Learning to Teach, Acting to Lead
by Michael Lu (9th Grade)
We will be grandly commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Venerable Master's Coming to America on June 23rd, 2012. This date is very important because the Venerable Master was the first high Sanghan to bring the proper Dharma to the West and also urgently remind Westerners that a moral education cannot be overlooked. Although I have never met the Venerable Master face-to-face, I encountered the Venerable Master's life events and teachings through Sunday classes at the Avatamsaka Vihara in Maryland. I especially revered the Venerable Master's great spirit of perseverance, kindness, and compassion and his vows to rescue all living beings. I also learned of the Venerable Master's three noble vows in coming to America: propagating the Buddhadharma, translating the sutras, and promoting education.
I am extremely interested in education because I, as a student, can feel the influence it has on me. The Venerable Master's perceptions of education are correct because they point out why modern education has been a failure---it is because everybody has overlooked the importance of virtue. To correct this crucial problem, the Venerable Master promoted an education on virtue. He once said, “ People of the past studied to learn principles; people of the present study for name and fame. ” The Venerable Master exhorted us all to be righteous and moral young people and to use our knowledge to benefit the world. He told us not to be like ordinary people, who study to become wealthy and live comfortable lives in the future. The Venerable Master took on the education of the eight virtues (filiality, respect, citizenship, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, integrity, and humility) for his whole life; when he was just eighteen, he started a volunteer school in his hometown. Once he came to America, he established the Instilling Goodness Elementary School and Developing Virtue Secondary School in 1976 and 1981 respectively.
I am currently a Developing Virtue Boys' School student; since I came here in 2007, I have gotten a better understanding of the Venerable Master. From his lectures, I have experienced how the Venerable Master can seek out appropriate opportunities to instruct his disciples. Once I heard this story in Ethics class: an American disciple of the Venerable Master built a pot in the old Gold Mountain Monastery; he and others made various sweets and delicacies using this brilliant and useful pot. Some time later though, the Venerable Master told one of his disciples to wreck the pot. Seeing his pot destroyed, this person didn't understand what he had done wrong. Later on, he built a nice little room for himself in the new Gold Mountain Monastery. Yet again, the Master sent a disciple to tear down the walls of his room. After suffering such strong blows, he became morose and despairing.
One day, when he was weeping in the corner of a room, the Venerable Master quietly walked in. Right then and there, he felt a powerful energy directed towards him. The Master walked in front of him, and there was an eerie silence for a few moments; suddenly, the Master took a bottle of juice from his bag and handed it to the disciple. The moment that he drank the juice, he felt happy and comforted because he realized that the Venerable Master still loved and cared for him, helping him break through difficulties and obstacles to continue his cultivation. From then on, this disciple wasn't so affected by external matters anymore and often held onto an optimistic and positive attitude. The Venerable Master used his own virtue and conduct to transform his disciples, allowing them to receive benefit for their whole lives.
For the past three years, I have had the opportunity of translating in the Buddha Hall. Though it is just an hour long, I have received unique education during this time. When I first went onstage, I would listen to the elder students translate. Young as I was, I extremely admired their elegant and accurate translation. When I tried translating, the elder students would help me when I encountered difficulties, thus giving me deeper impressions of how caring fellow Boys' School students are and making me feel like I'm living in a large family.
From my training of impromptu translating, I have received worldly and transcendental education. My Chinese and English have both improved, my enunciation has become more clear, and I have learned how to react with different circumstances. The first few times I went onstage to translate without the elder students assisting me, I was nervous, my reaction was slow, I didn't know how to translate some phrases, and my throat would sometimes go hoarse; this presented to me pressure and hardships. From those experiences, I further understood the principles of the Venerable Master's saying “ Everything is a test, to see what you will do. If you do not pass the test, you must start anew. ” Year after year comes and goes, and my brain has gradually become more flexible and quick. When I am translating the Dharma Flower Sutra or I listen to the Venerable Master's explanation as well as his humorous instructions to his disciples, I come in contact with the meaningful principles mentioned and receive inspiration.
The Venerable Master's grand-nephew is also studying at the Developing Virtue Boys' School, and he once told me: “ You should come back and teach in the future, thus instructing the next generation; this is what the Venerable Master would want us to do. ” The Venerable Master was really wise; he wished for the Developing Virtue school spirit to be passed down from one generation to another. The school's traditional, exemplary spirit is that younger students respect older students, older students take care of younger students, and graduates come back to be volunteer teachers. The relationships between students are very intimate, and the graduates frequently return to visit younger students. In this way, Developing Virtue Boys' School is like a warm family, where everyone has feelings for each other. I received the great kindness of the Venerable Master, so I wish to repay it by coming back to be a teacher and glorifying and extending proper education!
I feel proud that I am able to study at the schools that the Venerable Master established because I am taught education that can save humanity's nature, spirit, and life. The Venerable Master had high expectations for the graduates of Developing Virtue Secondary School: he hoped that we would all become the pillars of society and the exemplars of humankind. As the saying goes: “ Learning to teach humankind, acting as the world's model; ” we should guide, support, and learn from each other in order to walk the right path together and fulfill the Venerable Master's great vision.