The Leadership Skills Demonstrated By The Venerable Master
A talk by Agis Gan June 23, 2004 in the Buddha Hall at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Vajra Bodhi Sea: A Monthly Journal of Orthodox Buddhism, v. 35, Series 82 (August, 2004), pp. 35-37.
All Buddhas, Bodhisatvas, Venerable Master, and All Good Knowing Advisors.
The Venerable Master was a great skillful spiritual teacher and leader. I have learned many leadership skills from him and would like to share four fundamental skills with you tonight.
1. Sharing and caring. I have two stories to tell. In 1983, my wife and I wrote a letter from Malaysia to ask for three refuges under him. We never met him but he cared about us. He knew that we cannot afford the air ticket and he accepted my wife and me to take refuge at home. When we receive his unexpected reply, our heart and mind were totally moved. While CTTB was having Sakyamuni Buddha Birthday cerebration, we were being asked to bow to the Buddha two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. Later, the certificate of three refuges arrived at my door by mail. The communication did not stop there; he continued to send invitation after invitation to us to come to CTTB until my wife came in 1986 and I came in 1987. We felt that he was always there with us.
The second story was about my two children who became novices in 1995. Whenever I looked at those two pictures my family and Shr Fu had taken in the Buddha Hall after Zhian and Danding was shaved, it always reminded me about how Shr Fu will share your feelings. In those two pictures, I saw myself smiling but my wife had a complex _expression of lost. Thinking about it, I knew she was feeling lost because two of her valuable children were leaving home and not "her possession" any more. I didn't notice her feeling at the time the picture was taken. When I look at the Venerable in the pictures, he was having the same face _expression as my wife. I always tell myself, "Gees, Shr Fu knew my wife's feeling." Up to today, I am still wondering how he knew my wife's feeling as clear as printed on the pictures.
2. Trust and integrity. Being a leader, you trust your people and you will be trusted. You show your integrity by committing yourself to your words. You will never make empty promises. Here the story of Venerable Master goes on. When I first came to be a volunteer teacher at CTTB in 1993, I saw that there were many potentials as well as aspects the Boys school can improve. I wrote two letters to Venerable Master and included my suggestions. I was new here and not too many people knew that I was a school teacher in Malaysia. I was surprised that the Master responded by calling a combined faculty meeting of both Boys and Girls schools. He even asked Mr. John Chu to read my letters. In 1994, Venerable Master appointed me as the Principal of the Boys school. In 1995, I went to see the Master at West Covina in LA. Mr. Fulin Chang and the elderly lady Gwo Sum was also there. I told the Master that I would like to give a brief report about the Boys school. He said, "You know about education, you just do whatever you need to, you don't need to make any report." I was completely moved. I never received that kind of trust from the people in the school board, but here the Master was giving me his absolute trust. In 1996, after the Venerable Master entered Nirvana, there were some people who made a petition. The reason for the petition was that many of the former principals were in office for only a year, and I was there for two and a half years, it was time to change. I quickly stepped down for I never had attachment to that position. In fact, I had been asking people to volunteer to take turn to be the principal within the last two and half years.
3. Raising all his disciples and commitment to his vows. Our Venerable was always committed to raise every disciple, committing to his vows to save living beings. He will never act as someone high up and unreachable. He is like a kind father. Here is another story. About three months after I came to CTTB on August 31, 1993, my daughter Ruhui contracted a weird sickness. She had a high fever after falling form her tricycle I bought from Goodwill second hand Store. At night, she could not sleep and she would cry and point at the window and said, "She is coming again." After three days, we heard our Master came back to CTTB. My wife suggested calling the A/O and letting the Master know about it. I was quiet reluctant to trouble the Master but I did call the A/O. The next moment, Mr. Chu called us saying that Shr Fu would like to see us and Ruhui. At his cottage, we bowed to Shr Fu and so did Ruhui. Shr Fu asked Ruhui to step forward to him. She did. While holding Ruhui, Shr Fu took up one his shoes and started to hit at Ruhui's head. We didn't know what was the reason and Shr Fu told us that Ruhui will be well. He instructed, "You have to put away that tricycle and recite the mantra to the Western Pure Land for its former owner." We did as instructed. That night, Ruhui became well. We had a good sleep. The next day, Mr. Chu called us and said Shr Fu wanted to see me. I went to cottage number 2 again. Shr Fu asked Gwo Ying, "Did you go to the bank?" Gwo Ying answered, "Yes." She handed a stag of money to Shr Fu. Shr Fu handed the money to me. I was shocked and I refused to accept. It happened someone knocked at the door and came in. Shr Fu was unhappy and ordered me to keep the money. I realized what he meant and I quickly kept the money in my pocket. He said, "Go and get some new stuff for your children, don't buy the second hand ones." and instructed me to go. I went back and noticed that it was a thousand US dollars. Looking at the money, my wife and I burst into tears. We felt Shr Fu was like a father raising us like his children.
4. Plan ahead and work towards the goal. Whenever I think of the Venerable 3 great vows, I always visualize how he planned ahead and worked towards the goal. He never made empty vows. He vowed to build the order of sangha and had Dharma Realm Buddhist Association organized in shape. He vowed to translate sutra and had the International Translation Institute set up. He vowed to start Buddhist education work in the West and had IGES, DVSS and DRBU founded. Today, he had laid the foundation for us to continue this valuable spiritual work in the West. He had planned ahead for all of us.
Here is another of my stories with Shr Fu. In 1992, my wife brought my four children to CTTB. My wife met Shr Fu and showed him my four children. Instantly, he smiled and said, "They can study at the school here." My wife asked naively, "What about my husband?" He answered without hesitation, "he can come to teach at the school." When I came to CTTB on August 31, 1993, the same night, I dreamed of the Venerable Master. He said to me, "You should settle down here and help at the school." I took his words literally and didn't completely understand what he said. Three to four months later, Mr. Howard Hu approached me and asked, "If DRBA helped to sponsor you the status of green cards, could you pay for the processing fees." I didn't know that was the instruction from the Master until later on. I told Mr. Hu, "I will talk with my wife and discuss about it." Another month passed and I forgot it. Mr. Hu approached me again and I hesitatingly reply, "I forgot to talk to my wife." Later, my wife and I decided to file for the status. At that time, we did not exactly understand what it meant to us. The A/O then approached us to proceed from there. When our children grew up to go to colleges, we then realized actually Shr Fu had planned ahead for my children's education. I would not be able to afford my children education without the legal resident status.
The Venerable Master is really a great leader. He changed our lives and the way my family and I see the world. I see the true meaning of great kindness and compassion, and the meaning of life that the Buddha taught through all that Shr Fu did in saving living beings. His kindness toward my family and me is immeasurable. Compared to all that he did for all his disciples and all living beings, what he did for us is just a grain of sand in all the sands in the Ganges River. With his example, the myriad practices of the Bodhisattva's Six Paramitas become real.