The first time I visited the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) was with my mom, in 1996. Throughout my life, my mom has always influenced and inspired me to walk a Buddhist path. This past summer, after deciding to take some time off to still my mind and deepen my commitment to Buddhism, I started looking into staying at a Buddhist Monastery.
That’s when I remembered CTTB. So I called the Front Office early in the summer and Mr. Chu picked up the phone. I asked if I could stay for a month, and in a kind and gentle voice he told me: “Yes, we can fit you in.” So after ten years, I eventually found my way back to CTTB. When I made up my mind to stay and volunteer there for three weeks, I understood that it was going to be a challenging and life-changing experience. It proved to be these things and more. One of the personal highlights was volunteering on the Organic Farm with Mr. Fan.
This was my first experience farming, so I had no idea what to expect. As a volunteer on the CTTB Organic Farm, I supported Mr. Fan by helping with planting, weeding, harvesting, watering and taking care of the plants, and whatever else was asked of me. At that time there were very few volunteers around and there was always something that had to be done. Although it is hard work under the scorching summer sun, within no time I found myself really enjoying it and learning a great deal about farming, plants, and the natural world from a Buddhist perspective.
Something that made a deep impression in me was the experience of physically being and working on the land. By being on the land and contributing to the practice of sustainable organic Buddhist farming, I was able to observe nature at work. I was amazed at how abundantly and generously the Earth gave, and how a tiny seed could take root and blossom into a vibrant mature plant. I understand better now the process that allows us to have natural food on our tables. One day we were harvesting corn, squash, zucchini, pole beans, potatoes, tomatoes, or lettuce on the Organic Farm, and the next day we were eating it in the Dining Hall for lunch. It is rewarding and humbling, to be a small part of a process so much bigger than any single living being.
Working on the Organic Farm is also a wonderful complement to studying and practicing Buddhism, since Buddhism and farming are both ultimately about cultivation. You work diligently and sincerely, paying attention to the causes and conditions in your environment, plant and grow what is beneficial, weed out what is not beneficial, and eventually see the fruits (and vegetables) of your cultivation. In the case of Buddhism, the fruits of cultivation are compassion, loving kindness, mindfulness, wisdom, and eventually liberation from all suffering. In the case of organic farming, you have the opportunity to produce healthy natural food not only for human beings, but for all living beings.
I strongly believe in the mission of the Organic Farm to produce and share food for all living beings. The benefits and merits of doing this are immeasurable, for the insects and animals, the Earth, the people who work on the Farm, and the people who are fed by it. For this reason I am grateful to CTTB and the Venerable Master Hua for having the vision and the skillfulness to make it a reality.
Now is an exciting time for the Organic Farm, as it grows and matures and becomes capable of feeding more and more living beings. In only a few short months, I have personally witnessed it grow and develop immensely. In fact, each time I come back to visit, there are exciting new changes and new faces among the volunteers. Guided by strong leadership and a powerful vision, we are in the process of assembling an amazing and dedicated team of volunteers, developing knowledge and skills, and creating effective operating systems and procedures. With enough support from the monastics and lay people as well as outside volunteers, the future will continue to look bright for the Organic Farm.
Along with many other lessons, my experience at CTTB has taught me that good roots create more good roots. It was a blessing to have stayed there for those 3 weeks, and I was so inspired that I have decided to move to CTTB this spring and stay for a while to continue studying and practicing Buddhism and to contribute to the Farm. Every day spent there was packed with opportunities to attend ceremonies, meditate, chant, do
taichi and yoga, participate in Dharma discussions and lectures, study Buddhism, learn from the monastics and lay people, eat delicious vegetarian meals, and work on the Organic Farm. I remember going to bed at the end of every day feeling like I had just lived a deeply meaningful and joyful day, and wishing that every day of my life could be lived in this way.
If you are interested in volunteering on the CTTB Organic Farm, please visit