A few weeks ago, we talked about the ideal of a Village of Living Buddhism. Although we still have quite a long way to go to achieve that ideal, we already have numerous examples illustrating the amazing advantages of such a Village as a way of life. The attraction of the Village of Living Buddhism to the outside world is also extremely amazing. I would like to use a few examples to illustrate my point.
On October 16th, my husband and I drove to Los Angeles Airport to pick up three friends from China. We met these three people in Beijing last summer, and we discussed a potential project of transforming the youth as well as the small and medium enterprises in China. We had many insightful and productive discussions, and they really treated us royally. To further explore the feasibility of fulfilling such a dream and to meet some interested parties in the US, we invited them to come for a visit. We made arrangements for them to visit some very successful small to mid-size enterprises in California, and invited them to visit the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to see our wonderful way of educating the youth. Perhaps due to the long tiring trip and an extremely tight visiting schedule, to our amazement, these three very polite and gracious people we met in Beijing were arguing loudly and insisting on their own opinions right in front of us, unable to communicate at all. This reminded me of the impression I have had on every visit to China that people there always talked so loudly as if they were fighting. I believe this kind of mannerism has a lot to do with the fact that they went through the Cultural Revolution — a period characterized by constant public criticisms, judgments, struggles, and persecution. The respect and integrity that are such central characteristics of traditional Chinese culture seem nowhere to be found. This is the very reason that we want to help China transform. When human relationships are not harmonious, the future of a nation is indeed very dim. China, being the most populated nation in the world, can have a tremendous influence on the whole world. That’s why we had the discussion on transformation with these three people.
After visiting around a dozen small to mid-size enterprises in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, we brought the three friends back to CTTB on October 20th around midnight. The next day, we invited them to sit in the class entitled “The Art of Life” that we teach at Developing Virtue Girls Secondary School. The topic that day happened to be “win-win”, and it was a perfect occasion for us to talk about how not to let one’s ego get in the way of achieving a common goal, and how not to waste all the time and energy on insisting on one’s own opinion, and trying to prove why one’s own way is the best and only right way. Arguing will not accomplish anything except creating deep hurt in each other. We used many examples to illustrate how to apply skillful communication to reach agreements so that all the individual efforts will augment each other to achieve the common goal. On the other hand, if we spend all our energy on insisting on our own opinions, then the resulting polarization would only cancel each other’s effort and leaves nothing accomplished. After the class, they told us, “It’s really a first for us to see two “gurus” teaching nine young girls with such dedication as if it’s all-important.” Later on, they realized that the joy of doing something not motivated by what title you have or gain, how much you get paid for it, or how others see you in what you do, but rather, by what difference you make. They began to see the importance of helping young people to understand the meaning of life and create a meaningful life path for themselves. It would not only have a long-lasting effect on them, but would also help them avoid going around in circles and getting nowhere.
The next day, Oct. 26th, Saturday, was the last day of the Guanyin Session. We took the opportunity to take them to bow … They saw that the Buddha Hall was full, heard the harmonious chanting so pleasing to ears, and sensed the rare sincerity and auspiciousness in the Buddha Hall. We also took them to the Evening Recitation that evening to give them another opportunity to experience peace, joy and harmony.
We arranged for them to meet the Abbot on Sunday morning at nine o’clock. The Abbot gave them a brief introduction of the essence of Buddhism as well as the six principles of DRBA. The Abbot also explained to them why eating meat is in essence eating our own parents. The three friends also asked the Abbot to help them understand many of their questions on life. They discovered that their education and the government propaganda had given them a very incorrect impression of religions in general, and Buddhism in particular. They thought that all religions were foolish superstitions, and that religious leaders only wanted to get money from their followers. After listening to the Abbot’s explanation, they realized that all their unhappiness came from being self-centered and being poisoned by greed, hatred and delusion. The concepts of contributing and being a volunteer were quite foreign to them. They were amazed that almost all the people they met here at CTTB are either Sangha members or volunteers, and everyone is contributing in their own way. After many conversations with people they met, they began to understand that giving is even better than receiving. When we shift our focus from being self-centered to making contributions, we will discover that most of our worries will miraculously disappear.
The Abbot also gave each of them a key chain with the CTTB Mountain Gate on one side, and the Six Principles in both Chinese and English on the other side. The Abbot told them that this is the key to open your heart. The three friends really treasure the gift and carry it with them all the time. Whenever their habit of arguing began to surface, they would immediately reach into their pockets to get out their keychain to look at the six principles, and would nod their heads and say, “No fighting!” All of a sudden, the momentum of their anger would miraculously dissipate. In a few short days, the partners who had been arguing constantly for nearly twenty years learned to communicate rationally. It did not seem important anymore to hang on to their own opinions, or to prove themselves to be right. They learned to give each other space.
The Abbot very compassionately talked with them for an hour and half until it was time to go to the Meal Offering. The Abbot invited them to have lunch at the Big Dining Hall. After lunch, they told us in amazement, “We thought that you just had porridge everyday. We did not expect to have such marvelously healthy food. We’d have no problem being vegetarian if we could eat this kind of food!” From that day on, two out of the three friends became vegetarians.
During their five-day stay at CTTB, they had numerous opportunities to talk with many Dharma Masters and lay people to find out what brought them to CTTB. They found all the stories very interesting, and not at all what they had expected. Everyone told them that it was his/her conscious choice to come to CTTB to cultivate and to contribute. They had always thought these people must have encountered some huge difficulties in the outside world and come to hide in the temple. They could not understand why people would give up all those “wonderful things” in the outside world for this simple and seemingly hard life. However, at the same time, they sensed that people are happy here. They discovered that the people at CTTB are different from most other people they have met in that they are very clear about their life goals. It’s their conscious decision to pursue this kind of lifestyle. Some of them even have to clear all kinds of obstacles in order to come to CTTB to cultivate. In general, people, just like our three friends, are lost as to what life is all about even when they are considered successful in society. It seems that they have everything, yet they still feel as if they are lacking something, and they do not feel that they are happy. They do not know what they want. Our three friends told us that they gained a lot from their visit to CTTB, even more than what they gained from the visits to over a dozen very successful small to mid-size companies. The fact that our friends changed and transformed in a few short days illustrates the amazing force of CTTB. This is what the world needs now. The three friends realized that this amazing force is exactly what’s needed to transform the youth and small to mid-size companies in China. They are going to take what they have learned about Buddhism back to China.
It just dawned on us that in the last 12 months, we have had a stream of friends visiting us, including world-renowned figures, old classmates we have not seen for years, former coworkers, and friends with whom we cultivated our spiritual path together. Some of them came for a day bringing their friends or relatives; some of them came and stayed for a while. Most of them are not Buddhist. Some came out of curiosity to find out why we let go of “all that in the outside world”, and moved to live inside a Buddhist Monastery. They wanted to know what attracted us to come here. Some scientists even came with the intent of convincing us not to be superstitious. Regardless of the reasons they came, they all had the same conclusion that CTTB is indeed a Xanadu—a place of happiness out of this world, and a Pure Land on this earth.
Just as there are two sides to a coin, every place has its bright side and a side that could be improved. When we have been in a place for a long time, we tend to take the bright side for granted, and focus on all the problems. While we are diligently making improvements, it is important to make sure that we are also benefiting from the miraculous power of CTTB. By the time our Village of Living Buddhism becomes a household name, we will be able to share our miracles with a lot of people.