Nun sows the seeds of her religion for future generations A Taiwanese nun is sowing the seeds of a future generation of worshippers hoping to help revive Buddhism in its birthplace of India. Bhikkhuni Chueming was sent to Calcutta in 1999 by Fo Guang Shan monastery in Kaohsiung to set up its first college, Fo Guang Shan Buddhist College in India. With guidance from her master, the Venerable Hsing Yun, the Buddhist nun spent three years giving about 30 Indian youths basic lessons in Buddhism and Mandarin. The youngsters, mostly from Ladakh, were then sent to the monastery in Taiwan, and Bhikkhuni Chueming says the future of the religion in India lies in their hands. 'If Buddhism is to be revived in India, it has to spread to the locals. After the students return to India, they will help propagate Buddhism,' she said. She said Buddhism - which originated in India and later spread to China - was declining in India. 'I see myself as a religious ambassador. Even though I am a little seed, I have been training more little seeds [my students]. After hundreds or even thousands of years, they will germinate,' she said. The task proved harder than Bhikkhuni Chueming imagined, but the language barrier did not put her off. 'When a baby is born, how does its mother communicate to it? The baby just listens to what the mother says and learns. Because of this understanding, I didn't think there was any need to translate [my class] into English,' she said, adding that her English was not good anyway. After teaching her students the mainland pinyin and Taiwanese zhuyin romanisation systems, Bhikkhuni Chueming says: 'I taught them as if they were in kindergarten. I showed them picture cards of spoons and vegetables, then taught them the words in Mandarin.' The 45-year-old nun says she had constant interaction with her students at the courtyard house, composed of a worshipping hall, a classroom, and a room of bunk beds. She selected the brightest student as class monitor and gave her intense language training so she could translate some of the more difficult concepts into Hindi for her classmates. 'I spoke in short phrases and she translated. In that way, I was also learning [Hindi] simultaneously.' Bhikkhuni Chueming said her hard work paid off after three to six months when the students started to pick up Mandarin, adding that she could now speak a bit of Hindi. It was then time for the nun's toughest task - tackling cultural differences. Before she could start lessons in Buddhism, Bhikkhuni Chueming said she had to teach her students about personal hygiene and how to use chopsticks to help them cope with life in Taiwan when they went to the island for further training. 'In Taiwan, time is money. But in India, people will say 'tomorrow' even if they can complete the job immediately. This is the biggest obstacle I face here,' she said. The students were required to eat at least one dish of Chinese vegetables at every meal to become familiar with Taiwanese cuisine. Her assignment in Calcutta ended in 2002 when a monk arrived from Taiwan to continue her work. All 30 of Bhikkhuni Chueming's students are still undergoing training in Taiwan, while she is furthering her Buddhist studies as a master of philosophy student at the University of Delhi.