My Experience With Dharma Youth - by Laura Tran
     A little over a year ago, I found myself wanting to learn about Buddhism and interestingly enough, found out about the Chung Tai Zen Center through Yelp. When I first came to Dharma Youth, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how the class was going to be taught, what would be taught, or what my fellow classmates would be like. It turns out, I learned and am still learning about many different but very valuable things and that all of my fellow students are all very kind, welcoming, and genuine people.

     Regarding the class itself, the semesters are never the same. My first semester with Dharma Youth, the first half of class consisted mostly of lecture material with discussion while the second half consisted of meditation. This was a good introduction for me to Buddhism. I learned about the many, many different types of acts that one can do to create good karma. That simply trying to help someone along their path to enlightenment, though it can potentially be a small act of kindness, can even help you accumulate your own good karma. I’ve learned about different types of meditation, this which I really value since I now have a way to really calm down and relax before bedtime. Meditation gives me time to reflect upon my day, that which I didn’t do a lot of before I came to the Chung Tai Zen Center. I especially like Loving Kindness Meditation because it forces me to think about the smallest things that someone has done for me and to really appreciate that.

     Compassion and appreciation are two things that I extremely value and I’ve learned so much about each since having come to Dharma Youth. I’ve learned to show appreciate for many things I didn’t really appreciate before. For example, I used to really dislike bugs and couldn’t stand them even just being in the same room as I but Dharma Youth has changed that a bit. Once, we had a tiny little bug crawl into the room and a fellow TA kindly let the bug crawl up into their palm and walked outside to release the bug. Just a small act of kindness like that speaks volumes about the person. I’ve learned to think hard and contemplate where my daily food comes from and to really thank those who have taken the time out of their day to prepare food for me. I used to just take the food that my mom prepared for me for granted. I now say thank you to her on a daily basis. I think this has really helped me to understand and have more compassion for those around me. Dharma Youth hasn’t just taught me things but it has also given me things. I’ve met some of the most amazing students, people, and friends and Dharma Youth has paved the way. These friendships that I’ve been able to build because of the Chung Tai Zen Center and Dharma Youth are really valuable to me because we don’t just study the sutras and contemplate in class but we also meet up out of class and have these discussions. I think this helps to further our understanding of Buddhism and how we can apply it to our lives to which is a really good thing for the current class demographic to contemplate.

     Dharma Youth is still changing though. Earlier this year, we decided to scrap the previous lecture and meditation plan and introduce journals so that amidst the students’ busy daily lives, they can be given some time to contemplate, think creatively, and just freely write. Activities like this really make my time at Dharma Youth very enjoyable. It’s a class still in the making but it’s a class definitely worth attending and experiencing. Abbot JianYing Shifu recently took over the class and I look forward to and am excited to learn all I can from him, given his different approach to the class, wealth of knowledge, and new perspectives. Amitofu.


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