My name is Ashley and I have been given the privilege to speak tonight. Since this is my first time to address the Assembly, I was advised to introduce myself and talk about what brought me to CTTB.
I came to CTTB with Dennis and our two children Alan and Megan. I was born in Viet Nam. I migrated to the US along with some "boat people" in the early 1980s when I was about 9 years of age. I lived in Kansas for about 27 years before coming to CTTB in September.
When asked from where do I come, I can say that I'm from Kansas; or I can say that I was born in Viet Nam and I come from Kansas. Either way, I feel that it satisfies the intent of the questioner. However, as I get asked more times, I realized that I haven't really answered the question. And that is because I haven't found the real answer and so that's why I'm here.
CTTB is perhaps a big stepping stone in our cultivation. Our moving to CTTB came as a shock to many people with whom we have relations. Even those who were close to us and genuinely supported our practice sadly accepted our decision.
The news quickly relayed among family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Almost everyone wanted to know why we were leaving to go live in a monastery. We visited CTTB just several weeks prior and were given the opportunity to practice with the community during the few days that we visited. I do not know the words to fully describe my experiences which basically made up my mind. After that, it was a matter in the hands of the Community on whether or not we get to come.
A friend asked what event in our life lead us to this decision. How did we come to this life changing decision especially since we visited CTTB only once? Would we have visited CTTB if we hadn't attended the Summer Family Retreats at Deer Park Monastery, particularly the most recent one last July?
Would we have made this decision if we hadn't taken vacation time to participate in Events and Sessions sponsored by other Buddhist monasteries, temples, and organizations?
Would we have made this decision if we were not members and volunteers of the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Association in America?
Would we have made this decision if our mother (my mom) and father (Dennis' dad) had not been taken by the law of impermanence?
Would we have made this decision if we didn't have Alan & Megan?
Would we have made this decision if we had chosen a different profession?
What about all the events, whether major or insignificant, that lead to up the ones mentioned above?
Even if I tried to put all of these events together into one answer, I'm still far from the ultimate truth. The Venerable Master founded CTTB and tuned it into a Proper Way Place so that everyone who comes will become a Buddha. Although ripened conditions and affinities may have brought us to CTTB, we still need to apply effort if we are going to achieve the ultimate goal. In taking this big step, we hope to leave behind the false as we continue our cultivation to be rid of the Three Poisons (Greed, Anger, Ignorance), and eventually return to our True Home.
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Now, I would like to share a story about a mitten. It is a Ukrainian folktale adapted by Jan Brett (The Mitten):
Once there was a boy who wanted a pair of mittens as white as the snow. His Grandmother didn't want to knit white mittens explaining to the boy that if he dropped them in the snow, he will never find it. But the boy insisted on the snow-white mittens, and so his Grandmother knitted him a pair.
When she was finished, the boy got to go out to play in the snow. It wasn't too long until one of his new mittens dropped in the snow and was left behind while the boy went on, climbing up a tree.
A mole, tired from tunneling along, discovered the mitten and burrowed inside. It was warm and cozy inside the mitten so he decided to stay.
Next, a snow-shoe rabbit came hopping by. He stopped for a moment to admire his fur coat, and he saw the mitten. He started to wiggle in with his feet first. The mole didn't think there was enough room for both of them. But when he saw the rabbits big feet, he moved over to one side of the mitten.
Then a hedgehog came snuffling along. He was cold from spending the day looking under wet leaves for food. He decided to move into the mitten to warm himself. The mole and the rabbit were jumbled and jostled, but they made room for the hedgehog because they would not dare to argue with someone covered with prickles.
As soon as the hedgehog was inside the mitten, a big owl, attracted by the commotion, swooped down to check it out. He decided to move in also. The mole, the rabbit, and the hedgehog grumbled. But when they saw the owl's sharp talons, they quickly let him in.
Next, a badger appeared up through the snow. He looked at the mitten and began to climb in. The mole, the rabbit, the hedgehog, and the owl were not pleased. There was no room left, but when they saw the badger's diggers, they let him in.
The animals were snug in the mitten. Some warm steam rose into the air and caught the attention of a fox trotting nearby, so he came to investigate. The sight of the cozy mitten made him drowsy and he poked his muzzle in. When the mole, the rabbit, the hedgehog, the owl, and the badger saw the fox's shiny teeth, they made him plenty of room.
A great bear lumbered by and he spied the plumped up mitten. He didn’t want to be left out in the cold, so he began to nose his way in. The animals were packed in as tightly as could be, but they would not dare to argue with a bear. The mitten swelled and stretch. It was pulled and bulged to many times its size. But Grandmother’s good knitting endured.
Along came a meadow mouse, as little as an acorn. He wriggled his way into the mitten and made himself comfortable on top of the great bear's nose. The mouse’s whiskers tickled the bear’s nose and that gave him an enormous sneeze. The force of the sneeze sent the mitten into the sky and scattered the animals in all directions.
In the end, the boy did find his mitten.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the community for your guidance and support. We are very blessed to be here.
Thank you for listening.
( Now, Alan and Megan would like to share a song written by Daniel Yeo of D-Kidz. )