THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Developing Virtue Girls' School 2014 Graduating Seniors
By Angela Green
Good evening everyone, my name is Angela, a graduating senior at DVGS. I have been studying at CTTB since preschool. I have been studying here for 14 years .
The last time I gave one of these talks, I was really little. I can’t remember when, exactly, or what I talked about, but know I did. I have basically grown up here. This temple is as much a part of me as my home. Because of this, questions like “how has being a student here helped you change?” or “what has been this school’s greatest effect on you?” are extremely difficulty for me to answer. It’s like trying to answer the question, “how has your parents’ influence affected the person you have become?” The answer to that question is “In every way.” And, just like the answer to that question, I can never, and probably will never be able to put my figure on how – exactly—this school has affected me.
I’ll focus on my morals, because if there is any clear line of influence, my moral beliefs would be it. I don’t identify myself as a Buddhist, but there is no denying that my more valued beliefs are Buddhist in nature. With some of them, it might by hard to tell the similarity, but I assure you that at the root of the belief, there are one or more Buddhist principles. I do believe in karma, maybe not the precise Buddhist concept, but my belief has the same basic idea: “what goes around comes around.” However, Buddhism discusses aspects like bowing for repentance and eons of karmic cycles. These ideas are too complicated for me. Nonetheless, I do NOT have the belief that these aspects do not exist. I simply believe that they are complex– the rule is simple enough on its own: if you want people to be nice to you, be nice to them. This is probably the most valued lesson this place has taught me, a lesson that I hope never to forget.
Another part of me that I believe that is a result of CTTB is my tendency to want to rush out and help people with the little things, like giving someone a ride or opening a door. I do not always act on it, but I feel that I act on them often enough, but only if I act before I can talk myself out of it or if I don’t get lazy. But this aspect must certainly be credited to what I have been exposed to here. These beliefs are responsible for my choice to be an organ donor and for my plans to donate blood.
If I had to sum all the “CTTB effect” in a few sentence I would say, “Going to school at CTTB has made me a person who believes that “you reap what you sow”. I believe that a person’s worth is shown by how a person’s actions affect those around them. It seems like the graduates from this school are very admirable people, and I hope to be able to carry on this legacy when I leave. Thank you!
By Vanessa Yeong (楊淵善)
Good Evening Dharma Masters, Dharma practioners, and DVGSers. I am Vanessa Yeong. Tonight, I would like to share with you the most significant change I have made in my CTTB life. Yes. I used to punch walls. Why do I punch walls? Because I had anger issues and I do not know how to manage them. I am happy and delightful to say that those problems no longer exist in my life.
Why do I have these problems? Why am I always angry? It comes down to only one answer—my heart does not know how to accept. I have very little space in my heart. Therefore, I blame others for everything. It was always their fault and never mine. I shout and scream at my friends, and the ignorant thing was, I do not realize that I hurt their feelings. Many told me to change my behavior, but it was extremely difficult. The feeling of wanting to make a change yet nothing progressed was truly unacceptable and hurtful. It was not easy for me. It took me more than three years.
I went through a process that was absolutely painful, emotionally and physically. In order not to hurt the people around me, I swallowed my anger but it was not better, I was not any happier. I took another way to express my anger, it was unreasonable and immature. Yes, I punch walls, to be specific; I punch the dividers in the rooms. There are holes in my room and I use paper to cover it because I am embarrassed. The question is why do I want to hurt myself? Why do I want to wound my knuckles? The frustration that I had to endure was so heavy that physical pain meant nothing. Months later, I realized that this problem of mine no longer plays a huge role in my life. How did that sudden change happened?
I realize that the challenge was not managing my anger, but being happier and more open-minded. When I am happier, more open-minded, and more considerate; I am less agitated and angry. I become a nicer and more approachable individual. I love being happy, it makes my day worth cherishing. Sometimes, things still frustrate me, but I resolve my anger in more peaceful ways. When I feel agitated, I ask myself if it is worth it to be mad. It took me a long time to realize that my temper and afflictions are my biggest enemies. I am my biggest enemy, no one else. I always thought that it was impossible to get rid of my anger. However, my change made me think differently. If I have the will to fight my biggest flaw, then what else can challenge me?
I am graduating in ten days, and I am extremely grateful that I am able to eradicate my biggest flaw before leaving the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. I am thankful that I will be a better person with a better personality when society challenges me. I am proud to say that I am a teenage girl who graduated from a Buddhist Temple School.
