Dear Dharma Protectors and Friends,
In the coming new year, may spring herald prosperity, and that you are full of joy!
The time of new spring reminds me of last January, the month when I conducted the “Million Buddha’s Light Member World Simultaneous Chanting and Peace Praying Dharma Service” in Taipei Vihara. The purpose was to chant for victims of the Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami so that they can be reborn in buddha’s land. At the same time, BLIA members from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and other countries raised $NT5,000,000 to help build orphanages and elementary schools in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and other neighboring countries, and also to assist in the reconstruction of affected areas to help victims regain faith and understand that living brings hope, and survival means strength.
Unfortunate incidents such as the London bombing case in July, and the terrorist bombing in Bali in October had caused fear and trepidation in people’s hearts. Furthermore, Hurricane Katrina turned New Orleans into purgatory just over night in August. While BLIA members are working hard to relieve victims around the world, I also pray that every human being will learn of the importance of humbleness, tolerance, respect for nature as well as life, and practice the three acts of goodness so as to work together for world peace and the earth’s well being.
As we look at an earth filled with misery and suffering, and living beings surrounded by fear and uncertainty, we hope to at least bring forth some thoughts of optimism, progress and help. For this reason, I have published various articles addressing social issues on major newspapers, and accepted interviews by Better Life Monthly, Reader’s Digest, Asia Weekly (Yazhou Zhoukan), and Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV to discuss issues on life, reading, Cross-Strait relations, racial harmony, world peace and so on. Some of my humble suggestions included, “When we cast our votes, we are doing so with our moral integrity and conscience, for this reason, we must not be deceived or tempted by corruption. As citizens of our country, we must develop a common sense on improving the quality of Taiwan’s election, and to cast our influential vote with a rational mind. Only by doing so will Taiwan have a future!” when I was interviewed by the Clean Election Progress Association of R.O.C..
Speaking of harmony and peace, I was invited to the Cross-Strait Buddhist Round Table Meeting in Hainan Island, China. My proposal on “To achieve solidarity from reaching a common consensus; to be united by demonstrating the spirit of tolerance; to make exchanges through the means of meetings and conferences; to become integrated in policy and strategy” received wide recognition from the delegates. In October, I also attended the World Religious Leaders Colloquium organized by Dharma Drum Mountain, during which I proposed the following four points: 1) World peace derives from the concept of equality; 2) Environmental and ecological preservation derives from respect for right of life; 3) The elimination of racial barriers derives from compassion; and 4) A consensus on coexistence derives from the propagation of dependant origination.
Other than the above, I conducted two five-day distance learning programs at University of the West discussing topics such as the Buddhist perspective on family, management, vegetarianism, environmental protection, politics and human rights, war and peace with the students. Even though the program was broadcasted in the United States, it was participated by students also from Europe, South America, Asia and other countries.
The First Meeting of the Fourth Board of Directors of the BLIA was conducted at Hsi Lai Temple, and was attended by more than six hundred delegates from London, Paris, Berlin, Sydney, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and different parts of the Five Continents. Resolutions reached by the delegates included nomination of talents and outstanding young adults by BLIA Chapters to participate in NGO activities of the United Nations. We hope that through this opportunity, BLIA members will offer their service to the whole human race on an international basis. During the meeting, I also proposed “Life’s One Hundred Tasks” for BLIA members as a guideline to their practice of discipline, meditation and wisdom.
Despite my hectic schedule, I still kept in contact with different circles. For example, I had a discussion with writer Yu Qiuyu on literature early last year, and in May, I attended the 50th Installation Anniversary Celebration for Paul Cardinal Shan and expressed my praise and respect for him. Sadly, when I learned of Pope John Paul II’s passing away in April, I immediately sent a letter to the Vatican to express my own as well as worldwide BLIA members’ sadness. In June, the shocking news of Venerable Yin Shun’s passing away struck me while I was in Shanghai, and then in September, Venerable Bup-jang, Director of the Department of General Affairs of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism suddenly left the human world. From all of this news, I cannot help but feel that the sun of wisdom is fading away, and the lamp of the Dharma is soon extinguishing! It is difficult to be reborn as human being, and it is not easy for a great bodhisattva to be with us. Despite my great sadness, I still hope that these bodhisattvas will return to our world on the wings of their vows.
