THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Humboldt State University Students Attend a
Weekend Workshop at the City of 10,000 Buddhas
Arrival and Orientation
More than two decades have passed since Father John Rogers brought several dozen of his students from Humboldt State University (HSU) to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) in April of 1989. Since then, the students from HSU have been visiting the City twice yearly. The April 13-15 weekend retreat at the City is one of the five Religious Studies Experiential Workshops that students could choose this spring semester. The visit was meant to offer them a taste of life in a Buddhist monastic community and an understanding of the basic concepts and disciplines in the Buddhist tradition.
After a three-hour drive from their campus in Arcata, California, a total of fifty-eight students--36 women and 22 men--arrived in the evening of April 13th, welcomed and guided by many volunteers from the community. They followed a full schedule that includes: morning ceremony at 4:00 a.m., meditation, tai ji quan, introduction to Buddhism, discussion period, question and answer period, vegetarian meals, working at the community organic farm, cleaning up the campus areas, and evening ceremony at 6:30 p.m.
The highlight of their visit was the Saturday night seminar. The topic of the panel discussion was titled “The Four Noble Truths as a General Problem Solving Strategy,” an appropriate and practical one for the current times. Before the seminar period, male and female students were separately given an introduction to Buddhist concepts, especially that of the Four Noble Truths--the truth that there is dissatisfaction and dis-ease; the truth that the problem is caused by desire or attachment; the truth that there is a solution to the problem; the truth that the problem can be solved by the method called the Eightfold Path.
The Saturday night seminar followed the evening ceremony and was held in the Dao Yuan Hall. The speakers were Bhikshu Jin Yong, Bhikshunis Jin Rou and Jin Jing, Professor Stephen Jenkins from HSU, Dr. Ronald Epstein from Dharma Realm Buddhist University, Dr. Hudaya Kandahjaya of Numata Center, and Katherine Lam, a volunteer at the City. Each speaker shared his or her perspective on the topic, ranging from general to specific aspects of the perennial teaching. For one speaker, choosing the right livelihood solved the problem of working in an unfulfilling job; she gave up her job to come to the CTTB to serve as a volunteer at the school. Her decisive action exemplifies the truth that “the Eightfold Path leads to clarity of mind.” In a way, it is a case of “a timeless teaching becoming a timely teaching,” an example of “one ounce of prevention results in one pound of cure.” ( The three quotes in this paragraph were spoken by other speakers on the panel).
Dr. Raymond Yeh, the facilitator, fielded the questions from the students. The two-hour seminar generated some wise reflections from the students. One student, who participated in the same retreat two years ago, reflected that he was moved at that time by the optimism of monks, an attitude that gave him a sense of security. “They don’t judge me.” That kind of attitude should be applied to the world, he recommended.
Overall, it was a mutually rewarding experience for everyone involved--professors and students, the monastics, and the community volunteers. Their evaluations testify to their invaluable experience--the continuing legacy from the relationship started twenty-three years ago.
Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism (Saturday, April 14)
Meal Offering Ceremony
Community Service in Organic Farm
Tai Chi Chuan Exercise
Informal Discussion (Sunday, April 15)
22 of the 22 men students who came filled out the evaluation sheets. 21 of the 22 said that the visit met their expectations and they were quite satisfied.
Here is a sampling of the many positive comments:
Ceremonies: very amazing.
Meditation: useful and awesome. The bowing and chants were my favorite parts.
Tai Chi Chuan: Awesome! My favorite part. I am now on the path to Buddhism. I am now vegetarian. I will meditate in the future.
Ceremonies: very cool to be welcomed to witness.
Meditation: one of my favorite parts of the program. I learned compassion for living beings, not putting blame on others--overall a very humbling experience.
Ceremonies: Mind-blowing! The recitations in the Buddha-hall were phenomenal--I especially loved the mantras. I was intimidated by the monks at first, but after hearing them talk and interacting with them, I really enjoyed their company.
Meditation: Fantastic! I sat without moving for 30 minutes in half-lotus. That was a first.
Meditation: I enjoyed meditation the most. The teacher was really cool. The 4 Noble Truths are values that I can try to live by.
Discussion Periods: Amazing! Their backgrounds are extremely interesting, which brought up interesting questions.
Discussions: very insightful, good diversity of people and opinions.
Ceremonies: a great experience, but wow! a lot of bowing.
Meditation: Beautiful, I recommend that you start out with the music first next time as it made my meditation much deeper and enjoyable.
Discussions: The Q & A were extremely helpful and interesting- a lot of wisdom passed on.
Ceremonies: I found these powerful. The energy was amazing.
Thirty six out of 36 (100%) female students filled out the evaluation forms. An overwhelming majority of them had a positive experience. Below are some selections of the evaluations of the visit given by the female students:
Did the experience fulfill your expectations? If not, where did it fall short? What would you change?
Yes, I didn’t really have specific expectations but I fully appreciated every opportunity they offered--meditation, tai chi, delicious meals. It showed a true sincerity that cannot be ignored.
Not exactly. It would have been nice if my fellow students and I made sure effort to reduce our chattery talk and listen better. Also I would change so there is less free time, or so that there were suggestions for ideas to reflect upon during free time.
It was a so much better than my expectations! It is a beautiful place full of calm reserve but a oneness I fully enjoyed.
They most definitely did. All the discussions has made me contemplate a lot.
My experiences surpassed my expectations because yes, this community does have rules, but the spirit that the nuns hold towards these rules is joyous and lighthearted, and they allow us to make our own. Thank you.
What practice, impression, teaching, or insight learned here will you retain the longest?
Both the importance of Right Livelihood and the importance of keeping clear that grief and sadness are, on the one hand, elements of compassion, but on the other hand, that it is important to avoid slipping into self-pity or anger.
The 6 paramitas--I want to strive to be a better person for not only myself but for others in this world as well.
One’s state of mind or the lenses that one wears throughout life will affect well-being. There’s self-pity or optimism. Putting timeless actions in timely manner.
I think the discussion period. I had the wrong thoughts and impressions of Buddhism.
The tai chi exercises makes me want to go and take classes.
Patience and the analogy of shaking a glass with mud and water in it needs to be still so the sediment can fall and we can see clearly.
The practice of not seeking and learning how to convert negative to positive energy; carrying mindfulness and compassion in everyday for each sentient being.
I will bring with me a deepened understanding of the 4 Noble Truths. Observing them here, outside of my crazy life, truly made me see some things I would like to better about myself.
Meditation, vowing, chanting, precepts.
I really liked the meditation and I’ll probably try to use it when finals come up.
Meditation techniques, practicing mindfulness, and learning to solve my internal problems.
I feel I will retain that the best way to improve a situation or life overall is to work on/improve self. Also, putting blame on others is no way to resolve negativity.
Always happy to be outdoors, especially gardening. It was a pleasure to help out the City in this way.
Nice work and relaxing experience.
I wish we would have been able to help longer.
I thought this was such a great service to perform for the community. A great way to connect with the land.
As an organic farmer myself, I would have loved a chance to talk with the person who runs the farm.
Very therapeutic work.