Right on Compassion Way, Left on Mindfulness Avenue

Imagine a city where when you ask for directions, someone tells you to take a right on Compassion Way, then left on Mindfulness Avenue, and go straight onto Honesty Way. Imagine a place where children attend schools that are named Instilling Goodness Elementary school and  Developing Virtue Secondary School; a place where monks recite prayers in a hall filled with 10,000 Buddha statues. Imagine a small University which focuses on not just transmitting academic knowledge but teaches its students to become wise and virtuous leaders in the world; a place where monks, nuns, and families can find their place within the community, and co-exist; a place where fresh organic food is grown right on the property; a place where animals are bought from hunting preserves and set free in a Liberating of Life ceremony. Imagine a place where peacocks roam freely with humans because they've never had a reason to fear them.

The intersection of Kindness and Joyous Way - CTTB
The only place in the whole wide world that you could’ve arrived at is the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Ukiah, California. Founded in 1974 by Master Hsuan Hua, it has played a large role in bringing Buddhism to the West. Eighty acres of the 488-acre land are developed, which host a huge community of Buddhist practioners.

A carload of us drove two hours north of San Francisco to soak in its peace. Visiting our friend Audrey, who is spending six months there volunteering was a nice incentive, along with the dumplings at the vegan Chinese restaurant. :-) At the bookstore, I picked up a book by Master Hsuan Hua whose first page lists eight guidelines for, “The Buddhist Text Translation Society,” that volunteers translating the scriptures must follow. Upon reading it, I thought to myself: "What wonderful guidelines for volunteering and serving in general." I ended up buying the book and when I read the page again at home, I thought, "What wonderful guidelines for any type of giving.” I’m sure each of them can be discussed at length but here are the exact words. 

A volunteer must:
  • Free him/herself from the motives of personal fame and profit.
  • Cultivate a respectful and sincere attitude free from arrogance and conceit.
  • Refrain from aggrandizing his/her work and denigrating that of others.
  • Must not establish him/herself as the standard of correctness and suppress the work of others with his or her fault-finding.
  • Take the Buddha-mind as his/her own mind.
  • Use the wisdom of the Dharma-Selecting Vision to determine true principles.
  • Request Virtuous Elders in the ten directions to certify his/her translations.
  • Endeavor to propagate the teachings by printing Sutras, Shastra texts, and Vinaya texts when the translations are certified as being correct.
Even the last one applies to the giving/service world because once you know that something has substantial truth and is correct -- you can’t help share it and spread it to others.
One of the peacocks that decided to do a mating dance 
Sometimes in the non-profit world of material service, we think we’re immune to the human follies and the trappings of our own ego. Regardless of how well-meaning we are, its easy to get sucked into our own mind's afflictions, which then keeps us from reaping the true fruits of our service. We become content with the frothy top layer of reciprocity and never dive deep enough to feel the peace that comes from real generosity. It seems as though it’s in our best interest to not just focus on serving but constantly ask ourselves, how am I growing from this at a deep, internal, and spiritual level?

Perhaps from time to time we need to just pause and spend time with people and places that remind us to take a right on Mindfulness Avenue and keep going straight onto Wisdom Way.


  1. "We become content with the frothy top layer of reciprocity and never dive deep enough to feel the peace that comes from real generosity." Sometimes I catch myself in this very state that you articulated so well. And there must be times when I'm not even aware of it. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Guri!
    Each time after reading your blog, my perception towards life changes.

  3. Nisha - always a pleasure to hear from you. And great to be connected with you through the web. Hope all is going well on the farm.
    Riddhi - thank you. that is the highest compliment. :-)

  4. This reminds me of the benefits of kindess that Buddha spoke about (as shared by Sharon Salzberg). If you are kind:

    1) You will sleep easily.
    2) You will wake easily.
    3) You will have pleasant dreams.
    4) People will love you.
    5) Devas (celestial beings) and animals will love you.
    6) Devas will protect you.
    7) External Dangers (poisons, weapons, fire) will not harm you.
    8) Your face will be radiant.
    9) Your mind will be serene.
    10) You will die unconfused.
    11) You will be reborn in happy realms.

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder!

  5. Audrey3/07/2011

    What a beautiful reflection. Ditto Riddhi. And I find myself struck by those guidelines, too.