In November, the Fo Guang Shan Foundation for Culture and Education organized three “When East Meets West” dialogues between myself, Swedish Professors NGD Malmqvist and Torbjorn Loden on the topics “Buddhism and Chinese Literature,” and “Buddhism and World Peace” hosted by Charles H.C. Kao and Professor Chai Sunglin respectively. There was also a dialogue with writer Pai Hsienyung on “Buddhism and Literature” at Taipei Vihara.
Along with Venerable Tzu Jung and Venerable Yung Fu, we lead the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Choir to China’s Zhejiang province during November for the Putuo Mountain Nanhai Kuan Yin Cultural Festival. The choir was also invited to the “Cross-Strait Enshrining Dharma Service of the Buddha’s Usnisa Relic” by Hanzhou Buddhist Association, and also the “60th Anniversary of Victory Against Japan Chanting Service” to pray for those who lost their lives during the war. This was a chance for communication and exchange between people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait and also future cooperation towards creating a harmonious world.
Fo Guang Shan has set yet another paradigm of democracy by its demonstration of generation alternation. The Installation Ceremony of Fo Guang Shan’s Seventh Head Abbot took place last year, where the newly-elected Head Abbot Venerable Hsin Pei received the Dharma scroll and kasaya from the hands of former Head Abbot Venerable Hsin Ting, symbolizing the passing down of Fo Guang Shan Order’s patriarchship. Five thousand distinguished guests and devotees worldwide including, Kaohsiung County Magistrate Yang Chiu-hsing, Paul Cardinal Shan of the Catholic Church, Hsiao Chia-cheng from the Taoist community, Abbot of Korea’s Tongdosa Temple Venerable Hyun Moon, Abbot of Thailand’s Wat Phra Dhammakaya Phra Bhavanaviriyakhun, and Koyasan University President Prof. Dr. Chish? Namai witnessed the ceremony, each having expressed their congratulations, had made this event even more extraordinary.
One even more exciting event is when my disciple Venerable Man Yi from the Founding Master’s Secretarial Office, collects and documents my thoughts on Humanistic Buddhism wherever I go, and links it with Humanistic Buddhism activities held by Fo Guang Shan to compile a book named Humanistic Buddhism in the Hsing Yun Model, published by the Commonwealth Publishing Group. A Simplified Chinese version is also available in China, Malaysia, Singapore and other Asian countries. As soon as this book was released, it received overwhelming feedback from different circles. This book allows the general public an in-depth understanding of Humanistic Buddhism and Fo Guang Shan. More importantly, the Fo Guang Shan Foundation for Culture and Education and the Chinese University of Hong Kong has collaborated in the establishment of the Humanistic Buddhism Research Center. Furthermore, in May, the Library of Congress in the US formally set up an individual category in its Library of Congress Classification Scheme for the over fifty translated books written by me and members of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order. They also formally included “Humanistic Buddhism” and “Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order” into the Library of Congress classification schedule.
Publisher Marketing Association, the largest non-profit independent publishing and marketing association in the United States unconditionally agreed to market Cloud and Water, which was translated by the Fo Guang Shan International Translation Center. Moreover, Handing Down the Light won honorable mention in the biography category in the American Book Exhibition, and Living Affinity was was chosen as one of the fifty Best Spiritual Books of 2004 under “Connections.” The prize was honored by Spirituality & Health Magazine. Additionally, Ancient Stories Today by Venerable Tzu Hui, Meditation and Wisdom by Venerable Hsin Ting, One-Word Chan by Venerable Yi Kung and Thoughts from the Harvard Yenching Library by Venerable Yung Yun were all published by the Gandha Samudra Culture Company. Meanwhile, Buddha’s Light Publishing published Fo Guang Tripitaka and Fo Guang Buddhist Textbook on CD-ROM as well as Chan Sayings. Apart from these, Venerable Miao Shen from Thailand, Venerable Miao Hsi from Canada, Venerable Chueh Deng from Indonesia and Venerable Hui Fu from Vietnam, amongst others, have also translated various books to let the Dharma water flow and nourish the world in the form of text.
In addition, the Thai Royal Translation Affairs Office is about to put together the Thai-English World Religions Dictionary with the Fo Guang Buddhist Dictionary serving as a major reference during its conception; Venerable Miao Shen and Venerable Yao Kang have been invited to participate in this project. Furthermore, Venerable Master Huai Su – A Biography of the First Patriarch of Tung Ta School, published by Buddha’s Light Publishing was awarded the 2005 Best Comic Award at the 29th Golden Tripod Awards conducted by the Government Information Office, Republic of China (Taiwan). After assessment by the Social Media Association, Beautiful Life Television was announced in July the only consistently high-quality programming channel shown nationally. After forty years of hard work, Fo Guang Shan has successfully spread Humanistic Buddhism to every corner of the globe.