By Crystal So (蘇詠盈)
Dharma Masters, Amitabha. My name is Crystal So, I am a senior studying in Developing Virtue Secondary school. Throughout my entire four years of my high school life here, I am glad that I have obtained three important keys that will allow me to open the doors of success in the future. The best part? I can share this with everyone today. One of these important keys is to want to change willingly. Studying in Developing Virtue Girl School can be a very different story compared to learning in other schools. For one, although all students have their own worries and challenges, our school tends to lean towards developing the students’ character. Most of the time, students need to learn and change their mindset and stubbornness, acknowledge their mistakes, and then learn from peers and teachers in order to fit into this big community. Things are more difficult to do than simply saying what should be accomplished. Till this day, I still have trouble dealing with my ego, such as accepting, changing, and even listening to people’s advice. After 4 years of training in the girls’ dorm, I have learned to recognize and stand in different point of views to understand a problem before I make any judgment of people. When people criticize me, I need to reflect upon myself, without trying to find excuses to cover up the facts. I know that fully letting go our ego and recognizing our faults require a lot of courage and energy. However, I won’t give up. I am happy that I have planted this concept within me. That being said, I will do my best to nurture this seed with care.
The second key is to treat people around us sincerely and truthfully. Because we have such a small number of students in our school, everyone will eventually bump into everyone. As time goes on, we are able to understand each other’s behaviors and habits, thus all of us can truly be who we are, without needing to please anyone. This is where we learn to treat everyone with our most sincere attitudes. As the result, we live together like a big family, close together like siblings. We share the same memories, all the annoying, sad and happy moments together. Moreover, even the nuns, teachers and volunteers are always there to help and teach us with the most sincere attitudes. When we fall, they reach out to us with open arms and bring us up. When we succeed, they cheer and applaud us. When we are hungry, they prepare delicious meals to warm us up. Such a relationship may require 10, maybe 20 years to build up with those outside of this community. I must say, living and studying under such conditions for 4 consecutive years is what I am most grateful for.
I cannot deny that this last and final key is the key that helped me the most throughout my high school life—it is to give with your heart. I am still learning to treat and give out willingly to people around me, trying my best to fulfill my promises that I made. Before, it is not because I am forgetful I do not finish tasks that needs to be done. I merely so not see much importance in such tasks. The reason for that is because I rather focus on own work than giving care and attention to those around me. Fortunately, I am surrounded by a group of friends that are kind hearted and willing to give their best. They support, encourage and help me understand the happiness that I will receive after helping people. They show me how a helping hand can end in smiles.
These three keys help me to determine my definition of success. Not wealth, fame, or being popular among people, but instead having the ability to be true among those who are close to us.
By Charmaine Lim (林慧宜)
All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, all Dharma Masters and all good knowing advisors. Amitabha. My name is Charmaine Lim and today, like others that are on stage as well, I am going to share my experiences as a graduating student of DVGS this year. Since our graduating class is big, I will keep this short.
The beginning of my journey started out because I was trying to run away from many problems. I always thought those problems were caused by others, no matter whether they were my parents or my friends. Nothing was my fault, being as selfish as I was; even my relationship with my own family was terrible. No one knew how to communicate with me. My mom is a devout Buddhist and she told me about DVGS, I was hesitant at first but it is such a place where I can run far far away from home and all the bad relationships, I gave in and left. Thus, begins my struggle with the schedule here. First off, rules. Waking up for breakfast 6 in the morning calls for extraordinary supernatural human skills (especially during the winter); no cell phones or social media; homework time is after evening ceremony and yes you are expected to finish all your homework, no talking to boys and no you cannot even look at them a nd etc. To make things worse and embarrassing, I use to always be the one to trip on my black robe whenever I go up the stairs or bow. Like rules, it took me a while to adjust to it.
What surprised me was how much I changed through these struggles. Being far away, I realized that my attitude was my major fault. All these years, I had taken my parent’s unconditional offers for granted, and thus I had never appreciated anything that they had done for me. The first few months month I called home, it was about how much I regretted upon coming here; and I told them I wanted to leave; they always comforted me, telling me to hang in there and it will pass sooner or later. I remember being angry at them, how could they understand my hardships here? As time goes on, I achieved many things that I never imagine I am able to achieve, and I remembered their advice: “See, everything will pass.” In the end, everything did pass. They were happy for me; I cried, telling them how sorry I was. All the relationships I established with everyone here in CTTB, no matter they are dharma masters, teachers, the volunteer workers or students, they provided me with all the support and made me change my attitude and also the way I think. These guide my actions and provide direction in whatever I do.
