The Light of Hope
By Bhikshuni Heng Yin, Current Principal, Girls Division
This school is an amazing experience not only for students, but for the teachers and staff who work here, mostly as volunteers. When I first came to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to learn Buddhism, I was assigned to teach ESL in the Girls’ School. Later it was Algebra, World History, and Virtue Studies. I even had a chance to teach Kindergarten (fulfilling my childhood wish to be a Kindergarten teacher), and to be a principal (although I lacked experience, I was encouraged and mentored by the former principals and the staff and students). I have found that, the more we persevere in teaching or working in education, the greater our reward in terms of being able to clearly see ourselves—especially our limits and weaknesses—so that we can improve ourselves. As we improve ourselves so that we can better serve and guide students, we also imperceptibly influence the hearts and minds of young people.
Education is sacred work. As John Dewey, the father of American education, said, “Education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform.” The Venerable Master Hua said, “Education is the most fundamental form of national defense.” The Master gave a talk on August 28, 1993 that speaks so clearly to today’s situation:
“In our high school, students learn to be devoted to their country and to protect their country. Why is education the true national defense? Nuclear bombs are weapons that harm people. They use force to fight force, and evil to fight evil, and they lack the spirit of peace. They are built to kill mankind, and their use involves great cruelty. Therefore, we don’t teach such things. In our school, we teach students to be devoted to the country. A powerful country should not oppress or invade a small one, just because it has the power to do so. We should love our country, and love other countries as well. We must not use military force to harm people. We have to educate people to understand this clearly; this is the basic cause for a genuinely strong country.
And the Master put his words into positive action by founding “Instilling Goodness Elementary and Developing Virtue Secondary Schools.” He said, “ ‘Developing virtue’ does not refer only to developing students’ virtue; it also refers to developing the teacher’s virtue as well as developing the virtue of the nation. Therefore, we must develop the qualities of a sage within and the qualities of a king without. When we are lofty and wise within, we will teach everyone else to be wise, so that day by day, they become more intelligent and their views become more proper.” Through working in education, we can touch the future and help the world become a better place.
IGDVS is a place that transforms everyone who comes – students, teachers, staff, even parents. It holds the light of hope when the future of the world seems bleak. We certainly have our share of hardships, conflicts, and disappointments like any other school, but these are all opportunities to learn patience, reflection, cooperation, and humility; and the dream of helping to create a more caring, harmonious, and ethical world sustains us.
The gradual growth of the schools shows that parents and children are increasingly interested in a learning environment that fosters compassion, virtue, diligence, and self-understanding. Our teachers are special people who are dedicated to being part of the Venerable Master’s vision to create a better world by nurturing young people to be virtuous and wholesome. CTTB offers a safe harbor from the outside world where children are often exposed to violence, negativity, and rampant materialism. CTTB is a place were children can keep their innocence and be themselves without fear of ridicule. A place where young people can learn to live in harmony with each other, with their families, and with Nature. A place where they assume a deep sense of responsibility for the well-being of humanity and the planet, so that when they grow up they will act as catalysts for positive social change. Small and imperfect as each one of us is, we can support one another and contribute our little bit to make the Venerable Master’s vision of education a reality, while at the same time improving ourselves.
As the results of IGDVS education become more apparent and known to the outside world, I believe more volunteer teachers will come and help bring the Master’s vision to fruition more quickly, more students will be nurtured and transformed, and then go out to influence society. Perhaps in a decade or so there will be more branches of IGDVS offering this kind of education to more communities around the world. And we could form partnerships with schools in other countries to enrich our cultural understanding and create more connections with youth around the world. With properly educated young people in leadership, nations will prosper and the world will be at peace.