Dear Dharma Protectors and Friends,
May this spring bring prosperity, and may everything go perfectly for you in the New Year!
As autumn fades and winter arrives, and as winter ends and spring comes, Fo Guang Shan has ripened to a mature age amidst the changing seasons. Weathering forty summers and winters, the thorny bamboos and the various plants and trees on the hilly slopes have all grown considerably and the majestic shrines and halls have become a place of practice for Humanistic Buddhism.
Shan monastery, passing down the lineage, retiring from the abbotship, closing the Monastery to the general public, building schools and universities, starting a newspaper, establishing a television station, providing the Sangha community with a place of peace, traveling and teaching and taking the Dharma everywhere. All of these things that have taken place are like drawing a map of the world. I hope that sentient beings in the Saha world can all find a place of refuge.
Last year, Fo Guang Shan’s 40th Anniversary Celebrations began with the Festival of Light and Peace and Fellowship Meeting for Fo Guang Shan Disciples with Masters and Doctorate Degrees. At the same time, there was the “Ah Fu Welcomes Spring – Huishan Ceramic Figurine Sculpture Exhibition” which provided colorful examples of Chinese culture for the spring festivities. At the end of March, we started 49-day meditation and chanting retreats for monastics and laity, as well as yearlong “Pilgrimage and Cultivation” events. From May 16th up to the present, over a million people have taken part in these events. In recalling the early days of founding the order, the purpose for starting the pilgrimages was to encourage devotees to take advantage of the opportunity to come to Fo Guang Shan, to pay their respects to the Buddha. Since then, we have received many devotees who were pleased to come and visit. Gradually, by word of mouth, the name of Fo Guang Shan has spread through societies and onto the world stage. Our order has further developed its diverse enterprises for spreading the Dharma. With the seemingly endless passing of time, forty years have gone by.
To celebrate this auspicious occasion, Fo Guang Shan hosted the International Association of Religious Freedom Congress (IARF), the International Association of Liberal Religious Women (IALRW), General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), International Buddhist Youth and Leadership Conference, World Buddhist University Conference, and World Scout Inter-religious Symposium. Buddha’s Light International Association also hosted the 2006 Asia-Region Fellowship Meeting and International Young Executive Conference. Its General Conference for members from throughout the world was conducted at both Fo Guang Shan and in the Taipei Arena. My keynote speech for the conference was entitled, “Change the World and Benefit Humanity,” in which I shared with all BLIA members the following: 1) self-awareness and integrity, 2) resolve and energy, 3) participation and involvement, and 4) bodhi wisdom and the power of vows - encouraging those attending the conference to “change the world and benefit humanity.”
In March I was invited to Yuelu College in Hunan, China – famous for being an educational institution for more than a thousand years. Amidst the rainy, misty weather, I gave a lecture on “Chinese Culture and the Five Vehicles of Buddhism.” Afterwards, I also spoke at Fooyin, Fu Jen, Central, and Taipei Universities. In early April, I accidentally broke three ribs in a fall. I would like to express my thanks for the care and concern I received from people of all walks of life! Although I am already advanced in years, I still upheld my principle of never breaking a promise and went as scheduled to Hangzhou in Zhejiang to attend the First World Buddhist Forum. The subject of my speech at the forum was “How to Build a Harmonious Society.” I hope to do my best to further the cause of harmony among spiritual traditions, cultures, and ethnicities in the future.
Due to endless causes and conditions, my travels to spread the Dharma didn’t slow down. I went to Stockholm University in Sweden, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and the International Conference Center in Geneva to speak about “Harmony and Peace.” Though spiritual traditions may be different from one another, their emphasis on peace and pursuit of harmony is the same. Then, I also went to St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Vatican and met with Pope Benedict XVI with the hope of enhancing further understanding and cooperation between Buddhism and the Roman Catholic Church. Through exchanges and interaction, we can strengthen our mutual understanding and work towards the common goals of peace and harmony.
In India, I spoke at Osmania (Hyderabad) and Delhi Universities. In America, I conducted a course on “Current Issues” at the University of the West. Employing distance education via the Internet, I connected with students and devotees around the world, discussing the Buddhist perspective on issues such as social problems, ethics, ethnicities, funeral traditions, cosmology and life, as well as the Heart Sutra. Immediately afterwards, I went to Hong Kong and spoke at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Polytechnic University, Hong Kong University, and also at Chung Shan University in Guangzhou. Through the technology of the Internet and live television, Buddha’s Light members around the world were able to listen to the Dharma and take refuge in the Triple Gem simultaneously. Technological advancements have indeed further realized the ideal of a global village.
