By Catherine A. Li
May 25, 2010
It is mid 2010. I am 16, almost turning 17. In about a year, I will be graduating from Developing Virtue Girls School and starting college. At this point in my life, I look back at my childhood years, reminiscing that many of the happiest moments had occurred here, at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
I developed a grand interest in learning the Buddhadharma when I was a young child. My parents began bringing me to various Buddhist monasteries since I was a toddler. However, neither my parents nor I understood, at the time, the deeper aspects of Buddhism. Then we only knew how to bow and pray, not to mention burn incense. It was not until when I was five years old that my lamp of wisdom was lit.
There are many bookcases in my home. One evening when in the living room, I searched for something to read from a bookcase which housed books on miscellaneous topics. That night, I decided to find a book that I had never read before. From the moment I began learning the written word, a profound interest for books and a fascination for writing developed. Hence, as a five year old I had read most of the books in my home that a child would possibly be interested in reading. The book of choice that particular night was the Venerable Master's Buddhism: A Brief Introduction. Usually, I might have browsed through and returned the book to its former place, however something drew me to delve deeper into its pages. Though I was only a young child at the time, strangely I was able to somehow comprehend Shifu's lecture as I read along. The book proved interesting and I decided to proceed with the reading of Buddhism: A Brief Introduction. I can say that this could have been one of the most significant events in my life since it changed my views of the world around me. I now recognized that my unexplained interest in Buddhism at such a tender age must have sprouted from rewards of some invaluable good seeds planted in the past.
Many a times, people have inquired of me, "Why is it so necessary for you to come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas? The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association has a quite a number of branch monasteries around the world - wouldn't it suffice if you frequent any one of them?" My answer has always been, "The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a very special place for me. No other branch or monastery can ever replace it." To this day, I very much doubt if those people had understood my feelings. I attribute my affinities with the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to the Venerable Master Hua, who is a role model in my life. Without him, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas would not even be in existence. The Sagely City is a place where I am always at ease. It is a place where I appreciate having the time to reflect upon myself. It is a place where I contemplate everyday and everything, no matter how minute. It is a place where I seek delight in the Proper Dharma, which flavor brings about great rejoicing in my heart.
Two of the Venerable Master's teachings have occupied special importance: the need for education and the promotion of interfaith dialogues. Good education should be the basis and need in any society, not a luxury; a reason why I chose to study at Developing Virtue Girls School (DVGS). As the school was founded by the Venerable Master, who so earnestly advocated the ideals of a proper education, DVGS must therefore not only provide regular education, but also incorporate and adhere to the teachings of fundamental Buddhist principles that are valuable indeed. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, with DVGS being part of, support and regularly host interfaith dialogues. Shifu believed that all religions must intermingle in harmony to ensure that our world be at peace. This teaching is most precious to me as I affirm that we need to extend our understanding into other religions to gain insights for an improved communication of all cultures.
When I glanced at the calendar in check of the day when the 15th Anniversary of Venerable Master's Entering Nirvana will be observed, it is interesting to mention that this year's commemoration coincides with Fathers' Day. This is indeed an apt occurrence, as Shifu was like a father for so many of his disciples. However, I regard him more like a spiritual grandfather, partly because I did not have the opportunity to meet him. Alas, this perhaps may become an indulgence in melancholic deliberation in my life, one that I cannot change. Nevertheless, an optimistic overtone brings to mind gratitude that the Venerable Master has helped me through difficulties that I had faced sometimes. He will continue to be a powerful guidance illuminating my long road in life. He bequeathed a vast legacy – the Proper Dharma - in lectures, publications, and Sutra commentaries that I have, thus far, drawn from and learnt much. Shifu has benefited me in unspeakable and countless ways.
I am very lucky to be able to spend my high school years at DVGS and am extremely fortunate to be in receipt of learning the Proper Buddhadharma. Without Shifu, none of these happenings would have been possible. Without Shifu, the Proper Dharma would not have been brought to the West. The Venerable Master and his teachings are priceless treasures that have illumined the path toward enlightenment for me and myriads of people, eternal treasures that can never be forgotten.