It has already been twenty-six years since BLIA was inaugurated in 1992. For the past twenty-six years, we have to thank the executives and members from around the world for your resolve to collaborate so to promote the internationalized goal of “letting Buddha’s light shine on the universe; the Dharma water to flow in all five continents.” Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun has indicated, Fo Guang Shan and BLIA are like the “two arms of a person” or the “two wings of a bird.” Though the laity and monastic may be different in physical appearance, our vow in propagating the Dharma is the same. With both complementing each other, we have indeed expanded the function of spreading the Dharma for liberating the multitudes. Currently, the ideals and goals of Humanistic Buddhism have been actualized step by step in the passing of time.
Upon careful examination, the driving force behind this collaborative effort can be described as the strength from BLIA members’ unwavering faith in Humanistic Buddhism! Hence, on the convening of the 2018 BLIA World Headquarters General Conference, I would like to raise awareness on the theme “Faith and Legacy” for all BLIA members; so other than remaining firm in your faith in Humanistic Buddhism, emphasis on legacy is also enhanced as well.
Regarding faith for “Humanistic Buddhism,” I would like to offer a brief explanation in four points as defined by Venerable Master Hsing Yun: what is taught by the Buddha, what is needed by humanity, what is pure, and what is virtuous and beautiful.
(1) Faith in What the Buddha Taught
Before attaining Buddhahood, Prince Siddhartha lived a privileged life of abundance and joyful bliss in the palace, never knowing what suffering is. Till one day came the time for him to step outside the palace, where he saw for himself what old age, sickness, death, and rebirth are like in the world. At that moment, it finally dawned on him: “So this is the reality of the world!” Right there, he realized that people should fully bring forth the value of life and to actively elucidate the meaning of life. Soon after, he decided to give up the throne he was to inherit and trod alone on the path of cultivation.
In the course of his cultivation, the Buddha had profound realization of two states:
One, the lasting nature of life: Life may appear to be one span after another, arising and ceasing, however, within the arising and ceasing, there is its unchanging nature, which is always timeless, coexisting with space, and nature.
Two, the equality among sentient beings: When you witness the many shortcomings and imperfections of human nature in this world we live in, do you still have faith in humanity? Even though humans have so many inadequacies, but in the eyes of the Buddha, the mind, buddha, and sentient beings are no different. He told us, “All beings have the wisdom and virtue of the Tathagata,” and will ultimately attain Buddhahood.
The Buddha’s two realizations demonstrate his high degree of recognition in the value of life as well as firm faith in sentient beings, which is a deep faith in the truth of the world. If we are able to experience this wisdom of life as realized by the Buddha, then we will have more faith in viewing life, understanding that if we are willing to strive to act well as humans, the future will change for the better. We will have more confidence in dealing with people from all walks of life because all beings have Buddha Nature. Every person is a future buddha and should be accorded respect.
(2) Faith in What is Needed by Humanity
Speaking of “faith,” for all that we have in our minds which is of value and helpful for life, it can be an object of faith. For Buddhism, we may have faith in different Dharma methods. For instance, reciting the Buddha’s name can be a faith and practicing meditation can be a faith because they can bring people strength and serve as a refuge for people’s body and mind.
The importance of faith can be seen in what the Venerable Master has told us, “the greatest wealth in the world is not gold or diamonds, it should be faith.” Looking at society, every person wants to possess wealth, however, even if one is a billionaire, can wealth buy love or good health? Not necessarily, because the value of material wealth is ultimately limited, while the benefits of spiritual wealth are endless; faith is wealth for our spirit.
The Venerable Master explained further, “Faith is life.” Life is all that a person has, similarly, faith is all to a person’s life. Through the affirmation of faith, life will have a goal and the direction towards it. Then naturally worries will lessen, life will be more at ease, liberated, and joyful. The sense of happiness will increase accordingly. If BLIA members are able to experience this deep sense of happiness, then faith has already allowed you to generate sufficient confidence and you have gained much strength from faith.
(3) Faith in What is Pure
While there are worries in the world, one should remember that, the world also has the Buddha; while there are suffering in the world, but remember, the world also has the Dharma. As long as we have Dharma in our mind, the Dharma can change our views, transform our way of thinking, and purify our body and mind. Then the world we see and hear will be different.
There are “84,000 teachings” of the Dharma, every method is able to cure the afflictions of living beings. For example, the Dharma of “causes and conditions” tells us that all phenomena in the world exist due to the coming together of “cause” and “condition.” It is said, “Phenomenon arise not by itself; they only arise depending on circumstances.” So when the causes and conditions have arisen, then naturally matters will exist accordingly.
