My recent visit to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) was absolutely amazing. I never thought I would like it so much.
A few years ago, I started to save money for a plane ticket to go to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. This past year, my mom told me that she really wanted to take Anita and me to go to school there, but she didn’t have enough money to pay the school fees. What did I think about that? Oh, I didn’t like it at all. I opposed the idea, and I got mad. Time passed, and she said, “We’ll just go there for the Earth Store Bodhisattva Recitation session.” So, I thought, okay, it’s only for 10 days, I can stand that. On August 21, 2003, I was ready to leave Calgary for San Francisco.
On the plane, I whispered to Anita, “How am I going to be able to stand it there for 10 days!” When we arrived in San Francisco, we drove approximately 3 hours to our destination, and I slept most of the way. I woke up about 10 minutes before we got there, and I looked around. In front of us, I saw a welcoming sign, “The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas”. I don’t know why, but I felt a bit excited! Anyway, when the Earth Store session started, I was told to get up at 3:30 a.m. for the morning recitation. I thought I would pass out, having to do this for a week, because when I tried doing it in Calgary, I couldn’t stand it even for one day. Morning recitation went from 4:00-5:00 a.m., followed by bowing, from 5:00-6:00 a.m. and then, breakfast for the laypeople from 6:00-7:00 a.m. Everyone there was diligent; getting up early in the morning and reciting.
The first couple of days, I ate breakfast and at 7:00 a.m., everyone recited the
Earth Store Sutra. I think we had the choice of sitting or kneeling to recite and I chose to kneel. Although I didn’t think I would make it kneeling through this period, I just kept thinking about reciting the sutra sincerely, and I succeeded. After finishing the
Earth Store Sutra, it was time for meditation and walking. I don’t like to meditate, so I sat in the Venerable Master’s room [Patriarchs Hall], reading his biography.
Dinner was scheduled for 5:00 p.m., and I thought maybe I should try and eat only one meal a day, and again I didn’t think I could do it, but I ended up not eating dinner that evening. Since I wasn’t eating, I went looking for something to do. I met a Dharma Master, who formerly lived in Calgary, and I started doing many chores with her: sweeping leaves, helping in the kitchen, picking vegetables, stamping books, and cleaning the big Buddha image in the guest building. Soon, I started to follow her almost everywhere she went. Every time there was a break, we would go and find work, usually sweeping the leaves. It then became our daily duty, as the leaves kept falling every night. She would tell me stories about our Venerable Master Hua (e.g. about how he found water at CTTB) which I found totally amazing!
About the fourth day, I started to love being there. I felt so calm, peaceful and happy, and felt that nothing could bother me. Then, I started to question myself, whether or not I should ask my mom if I could stay here to go to school. I decided to ask her. She answered me without hesitation and said, “Of course!” I was very happy to hear that. Unfortunately, my dad opposed the idea, and I was quite upset, so, when we were reciting the last part of
Earth Store Sutra, I asked Earth Store Bodhisattva to help me. Later, I felt a bit better and just concentrated on participating in the Earth Store session. When the session finished on Saturday, I felt great! I thought to myself: This is such a great place! I’m able to get up at 3:30 in the morning while eating only one meal per day! I was surprised that I wasn’t tired or hungry! I was very happy to meet people, who were so kind and generous; everyone was so friendly!
Sadly, it was time for us to go. I really wanted to stay. Words just can’t describe how wonderful and beautiful CTTB is and I truly recommend that everyone go there as quickly as they can. I just can’t wait to go back! Amitabha!
Editor’s Note: Nina is 14 years old and currently in grade nine. She was born and raised Buddhist and has been a vegetarian her whole life. She goes to Avatamsaka Monastery every Sunday with her mom, younger sister and grandma. She loves to travel and to spend time with her family. She also plays the piano (since 1996), takes music theory lessons and goes to Chinese school. Nina has many hopes and dreams that she wishes to accomplish in the future.