In mid-October, with a weakening heart and an irregular heartbeat, I flew in the company of Dr. Chi-woon Kong, my family doctor, to Hyderabad in India to conduct a refuge ceremony. This was done because India is the birthplace of the Buddha who advocated equality, also of Nagarjuna who founded Mahayana Buddhism, and of Dr. Ambedkar who actively spread the spirit of equality. For the future of Buddhism in India, I encouraged all present at the ceremony to learn and practice in the great spirit of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and courageously walk out of the bondage of the caste system.
At the end of 2006, based on the causes and conditions arranged by Venerable Man Lian for me to speak annually for the past twenty years at the Hong Kong Coliseum, I delivered three lectures on the “Teachings of Precepts”, “Meditative Concentration”, and “Wisdom Within Humanistic Buddhism.” It is hoped that under the verification of the Three Dharma Seals, the torch of the Three Trainings will be lit, shining on the universe with the Dharma and establishing an outpost of the Pure Land, a place of peace and ease in the world. A few days later, at the 30th anniversary of my annual Dharma lectures in Taipei’s Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, I conducted discussions with Stanley Yen, President of the Landis Taipei Hotel on “Managing Affairs and Managing People,” Cardinal Paul Shan on “When Christ Meets the Buddha,” and with Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou on “Harmony of the Supramundane and the Mundane.” Wu Po-hsiung chaired the panel of moderators, with Lee Jih-Chu, Chai Sung-lin, and Charles H.C. Kao as members.
While Fo Guang Shan’s teaching of the Dharma has continued to increase around the world, the building of temples and the promotion of culture and education remain constant. Foundation laying ceremonies were held for the Tokyo Fo Guang Shan Temple and the Paris Fo Guang Shan Temple. After seven years of construction, the New Zealand North Island Fo Guang Shan Temple was completed with a Sangha Offering Dharma Function and Jade Buddha Enshrinement Ceremony. The Kuantan Buddhist Center in Malaysia and the Fo Guang Shan Geneva Conference Center were both inaugurated. In Japan, the Fukuoka Fo Guang Yuan was renamed the Fukuoka Fo Guang Shan Temple. In Taiwan, Tainan Temple, Nan Ping Temple in Kaohsiung, Jiao Hsi Lodge in Ilan, and Feng Shan Vihara were all officially opened. At Fo Guang Shan, the Fo Guang Shan Peace Bell is being crafted and a bell tower will be built next to the Lumbini Garden.
Last year, the University of the West, Los Angeles was granted full-member status by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), with many thanks to years of dedication by President Dr. Lewis Lancaster and Dean Dr. Ananda W. P. Guruge. Fo Guang University, on the other hand, is now under the leadership of a new president, Weng Cheng-I, former Chairman of the National Science Council and former President of National Cheng Kung University. The university has been approved by the Ministry of Education to establish two new departments – the Department of Sciences and Engineering and the Department of Buddhist Studies. This means that Buddhist studies will now be formally included in the government’s higher education scheme, in which degrees in Religious Studies will be awarded. Furthermore, Nan Hua University has been evaluated by the Ministry of Education and praised for excellence. The foundation-laying ceremony for the new Pumen High School campus has been completed, and preparation for the new Jun-Yi Junior High and Elementary School has also begun. The school will begin construction in Taitung, and be overseen by Ji Guang Temple.
The Fo Guang Shan Records of Extraordinary Phenomena published by Venerables Yung Ming and Yung Jin of the FGS Cultural Council has inspired the hearts of many devotees in continuing with their spiritual cultivation. Tsai Menghua of the Gandha Samudra Cultural Company published the ten-volume Fragrance of Books, the four-volume set of Ancient and Present Talks written by Venerable Tzu Hui, and the ten-volume Amazing Persons and Extraordinary Matters edited by Venerable Miao Yun. The television program Journey into Buddha’s Lands produced by Liao Wen-yu that aired on ETTV, TVBS, and BLTV, won the Golden Bell Award. In order to celebrate Fo Guang Shan’s 40th anniversary, Commonwealth Publishing Company published 80 Years of Star and Cloud, and A Pioneer of Humanistic Buddhism – The Life & Philosophy of Master Hsing Yun (Yun-Shui-Ri-Yue). Written by Fu Chi-ying, not only is it a biography about me, but also a shared record of how the Buddha’s Light members of the world have stood by my side over the past decades and assisted in the endeavor of changing the world and benefiting humanity.
