Dear Dharma Protectors and Friends,
Happy New Year! May you be peaceful and prosperous!
The New Year is here and by the Buddha’s blessing and with your support of Buddhism all these years, Buddhism has spread from Taiwan to the whole world. All of you have contributed in some way to reach this goal.
Last October I was in Houston, Texas, USA at the Methodist Hospital to have surgery. I am honored to have had your caring and concern. I feel that I don’t deserve it. Now I will imitate the open-hearted arhant and share my life during this past year with you.
This year I am 73. Every year my footsteps travel the whole of six continents. During the past year I have traveled over hundreds of thousands of miles. In 1995, after my heart operation, the doctor told me that I should not do long distance traveling. But as soon as I find that there is an important event far away, I am perfectly willing to go there.
In February 1997 I went to Italy to visit Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. Later I exchanged experiences with lay members of the Christian church. In May I visited Malaysia, which is a Muslim country, and met Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia. We had a relifious dialogue that went beyond the century. In fact world peace is not just a dream. If everyone could understand that all beings are one, and if we know how to be respectful and tolerant, then this human world will be filled with joy and harmony. There would be no war and no injustice.
In February 1998 my duty at the BLIA ROC Headquarters ended. It will be good for the BLIA to have new blood. We now have a new president, Wu PO-hsiung, and vice-presidents Pan We-Kang and Chen Shun-chang. They have good ideas and their goal is to realize their ideas. They are leading the membership to join the community and benefit the public.
Last year was quite eventful at Fo Guang Shan we ran retreats during the holidays; Buddha’s Light Satellite TV Station opened to the public; Fo Guang University Nan Hua Management College was awarded special recognition by the government; Hai Lai University USA recruited students from Mainland China and Southeast Asia; people’s minds were purified at the Blessing Dharma function for world peace; and Internamtional Full Ordination Ceremony was held in Bodhgaya, India; the Greeting of the Buddha’s Tooth Relic with a Sutric and Tantric Dharma function; and the 7th annual BLIA Conference was held in Toronto, Canada. All of these historic moments came from the efforts of all Dharma protectors.
In 1998, because of your wholehearted support, we had some wonderful achievements in cultural, educational, and charity activities. For example, the seventeen floors of Lai Yin Temple are now complete. It will provide a satellite campus for Fo Guang University in the Nan Yang area.
The library at Nan Hua Management College was evaluated as the number one library in Taiwan. The expenses of this university are tremendous, but I believe that the fund raising will continue to gather speed in order to help us achieve our goals.
Opening ceremonies were held for Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery in Taipei, Tainan, Pingdong, and Fo Guang Shan.
During the past year we tried to improve society through books. An American publisher published the English version of the book Being Good. In order to benefit the vast majority, another book, Roots of the Dharma, has been introduced to prisons, schools, poblice departments, and the army. We have almost completed the Buddha’s Light Prayer collection, which will provide devotees with morning and evening chanting. Chang Yao Hung-ying, Henry You, Shen Yu-cheng, Robert Liao, Wang Yuan-jen, and Jenny Wong supported disaster relief in the Philippines, Papua, New Guinea, Honduras, and Nicaragua by donating to the charity programs. They were very generous, giving their money, labor, time, and wisdom. I believe that with this kind of generosity they will all receive blessings and merits.
Following my operation in October I had a chance to take a break. I spend time in Australia at the Fo Guang Yuan Center on the Gold Coast. Every day I talked to the students there about the Buddha’s Light textbooks. For their practice, I hope the Buddhists can have textbooks to follow. I hope that every second and every minute can lead to eternal life and contribute to the Buddha’s in the ten directions and to all sentient beings.
The New Year is here, and many ideas are waiting for Buddha’s Light people to practice their Bodhisattva vows. For example, the idea to establish Buddhist centers at all eight important Buddhist sites in India. Through cultural and educational programs we can help them solve the problems of poverty in that country.
The planned establishment of a World Buddhist Headquarters in Deer Park, New York will provide a meeting place for all Buddhists, so that harmony can be maintained between the different Buddhist traditions. Another goal is to set up a Buddhist Institute on the Gold Coast of Austria. We plan to establish Buddhist Colleges in Hong Kong, South Africa, and Australia. In Africa, so many local people have joined the order that it has become international Buddhist news. For l long time Fo Guang Shan has focused on training students to preach the Dharma to the whole world, and hopefully through this effort we will follow the Buddha’s teaching and give devotees hope.
We should give our attention to several issues: the development of International Buddhism, the relationship between Taiwan and China, and the resurgence of Buddhism in Mainland China. The Vice-President of BLIA World Headquarters, Yan Gubang, provided millions of US dollars for scholarships for people in Mainland China. He has printed and donated Buddhist sutras and books and has established many Buddha’s Light Hope elementary schools. He also generously supports the sangha. His good deeds and contributions benefit many people. These kinds of contributions really allow us to earn great respect.
Our task for 1999 is to complete the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Stupa and Buddha’s Memorial Hall. We hope that we can show a record of achievement for the 20th century.
As I reflect, when we look at mature we can always sense that mature possesses the virtues of selflessness and equanimity. If only we can have a good heart and befriend all we can enjoy the beauty of nature and life.
This is the season to say good-bye to the old and welcome the new. I hope that everyone will remember the Six Perfections and the Noble Eightfold Path. As long as we have the Dharma in mind wherever we go, nothing can defeat us. For your own practice I hope that every day you can spend time reading Buddha’s Light studies. Especially the Buddha’s Light Prayers, Heart Sutra, Buddha’s Light Samadhi, and BLIA verses. All of you can practice in your daily life. I wish you wholeness and freeness, peace and prosperity.