Due to the timing of many factors, I moved into the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) at the end of 1996. Although I had been to CTTB a few times before, in the beginning I could not quite adjust to the very simple living facilities.
I remember the first day I turned up at the kitchen, I frankly told kitchen manager, Dharma Master Ran, “I only know how to boil water and make instant noodles.” DM Ran looked at me and cheerfully said, “No problem, you can stir fry the vegetables.” I nearly fainted. I didn’t even know how to cut the vegetables! In the days that followed, DM Ran said, “Come, we will slice the carrots this way today.” I put the samples she sliced in front of me and tried to copy them, almost getting a ruler to measure the length of the cut.
Once we had all the ingredients prepared and ready to cook, I stood in front of the giant wok, proudly holding the shovel. DM Ran said, “You have to pour the oil in first! Work quickly. If you let it burn, it will taste bad.” Even though I quickly stirred with all my strength, I still burned the food a couple of times. Fortunately, people promptly corrected my mistake.
My mother asked me curiously what I was doing in the kitchen. I answered loudly, “Stir-frying!” She gave me a look full of suspicion. Well, I had no choice but to add, “They put in all the ingredients and seasonings.”
One day, when DM Liang and I went to do something in the Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU) classrooms, we both felt that this elegant, hundred-year-old building needed remodeling. DM Liang said, “Let’s paint the lobby and hallway!” Paint? It’s a man’s job to remodel buildings! DM Liang smiled, “We don’t need a man. We can do it.” Obtaining advice from a few experienced men, we went ahead and did it ourselves. Patching holes in the walls, sanding surfaces, applying primer and selecting the right paint, we were learning on the job. The more we did, the more we liked it; we ended up remodeling the whole building.
Standing in front a window whose wooden frames were full of big and little holes woodpeckers had made to hide nuts, we could neither push it up nor pull it down. I said, “Get someone here to fix it.” DM Liang said, “No problem, we can tear down the window.” She removed the metal pulleys with a screwdriver, cut off the ropes with a utility knife, pulled the wooden strips off, and then took the window down. However, there were broken and missing panes of glass. She said casually, “No problem, we can buy some glass to fix it.” Unexpectedly, I had learned not only how to paint walls and repair wooden window frames, but also how to fix broken windows.
While I was living in CTTB, I never thought, even for a moment, that someday I would apply those skills I had learned. At my first interview with DM Liang, she had told me, “You can study at DRBU.” Getting an MA in translation, I figured my work would probably be limited to the field of Buddhism. But I have now been working for a language company as an interpreter over the phone for nearly three years, which originally was something I never imagined I would be doing.
Besides that, any time I find holes in the wall or scratches on a wooden table, I can fix them myself. As a part-time real estate agent, I now look at a house from quite a different angle.
We all agree that CTTB is an incredible school, providing homework to suit each individual’s needs. Whatever you don’t know how to do or are unwilling to do, you will learn how or be willing to do. After leaving this phenomenal school, when I face challenges, I simply smile, “We can do it.” And if anyone has doubts about being able to do it, I say, “I will show how you after I learn how to do it.”