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By Zhang Mei-Pu

Copied from Varja Bodhi Sea Monthly Journal March 1994. pp 41-42

August 28th, 1993 was a turning point in my life. I quit the teaching post I had held for twenty-one years, leaving Taipei Dun Hua Municipal Elementary School to come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

Before I left, many relatives and friends tried to dissuade me, saying, "Ah, teaching is the best kind of cultivation. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas didnít ask you to resign for the sake of cultivation". "If you just wait four years more to get the pension, it wonít be too late". "You must have enough money if you want to cultivate. Without the necessary funds, cultivation will be really difficult. Whatís more, if you resign from your job, youíll lose the government insurance; what if you get sick in old age?" Ö There were too many arguments to recount.

Although I appreciated their concerns, I still held to my resolution to quit because of the inspiration I gained from the Venerable Masterís Instructional Talks. He said, "Studying the Buddhadharma is more important than making money. You make money to sustain your life. Studying the Buddhadharma nurtures your wisdom-life and increases your wisdom. If you can make your Dharma-body and wisdom-life strong and healthy, thatís a million times better than making money".

By quitting my job, I was quitting the track of continuous evil thoughts. Before I learned about Buddhism, as I guided students in their quest for knowledge, my opportunistic craving for fame and profit made me urge them to greedily compete for good grades and high scores. This was also in order to compensate for my own failure as a student. After a while, the teacher-student relationship became very unwholesome. In the classroom, on the school grounds and in their extra-curricular life, there were always plenty of opportunities to kill - to cut off the valuable innocence and pure, true nature of the children. I smeared the ideas of "achievement and profit" into their pure, innocent minds, mistakenly thinking that I was following the principle of: "Chiseling jade into a useful vessel". I was trying to ride on the studentsí coat-tails to future success. Therefore, I watched their overtly naughty and bossy behaviour without correcting it, and spoiled them so that they were unfilial to their parents and disrespectful to their teachers and elders. In this confused inversion of right and wrong, ethical values turned into ridiculous, tiresome and outdated clichťs. Only after I began studying Buddhism, took refuge and received the Five Precepts from the Venerable Master, did I realise that a deficient mentality and lack of virtue can prevent us from acting in accord with Dharma and truth. My outstanding achievements in the school, and the trophies and awards filling my cabinet, only caused me to have delusion, create karma and ultimately drown in the swamp of fame and profit.

How is such a teacher different from an animal in human form?! Alas! How could I do that for four more years and harm more lovely children? Why would I want several million dollars of insurance to prevent sickness in an illusory life?

At fifty, I felt that everything I had done for the first forty-nine years was a mistake. I feel very fortunate to have a human body and be able to hear the Dharma. By resigning from my job, I am learning to stop all evil deeds and to always remember the Venerable Masterís instruction, "Nurture all good roots and cut off thoughts of contention, greed, falseness, lying Ö." I will also learn from Never Slighting Bodhisattva, whose motto is, "When I see any living being, I will bow to him. I respect all men as my father and treat all women as my mother". I have come to the paradise of the volunteer teachers at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, this field of blessings created by the Venerable Masterís painstaking toil. With gratitude, kindness and humble respect for all, I will learn anew and diligently work without stop.