My name is Thuc Hue Ta, and this is my second year and also my senior year attending Developing Virtue Girls’ School (DVGS). This is my second time in the twelve months to come up to share my experiences and insights.
After my first nine months attending the Girls School last year, I couldn’t wait to visit my home again. Once I got back home for my summer vacation, I started counting the days to go back to meet again with my Dharma friends here in the States. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to do so by joining the Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth (DRBY) program and following our delegation to the Parliament of the World’s Religions 2004 in Barcelona, Spain. It became part of my most memorable summer ever.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions is a great event that occurs every four years, where leaders and cultivators from all religions gather together to learn about one another’s religion. The Parliament of the World’s Religions offered the 7,000 participants a variety of programs; also every participant could create their own program. Each person could choose their favorite program among the many workshops that occurred at the same time, and each program enriched the others. I got acquainted with many religious groups and friends from all over the world — from my native country Vietnam to my home country, the Netherlands. Along with Dharma Masters Sure, Liang, Yin, Bing, and others, our delegation spent seven days in Barcelona. Since I’m used to being one of the older students at DVGS, being the youngest delegate there made me feel tiny. Also, realizing at the Parliament how much we still need to learn about this world, made me feel even smaller.
There are countless issues that we beings are dealing with in our daily lives, yet only few of us have opened our eyes to reflect upon ourselves. It’s amazing how much harm we have done to our own environment. Sadness and depression filled my heart at the end of many workshops. However, when realizing that so many people have travelled thousands of miles from home to gather together to discuss these issues and to educate each other about our religions, with the aim of achieving world peace, I saw a ray of light for not giving up hope — the hope for a better world, with equal rights for every being. Before attending the Girls School, I’d never heard of the United Religions Initiative (URI), and so I didn’t know that my hometown has URI members too until we had a URI Conference at CTTB last year. At the Parliament, I met again with these URI members and even met new URI members from the Netherlands.
One of the Dutch participants promoted the idea of “an interfaith peace house in each city and village in the Netherlands.” I was told of a plan to build a House of Peace near the UN Peace Palace in Hague, the Netherlands. So now I know that my country too is continuously building a path to peace. Until this very summer, I never realized in my 18 years that the Netherlands has organisations like URI. None of my parents’ religious friends were even close to my age. I could hardly discuss religion with my friends, because none of them were interested in serious spiritual discussions. I’m very fortunate to have learnt about CTTB. Since CTTB brought me to the Girls School and the DRBY where people of my age understand my religious points of view. This great event was one of the most valuable experiences I’ve ever gained. Therefore, I owe my gratitude to all who made this trip possible for me, especially the Dharma delegation for bringing so much joy into my life. This is a gift that I shall cherish forever.
After the Parliament, our delegation traveled on to Paris and Brussels where a great assembly was looking forward to welcome us. We held two days of Dharma events in Paris and five days more in Brussels. In Paris, I met with my entire family and friends from Europe — they came along to join the Dharma assembly in Brussels. In addition to doing the regular ceremonies we do in CTTB, we created some special programs for the youth and even for the elders. One of my friends from the Netherlands taught the youth martial arts; Jose (now the novice monk Chin He Shi) provided yoga classes, while the nuns did Tai Chi exercises with many participants. People were given the opportunity to take the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts.
It had always been really hard for me to introduce CTTB and the Buddhadharma to people before. Now they listened to the Dharma skillfully explained in detail. It is beyond words how much this Dharma assembly in Europe meant to me. I thought that introducing the Venerable Master’s teachings to my family and friends in Europe wouldn’t occur until much later in the future when all the conditions came together. I know that many people in Europe wish to come to CTTB one day, but don’t have the opportunity yet.
I was very pleased to be able to contribute to bringing the Dharma closer to home. During those days, we gave some presentations on our secondary school and I shared my first year experiences with my European friends.
After this Dharma assembly, many friends wanted to attend DVS, including my brother Kim Vinh who just turned 15. I’m glad he decided to come now before I graduate this summer. I am glad to see four new European students attending our secondary school. I hope all the European students keep up the school spirit and recruit more Europeans in the near future!
To all others here: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making DVGS and CTTB possible. Although it’s only a few more months to graduation, I hope that this brief time will be filled with joy. This City and this School have become an important part of my life that I shall always cherish.