The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
by Alisha Pegan
When people visit the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, they wonder, “Are there really ten thousand Buddhas?” For those who have never been there, the answer is, there are more than ten thousand Buddhas. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a very different place even without all the Buddhas. It is a whole other world when you cross the gate, not just the environment but the people too.
I remember the first time I came to CTTB, I came directly from the airport and was curiously sitting in a white car. We were driving on a dull, gray road. Then, suddenly, BAM! I saw a looming oriental golden gate. My eyes were glued to it as we entered, my head slowly lifting. But that didn’t last long when I saw a peacock. “A peacock?! Where in the world did it come from?! Peacocks only live in zoos”, I thought. There were trees everywhere, in all different shapes and sizes. I could feel the change in the atmosphere as we entered; it was peaceful, quiet, and was filled with nature. We slowly drove forward. I was a little weirded-out. But another sight appalled me even more; it was a bald person happily walking around in a yellow robe. “Where am I?! Who are these people?! This place is so weird,” I thought to myself.
The rest of my memories blurred into emotions as time passed. The underlining feelings were curiosity and happiness. The environment was completely different from what I was accustomed to, such as the stuffy polluted air, over-crowded streets, and well, everything they had in China that they didn’t have in CTTB. The change was drastic, but I adapted fast and came to accept my new family.
I attended Instilling Goodness Elementary School for about half a semester when I decided I wanted to follow my sister’s footsteps, because, well, all children like to imitate their older siblings. So I transferred to another elementary school. The teachers were open, and the students were kind. During school I learned drawing, knitting, dancing, and cooking. After school I would play to my heart’s content. This was the golden age of my childhood.
Unfortunately I had learned some undesirable habits that convinced my mother to bring us back to IGES. I cried for days, and walked around the playground announcing my departure. I was reluctant to be introduced to new people, new teachers, and especially new friends. But the curtain of dread slowly lifted as my sister walked with me to school every morning. She was brave, and quickly fell with the new pace. I learned from her and well, imitated her, as any younger sibling does, and made wonderful long-lasting friends. The school slowly molded my morals and beliefs, instilling the hope that I would leave as an educated virtuous person.
The years in elementary were great; I had a great teacher that taught me how to be understanding, kind, respectful, filial, and many other virtues, the beams that hold up everything else around me. I was always thankful to her. She was a very experienced teacher, she taught with precise and effective motions. She cared so much for each one of us, and made sure we got the proper amount of attention. She was the wise grandmother I never had around in my childhood. I truly admire her; I have only met another teacher worthy her equal in my years of learning.
The nuns and lay people always cared for me in my years of growing up. I would be walking around after school, when a nun would smile and ask me how I was. Some I didn’t really know, but I answered with honesty. After you come here, you realize that people care for you beyond your circle of acquaintances. It was odd at first, but when I grew accustomed to it, it opened my eyes. It showed me that people care about one another, and that everyone is part of the family in CTTB.
I gradually traveled up the grade levels, and then I reached High School. I gape at the thought that a decade has passed since I first crossed the gate. Each year is filled with different stories, and yet, as each year passes by, the stories slowly fade away from my memories. I cling on to them, squeezing any meaning for me to learn. I hate the feeling of losing something I cannot gain back again later.
If someone were to ever ask me, “Do you wish you went to another school?” My first and final answer would be, “Never.” This place has done an incredible amount of improvement on my character; it has taught me to be myself, not anybody else. I doubt any other place could do the same. Many places never teach you to believe in yourself, to be content with who you are and what you have been through. I like who I am right now, and wouldn’t want to change that. Some might scoff at my response, amazed that anyone would want to stay in CTTB, which shocks me. So many students become so focused on finding all the faults with the schools that they forget there are actually good things about this place. It saddens me that people become so pessimistic. These negative feeling have only appeared in High School though, which confuses me. I always wonder, “Why only the High School? Why do the students not like this place?” I can easily name out things that exist here and no other place on this planet. There are so many strange, yet wonderful things that are present within the monastery.
I have no regrets of coming to this place. Some might call it karma, or fate, but I just call it a choice. It is a choice I have been making all these years, because I know I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t come here. There are no other schools similar to this school that can raise me to be who I am now. I am happy I came here, and my wish is that the other students can feel the same way.