Reflections & Memories of:
The Venerable Master Sư Bà Đàm Lựu
For more than five years I have had the privilege of working with Sư Bà on the planning, planting and maintenance of the Duc Vien Pagoda landscape. Verbal communication between us was very limited but since we both loved to garden our gestures filled the gap. Master Dam Luu in her wisdom knew that even if there was an official landscape master plan for the Temple grounds the goodwill of volunteer help was more important than the strict adherence to the plan. In other words, it was more important to have the community sharing time and experience at Duc Vien than worrying about perfection in the pruning, plant placement and general maintenance of the grounds. She was aware of how people change and grow in very positive ways when they have the opportunity to garden. The beauty of the Pagoda Garden will be a living testimonial to her patience and vision.
I will never forget the lesson she taught me about respect for all life including that the lowly insect, an ant. At lunch with the Master and Nuns one day an ant started to crawl across the table in front of me. I raised my hand ready to crush it. Sư Bà gently but firmly reached for my hand and pushed it aside. She then took a small 3x5 card lifted the ant on top and walked out of her office with the ant and returned for lunch. This was a simple but graphic lesson in a Buddhist principle, which is reverence for all forms of life. I will never forget that day and now I move snails, spiders and other creatures out of my garden rather than kill them.
To the Sisters at Duc Vien and Thuyen Nguyen-phuc who introduced me to the Reverend Mother I say thank you for being able to share part of Master Luu's life.
Community Gardening Coordinator, City of San Jose
May 14, 1999