Good news continued to pour into Fo Guang Shan throughout last year. The Merit Times is now distributed on China Airlines, Air Macau, Far Eastern Air Transport and TransAsia Airways. The “Sounds of the Human World” Music Competition is now entering its fifth year. This music has reached into communities, radio stations, jails, high schools, and colleges, and the compositions have been released on CD. Therefore, we have taken the opportunity to establish the “Sounds of the Human World Buddhist Music Orchestra,” led by conductor Dr. Wang Ching-ping and erhu player Weng Chin-lung, in hopes that with music, the Dharma can spread further in order to benefit people.
The Sixth “Assessment of Outstanding Professional Organizations Engaged in Cross-strait Cultural and Educational Exchanges” conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council has conferred awards of excellence on the Fo Guang Shan Foundation for Culture and Education and also Beautiful Life Television in the areas of art, literature, academics, and education. BLIA Chunghwa has received the Award for Outstanding Social Group from the Ministry of the Interior, which also selected Fo Guang Shan’s branch temples – Lanyan Temple, Yuan Fu Temple, and Fu Shan Temple – for Outstanding Religious Organizations. Pumen Junior High School’s Gymnastic Team came in second in the Junior High School Division and also the High School and Vocational School Division of the National Gymnastics Competition. The school’s basketball team also made the finals in the National High School Basketball Competition, defeating Taiwan’s top high school – Taipei First Girl’s High School – in the games.
I am embarrassed that although my calligraphy is unskilled, my works have been exhibited at Hunan Provincial Museum, Hong Kong Central Library, and in other countries on the “To Enlighten Sentient Beings” World Exhibition Tour. I hope that the audience will not look just at the calligraphy but at my heart, for I use calligraphy as a vehicle to express my sincere best wishes and gratitude to those who have supported Buddhism.
I would like to express my gratitude to Griffith University in Australia and Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan for conferring upon me an Honorary Doctorate and Honorary Doctor of Law Degree. Phoenix TV in Hong Kong also presented me with the Phoenix Award on its 10th Anniversary, while the Chinese Writer’s Association, the United States Republican Party's Asian Committee, and Chinese Writers' & Artists' Association honored me with the Award for Lifetime Achievement, Award for Outstanding Achievement, and Award for Cultural Contribution. I am grateful for the blessings of the Triple Gem and all those who have supported me. If it were not for everyone’s recognition and kind love, these achievements would not have been possible.
In addition, many of my disciples have also received honors. Venerable Tzu Hui was given the Literary and Art Works Award from the Chinese Writers’ & Artists’ Association; Venerable Tzu Jung received the Award of Excellence for her Contribution to Education from Taiwan’s Ministry of Education; Venerable Hsin Ting was presented with the National Welfare Award; Venerable Yifa received the Juliet Hollister Award for Interfaith and Peace Work at the United Nations; Venerable Yi Lai won the Australia Day Cultural Award; Venerable Man Shin was made a Justice of Peace by the Australian Government, Venerable Chueh Shan won the Rankin Australia Day Award; Venerable Miao Hsi was commended by Los Angeles County for her contribution in providing relief on Community Day; and Venerables Hui Kai and Chueh Pei received the Award for Contribution to Social Education from Taiwan’s Ministry of Education. I am delighted to see the efforts of Fo Guang Shan being recognized by society and am very happy for those who have stood by the organization for the past forty years.
Looking back on the past eighty years of my life, I have spent sixty of them spreading the Dharma. For the sake of Buddhism, I have studied at monasteries and traveled to different parts of the world, brought Buddhism into people’s lives and given Dharma talks. My intention was to allow the light of Dharma to shine far and wide, so that all sentient beings may be blessed with compassion and wisdom, and the pure land and virtuous people may be everywhere.
I am getting old now. In the sixty years that I have been working, I have never taken a day off but remained steady in my progress. Therefore, I am confident that I have lived a life worth three hundred years. I announced during an interview in August last year that I would be scaling down my public appearances after touring the world in 2007. From then on, I will no longer give major public lectures. Instead, I will focus on reading, writing, instructing my disciples, and providing guidance under appropriate conditions. Nevertheless, to continue promoting education is a goal that I never intend to give up. I shall fulfill my duty as a monk every day. Your continued support and protection of the Dharma and Humanistic Buddhism is gratefully appreciated. With the New Year and spring approaching, I would like to express my best wishes to you all.
May everything go smoothly for you and may all have an auspicious life!