The Four Noble Truths is a good place to start. First, there needs to be an identification of what suffering really is, so that the Dharma, which is spoken as medicine, can heal the suffering of living beings.
As college students, Pei Ling and I can say where it is that we see ourselves and our classmates hurting. From there, I think it will give a better sense of what Dharma is appropriate for students and the youth. I feel very fortunate to have found the Dharma and to have something to depend upon in life. I look at some of my classmates, however, and I see my friends not having that ground to stand on, but rather often feeling lost and confused. This is a pretty common feeling for college students as they get closer and closer to graduation.
The main place where college students are hurting is the sense of directionlessness in life or the fear of getting stuck in something that is meaningless or doesn’t keep their interest. They have a great fear, myself included, that they will just get into a job that is not meaningful and live their life that way just going through the motions. One of my friends came into my room just to talk, and she started telling me how she felt really lost and confused and has slowly become more interested in Christianity. She felt that society and the people around her told her to find the passion she had in life and to pursue that, but she really did not feel like she had any. She didn’t know what to do. There are actually many stories I have relating to this topic, and I believe that if you ask any of the DRBY participants they can explain this feeling.
Another place of suffering is the relationship with parents. In America, the idea of “filiality” is not very strong. Parents and children often fight and possibly don’t even speak to each other. Each case of course is different, but I wanted to mention this because filiality is a principle that I really see being able to benefit the people around me. For instance, I remember one DRBY member who went to CTTB and had a deep respect for DM Lyu and would sincerely ask DM Lyu for teachings and corrections. At one point, after staying at the City for a while he realized that he maybe should go back to take care of his parents, so he asked DM Lyu about that. He expected the answer to be, “No, you should stay here and cultivate!” But DM Lyu supported the idea and in two days he was flying back home across the country to stay with his parents. I remember him telling the DRBY members there his thoughts on going back and what stuck with me was the sense that he wished he had known the concept of filiality when he was younger so he wouldn’t have done so many stupid things towards his parents. The youth growing up in America need this, and we, as the youth, need this in a way that makes sense.
Here’s another story. One morning when going to meditate with Buddhist Community at Stanford (BCAS), I found one of my friends from Stanford who graduated a few years ago lying on the couch. He woke up and sat in meditation with the meditation group in the morning. I thought, “Well, that’s an interesting way to make sure you get up for morning meditation.” However, after the sit, I thought he looked a bit lost, so I invited him to breakfast. Here is when he told me his story of looking for the Dharma. He was in medical school at Stanford, but he felt that he needed to find a spiritual teacher. He went off and lived like a homeless person down the coast of California visiting Japanese and Korean Zen monasteries. He met many different people, but at the end his parents wanted to see him, and when he returned, his parents had him see a psychologist who diagnosed him as being ‘psychotic,’ and so they put him in the mental patients ward in the hospital. From there, he tried to escape a number of times and when I met him at the meditation place, he had managed to escape. At this point, I was pretty shocked. But I told him about Rev. Heng Sure being a good teacher, and so I know later that at one point he gave Rev. Heng Sure a call. Actually later I found out that the police were after him, and I was pretty worried about him. I actually don’t know whatever became of him, but I got a deep sense of how grateful and fortunate I am to have found DRBY and good Dharma friends that serve as reflection for myself to keep me in balance as well as having a community of cultivators. I wished my friend had found that earlier on because he had the heart but not a good instructor.
I can say a lot more, but I think you get a sense of what the youth face today.
To balance out the presentation, I also want to point out that many college students are very bright, ‘yang,’ and idealistic. They hope to make a positive impact on the world and are full of talent and blessings. For instance, we just had the DRBY conference, and I think you saw many of the students who had that happy and carefree,
zi zai, personality.
Essentially, there is a definite need for the Dharma in the next generation, and I’m hoping that what I shared here might help motivate everyone to want to be part of this. I feel like this is a “request for Dharma” on the part of DRBY. But I realize that the request for Dharma needs to also include us really sharing with you the difficulties we face, so that the Dharma can connect and heal the suffering in our lives. For a while, I complained to myself that somehow the Dharma did not make sense in daily life, but then I realized it was because I never really explained what the problems in my mind were.
I believe everyone is already working hard in this effort. The DRBY conference we just had was only possible because of your support and strength. I know that many people are very grateful. Here is a response from one of participants at the conference:
The conference has been a very memorable experience for me, and I am filled with a lot of gratitude for everyone who made this conference possible….The whole experience of living at this monastery, performing the ceremonies with the nuns and everyone else, eating with everyone in silence, etc.—all weaved together to create an experience that really touched me. I’ve felt so peaceful here and light at heart.
So I just wanted to thank you all for putting this conference together—you really are making a difference in people’s lives. In the last couple days, for instance, I’ve decided to switch to vegetarianism.
As you can see, the Dharma when presented in an accessible way really makes a difference.
Finally, why am I giving this presentation? It is because I really see the potential here at Gold Sage to really be able to keep the Dharma wheel turning. Although what I have said so far may be too idealistic, I still wanted to present it. We can take small steps. Gold Sage is the ideal place because it is near San Jose and a number of college campuses. There is a strong lay community along with the new and growing DRBY support. I do not know if my sense is correct, but I feel that leaving home and deciding to dedicate your lives to follow the Buddha’s teaching naturally entails a wish to teach the Dharma for the next generation. So, again this presentation is a “request for the Dharma” for my generation. However, because Buddhism is still new to America, DRBY needs to do more than just ask, but also has to provide the material and tools required to make the Dharma alive for the youth growing up in America. My wish is that everyone, Dharma Masters, laypeople, and DRBY can work as a team on this project, and I believe that if all of us are working together, then we can really be able to keep the Dharma alive. I have many thoughts, but I would like to ask at this point for your thoughts and suggestions.