With less than ten days to the annual recitation exam, you’d find someone with their noses deep in their books every corner you turn. An office during the day, the administrative building is brightly lit even at night. Having busied themselves with the monastery’s matters during the day, our senior nuns grasp onto what little time they have before nightfall to prepare for the upcoming exam.

If you listen carefully, you’d hear a voice that sticks out from the rest.

“The sound that interprets itself literally and directly excludes…” “The sound that interprets itself literally excludes…”

A recitation exam of more than 6800 words is proving to be quite the challenge for Venerable Chereen. To commit such an amount to memory is an incredible feat what with its high level of repetition and similarity. Listening to her stumble across the same section over and over again, I couldn’t help but wonder whether she’d safely pass the exam. Yet with every pause comes the growing admiration for her courage and perseverance. Though intermittent, she’d stop to rearrange her thoughts and continue on without a single mistake!

Venerable Chereen, one of the nuns who overlooks the monastery’s construction, would often join us after a long day out on site. Much older than everyone else, she’d find it difficult to follow along. Other times, her heart condition would force her to call it a day. Despite the many challenges, she’d always find time to make up for what she’s missed. Whenever time permits, you’d find her familiarizing herself with the text or happily reviewing the teachings, never hesitating to share what she’s learnt. Affected by her positivity and enthusiasm, the discussions would only grow livelier with time. With the day’s exhaustion long forgotten, everyone would only start heading back when someone yells out, “We’ll be locked out!”

Before she became a Buddhist nun, Venerable Chereen has dedicated more than ten years to the monastery as a support laity. Despite her late start, her undying passion for the monastic community and the Five Great Treatises has proven to be a great foundation that keeps her going. Her great vitality and optimism is something I cannot compare with, and continues to encourage me every day. To the undefeatable practitioner with a heart of gold, I praise you.