Of the 6.5 billion people on our planet, 852 million people are suffering from hunger and 1.2 billion are living on less than $1 per day in extreme poverty. 16,000 children die from hunger each day; this means that every 5 second, a child starves to death. Effective debt relief to the 20 poorest countries would cost $5.5 billion, equivalent to the cost of building EuroDisney. Providing universal access to basic social services and transfers to alleviate income poverty would cost $80 billion, less than the net worth of the 7 richest men in the world. In the U.S. alone, a murder occurs every 34 minutes, divorce rates are higher than 50%, and our government spends $2.5 trillion annually or $1 million per minute on weapons of mass destruction that could annihilate the world three times over.
My collective experiences at Instilling Goodness & Developing Virtue Schools (IGDVS) have virtually rendered it impossible for me to view these facts with indifference. My reaction is one of urgency, acceptance, and resolve for change, rather than one of indignation or indifference. It comes from knowing oneself, which is difficult in a world that is constantly bent on telling you what to do, what to say, and what to be according to the latest trends.
What I have gained out of IGDVS has created for me a series of ongoing realizations and understandings about myself even as I continued to create a series of seemingly endless questions on the path of life. As I struggled with self-image in high school, the big question was: “Who am I?” As I strived to take in all that I was learning about the world in college and how small I really was, it turned into: “What do I want to do with my life? What is my purpose in life? My calling?” Idealistic notions quickly led to materialistic aspirations after college; 3 years into a “successful” career of 60-hour weeks traveling the world, the question had become: “How can I balance my life? How do I decide between doing what I want/could do and doing what I should/need/have to do?” Now married, the question still came up.
Each of these times that I spent many sleepless night pondering these questions, I finally did come to an answer. All of these questions were inter-related and all of the answers were the same. It actually wasn’t even that complicated, as truths seldom are. The answers were simple: I am a compassionate person —- passionate about thoughts and communication.
My calling and life purpose is to make a positive difference in the field of education, one that leads our future generations towards a global society based on “profitability and peace for all”. I am not there yet because I keep forgetting to focus on the realization that each day that I deviate from my life’s purpose is not only being untrue to me, but it is also wholly of my own doing. Although aware of my own weaknesses, I neglect to ask for my loving husband’s help to remind us to focus on what is truly important to our spirituality and personal growth.
We can only start changing the world by starting to change ourselves.
I will be forever thankful to IGDVS for helping me to realize who I am and work towards dedicating my life to this aspiration, which is the Dharma door of my cultivation. I am often reminded of the story whose moral is at the base of my life philosophy:
One dawn, there was a little girl on a beach that was filled with stranded starfish from the high tide that had subsided. A man walking along the beach saw her picking up the starfish, one by one, and throwing them back into the sea. After twenty minutes of watching her, he finally went up to her and asked in an exasperated tone of voice, “Little girl, there must be millions of starfish stranded along this beach. Just how do you think that you can possibly make a difference?” The little girl bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. She turned to the man and said simply, “I just made a difference for that one.”
This story drives my overall approach to everything in life; that even in the face of extreme hardship, nothing is impossible if it is worth doing for the good of all.
While IGDVS is based on a wonderful values system, I wouldn’t endorse having children sent there for the end product. It really is about the journey of learning who they are and what their own personal life purposes are. They may not choose to realize it until years later, long after they’ve left the schools, but it can be said that there the experience of the school system is most always an important part of those realizations. Even if we die asking unanswered questions, we should not choose to live a blind and wasted life; blind not knowing who we are and wasted not to apply ourselves towards our life purpose.
The reality is that no school is perfect and no community is perfect. IGDVS and the City of 10,000 Buddhas are no exception. Any organization of people will be susceptible to its human flaws. There will still be greed, anger, and delusion. Rather than expect a miraculous awakening or enlightenment from being at IGDVS/CTTB or fall to a sense of disappointment or resentment that IGDVS/CTTB was not all it was “cracked up to be,” it can be said that IGDVS/CTTB is a vehicle to aid in personal and spiritual growth, a challenge to bring oneself to a higher state of consciousness and awareness. Away from media and worldly distractions, one can ask: Can I be devoid of greed? Can I be devoid of anger? Can I be devoid of delusion? Can I be the one who starts, even if there are not others? Can I be an example for this school, this community, this society, and this world?
If “fear” is at the root of why I cannot move forward towards this ultimate goal of “peace for all”, IGDVS has certainly helped me to realize that once again, even in the face of extreme hardship, nothing is impossible if it is worth doing for the good of all.