On an international level, in October, a Buddhist Dharma function was for the first time, held inside a Christian church in Manhattan, New York. It was the Yogacara Offering Service conducted by Venerable Hui Ji. The function was jointly organized by Fo Guang Shan and Columbia University’s Department of Religion. The Yogacara Offering Fundraising Service was also held in South America for the first time. Moreover, a Joint Buddha’s Birthday Celebration was organized at the Australian Parliament House, which showcased Buddhism to Australia as well as the national hall of an English-speaking nation for the first time.
Last year’s Sounds of the Human World Buddhist Hymn Competition had participants including sisters from Sydney’s Catholic Church, Zulu Tribe members from South Africa, the Zulai Children of Brazil, youths from Singapore, Malaysia and many others. Also, the Rhythm of the World 2005 – Stars and Clouds Musical organized by BLIA Young Adults from Australia and New Zealand presented the sounds of the human world in a highly original form and their performance received wide acclaims by the locals.
For the first time in South Africa, Nan Hua Temple provided Buddhist counselling at local prisons. As for the Wheelchair Donations Program that began in 1998, over 9,700 wheelchairs have been donated to over fifteen countries including Congo, Malawi and Tanzania. Of these, BLIA Paraguay has donated over 3,000.
In terms of education, University of the West signed an agreement to form an alliance with Santo Tomas University in Chile this May. In July, Zulai Buddhist College in Brazil fostered its first group of graduates. Venerable Hsin Ting was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. Ven, Tzu Hui and Venerable Tzu Jung both received prizes in the categories of Artistic Development and Harmony amongst Diversity for the “Century Education Mentors” Program on Fostering Taiwan organized by the Taiwanese Ministry of Education.
Moreover, the Love for the World Book Appeal – an event organised by BLTV has utilized the funds raised to establish the first Taiwanese indigenous children’s library in Pintung, Taiwan. I have also personally donated $NT2, 000,000 towards the project as well as provided copies of comics from the “Eminent Buddhist Monks” series and copies of the Illustrated Sutra of One Hundred Parables. In addition, Pingtung Vihara and Tsaochou Vihara have each donated five hundred thousand dollars to the library. These are a token of our dedication towards the literacy and education of indigenous children.
Constructions of branches around the world include: Nan Hua Temple’s Main Shrine in South Africa; completion of Nan Fang Temple, Malaysia and Fo Guang Shan, Singapore; World Buddhist Research Centre in Gold Coast, Australia; and the foundation laying of the International Buddhist Conference Centre in Geneva. As for Nan Tien Temple, it celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and Qantas, the Australian airliner describes Nan Tien Temple as a part “Wollongong – the Worldly City.” Moreover, the World Journal publication described Hsi Lai Temple as the ‘landmark’ for Hacienda Heights, whilst Manukau City in New Zealand recommended Fo Guang Shan, Auckland as their most valuable tourist attraction. More importantly, constructions of the Buddha Memorial Hall has now begun, and sincere thanks goes to Mr. Chen Yungtai and his wife Mrs. Chen Bai Yuyeh for their generous donations of 125 pieces of antique Buddhist artifacts to the Hall’s future museum. Their act of kindness will allow these artifacts to be passed down and seen by many generations to come.
By 2006, Fo Guang Shan will have been around for forty years and served sentient beings through Buddhist activities such as the propagation of culture, education, charity and spiritual practice. The order prays that every civilization of the world be filled with wisdom, generosity and wholesomeness. Since it is the 40th Anniversary of Fo Guang Shan this year, there will be a series of events lead by Head Abbot Most Venerable Hsin Pei, and new board members Venerable Tzu Jung, Hui Chuan, Yi Kung, Hui Kuan, Hui Zhao, Man Chien, Chueh Pei and Semi-monastic Huang Meihua. Everyone is welcome to join these events, and I hope that all Fo Guang Buddhists will continue to shine their light to every corner of the globe, maintain their dedication and show warmth to all living beings. Let us join hands to create history for Humanistic Buddhism.
Wishing you well in all seasons, and auspiciousness at all times.