don’t you talk about education?” I replied, “But I don’t understand education!” My mom replied, “You should talk about how the Venerable Master really emphasized education and believed that education serves as our roots of being humans.”
I agreed with her and thus I’m here to talk about the experiences I had at the schools in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) in comparison with the experiences I had at the university outside the temple.
I’ll first talk about my background a little. I came to CTTB to study when I was ten years old. I studied here for eight years until I graduated from high school. After that I went to Boston (MIT) for my college education. Currently, I have just graduated from college and have returned to the Girls’ School at CTTB to teach courses in biology and science.
CTTB is truly a unique and wonderful place. But I didn’t understand this when I was a student here. I only knew it was a decent place, but it wasn’t the best place. Only when I left to go to college did I realize the preciousness of CTTB, it is like a paradise. Everyone here cultivates with the intention to be a better human being. No one will intentionally harm others. This is not the case everywhere.
Students sometimes had to bow the Great Compassion Repentance and to attend some lectures; however, I didn’t see the value of all these ceremonies. These weren’t necessarily activities that caught our interests. However, even though we did not understand the meaning behind everything, we benefited from these activities in intangible and invisible ways. It wasn’t until I left CTTB and went to a place without Buddhadharma that I realized the value of Buddhist teachings and how much my life depended on Dharma. My friends didn’t really understand Buddhists. It perplexed them when I’d say I’m a vegetarian because I don’t want to kill. Some might ask, “Why is it that you don’t drink and don’t go to parties? Why don’t you wear leather shoes?” However, all these are considered petty things. What really bothered me during college was that there wasn’t a temple nearby to which I could go. There wasn’t a really pure Way-place that I could visit. Because of my upbringing at CTTB, temples and Buddha halls are of great importance to me. Before, whenever I was sad, I would come to the Buddha hall to bow to Guanyin and to talk to her about my day. Yet, this was not the case when I was in college. There was no pure Way-place that I could go to and reorient my life.
Buddhism talks about the suffering of life, but I never really understood what suffering is. Maybe suffering is when I couldn’t finish my homework, or when I didn’t get to eat junk food. It finally occurred to me during college what true suffering is: suffering is when I don’t have a temple to go to; this is true suffering. It was during this time, during my freshman and sophomore years, that the Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth (DRBY) was established. It allowed me the chance to meet young people of my age who share similar questions and difficulties about life and cultivation. I connected with many friends at DRBY and felt that I had known them for a long time when in fact we might have just met for a day or two. We were very fortunate to have very good teachers and advisors to guide us. They spent time teaching us simple Buddhist principles, encouraged us to meditate, and explained how we can apply Buddhadharma into our daily lives. This opportunity with DRBY really saved me during my college years. Life wasn’t all suffering after all. There are still many things I should learn and discover. I realized that one can’t simply talk about or learn about Buddhism. One has to really practice and cultivate Buddhism. Only then will Buddhism be beneficial in any form.
I told a DRBY advisor about my struggles at school, and he recommended that I start meditating every day. It was very difficult in the beginning. My mind was scattered and full of false thoughts. I couldn’t even sit for one minute. It wasn’t because of the pain in my legs, but simply because I could not calm my mind. I was extremely discouraged when I remembered how long I used to be able to sit in high school, and I started to sit a little bit every day. No matter how much false thinking I have or how busy I am, I would find a fixed time every day to meditate. Slowly, my meditation has helped me cope with my days. I realized that it is during my busiest days, when I have the least time to do things, that I most need meditation to help me calm my mind and clear the space I need to finish my tasks. Whenever I talk to my friends now, I advocate sitting in meditation.
I’ll talk a little bit about my experience teaching at the Girls School. Whenever I look at the students in our school, I feel that they are all very good kids. Why? They all have a good heart. Although I get disappointed when they don’t do well on exams, I feel the most important thing about them is that they are kind and good in nature. I realized after teaching here that education is not all about academics or getting good grades. It’s about a child’s inner world, their conduct and their character. I feel I have no idea how to teach virtue. The only things I can give them are the stuff on the books. Actually, virtue is not something I need to teach them when they are at CTTB. Virtue surrounds and permeates this pure place. The Dharma left behind by the Venerable Master was to teach us to become good people. Amitofo.