Similarly, interpersonal relationships are also built on causes and conditions. Within relationships, others give us causes and conditions while we also provide others with causes and conditions. The Venerable Master introduced the BLIA motto: give others faith, give others joy, give others hope, and give others convenience. Such is the actualization of the spirit of giving others a chance. The Venerable Master often mentions in his talks: “be one’s own benefactor,” which means giving ourselves causes and conditions. So as long as a person often make positive connections with others, then there is no need to worry about lacking in supporting conditions. Moreover, as long as we are strong and able, then we need not seek help from others.
The Venerable Master describes his life as follows: “Born in adversity, raised in difficulties, but blessed with a lifetime of joy.” In the course of learning Buddhism, though there may be some worries and difficulties, but by transcending them through the Dharma, we are able to overcome the obstacles to attain joy. So BLIA members, when we ourselves or others are met with worries and troubles, are you also able to use the Dharma as guidance in giving ourselves and others some causes and conditions?
(4) Faith in What is Kind and Beautiful
Buddhism speaks of “liberation and perfect ease,” which equals happiness. Why do we believe in Buddhism and learn the Dharma? Isn’t it for gaining happiness? Every BLIA member should strive to live their life with meaning and value, spreading joy and happiness, so it is worth our while coming to this world.
The Venerable Master often advises: “People come to the world for joy and not for worries and troubles.” People living in the world are affected by what they face at any time, any place. When affected by something negative, worries will follow. Conversely, positive influences are very important for us. In Buddhism, matters that can affect us positively is Dharma. The Dharma’s perspectives of kindness and beauty can help us in living the right direction. In learning Buddhism for many years, have you used the Dharma in your daily living?
Just as the Venerable Master once said, “Life is a marathon race; we need to persevere over distance and time.” It is the same with learning Buddhism and cultivation, it is a lifetime undertaking or even life after life till the end of time, all of which needs perseverance. Of course, every lifetime will bring us much wisdom and experiences. Ultimately, if we can combine the experiences we have gained life after life, we will be like the Buddha’s “realization” in fulfilling the meaning of life.
To sum up, the meaning of faith is to have confidence in oneself, in others, in the family, and in one’s career; and to have confidence in living, in life, and in religion. By having faith, we have found the reliance of our lifetime that enables us to live happier, more at ease, and more joyful.
In this world, all fields of endeavors emphasize their legacy. Buddhism is the same, the saying “handing down the light” means passing down the Dharma. In Buddhism, different schools and sects as well as monasteries and temples all have a system for passing down their legacy to future generations. In advocating Humanistic Buddhism, the Venerable Master is upholding the traditional system of Buddhist monastery in passing down the Dharma. He also places much emphasis on establishing Buddhist family for the laity. Passing down the faith to the next generation is the legacy of Humanistic Buddhism, I hereby explain its essence in the four following four points:
(1) The Legacy of Compassion
Compassion, regardless of one’s status or position, is the treasure within every person’s mind. The Venerable Master said, “One can be without anything, but never without compassion.” Compassion is giving others joy and alleviating their suffering. If a person can always embrace compassion and uphold kind thoughts, then naturally there will be less troubles and worries in live.
In New York, in order to have a firsthand experience of how homeless people live, a reporter disguised himself as homeless. However, since he joined the rank of homeless people he was puzzled that wherever he would be wandering on the streets he was always able to receive assistance from other homeless people. When he asked for a reason, the reply he got was very unexpected. The homeless people told him, “I know better than you in how to be a bum, so I can lend you a hand.” So even though they have become homeless, they will still offer assistance to each other, is this not a display of compassion?
Compassion is the common language of this world than can break down all barriers in human relationships. However, for most people it is easier to give rise to compassion when it comes to friends and relatives whom they have connections with; it is not easy to practice compassion on strangers. In reality, Buddhism teaches us that even for people who appear to have little connection with us in this lifetime, they could be our relatives and friends in our past lives. As such, regardless if we know one another or not, we should treat each other with compassion.
There are of course ways to cultivate and nurture a mind of compassion. First, we can practice “conditional compassion,” treating all people as our relatives. Next, “Dharma compassion;” through speaking of the beauty of the Dharma to eradicate the obstacles between self and others. Ultimately, we will reach the state of “unconditional loving-kindness, and universal compassion.” If every person can have compassion in their mind, the world will certainly be more beautiful and the future will be full of hope.
(2) The Legacy of Wisdom
Buddhism emphasizes wisdom, focusing on developing our intrinsic Buddha Nature. Living in this world, people inevitably will come across hardships and setbacks and tested by people and situations. So how are we to liberate ourselves from the myriad of delusions and worries to gain wisdom? There is a saying, “No experience, no wisdom.” Every time worries arise, it is the critical opportunity for us to increase our wisdom. If we are able to skillfully apply the Dharma to resolve the situation, transforming worries into Bodhi, then our delusion will be lowered, joy will rise, and wisdom will be increased. On the contrary, if we allow worries to be the guide for our life, we will mire ourselves deeper and deeper in worries, and it will be difficult for wisdom to come forth.
