Dharma Realm Buddhist University, Developing Virtue Secondary School, and Instilling Goodness Elementary School at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are all tuition-free and offer free education. Let me tell you the reason we don’t charge tuition.
My family lived in the mountains of Shuangcheng County in Manchuria. Since public transportation was inadequate and there was no school in the village, most children didn’t go to school and most of the villagers were illiterate. When I was fifteen years old, I went to an old-style private school to study the Four Books and the Five Classics. I finished studying them in the winter of my seventeenth year. As I studied those books, the teacher would explain them to me. It took me two and a half years to finish.
When I was eighteen, there were no books at school for me to study, so I stayed home and read Chinese medicine texts, about fifteen or sixteen of them. I learned to distinguish the nature of medicinal herbs as being cold, hot, warm, or mild, and understood how to diagnose a patient by observing them, asking questions, taking their pulse, and listening to them. I could have treated patients, but I didn’t, because I always felt that if I gave a wrong diagnosis or prescribed the wrong medicine in one case out of a hundred, then even if I successfully cured the other ninety-nine, I would still have an offense. That’s why I never wanted to be a doctor. Also, I have never cared about money, even to this day.
During the same year, I also read some books on physiognomy, divination, the eight hexagrams, and similar subjects. I was not an expert in those subjects, but I understood the principles involved. However, I did not take them up as a profession, because I didn’t want to make money. I always thought of how “wealth is like morning dew on the flowers, and fame is like frost on the roof tiles.” They are both impermanent.
That winter, I saw that the village children had no access to education. It was really pitiful. I decided to start a free school. There were about thirty students, and I was the only teacher. Since the students were of different ages and levels of intelligence, I tutored them individually. The school opened from seven o’clock in the morning till six o’clock in the evening, with no break in between. The students all studied very hard and made quick progress. When school ended after the winter, the students showed considerable achievement. They had learned to read and write many characters. That was the reward for my hard work.
The schools at the City are also tuition-free. Some people may wonder: “Are you people so stupid that you don’t know how useful money can be?” Yes, it is extremely stupid, I have to admit. But I have this idea that teaching is the greatest joy in life.
Instilling Goodness Elementary School: The goal is to develop students’ talents and potential, teaching them to be good citizens and perfectly filial children. That’s why the school is called “Instilling Goodness.”
Developing Virtue Secondary School: Since people are not born with perfect and complete virtue, we should help them to develop virtue and to cultivate both blessings and wisdom. Instilling Goodness Elementary School focuses on filiality. It is said, “Among the hundred good deeds, filiality is foremost.” Developing Virtue Secondary School emphasizes loyalty and filiality – loyalty to one’s country and filiality to one’s parents. In order to protect one’s own country and be a good citizen, one must first establish a strong character and be able to endure tests without succumbing to circumstances. It is said, “Filial sons come from poor families; loyal officials are produced from national turmoil.” This describes people who can endure tests. With a noble character, great resolve, and a persevering and indomitable spirit, one can achieve great things. This is the aim of Developing Virtue Secondary School.
Dharma Realm Buddhist University: After students have perfected their virtue in Developing Virtue Secondary School, they may enter Dharma Realm Buddhist University to further their studies and become outstanding people. I hope you will surpass your teachers and become prominent men and women in society. Your attitude should be: “When I see others drowning, it is as if I am drowning; when I see others starving, it is as if I am starving.” This ideal should pervade space and the Dharma Realm and never change.
Nowadays most schools, both public and private, constantly scheme to make a profit off the students. Tuition increases every year, which frustrates the children of less affluent families. The City solves this problem by not collecting any tuition and taking the development of students’ talents as its goal. I hope the students here will understand the sincere intentions of the City. We spend a lot of money to educate you so that in the future you may become pillars of society who are capable of propagating the Dharma. Study hard and don’t disappoint the expectations placed upon you by the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. It is said,
Only at the time of actual application
do you realize that your knowledge is limited;
Not until you’ve tried something
do you know the difficulties involved.
If you don’t study hard now, you will regret it when it’s time to put your knowledge to use. That’s what I wanted to say to you today.
A talk given on September 19, 1983