I remember vividly one night last year, the Uganda project had to finish a poster board, and I had to motivate everyone to work on it, and they did, staying up so that the job gets done. I remember being touched and even more motivated by the group effort that the members put in. And I also remember when the group goes through disagreements; I have to come up with ways to solve them rationally. It takes effort and time, and a good attitude. Qualities that I am sure that I will not have if I were still the girl that did not go through the trainings of DVGS.
Upon graduating, I have no idea what the future will bring, but one thing for sure, I will keep and apply what I have learned here to everywhere else. And if I can t ime travel and was given a chance to pick again, I will still pick this road full of challenges and master the art of not tripping on my black robe.
By Ashley Sun (孫瑋唯)
Dharma Masters, Teachers, Students and Good knowing advisers, Good evening. My name is Ashley Sun, and I am another graduating senior from Developing Virtue Secondary School.
When I found out that I was going to give a Dharma talk today I didn't know what I wanted to say. A few days ago I asked my dad what I should talk about. He told me to say anything that my heart wanted to say, whether it be good or bad. So taking his advice I decided that I would talk about my relationship and experience with CTTB and how that has made me into the person I am today.
First, you may wonder how I ended up here in the first place. I moved from Los Angeles to Ukiah when I was five. My parents decided that the move would be beneficial to my health and my brother's health since the air quality is much better here then in LA, and by moving here, my mom could take care of her mother, my grandmother, who is a Dharma Master here.
Most of the other people who come up here talk about how they have changed from their past self to their present self. However, I can't say that I have changed if I have been here since I was in kindergarten. My life has been revolved around CTTB. It has been one thing in my life that is constant.
I hope that as I move on from here that I will keep the virtues and values that I have learned through my years here. I remember I was in second grade when Heng Jen Shr asked us who has never lied before. I raised my hand and said that I hadn't lie. Though I can't say that anymore now, from that experience I learned the value of honesty and the importance of staying true to my intentions and actions.
This place is a community, sometimes a dysfunctional community but the importance of respect is greatly implemented here. We are expected to greet our teachers and dharma masters when we see them. Although I don't always do that because I'm a shy person, I really appreciate that expectation. It teaches me to be mindful and aware of my surroundings.
Many people here have good intentions and are kind, even if they do things wrong. I experienced the kindness of the community when my mother passed away in 2009. After she passed away I felt the support that the community gave me, even until now. I remember the day that I received the news that my mom was in the hospital was during a school meeting and a teacher called me out of the room. My first thought was that I was in trouble, even though I had not done anything wrong. Without even knowing, CTTB always seems to be in every part of my life, even during the most critical times.
The first few days after her death I received an overwhelming amount of support from CTTB and friends at school. A lot of the support was silent and nonverbal, but I could feel the energy and the stares that people gave. Though some people gave uncomfortably pity-stares I know that it was out of good intentions and that they were trying to show support. I have always felt that I have never said how grateful I am for the support that I have received here, especially after my mom's death. One instance where I felt that support was during the first month when the kitchen worker would prepare dinner for my father and me. I remember Mrs. Lau would also occasionally bring food over to my house as well. I wish that support continued till today, then I wouldn't have to cook dinner for me and my dad. Today I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and appreciation to everyone here who showed their kindness during my time of darkness. To all the nuns and friends who went to the hospital to visit and pray for my mom. To CTTB for holding her funeral ceremony here. And everyone who never failed to give me support - I want to say thank you. I wish I could repay the kindness, and I am deeply grateful to what everyone has done for me.
Coming from a unique place like CTTB it is hard to imagine that I will not be returning here to attend school in the fall. But I plan to visit often since I will be a two and a half hour drive away. CTTB will always hold a special place in my heart. In three days I will be graduating and I am excited to move on with the next chapter in my life but I will never forget my roots and origins, here. Thank you.
By Lynnette Seak
Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, all Dharma Masters, all good knowing advisors, Amituofo. My name is Lynnette Seak, and I am an upcoming graduate of Developing Virtue Secondary School, included in the eleven that belong to the class of 2014.
Uhum. Well, life is unfair.
