A Generation of Ingratitude
by Michal Steiner (DVGS 10th Grade)
Having passed the turn of the century, we are faced with a crisis that has become an integral part of society, ingrained in each individual and foremost in our youth. This dilemma can be summed up into a single word: ingratitude. Many people find themselves yearning for the simpler things in life, yet this lucidly attainable lifestyle may seem out of reach due to the materialistic nature of the world around us.
A few years ago, I took my education for granted. I failed to recognize how generations before my own had struggled to obtain even a high school diploma, and how today a substantial number of my peers ignore how fortunate they really are. Grades were just letters to me, nothing more and nothing less. My future was something to consider at a later time. I must solemnly admit: I was abominably ungrateful. After everything my loving parents had done for me, giving me carefully pondered opportunities and doting care, I was lacking in virtuous attributes and thus I never really learned how to be grateful. Instead of examining my problems and trying to improve, I turned them into a convenient excuse for my inadequate gratitude. My parents were concerned enough with my indifferent demeanor to enroll me in my current school: Developing Virtue Girls School. It is because of this transition that I became who I am today. Often, I find myself wanting to pull away, and turn back into the person I was. However, with insistent nudges from my teachers and elders, I have found myself pushing onward toward success. This has been extremely important to my development as a student at DVGS; because the teachers are always there for me I am able to ask for help whenever it is needed.
Certainly I have struggled down the road to victory over the fiend that lurks in the folds of my fervently beating heart. Call it depression or not, it has haunted my sleep and spied on my seemingly joyful moments. It is always there, somewhere in the shadows, and my battle to overcome it has been exhausting to say the least. However, coming to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has opened my eyes to a new type of self-examination: gratitude. Living in such simplistic conditions has proven itself to me as the most affective means of discovering who I really am inside. With so much time on my hands, I have been able to contemplate what makes me so ungrateful; what makes me depressed. I believe it to be the constant desire to acquire what is bigger and better or to be the person who is the champion. I have recognized how much I have in life, and that the simple things really do matter. Living frugally, as we do in the City, has taught me to cherish my blessings and be thankful for every moment I have alive as a human. I have realized that I must use my time here on earth to gain knowledge and benefit other living beings.
Being so inspired to improve myself right after starting school here, I looked at my classmates as competition, a body of individuals I needed to surpass, one by one. This intense need for recognition only made me more depressed, and the demon came back full force, burrowing into my cranium and eating its way through my residual happiness. I could not force my body to right itself in the morning, and walk to breakfast. It was as if I was brain dead, and the only thought pulsing through my head was “sorrow.”
In the last few months, thankfully, I have regained my passion for life. This is partly due to the Venerable Master's teaching me about the middle way. In order to be truly happy, a person must know how to balance the negatives and positives in life. I am truly grateful to the Venerable Master for his teachings because they are there to change lives and to help people better themselves. Gratitude is certainly imbedded in his teachings because being thankful for what you have leads to acceptance, which is essential for self-development. The rules at our school may be strict, and at times frustrating, but they have made me into a better person, because I realized that I have so many blessings after being in such a rigorous environment.
If only more young people of this day and age could have the opportunity to experience living in such a beautiful community as this one, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. It is here, and only here that I have experienced simplicity in its most beautiful form. This simplicity has molded me into someone who appreciates integrity, and although I am far from a virtuous person, and one of my goals is to become more virtuous and a better person. I will never be able to express my full gratitude to the Venerable Master, because he gave me a chance to become the person hiding within my soul.