Department Leader Ven. Zhi Xing and Ven. Hui Ze of the Hsi Lai Temple Social Education and Outreach Department interacted online with Interreligious Dialogue and Leadership students led by Dr. Christine Hong and Dr. Lailatul Fitriyah of the Claremont School of Theology on January 6. This gracious arrangement was made by University of the West's Master's of Divinity Program Coordinator Dr. Victor Gabriel.
Among the 35 attendees, students ranged from mainly Christian to Muslim, as well as, Buddhist backgrounds. Most had minimal experiences with Buddhism, and the venerables took this opportunity to share Humanistic Buddhist concepts and practices as taught by Venerable Master Hsing Yun and the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order (FGS). Students were first treated to an introductory video about the Four Main Objectives of FGS as well as the Order's development across North America, followed by a 40 min Q&A session.
Students' interests included what a typical day for a monastic would be, how leadership and management is implemented among the numerous worldwide branches, how the temple interacts with both other religions and the daily lives of local residents. Because some students previously understood Buddhism as mainly concerned with personal practice or primarily focusing on meditation only, it was a surprise and delight for them to learn about various youth activities within FGS such as basketball tournaments, singing competitions, and musical performances as a means of propagating the Dharma.
The online exchange concluded with Ven. Zhi Xing stating that this was a great opportunity to learn from each other and that faith can give society stability; by understanding one another, we can encourage peaceful coexistence. Dr. Christine Hong was grateful for this meeting and mentioned that much had been learned simply from the questions posed through each exchange and hoped that next year's class would include the students personally visiting the temple and learning more through hands-on experience.