There are times that things will go our way and then others we have entirely no control over at all. The worst part? When we actually get emotionally affected by it. This was the biggest difficulty I had to overcome, especially since I was young. "Why did this have to happen to me? Why is it me that has to change, instead of her?" Yes, when I was still a little girl, I would get into fights, if not with my friends, then with my parents. I would cry in the back of the car thinking that I was right, not my parents, and they had no say in my life. Yes, a 9 year old girl knew she wanted to control her life, not be controlled by her parents.
Oh, how much I wish my parents could regulate my life now. How I wish I didn't have to make any decisions and live life instead of working hard. Life was so much easier being a kid, I don't have to worry much; it's just all risks and trying again. But in the adult world, one wrong move and everyone's eyes are on me. The funny thing is, it's not their fault for looking at me, it's mine for getting their attention. That took a while to get used to. As much as I knew the fact, I did not know the act. And it took me four years to realize this, to understand that if I wanted people to change their view on me, I had to change my point of view and my actions first. And with all the loving teachers and friends, and mother around me, this change of perspective was bearable, huge, but definitely rewarding.
Last Sunday evening, when one Dharma Master was giving a Dharma talk, he mentioned, "We have to wake up in order for the sun to rise". E very change starts from us. That sun is always up the moment we acknowledge it. So yes, life is unfair, life doesn't always go the way we want, but we can definitely change our thinking about it, and make it through the tough and undesired. Don't blame anyone; it's not their responsibility to fix your life. Keep calm and carry on; life's at its best when even the simplest things can make us happy.
By Annabel Li (李寧恩)
Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Ven. Master, Dharma Masters and all good wise advisors, Amitofo! My name is Annabel Li, a senior in DVGS.
It was last summer when I finally uncovered my story of coming to The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. As we all know, we recently celebrated Venerable Master’s Nirvana. Nineteen years ago on that very same day, even before I was born, my mother had a dream of a monk whom she has never met before. After many months without putting that dream on her mind, she flipped through a magazine and in it was an article of the very same monk she had dreamt of. The monk was the Venerable Master himself. My mother became interested in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and decided to bring my sister and me to visit this place. We ended up staying here for one month and I took refuge with the Three Jewels here. However, until this day, I have never seen my refuge certificate but that was how my story with CTTB began.
Ten years after that visit, I enrolled into Developing Virtue Secondary School. I am graduating in three days from this place. Six years flew by in a blink of an eye. There is so much to say yet so little time but tonight I will like to emphasize how CTTB has shaped me.
People see me as “happy”, jolly all seasons round, not just Christmas. However, I was not always like this. At one point in my life, I was the ultimate crybaby. I used to secretly cry all the time. When I first came to CTTB, I used to cry in the bathroom, in the shower and to sleep.
I was also abnormally hyper, with my high-strung moods. I could be the nicest person in the world and then turn into a mean bratty girl so people found it hard to be friends with me. Even the dorm mother thought that I was a little off. She told me that I should at least go for an IQ test. Instead of an IQ test, my mother brought me to the doctor’s and I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease—hyperthyroid. I found out that my illness was the cause of my hyperactivity and my “moods”. Yet I have a difficulty of not taking my medication on time that explains the continuous imbalance of my emotions. Just like that, my first two years passed, leaving me only with blurry memories of homesickness. It was so bad that my parents wanted to send me away to another school.
But I stayed and my third year made all the difference. With the guidance of my teachers, I found my pursuit of happiness. I found my self. In CTTB, I realized what type of person I wanted to become—a happy one.
Slowly, I learned to be more mindful of my thoughts, cautiously steering myself away from negative thinking of sadness and anger. I started dancing in order to vent my negativity through the exercise. Even if I am upset, I fake it till I make it. I do this by finding a way to release my emotions in a positive way or I distract myself. And so, I became the “Positive” Annabel.
Then I started thinking. In DVGS, we emphasize the core virtues. All virtues are equally important but the virtue that is most noticeable and frequently applied here every day is kindness— wholesome intention to help others. Venerable Master started this school in hopes that students will take what they learn here and apply them to their daily lives. What use will we have if we don’t apply what we learn?
This year, I took psychology in school. There is this term called the Do Good-Feel Good Phenomenon. This term is used to characterize the phenomenon that when people do something nice or participate in a charitable activity, they feel better and happier and that is exactly what I felt. CTTB helped me realized that another way to make myself happy is to make others happy.
Students complain about CTTB all the time. We complain about the fact that we have to do community service and that we have to go to the evening ceremony five times a week. We never really knew that the little things we do every day will actually pay off.
