All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master Hua, Dharma Masters, Dharma friends, Amitabha!
Last year was the anniversary of Shang Ren's (Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's) one-hundredth birthday. Throughout our Way-places, we celebrated the fact that Shang Ren was born into this world, that we were fortunate to be able to learn from him, and that all living beings and the world were blessed that he was here with us for his life time.
Last year was also a year of remembrance of the 23rd year since Shr Fu entered Nirvana. This year would be the 24th; next year would be 25 years. In the West, we say that "time flies" and true to this statement, we experience impermanence every day.
Since last year, there are new people in the world, and some people who were here last year are no long with us. Shr Fu's once young disciples are now elderly. And one day, all the Heng generation and Guo generation will no longer be here.
And for many of us, he gave us responsibilities when we did not feel we were ready. But you could not say "no" to Shang Ren. Nowadays, people can say "no". But in those days, people could not say "no". This is how he trained us to take up our responsibilities while he was still in the world. He just said, "Go do it!" and we had to "go do it!" And, of course, we made mistakes. But that's how we learned. Shr Fu also demanded that each one of us develop our own inherent wisdom. He wouldn't allow us to depend on him. He wanted us to have the vision to discriminate dharmas!
I remember that, after living five years in Taiwan, I went back to CTTB. I'd just gotten back and saw that the Sangha had grown by about ten times since I was last there. All the nuns from Taiwan I recognized, but there were also Sangha members from Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, and the US that I've never seen before. Almost as soon as I arrived, I was given the responsibility to lead the women's management at CTTB. I was terrified, because I didn't even know many of the Sangha members' names and they all spoke Chinese. My Chinese is not good enough. But Shang Ren was still there, and he told me to do this, so I dared to do it.
I told my Sir Xiong (elder Dharma cultivator), "I really feel I'm not qualified to do this. I'm already fifty years old! I'm too old to learn new tricks!" Fifty is considered young now. But in those days, most Sanghans were middle-aged, around 35 to 45. But she told me, "Fifties are the best years! The fifties! Because when you are fifty, you are mature and have a little bit of experience, and you still have a little bit strength to do things." Shang Ren also instructed me to "Take Care of DRBU".
And then, a year later, Shang Ren entered Nirvana. We were all shocked by his leaving. We couldn't believe it. We all believed that he would not leave us. Even when he was in the hospital, we thought, "He will come back! He will return! He will get better!"
At that time, we all felt profound grief, because he was like our spiritual parents, our good and wise advisor, our protector, and our refuge. He always helped us not to make mistakes in cause & effect. Our grief was amplified, because we all realized that the world would suffer such a great loss by his leaving. We also felt a great weight of responsibility; Shang Ren is no longer going to be there to tell us what to do, or to scold us if we did something wrong. So we carried on. And the thing that sustained us was to try to pay back the Venerable Master's kindness by carrying on his legacy. In making this effort, we all have experiences that Shang Ren was still with us. And whenever we needed him, he would help us.
So last year, when I spoke, I told you that we were confident that DRBU would be accredited. But I couldn't say for sure. And one month later, we received our official letter saying that DRBU was accredited-in time for Shang Ren birthday. We were all very happy because we felt that this was our best birthday present we could offer him.
And once DRBU got accredited, we were able to apply for SEVP to accept international students with F-1 visa. We were told that it usually takes 9 months to 1 year to be approved. We expected that would be right around now (February 2019) that we would be hearing from the government saying we could accept international students the following fall semester. But there was a little bit of a miracle. Within three months, not too long before Shang Ren's Entering Nirvana Day, during the Shurangama Sutra and Meditation Retreat done in honor of the Venerable Master, we received a letter and news on the very last day of that retreat, saying that the government had approved DRBU to accept international students. So now there are no excuses for our Dharma friends in Taiwan. If you
are interested, apply!
And so, time marches on, and the next generation must prepare to carry on the torch of Buddhism. It's time to take up your responsibility. Like those of us who came before you, you will make mistakes; and you will learn from your mistakes. That way, day-by-day, you will grow in wisdom and experience. And take advantage while we older ones are still around, because we are still here to offer our advice and to support and encourage you. The worst "thief" is doubt; as soon as you start to doubt, you "freeze". Just remember that Shang Ren is always there to help us.
Day by day, the world is undergoing changes. The current generation undergoes sufferings that we older ones never had to endure, especially the suffering of not knowing what the future will bring. The world is more dangerous than it has ever been, and young people are responding to this by taking drugs, hurting themselves, and even committing suicide. It has become a world epidemic.
So now, young people need Buddhism more than ever, because Buddhism can really give people hope. Shr Fu always says there are "no fixed Dharmas". It all depends on what we do and what people do. Therefore, young people need to have the hope to try to save the world. And the Sangha needs to lead them. I guess that's all I have to say today.
Happy New Year!