Suzanne Zhang：All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and Dharma friends, amitofo. I have been listening to many different years’ seniors being up here and talk about their experience with this place. And eventually, after five years, it is now my turn to be here and share my learning with everyone. if there is anything I say that is not according to the dharma, please kindly correct me.
Overall, I am very grateful for CTTB, because it allowed me to understand myself more deeply, and it also stimulated some of my potentials that would not have been stimulated if it was not here. Since young, I was always a shy, timid, and introverted person. In my elementary school years, I never dared to raise my hand to answer questions, because I was afraid that others would laugh at me if I were to get the answer wrong.When I was thrown into a group of strangers, I would have been very unconfortable and hide myself in the corners. I would never pro-active at making new friends. Even if I was among a group of friends, I would simply follow them and not hold any opinions of my own. However, CTTB and the people I met here gave me a whole new understanding of myself.
Actually, even before ariving CTTB, it already did its first spell on me: the not so daring me made a very daring decision at the age of twelve, that is to come to CTTB to study alone. Although my mother was always against the idea in the beginning, because of my determination and faith in Buddhism, she eventaully agreed. However, she set up a condition, which was that I had to become independent and hold my own opinions. I promised her and started to make changes slowly.
Nevertheless, what changed me the most was classmates’ and teachers’ understanding and help that I received after coming to CTTB. In the beginning, I could not understand a single word during class because of the language barrier. Therefore, in order to carry out classes regularly, many classmates who knew both Chinese and English translated to me every single word that teachers taught during classes. In addition, no matter what I said, people did not laugh at me, instead, they would always encourage me. Slowly, I started to speak up in classes and join class discussions. With everyone’s help, I overcame the language barrier within half a year.
But the changes I made did not stop there. In tenth grade, teachers and classmates suggested to me that I should run for class rep. I have never thought of becoming a leader before, and I did not think that I embodied any qualities of a leader. However, people still gave me the chance and the courage. Then, during the summer of my 11th year, I became the head counsellor for summer camp. What I was most grateful was that even though many others could have done better than me, the teachers still trusted me and gave me the responsibility. And it’s now, I became the president of the student body.
I have never though the quiet me before could have grown into the me today. If it was not for CTTB, I might never have discovered this side of myself. Although there are still many improvements to be made, I am trying my best to repay the community that have offered me so much help and support, and to serve others. Within the limited amount of time while I am here, I will help the teachers to take up some responsibilities so that they can take some rest, and I will help the ones that need help just like how people helped me when I needed help to pass down the kindness and compassion. amitofo.
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Klare Hu（胡嘉芸）：Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, and Good knowing advisors: Amitabha.
My name is Klare, and I want to talk a bit about affinities with people and faith in general. When I first came to study here, I thought this place as no more than a school my parents wanted me to come to. Even though I struggled to adapt to the lifestyle here, what I learned about Buddhism and just being human is a pure gem that can never be replaced. If there is one thing I know about this monastery, it is that everyone carries just as much responsibility to live out the ideals of Venerable Master Hua, who I believe to this day is still here with us, and has never left.
Two years ago during the summer, I was down in the Bay Area staying with a family friend for a few days. One night, my mother’s friend had gone out of town and her daughter went grocery shopping so I was left alone in the house. To pass time, I began listening to some of Venerable Master Hua’s recorded talks, after which I found a recording of him chanting Earth Store Bodhisattvas’ name.
Sitting on the bed with my eyes closed, a smell of incense began to emanate out of nowhere as he began to recite Earth Store Bodhisattvas’ name. The windows were shut in my room, and my door was closed. Frankly, I didn’t know what to think at the time, so I went out into the hallway to find the source of the incense. But it turned out that the smell of incense came only from within my tiny bedroom that had only one bed, a closet, and a nightstand. I was puzzled, but I went back into sitting to listen to the rest of his chanting. To my surprise, the smell of incense began to fade as his voice faded into the background.
To me, it wasn’t just a coincidence or a superstition. To me, it was Venerable Master reminding us that we should never lose faith in our principles, religion, and most importantly, in ourselves and our ability to do good.
Over the years, I was met with many difficult situations. Sometimes I doubt my beliefs, sometimes I was bombarded with family complications, and other times I find myself sandwiched between contradictions. What helped me through these difficult times was having a stern faith that everything will eventually be okay. CTTB has taught me a lot of things, among them the perseverance and importance of faith in our lives. As a community, we have to have trust in one another and the willingness to forgive another when someone has done we wrong.
