What vs. How

The summer of 2017 has become the most memorable summer of my life thanks to the one-month visit to the Dharma Drum Vancouver Center (DDVC). I’ve been living on the DILA campus for the past two years and I thought that I really understood what sangha life really is. It had never occurred to me how hard it could be for a foreign religion like Buddhism to survive or struggle to prosper in a foreign context, even though I knew that it was even more difficult in ancient times when most people were conservative or illiterate and resisted things alien to what they already knew.

DDVC is located on the Five Road in Richmond, where various religious institutions can be found. However, many properties along the Five Road are farming-oriented, which means that people residing there must be engaged in farming and try to generate some farm produce. None of the nuns from Taiwan know farming so they rely heavily on the volunteers’ instructions. They spend time together discussing various issues to meet the requirements of the government. The task is not easy at all because most of time temperatures here are too low for crops to grow, and some even die in the long winter. Besides, chemical fertilizers and pesticides are never used in the process, which definitely raises other difficulties over the project. While visiting DDVC, I dedicated practically all my time to looking after the plants in the garden. I never thought that I might engage in farming someday! Toilsome as it was, I felt delight when I witnessed the plants’ blooming as a result of my daily watering and weeding.

I learned from books that monasteries owned farmland and that farming was one of ways of sustaining the monasteries. However, I thought it happened only in the ancient past and did not exist in the 21st century, especially in developed countries, where foods are abundant and easily accessible. After all this painstaking work, I found myself changed and began regarding farming as part of my practice. Farming will absolutely fortify a practitioner’s will and perseverance, helping them becomes energetic, both physically and mentally. I am happy with myself because I stuck to it and learned a lot from the process. Hopefully, this farming experience will equip me with greater strength and determination.

Someone might think farming should not be what students go all the way from Taiwan to Canada for. Well, I had exactly the same idea. However, by the end of this trip, I had a very different perspective: I can practice Buddhist teachings as long as I am mindful and dedicated to whatever I am doing. What matters is not what I am doing but HOW I am doing it.

Written By: Xi-Ning Ma (馬希寧) from Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, DILA

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