Reminiscences of
My First Trip to CTTB

Extracts from the February 2008 issue of Vajra Bodhi Sea
By Lim Ming Luan


The year is 1990: My mother, aunt, and elder sister have just returned from the Ten Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance and Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday celebration in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB). My mother tells me that Shr Fu, the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, has granted a full scholarship to my elder sister and me to study in Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU). I am overjoyed, as my wish has been fulfilled. We reached America on July 31, 1990. An American laywoman picks us up at the airport and drives us straight to CTTB. She helps us get dinner at the small dining hall and takes us to our living quarters. I can never forget her kindness. The next morning, I awake to some strange sounds that I have never heard before. In addition, the air is different. It is cool and pure. I hear the sounds of insects and hey, I hear the screeching sounds again. It is a peacock calling, as I am told later.

Hence, I start adapting to a new life in CTTB. New surroundings, a different lifestyle, and unfamiliar faces greet me. This is the place which I will spend my next four years studying. There is no television, radio, or computer that I can gain access to. In replacement, I have classes, assignments, personal study, Buddha hall activities, and temple work to fill my day and truly serious cultivators as my extended family. The days pass by in a flash. I find the daily activities in CTTB more fulfilling to the spirit, unlike the shallowness of worldly entertainment and leisure pursuits which are truly meaningless.

This is a unique place where I have to cultivate quite a bit and walk quite a distance before I can take my morning and noon meals. In addition, the people here do not talk when they eat. This rule has a two-pronged benefit. Besides preventing indigestion, our silence promotes concentration, which in turn helps us to obtain Dharma food from Shr Fu whether live, like in the past or through his tapes during our noon meal nowadays. I find it interesting and beneficial indeed to our body and mind…

It is so comforting to realize that in this troubled world, there is still a university, which promotes equality, humaneness, kindness and compassion, respect for humanity and tolerance for all religions…

I truly enjoy what I am doing here. The classroom can be in the Buddha Hall, the Wonderful Words Hall and even in the girls’ high school. Thus, it is never boring. I am much better in the Chinese language now since I get to hear and speak more of it with the CTTB residents. I really like what I am studying especially English, Chinese, and the Shurangama Sutra.

The teachers are very nice people. I am especially impressed by the lay professor who is a cultivated and refined lady. An exceptionally kind, patient, and a wise educator, she can connect Buddhism with English language and literature. She is a rare and admirable person who sacrifices her precious time for the sake of her students. For instance, we submit our fall semester written papers on King Lear to her and she surprises us by returning a well-typed version of our written assignments duly amended!

It is nice to imagine that one is living in a very safe environment, amidst virtuous people who are concerned with the welfare of others besides themselves. Furthermore, the separation of sexes is good for our cultivation and studies as well. I recall walking in line with the rest of the people to the Wonderful Words Hall after the daily evening recitation for the night lecture. Shr Fu’s house is just next door to the lecture hall. He will come and sit quietly in front facing everyone while the lecture goes on and recites silently to bless the assembly. At times, he will walk around and physically bless the people. It is nice to sit on the bench and hear Dharma lectures. However, I feel quite anxious whenever one lecturer decides to draw sticks with names, to get people to answer questions or give comments. Nevertheless, it is good experience…

The food is simply great. There is a huge variety and mouth-watering array of vegetarian cuisine in the dining room. When I return home later, my father is so impressed with his daughter’s chubby appearance…

The first winter spent here is difficult. Coming from a hot and humid country, I am not used to the bitter chill. I have to brave the cold when walking to the financial office and the kitchen to work especially in the mornings. Upon realizing that I am shuddering with cold, a laywoman kindly provides my sister and me with padded pants. We also borrow some warm clothing from the temple. I realize then that the cold weather will be more bearable if one wears the appropriate clothing. We have to sleep and rise early each day. By doing so, one’s health is improved. I am healthier here than back home. Taking one meal a day here is certainly easier than at home.

The tight schedule here does not permit one to laze around or indulge in false thinking. Although I feel tired sometimes from the rigorous schedule, I feel happy. As I circumambulate and recite along with the assembly, I feel so comfortable, peaceful and at ease, thinking, “Ah, this is what I should be doing instead of the worldly mundane matters.”…

I will always cherish fond memories of my first trip to CTTB, to become a DRBU student. Although I did not have sufficient blessings, good roots, wisdom, and virtue to stay in CTTB for long, still I count myself among the fortunate ones to be able to step foot into the brightest place on earth. I hope that all who come to live and study in CTTB will cherish their good fortune and not leave the mountain of jewels empty-handed. Amitabha!


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