As individuals, our faith comes into recognizing our reserve power to do more and to be better than we are now. Every year during New Years, I would hear Venerable Master’s recorded talks during lunch about renewing ourselves, getting rid of our old habits and being diligent on our paths to learn the Buddhadharma. In the modern day, this is the “New Year New Me” hashtag on Instagram that people adopt. However, this faith in renewing ourselves that comes around once a year shouldn’t just be a New Year occasion, but a daily mindset to reinvent ourselves for the better. In my own case, I realized that I should not wait around passively, but instead, try to engage in the present moment to find out what my values were regardless of other people’s passing remarks. I have realized after staying here for so many years, that who I am is also the values I choose to embody, and it will continue to be a lifelong journey to find out what those are.
個人而言， 我們也應該相信自己可以做得更好，從而得以完善。每逢新年，我總是能聽到上人對我們的期盼， 要重塑自我，潛心學習佛法；也就是現在膾炙人口的“新年新自己”。當然，改進自己不應該只是新年該做的事， 更應該是每天的練習。就以我來講，我意識到比起被動而言，也許活在當下並找出存在的意義，同時活出自己是一個更好的選擇。我在聖城學到了很多關於自身的成長，我是誰便成為了我一生想要挖掘的大問題。
Venerable Master taught me that we shouldn’t forgo our roots in pursuit of the branches. I am extremely grateful for all that I have learned here from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master Hua, students, teachers, and volunteers,.
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All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, all Dharma Masters, and all good knowing advisors, AMTF! My name is Karmen Yap, and I am honored to be here tonight along with my classmates, to share with everyone about my experience as a student here. If I have said anything that is not accord with the Dharma, please be kindly correct me.
When I was little, my parents sent me to a kindergarten at Prajna Guanyin Sagely Monastery in Malaysia. During that time, I barely understood Buddhism. What I knew were basic manners like keeping quiet in the Bddha Hall, attending meal offerings before lunch, and not talking when eating in the Five Contemplations Hall. I remember standing in front of Venerable Master’s portrait and gazing at him for seconds while pondering if he was too busy somewhere to visit Malaysia. I never knew that Venerable Master had entered Nirvana. I graduated from the kindergarten later on, and I thought I would never have a chance to meditate anymore.
In August of 2011, I packed my luggage and came to the United States when I hadn’t even graduated from elementary school. When I arrived at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, I felt like I came back to home, one that I shared with my family and friends. Although I did not adapt to the environment here at the beginning, I am grateful for all Dharma Masters, all good knowing advisors, teachers, and friends, for giving me supports and for helping me to adapt after a while. While studying here, I had a lot of time to reflect upon my conduct. It often feels as if I carry a magnifying glass in my hands to identify clearly all of the problems I need to change over time.
I am very blessed to attend schools founded by Venerable Master Hua. One of my teachers used to tell me that each of us here at CTTB represents each of the hands of The Thousand Hands and Thousand Eyes Great Compassionate Guan Shi Yin Bodhissatva, and that we come together to help each other, to maintain this place. When I heard that, I felt bad, because I don’t think I have contributed much. There were even times when I took my privilege for granted.
One time, I was giving a tour for a group of students who came here for class trip from another school. Then, one of the students asked me why the roads are named the way they are. I responded to him saying that our founder, Venerable Master Hua, named the streets. On that day after school, I paid attention to the name of the street where I first arrived, which is right between the dorm and the school. I was shocked when it said the “Giving Way.” I felt like Venerable Master Hua wanted me to not only practice giving, but also to tell me to “give away” or let go of my afflictions. Whenever I look up at the sky above CTTB, I feel at peace and it broadens my heart. Also, I would like to say thank you to everyone in CTTB, thank you all Dharma Masters and teachers for your patience in teaching me, and thank you all Dharma Masters and volunteers who work so hard at the kitchen for us. Thank you for teaching me how to be a human, and thank you for giving me chances to change my bad habits.
我很高興自己當初的選擇也很感謝父母的用心，還有他們爲我付出的一切；沒有他們，我就不會在這裏上學。還有三個月，我就要畢業了；即將進入大學的我，會把我在培德女中所學到的銘記在心。我也會記得宣公上人曾經說過的一句話，就是“Everything is okay!”一切都是最好的安排。
I am very glad that I had chosen to attend this school, and am very grateful for my parent’s effort and their contributions to my life. Without them, I would not have been able to come here. As I am entering college soon, I will bring what I learned from the Developing Virtue Girls School with me, and will not forget what Venerable Master Hua once said: “Everything is okay!” AMTF!