Special Report


Special Report

From September 12th to 16th a group of youths came to visit Fa Yun Monastery's South Campus. The girls were from Judson Montessori Middle School, San Antonio, Texas. The program, set up by Johanne Riddick, Carl Struck and the school's headmaster, Jim Judson, introduced alternative lifestyles to these young suburbans. In total, thirty students and teachers drove from Texas to New Mexico and camped out in Johanne's and Carl's back yard. The group was then split up into different locations for various projects. Projects included: helping wildlife and clean-up at the Picuriz Pueblo Indian Community; plastering walls at Abiquiu Morada, Chapel of Brothers of Christ; recycling art at Art for the Heart in Penasco; building an outdoor shelter at the Struck's; and stocking firewood at Fa Yun Monastery. Everyone was free to visit each other's locations. The whole group also participated in a twenty-mile community clean up along the highway, helped Penasco's Community Center set up for an exhibit, and visited Earth Ships──underground, solar homes (founded by Michael Reynolds).

Fa Yun Monastery's group was lead by teacher Crystal Uzquiano. They worked together with the nuns to stock wood for winter. They were given a tour of the campus and learned some Chinese art. The film, "Kundun" and a short clip on the Maitreya project in India were played. Brief lessons on the meanings behind the daily meal offerings, meditation exercises, certain Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and repentance ceremonies were introduced. The students willingly sampled a ten-minute prostration ceremony. Some even came back to try the two-hour Great Compassionate Ceremony. All of the fifteen plus visitors left learning how to put their palms together and say, "Amitabha!"

The youths were very attentive, inquisitive, and well behaved. Even the headmaster was a bit surprised by their interest. On the last day of their visit, girls from the choir offered an African hymn to the assembly, and one student sketched a picture of Maitreya Buddha as a gift of gratitude. When they went back to camp to share their experiences, it was reported that every single one said visiting Fa Yun Monastery was their favorite out of all the locations. They were "very affected" by the whole experience. To see such a community of independent women working together in happiness and cooperation impressed them the most. They saw how such harmony could move "a mountain of wood." Students noticed the nun's smiles, warmth and joy in giving. Many of them wanted to visit the monastery again next year.

Creators of this first time program considered it a success. Students were exposed to environmentally friendlier and more spiritual alternatives. Participants felt positive differences. This brief lifestyle exchange broadened views and future possibilities. Fa Yun Monastery was honored to be part of it.