To all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and good advisors:
My name is Thuc-Hue Ta, or Xie Shu Hua [in Chinese]. I came from the Netherlands and this is my first semester at Developing Virtue Girls School (DVGS). I want to share my story about my past visits to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) and my experience as a DVGS student now.
Since I was born and have lived my whole life in the Netherlands, which is a small country far away from here, a lot of people wonder how I found out about this special place. This is my opportunity to share that story with everybody.
My mom is Vietnamese and my dad is Chinese and they are both Buddhists. My mom is a true cultivator, my dad is a cultivator in his own special way; he doesn’t know that much about Buddhism and seldom recites Sutras. However, my mom taught her children as much as possible about Buddhism, and even took us around the world to visit temples.
Every summer my family goes to the biggest temple in Germany to practice Buddhism with monks, nuns and cultivators from all over the world. In the summer of 1998, the abbot of that temple introduced us to one of the Venerable Master’s books. My mom was so impressed after reading that book that she wanted to visit CTTB as soon as possible. Even though we had known about CTTB since 1998, we never had the chance to come here until last October for the Guanyin and Chan sessions.
All of my family members who came here thought this was a very good and peaceful environment —especially my mom, who wished she had known about this place earlier so she could have brought her children over here to study. I, on the other hand, also thought that this was a really peaceful place, but at that time I didn’t want to leave the life I was living there to study here. On the last day of our first visit we thanked the abbot, and he said that everyone who comes here has good roots. My mom told him that she wished she had discovered this place earlier for her children, because she felt that since they are used to their life in the Netherlands, they are not willing to move to a monastery now. Then the abbot turned to me and said that I could still attend the Girls’ School even though I was 16 at the time and used to my daily life in the Netherlands. He said, “If you truly want to attend the school, then it’s possible.”
After we got home, my dad showed more interest in Buddhism. Before this he would fall asleep whenever he read Buddhist books, but when he read the Venerable Master’s books, he wanted to finish them because they made so much sense. He doesn’t cook meat for dinner that often anymore. Instead, he eats vegetarian meals with the rest of the family.
After my first visit and after attending the Guanyin and Chan Sessions, I felt even more drawn to Buddhism. I read many Buddhist books about CTTB. I admired the teaching of filiality and honoring elders. All my experiences after my visit to CTTB made me think about my life and attitude —especially my attitude toward my parents. I felt guilty for giving my parents a hard time in the past. I felt sorry for not understanding the difficulty of being a parent. Just think how much parents have to work, suffer and sacrifice for their children’s well-being. I felt extremely selfish and I had a hard time dealing with that, especially after learning of a way in which I could repay my parents’ kindness.
Because I was keeping myself up to date through the internet about the sessions and celebrations here, I saw that there was another Guanyin Session in the summer. Even though I knew my parents’ budget was limited since they’re both unemployed, I wanted to come to CTTB again. My parents were really happy when I told them I wanted to come back. So last summer I attended the Guanyin Session again and this time I participated in all the ceremonies from 3:30 in the morning to 10:00 at night. It surprised me that I actually had the energy to do that for the entire session. During that visit I spoke to a lot of Dharma Masters and teachers from CTTB and DVGS about the education here. I also talked to a Vietnamese monk for 3 to 4 hours about filiality and the teachings at CTTB.
The first night I got home from CTTB, I couldn’t sleep. Tears were running down my face and I couldn’t stop crying. I knew the best way to repay my parents’ kindness and to bless my family was to attend this Buddhist school. It’s not only beneficial for my parents, as I truly believe that my life experience here at CTTB can also protect me from stupidity. I also believe that everyone who graduates from here has developed a decent character.
I took the opportunity to become a DVGS student because I believe this is the best way to discover myself and develop a wholesome personality. Students attending this school carry a full courseload of academic subjects, and also learn right conduct, unselfish attitudes and the spirit of self-reliance. These are qualities every person will need in life. Compared to the student life I was familiar with in the Netherlands, this life makes it much easier for me to focus on my courses and study because of the social and academic environment at the school. Peace is what you see and peace is what you get. While I truly miss my family and home in the Netherlands, it has not really diminished my experience here on the other side of the world. I know I’m doing the right thing by being here. The educational program here is sufficient to keep students away from all other obstructions that could affect their life as a student. At this school students get the chance to create a perfect foundation for their future.
Now I’ve been here for almost 3 months, but it feels like I’ve been here for a really long time. I got used to the way of living here very quickly. I’ve met the most amazing and sweetest people. Every day I learn more —especially when it comes to developing virtue. My heart goes out to my parents who sacrificed so much for me. I don’t think people can start soon enough to repay their parents’ kindness. I want to thank my parents, my family, all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the Venerable Master, all the Dharma Masters, teachers and students for giving me such a great opportunity to be here. Amitofo!