So my name is Grace Song, and I was born in Toronto, Canada, so my parents immigrated in the 1970s. And so I grew up there and I was born into a one Buddhist household. My dad was a very devout one Buddhist. My mom was a Presbyterian. But she also she was about a hybrid, a one Buddhist and a Presbyterian. But we grew up very much surrounded by one of his teachings, which was represented in our house. There were scriptures everywhere, but I really, I think, got a very good taste of one Buddhism when we went to trips to Korea during the summer. So my parents would work really hard. They would, you know, accumulate the ticket moneys and then we’d go there in the summer to meet my dad’s teacher and to get to receive training. So, you know, I’ve been a well-worn Buddhist all my life, but I wasn’t actually a devout follower.

I just went to Temple because of my parents. But if people were asked me, So when did you really start to believe in Buddhism, I would say it was in my university years. You know, my father was very sick with cancer at that time, and it was the first time that I had that. I had to face dying and death, and I didn’t know how to process that. So the meditation practice, the prayer, the 49 day ritual really helped me to heal. And that was one of the reasons why I decided to ordain actually was because I realized, Wow, this is a path where I can actually help others to heal , because I see that healing myself and also throughout the years, I saw my father change. So before his passing, I realized that this practice transformed him. He had many habits that were very harmful to himself and to our family, and it was his teacher. And one Buddhism which really helped him to change. So, you know, my mom and my dad had a, you know, a decent relationship, but they had their difficult times. But I realized before his death that they became like Dharma friends. And so I realized, Oh, if my dad can change through these teachings, then that’s something that I can have faith in.

Grace is department chair
at the Won Institute.

That’s something that I feel that I could change to for the practice. So that was really the starting point of me. Ordaining in Toronto was very multicultural and religiously, culturally. And I was always the only one Buddhist in my school or except for my sister and I were the only one Buddhists. So I always felt very left out. And there were much more many people in the western tradition of Christianity or Catholic Catholics, and especially in the Korean Canadian community, that they all went to church. Some of my very close friends who were Korean, they’d always say, Come to the church, come to the church. So growing up, I was very conflicted. I didn’t. I didn’t want to identify as a Buddhist, never mind Buddhist, but Won Buddhist.

So people would ask, How is one person different from Buddhism? I didn’t know how to answer that. So it was very easy for me to say either I don’t have a religion or I’m Buddhist, but I think what eventually led me to stay as a one person of really the faith of my father like him, just even his friends who were one Buddhist in Korea and came to Canada and immigrated, they all converted to other traditions because when Buddhism is a minority, it’s a minority religion. But he stuck to it. And I think one of the reasons because he had a teacher, a very strong teacher who he trusted 100%, almost more than a father . And so with that faith in his teacher, he was able to stay on Buddhist. And so when I saw my father and his faith to the truth, his faith, to the to the community and to his teacher, I was very inspired. And I think those were the seeds that he planted for me.

So he said, everything that matters, which
is instead in the scripture, you practice
that you actualize it. That is the greatest thanks
you can give to to your teacher.

And then taking me to Korea was huge. Me meeting the teachers and it’s the teachers I feel who embody the teachings of their teachers who don’t even speak. You just sit in the same room and they have this energy where they make you feel very comfortable, very calm and you feel better. Like when you walked in, you felt one way you felt feeling so much better and healed, even though there was no conversation. So when I saw those teachers who truly applied the teachings, then I said, Oh, OK, there’s something about when Buddhism that I really like. And I think another thing about when Buddhism is that we’re not there to convert other. And I think that was always very important to me because I was always the one being converted like people would try to convert me, which I always said, Well, thank you because I know that you want the best for me, right? But in one Buddhism, it’s always, you know, there are different paths to the truth, right? And you being a you being a good Christian is being a good one, Buddhist. So when I hear those kind of passages, I was like, Oh, this isn’t another religion that I can believe in.


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