Fo Guang Shan is the place of bodhisattva place for Humanistic Buddhism; so it is a matter of course that all BLIA members are bodhisattvas of the human world. To be a bodhisattva whose goal of cultivation is to benefit self and others, then the multitude will undoubtedly be the place of practice, gradually be fulfilled with wisdom within daily life. Therefore, it is my wish that BLIA members are able to be mindful any time, any place in self-reflection; every thought should be guided by the Dharma, the reliance for actualizing the “Three Acts of Goodness” as advocated by the Venerable Master: to do good deeds, speak good words, and have good thoughts. Gradually, the three poisons of greed, anger, and delusion will be ridden, and the three karmas of action, speech, and thoughts will be purified. When worries are purified, wisdom will increase; then we can certainly manage our life for the better.
Wisdom is like a bright light, shining through people’s delusion and ignorance; it is also like a varja, eradicating delusional worries. Within the various Dharma services and activities, I believe we are able to learn much wisdom of the Dharma. It is wished that the legacy can be sustained into the future for the benefit of the next generation.
(3) The Legacy of Morals
Morals and a person’s life are closely related, for instance, if someone praises us for being a person of morals, we will certainly be very pleased. Conversely, if someone says we are an unethical crook, we will be upset for a long time. So we can see that morals have significant implications for every person’s life.
Buddhism is a kind of moral education which can support the establishment of views in dealing with people and situation. The Five Precepts are the basic morals in conducting oneself; they provide the standards in accordance with kindness for people’s behavior. For instance, the precept of “not taking intoxicants” means not to take any substance which impairs one’s wisdom; in the perspective of today’s society, it is not taking drugs. By not taking drugs, our body and mind will be calm and will not go on to transgress on others. Hence, morals are the standard for cultivation, the self-realization of the conscience. For a person of cultivation, his or her morals are undoubtedly noble.
Sima Guang, the prime minister of Northern Song dynasty, established family teachings for his future generations: “Accumulating gold to bequeath to children and grandchildren, they may not be able to safeguard them; accumulating books to bequeath to children and grandchildren, they may not be able to read them; none is better than accumulating hidden virtues for them as long-term planning for their future.” Morals and ethics can enable one’s children and grandchildren to stand tall in dealing with people and situations and be recognized by others for their virtues. As such, their merits, virtues, causes, and conditions will be nurtured accordingly. Hence, the legacy of morals is the best and wisest choice.
(4) The Legacy of Faith
Throughout the ages, Buddhism is a religion of peace. Even in the course of spreading the Buddha’s teaching, Buddhists have always followed circumstances and are amiable and emphatic in doing so. However, in comparing with faith of other religions in the world, the spread of Buddhism is much slower. Currently, as the population in countries and regions of Buddhist faith age or slow in its growth, Buddhists in the future will face the possibility of decreasing in their numbers. Under the circumstance, it is hoped that all BLIA members are able to pay more attention and care for the future of Buddhism, joining together in the resolve and mission to sustain the Dharma.
Buddhism treasures youth; Buddhism needs talents in propagating its teachings. The emphasis for Fo Guang Shan in spreading the Dharma in the next fifty years is nurturing talents. So it is hoped that BLIA members are able to pay serious attention to sustaining faith for the next generation. They need to emulate the spirit of “Mencius’s mother, three moves” in creating various causes and conditions for their children to learn Buddhism by encouraging the younger generation to visit their temple for participating in activities and listening to the Buddha’s teachings. Under the guidance of the Dharma, they will be used to the Buddhist faith over time, which help them in establishing right views of life and finding the right direction for their lives. As such, they will form Buddhist families and new forces will join the ranks in the enterprises for spreading Buddhism to benefit all beings.
The Venerable Master said, “We very much treasure the next generation, caring for the legacy of Buddhism. For every Chinese person, while some will claim that their faith is Catholicism or Protestant, but Buddhism is in their blood. Buddhism is almost the religion of the older generation, I hope that we can pass this invaluable bloodline to the next generation. The hope of Buddhism rests in the future, the next generation!” So for all BLIA members who are parents, you need not pass your fortune to your children in the future because all money will be spent in time. If the wealth of faith is to be passed down, the benefits for the future generations will certainly be endless; the unity of the family and harmony will be enhanced and Buddhism’s life of wisdom will live on over time. As long as the light of the Dharma can be handed down and sustained, there will certainly be hope for Buddhism!
Faith is the guiding path for life, legacy is the sustaining of wisdom life. In summation of the above, BLIA members, what kind of faith do we need? Humanistic Buddhism, which is taught by the Buddha, that people need, what is pure, and kind and beautiful. What is the legacy we need? The legacy of Humanistic Buddhism – compassion, wisdom, morals, and faith. My blessings to you all in giving rise to the Bodhi mind, and to have joy and ease!