Virtuous Dharma masters and spiritual friends,
It is a great honor to participate in this wonderful seminar with all of you here today in this significant place of origin for Chinese Buddhism, Xi’an, to explore the legacy of ancestral monasticism in Chinese Buddhism and its future development.
Buddhism spread to China in the first century B.C.E. (during the time of Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han dynasty). In the course of several centuries, it entered its mature period during the Sui and Tang dynasties, when the eight schools in Mahayana Buddhism—Tiantai, Sanlun (Three Treatises), Pure Land, Four-Part Vinaya, Dharma-Character, Huayan, Chan, and Esoteric—had developed and blossomed, which to this date still maintain their remarkable impacts. Except for the Sanlun and Chan schools, the ancestral monasteries of the other six schools are all located in Xi’an.
Xi’an, or Chang’an as it was known in ancient times, is the starting point of the Silk Road that was formally established in Western Han dynasty. A commercial and cultural hub in the East, Xian was an international metropolitan of the time. Many traders, diplomats, and Buddhist monks in the history had left their footprints on the Silk Road, including the eminent Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva (344-413), who travelled to China to spread the Dharma and helped translate many Buddhist texts, Master Faxian (338-423) and Master Xuanzang (602-664), who traveled to India to acquire Buddhist scriptures. Master Yijing (635-713), on the other hand, started his pilgrimage to India from Xi’an via the Maritime Silk Route, in search of the origin of the Buddha’s teachings.
In terms of the process of the propagation of Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism all made their way to China, but only Chinese Buddhism eventually took root in China, thanks to the context of Confucianism and Daoism inherited in the Han Chinese culture, which is not suitable for Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism to become localized. Mahayana Buddhism, which developed during the early and mid-period of Indian Buddhism, is based on the philosophy of the bodhisattva path, and therefore could coexist and develop mutually with Confucianism and Daoism, native to Han Chinese culture. Over the course of this interaction, Buddhism has enriched Chinese culture while Chinese culture has facilitated the transformation of Buddhism, which constitutes a successful example of international cultural exchange.
According to my teacher and DDM (Dharma Drum Mountain)founder, Master Sheng Yen, the characteristics of Chinese Buddhism are inclusiveness, the ability to assimilate, universal relevance, adaptability, and humanism. Broadly inclusive, universally relevant over time, and highly adaptable, Chinese Buddhism was thus well-suited to Chinese culture, spread widely, and received much in return. Chinese Buddhism has also found wide acceptance in our modern society with its cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity. The Chinese Buddhist teachings have become integrated into the social fabric and a culture shared by all of humanity.
For over 20 years, Master Sheng Yen and the DDM sangha have spared no effort to promote the essential teachings of Chinese Chan Buddhism, an undertaking that we call “Protecting the Spiritual Environment.” Not limited to religious belief, his teachings also reflect the humanistic values of a purified mind, along with the methods to put them into practice. By definition, protecting the spiritual environment means transforming human concepts to uplift human character so that the mind will not be affected by the external environment when confronted with changes and challenges. We can therefore face reality and handle problems with a healthy attitude.
Regarding interpersonal relationships and our interaction with the environment, Master Sheng Yen advocated the global ethics based on the idea of seeking commonality within difference. It requires us to accept individual differences, as well as mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual consideration, and mutual assistance. He once said, “By letting go of the concept of self and the view of right and wrong, we will perceive all phenomena in the universe as a unity without separation and segregation. By eliminating the idea of rivalry, we will see all sentient beings as companions that support and sustain each other.” As he stressed, families, workplaces, ethnic groups, societies, nations, and natural environments all represent shared entities of lives in which all beings actually depend on and complement each other.
Looking at the future of Buddhism, we can see that a form of world Buddhism as a whole will be the trend. It will require various Buddhist lineages and traditions to work together, to bring together the principles and doctrines as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. What we need to do now is to refer to the original Buddhist texts and grasp the Buddhist philosophy of dependent origination, while delving into the teachings of our own respective traditions and contributing our strengths to Buddhism as a whole. In addition, we should establish a vision and a broader perspective, clarifying the historical context and connection, and jointly addressing the issues of common concern of humanity for the 21st century, thereby helping the formation of a trend for global Buddhism.
To sum up the actions by our Dharma Drum Mountain organization in practicing and promoting Chinese Buddhism, I would like to use the school motto of Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies as an illustration. It contains four sentences, as follows:
“Our roots are Chinese, our branches are global.
Our specialty is Buddhist Studies, and our aim to uphold orthodox Buddhism.
We combine understanding with practice, and join compassion with wisdom.
Practicality is our priority, and benefiting others is our emphasis.”
I hope this can be of any inspiration.
Towards the end, I would like to share my personal adage, the “Ten Kinds of Power”, with you:
The power to devote all you can.
The power to try your best according to causes and conditions.
The power to turn pressure into the power to assist you.
The power to explore your potential and the power to remain persistent.
The power to facilitate solidarity and the power to demonstrate vitality.
When there are compassionate wishes and vows, there is power.
Let us help each other and join our powers together.
Finally, I wish the seminar a success. Thank you. Amituofo!