History of Instilling Goodness and Developing Virtue Schools

By Terri Nicholson

In the fall of 1975 Gold Mountain Monastery held a series of Candidates Nights for local candidates running in the November election. Among them was Carol Ruth Silver, who was then running for District Attorney. (She later served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for many years.) On the evening she came to speak, her adopted son, Ah-hwei, accompanied her. Ah-hwei was then five years old, and since he was originally from Taiwan, Ms. Silver was very concerned that he learn his original language and study about Chinese culture. After a long discussion of educational ideals she agreed to help us get a school started.

On March 1, 1976, Instilling Virtue Elementary School opened at the International Translation Institute, then located at 3636 Washington Street in San Franscisco. The school was to be bilingual (Mandarin Chinese and English), and to emphasize filiality (the importance of repaying the kindness of one's parents and teachers) and respect for one's elders. That first spring we began with eight students, both boys and girls, ranging in age from four to eleven. Besides Chinese, the students studied the required state curriculum, meditation, Sanskrit, and Chinese calligraphy, and participated in some of the daily Buddhist ceremonies. By the next fall the number of students had doubled.

The summer of 1977, the first summer program was held at the newly purchased City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage. For six weeks students lived at the City and combined academics with study of the Dharma, T'ai Chi Ch'uan, and other outdoor activities. The school then completed one more full year at the San Francisco location before moving to its present location at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. During that year students were also fortunate to meet Cardinal Yubin (they sang for him at the airport). At this time another very important principle of the school was established: all religions working together and respecting one another. (The Venerable Master said he would be a Buddhist Catholic and the Cardinal agreed to be a Catholic Buddhist.) To this day the student body of the school includes students of many different religions and nationalities. We teach students to be a good member of whatever religion they believe in and to be a loyal and worthwhile citizen of their own country.

During these first few years the students also put on several plays and the first Buddhist musical, entitled "Sundarananda Finds the Way," the story of how the Buddha's half brother, Sundaranada, came to leave the home life. In the fall of 1978 the school relocated to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. At first, most of our students were former students from San Francisco who boarded during the week and went home on the weekends. Gradually, however, the school became better known in the Ukiah local community and the number of local students increased. In the fall of 1981 Developing Virtue Secondary School opened its doors.

This school also was dedicated to educating students in both academic excellence and moral integrity. Added to the teaching of filiality was the concept of good citizenship and encouraging students to seek careers that will benefit society as well as themselves.

In the fall of 1982 the school decided to adopt a policy of educating girls and boys separately in order to preserve their natural innocence and purity and to make it easier for them to concentrate on their studies. Since that time there have been separate boys' and girls' schools. Students are strongly encouraged to treasure the precious time of their youth, to study well and postpone emotional ties with the opposite sex until they are of a proper age to marry and form permanent relationships. (At least twenty years old for girls and thirty for boys.)

At that time the children of families in the Buddhist Council for Refugee Rescue and Resettlement also attended our schools, adding a distinctly international flavor to the student body. These students, mostly from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, studied with our students for three to six months before being resettled somewhere in the United States where jobs could be found for their parents. During the time they were here, they studied English, our ethics curriculum, and Western customs and lifestyle. Since many of them were Buddhist they felt very comfortable in our school and blessed the other students with contributions from their own countries and experiences. This program was discontinued by the U.S. government in 1986.

Instilling Goodness and Developing Virtue Schools have continued to grow and now have several branch schools, which have after school and weekend programs in Los Angeles, Vancouver, and also San Francisco. Another weekend program will begin this fall at the Sagely City of the Dharma Realm in West Sacramento, California. At the present time the schools at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas have over 130 students (including over 30 boarding students from the U.S. and the international community) and there have been nearly forty high school graduates. The schools continue to emphasize the same principles of filiality, humaneness, righteousness, and good citizenship as well as upholding the six principles of not fighting, not being greedy, incorruptibility, not being selfish, not seeking, and not lying. In November 1992 the school also began to seek for teachers who are willing to volunteer their time and work without pay, devoting their lives to educating students with the highest integrity who hopefully will grow up to lead our country and the world.

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