Last summer, I signed up for Sea Turtles Studies Program in Costa Rica and worked hands on with the world’s longest-running Sea Turtle Conservancy.
I went white-water rafting and I was super careful not to fall into the water but in the end I still fell into the river. Surprisingly, the first thought that came into my mind was none other than what we recite everyday during the evening ceremony, “Amitabha”. There was not a drop of fear in me because during hardcore Buddhism class, I learned that when a person is at the brink of death, if he recites the name “Amitabha”, he would be able to go to the Pureland. At the moment, I seriously believed that even if I die, Amitabha will take me to the L and of Ultimate Bliss because I recited Amitabha's name.
My unexpected experience taught that even though we might not appreciate values that have been repeatedly taught to us while we are in CTTB, these values are still unconsciously imprinted in our minds. Who knows, in the future, we will remember the little things we have learned here and use it when we face difficulties.
After six years, I am finally graduating, leaving this place that have kept me protected and well fed. However, I am not afraid to leave this place because I have lived my fullest here and most importantly, I found my self. I have faith in Venerable Master’s compassion. Wherever I go, Venerable Master will continue to watch over me. Once a DVGS’er, forever a DVGS’er. For everything, I am forever grateful.
By Tracy Chen
Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, All Well-Knowing Advisor, Amitabha. My name is Tracy Chen. I’m a senior this year and tonight I will be sharing my experience here in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Christopher Columbus once said, “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” I never understood that quote until I came to CTTB.
Four years ago, I watched the tide turn in my life. After attending the summer camp here, I decided to enroll at the girls school. However, as I had planned to be part of an elite, unique private school, I was horrified when I discovered that although the monastery was indeed unique, it came nowhere near my expectations.
My first year here went by slowly. I didn’t like it here, and I would spend the half hour I was given to call home every weekend fighting with my parents, begging them to let me go home. The teachers and older students knew I was having a hard time adjusting, and tried to help me, telling me the positive aspects of this place and that if I tried accepting the place, I would eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Yet at that time, I couldn’t see that. I couldn’t see that I was creating a negative atmosphere for others and myself here, I couldn’t see that my parents’ health was deteriorating because of constantly fighting with me and worrying about me, I couldn’t see the efforts teachers and older students made to help me. All I could think about was myself, and my own opinions and feelings. I wanted out so bad. It took over my thoughts so much that all I could think about was what was wrong with this place.
This went on throughout my first year, and even my second year. Although I was gradually getting used to this place and disliking it less and less, I still wanted to leave.
The summer after my second year here, I lived in Berkeley with a classmate and her mother and thus I was away from CTTB and also my family. That summer, I went out a lot, broke quite a few school rules, partied many nights, barely talked to my parents, wasted a lot of money, and befriended people who were negative influences.
Then the end of that summer came, and I found myself extremely depressed and lost. I wasn’t as close to my family anymore, many of the people that I considered my friends weren’t as close as I thought they were, I didn’t have any goals or aspirations left. No matter how much I tried to deny it, I found myself missing CTTB. This place had become a home and its people, a family. I realized that although I had always been viewing the monastery as barbarian gulag holding me captive, it was really a chance for introspection and a peaceful place for mental clarity. Most importantly, I realized that it wasn’t CTTB that was bad or made me unhappy, it was my own rotten attitude and bad habits that made my life here so miserable.
Because of this realization, I came back for my third year here with a completely different mindset. I had let go of my past complaints and dissatisfaction. Cause for the first time in forever, I could see my faults and wanted to change. For the first time in forever, I was willing to open up to and help my classmates and teachers. For the first time in forever, I, out of my own will, wanted to be in CTTB.
After I opened up to this place, I started thinking for others instead of just myself, starting with my family and moving on to my friends and other students. As I spent more time helping out the school and my peers, I looked up to the other student’s positive points and strived to better myself. Instead of fighting with my parents every time I called them, I learned to listen to their advice and our relationship grew stronger out of understanding. Gradually, my attitude improved and I wasn’t interested in the bad things I used to enjoy anymore. Although I still have behaviors that need to be changed, I feel that here, I have finally been able to understand who I truly am as a person and what type of person I want to be.
This is why I am so thankful towards this place. It has changed me in innumerable, positive ways. It’s hard to describe, even now, the magnitude of this impact. Leaving CTTB is such a brutal transition that I don’t know what the world has in store for me, but one thing I know is that I have the lessons and experiences I’ve gained here to guide me on. There’s bound to be rough waters, but I am eager to chance the rapids and dance the tide.