A Few Positive Lessons, and More
by Daron Fong (DVBS 12th Grade)
Like most people, I've been answering questions of all sorts since my childhood. I'd like to say that I have held a decent track record in answering these questions, whether they came from teachers, friends, relatives, or particularly standardized tests. But one question people have constantly asked me has been a tough one, although not because of the difficulty level or because I don't know the answer. After having spent some time studying at the boys school, this ever-popular question has been, “How have you changed or improved in your time at school in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas?
I'm positive that I know the answer to the question. But the problem is, it's amazingly difficult for me to put that answer in words, because it is so long, so complex, and in many cases so impossible to describe. When looking at the surface, one can see that my interests have changed for the better. I've gone from a bland teenager with few notable hobbies other than video games, to a learning basketball player and a dragon dance team leader. I've also become less averse to getting my hands dirty, and when community service time rolls around I'm no longer the inhibited student afraid to do work like wood-splitting and bathroom cleaning.
But I feel the most significant effects on my person that my mere two years of schooling at Developing Virtue Boys School have caused are not quite so tangible or conspicuous. In the realms of ethics and beliefs, I steadily matured and grew in ways I could never have imagined, and I cannot truly relate them because most of this growth has been difficult for me to fully grasp – let alone describe to other people.
Fortunately, the most important lesson I've learned in these two years, and probably in my life, is one I can actually put into words. The lesson hit me during the late-middle portion of my senior year – I was applying for colleges, and had only the best ones in my sights.
I was quite confident I could make it into at least one of the top schools, and I applied liberally to the most prestigious private universities in America. I had near-perfect SAT scores, over a 4.2 GPA, all the extracurriculars described above and more, was the President of the student body, and I boasted as many as five hours per week of some of the more grimy and hands-dirtying community service experiences in the known world (that may or may not be an exaggeration). So I felt it was only natural that I pick Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale, Princeton, and so on as my top choices, and the admissions counselors at DVBS and elsewhere helping me with the apps didn't protest as long as I had a few backup schools. I prayed every night, and even went to morning ceremony once in the middle of the week – yes, the 4 AM morning ceremony that no students go to due to it being at 4 AM – in the hopes that they would help my chances as I waited expectantly for the letters to arrive.
But the big day came, and unfortunately, with it came nothing but disappointment and anguish. That one day at the end of March was when nearly all the major schools I had applied to released their admissions decisions, and I logged onto my e-mail account with teachers' permission at the end of the schoolday with the hopes that I would get at least one or two good acceptances . Let's see, um, rejection, rejection, rejection, waitlist, rejection, rejection.
With the eyes of students and teachers anticipatively watching, the hopes of a once-mediocre but recently transformed senior student were quite utterly derailed. It was almost more pathetic that everyone who was standing around, originally with words of congratulation ready to be released from the tips of their tongues, could not find anything substantial to replace those words with when the unexpected news came, other than “Ooh.” Of course, I don't blame them, but hopefully you could understand the bitterness I felt after the whole debacle was finished and was smoldering over.
It would have been easy to fall into depression or anger at the colleges for refusing me, as it is difficult to fill in the void left by deflated hopes and expectations with any other emotions. But after a few talks with teachers and others much wiser than I am, I circumvented the unhappiness, and began to recoup and think about what had happened. It was at this instant that it hit me, a relatively famous saying by the Master – “Other's faults are just your own.” I had heard the adage many times in the past but had never really understood it, because it was hard for me to realize the meanings and the truth behind the words.
But the college applications experience finally rammed into my head one of these meanings and a realization about karma. I came to the epiphany that it was not the colleges fault or anyone else's fault that I had not been accepted. It may or may not have been my fault in this life, but that was not the point. The point was that I did the best that I could, and whatever results that came would be decided by karma. If the results weren't what I expected, the only thing I could do would be not to blame other people or give up entirely, but to go back and reflect and see where I have room for improvement, because there always will be ways to improve. This understanding turned out to be an indescribably significant lesson that has done much to help me grow and mature. With the episode in hand, I learned to adopt a new approach to life that has helped me in my quest to change continually for the better.
After the countless lessons I've learned here – a few major, like the one in my college applications period – I have made monumental strides in my personal maturation, and it is all thanks to the Venerable Master Hua. It's only been two years since I transferred to the Boys School, and even though my high school days end soon, I can already proudly tell those teachers, relatives, and friends back home that this has been the most worthwhile experience. When they ask me to tell them how I've improved and changed throughout this period (and they inevitably will), I'll still be unable to properly address the question without leaving something out because I've changed for the better in too many indescribable ways to be listed. I just know I've learned a few major positive lessons and that there are many more that I have the possibility of learning thanks to the Master and my time here at the City, and I'll just make sure to tell them that.