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What is the right choice of school

November 7, 2016

In Primary Six, I don’t quite understand my teacher when he mentioned why we should choose the best school and how we should be careful what to pick as the first choice.  As no parents helped me (nor compelled) me to pick my choice, I choose my first choice according to my teacher’s recommendation and ended up in my second choice which is my favourite choice because it is walk-able from my house!

I read with amazement my first “Buddhism book” from a Singaporean who followed Master Sheng Yan of Dharma Drum and in it.  In the book, the author mentioned that during his ‘O’ level time, he actually go against the trend and ‘rat race’ and picked polytechnic as his first choice and National JC as his second choice. Venerable Guo Jun (果骏,-Mahaboddhi Monastery) was a very fine student and so he made it to his first choice effortlessly!  But what I admire most about him is not his academics, but his endurance to do the Korean toughest traditional Seon (Sŏn, 禪) 90-day retreat 3 times!

When I was in my ‘O’ level, again I was faced with a choice of JC.  But I did not choose polytechnic despite the scare form my uncle, “English not so good, polytechnic was a better choice”.  My English wasn’t that good, but I thought JC would be more ‘fun’, because my brother was already in a JC and he seemed to show me that is the brighter path to take.  Basically I have no idea what I was doing because at that time I had no intention of going to the university at all.  My grandma gave me the impression that the university (or oversea education for that matter) is only for the rich, and we (阮人) as normal folks should only dream about it or wait for it in our next life.  So I pick my ACJC and had a blast of my teenage years in that school.

When great Naropa (那洛巴尊者) was young, he was well verse in “the study of logic, science, grammar, rhetoric and art.”  Comparing to him, I am maybe less than 10% of his ability in science.  Anyway, Naropa was about to go to the famous Nalanda University for his Buddhist study when some “dakini”(空行母) told him to basically:  “Stop philosophizing and seek out for a certain Tilopa for instruction!”  And so Naropa left Nalanda University to look for a certain person whom he did not recognize at first and was put to twelve very hard tests.  Some part includes grinding oil from sesame seeds for a prostitute.

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In retrospect, I see that almost anything I chose from schools to JC to University to Master degree and PhD and even jobs were picked carefully.  Almost like a karmic force, I accepted one thing after another whether it was good or bad or so-so.  I have no regrets whatsoever.  After reading stories of great Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa.  And stories of venerables Yin Guang and Hui Neng, I felt very glade of how I let none of those things in my life stress me in any way.  As long as it is 善知识 and 大善知识, I will take is with complete challenge and contemplation.

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