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How to Cultivate Talents

One day, a Buddhist believer was strolling in the garden after paying respect to Buddha in the Buddhist hall. He happened to see the gardener, a Zen monk in charge of gardening, busy with plants. With a pair of scissors in his hands he cut the leaves and stems of some plants. Some other plants were pulled up by the roots and then transplanted into other flowerpots. He also watered and fertilized some other plants that did not grow well with special care. The Buddhist believer was so puzzled and asked, “Master, why did you cut the leaves and stems of plants that grow so well but water and fertilize those that do not? And why did you bother to transplant plants from one flowerpot to anther? I saw you digging on soil where there is no plant, why? Do you really have to do so?”

The Zen monk answered, “To cultivate plants is like to cultivate your children. The way used to cultivate a person applies to plants too.”

The Buddhist believer did not agree. He argued, “Flowers, grass and trees are plants. How can they be the same as humans?”

The Zen monk answered without raising his head, “You need to follow four guidelines to cultivate plants. First, when you find some plants, which seem to be thriving but actually growing out of order, you should cut the redundant leaves and stems lest they waste nutrition. It is like teaching young people to be humble and ridding them of bad habits in order to pull them back on the right path. Second, to transplant plants to another pot is to take them away from lean soil into rich one. It is like taking the youth away from a bad environment to other places so that they can get contact with good friends and teachers and acquire more knowledge. Third, to give special care to plants that do not grow well is because they have boundless vitality to prosper though they seem to have died. Don’t consider those bad kids as doomed to fail and don’t lose heart and give up on them. Human nature is good. As long as you take care of them, in proper manners, you can finally revive them. Forth, to dig the soil is because there are seeds waiting to germinate. It is like to help those students who are poor but have initiatives. You can help them and give them an opportunity to grow vigorously.”

The Buddhist believer rejoiced at the answer and said, “Thank you very much, master. You have taught me a lesson on how to cultivate talents.”

Nirvana Sutra says, “Whether one is a sentient being or not, he can become wise.” In the universe, there is no such thing that cannot be saved and there is no such a talent that cannot be cultivated. At the entrance of a Buddhist temple, there is usually a statue of Maitreya, which means “to accept you with benevolence”, while behind the statue of Maitreya, there is a statue of Skanda with a vajra in his hand, which means “to make you convinced and awed with strength”. Parents, teachers and elders should teach the youth in the same way – treat them with both benevolence and strength so much so that the youth can be cultivated to be talents.

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