Reflections on A High School Students’ Visit

Giving is receiving. I am sure we have all heard of that expression before, but to experience it fully is another thing.

This past Monday, Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver centre had the pleasure of welcoming about 50 High school students and teachers from Strathcona Christian Academy. This group of students and teachers flew in from Alberta and is visiting a few different religious centres over a course of 8 days. We were really excited when we heard that they were coming to our centre and a few volunteers got together and wanted to plan a relaxed yet insightful experience for them.

When they arrived, I was so astonished to see how quiet they were. I had the honour of being the MC for this event and our director Venerable Chang Wu started off by welcoming the group and a short introduction video about Dharma Drum Mountain was shown.

After that, we prepared a simple ping pong ball activity for the visitors. All we told them was to walk with their hand holding the straw and try their best to keep the ping pong ball on the straw without letting it fall. The students had a good time but I saw ping ball balls falling off the straw every few seconds, people laughing and talking. Once they made one round around, they sat back down and this is when we started introducing what Chan is and how it can be used in our daily lives.

I guided them through a few minutes of sitting meditation by relaxing their body and mind. After about 10 minutes of sitting in calmness, we re-introduced the ping pong activity but this time telling them to be clearly aware of their movements and sensations and apply the Chan method of focusing on the present moment of just walking with the straw. To our astonishment, we all witnessed something spectacular. The ping pong balls were actually sitting on the straw for a much longer time and the calmness and stability we saw in each person was beyond amazing.

This truly exemplifies how powerful applying Chan to our lives could be for people that practice on a daily basis. Since their one hour visit was coming to an end, Venerable Chang Wu came back to the stand to answer any questions the group had. The questions asked were all very insightful and one particular question I recalled was a student asking if Chan meditation can be learnt by people of another religion. Venerable Chang Wu replied by saying most definitely and that Chan is not merely a religion but a way of life and it is open to anyone who wants to learn regardless of ethnics and religion.

Once the questions were all answered, we prepared refreshments in the dining hall for the group to enjoy since we learnt during the activity they did not have any lunch prior to their visit. We prepared as much food and as quickly as possible so they could fill their stomachs before moving on to their next tour. The laughter and enjoyment I witnessed was truly heart warming. Everyone had something nice to say about their visit and that they would love to visit again.

As the group was leaving, the sun was shining and we had a big group photo taken outside of the centre to capture the moment of togetherness.

Though their visit was a short one and a half hour stay, the smiles that were seen on each of their faces when they left was truly priceless. The biggest gift today was the fact that prior to their visit, the group did not know what Buddhism is or what Chan is. However, after their visit, they realized that Buddhism and Chan is a way of life and that truly opened their eyes and saw Buddhism in a completely different way.

As the day concluded, from the outside it looked like we prepared and planned everything so it was us giving them something. But in reality, these students opened up our eyes and made me realize the potential and acceptance of every sentient being regardless of ethnic and religion. Really, it was me who received the most.

(by Nancy Tseng at DDM Vancouver)

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