1995 Keynote Speech: Respect and Magnanimity


Buddha's Light International Association Members and Honored Guests, we are gathered here today from all over the world. I wonder if you realize that our theme of "respect and magnanimity" is already manifested in this pureland called Australia. I have traveled all over the world carrying out missions, and I feel strongly that the Australian government truly honors all races, respects cultural diversity, and provides a great deal of assistance to new immigrants. Therefore it is only proper that we are holding the Buddha's Light International Association's 4th General Conference here with the theme of "respect and magnanimity."

Freedom, democracy, and technology are the hallmarks of our modern century. However, misguided freedom has become an excuse for offending others; false democracy has become a weapon for trampling the weak; and unethical technology has become a tool for destroying one's neighbor. In the past freedom, democracy, and technology have been necessities for favorable progress. Now, they are the source of many problems. In these turbulent times, we call upon respect and magnanimity as a way for people of the world to cultivate increased mutual respect for and understanding of one another.

It is written in the sutras, "Buddhist practice is found in respectfulness; therefore, Buddhists must cultivate respectfulness." Due to this ideal, Buddhists have the distinction in world history of never having held a war in the name of religion. How do we actualize respectfulness in our daily life? Here, I propose the following four points: 

Respect the freedom of others. Freedom is priceless. The history of the world is full of martyrdom for the cause of freedom. However, in a modern democracy, misconceptions of freedom can lead to great misfortune and confusion. Freedom requires respect for the freedom of others, and the Buddhist Five Precepts embody this spirit of freedom. No killing means to respect the lives of others. No stealing means to respect the property of others. No lying means to respect the reputation of others. No sexual misconduct means to respect the integrity of self and others. No intoxicants means to respect our own body. Upholding the precepts is honoring the freedom of others. When we examine the penitentiaries, we can see that inmates are being held because they have broken the Five Precepts.

A person upholding the Five Precepts is righteous. A family upholding the Five Precepts is harmonious. A community upholding the Five Precepts is prosperous. A nation upholding the Five Precepts is strong. A world upholding the Five Precepts is the Pureland. As Buddha's Light International Association members, we must actively promote the Five Precepts. Not only should we abstain from killing, we must protect all life. Not only should we abstain form stealing, we must be generous and helpful. Not only should we abstain from sexual misconduct, we must honor the relationships of others. Not only should we abstain from lying, we must comfort and encourage others. Not only should we abstain from intoxicants, we must learn to be wise and help others to maintain clear thinking.

Respect the value of life. Countless Buddhist poems glorify the value of life. Here are two examples: Animal or human, who's life is worth less? Both are made of flesh and bone. Please do not shoot the little sparrow; Her baby cries for food from the nest. All beings and I share one body. Though we answer to different names, When my flesh cries with pain, you hear. Having one nature, We merely appear as two. Why do we delight in the suffering of others? No need to wait for the final verdict: Our own heart sits in judgement.

Life has no price because money cannot buy life. We should respect the value of being alive and of all living beings. Not only should we protect the lives of others, we should also respect our own life. We should be a lamp that illuminates and warms those who surround us. We should be a tree that shelters and comforts. We should be a bridge that guides all beings to the shore of happiness. We should be a raindrop that nurtures both body and mind.

Respect the possessions of others. Each one of us owns things, and when we lose our possessions, we feel pain and suffering. This is why we should not build our wealth and happiness upon the loss and suffering of others. We should learn to enjoy without owning and to possess only what is just. For example: We may not have a big mansion, but we can still enjoy the flowers and trees on the roadside. We may not be millionaires, but if our hearts are pure, the moon and stars are our unlimited treasures.

The sutras tell us that "Flowing water speaks the words of the Dharma. Mountain and sky are the body of the Dharma." If we see the form of the formless nature and hear the sound of the soundless world, we will posses this boundless universe. We will have no desire either for worldly ownership of material things or for the satisfaction of the senses. We will have the compassion to benefit others and to relieve their suffering. The Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra says: "Treat the wives of others as your mother, and consider the wealth of others as fire. Everyone belongs to our family. This is to have a just and fair view." Members of the Buddha's Light International Association should respect this spirit of justice. We should benefit others, so that we can all live in great happiness.

Respect nature. Australia has a very successful environmental policy. This land is lush and green. Even the birds and animals are friendly. Buddhism also has a great sensitivity towards ecology.

It is written in the Amitabha Sutra that the Land of Ultimate Bliss is full of trees and the birds and fish sing the words of the Dharma. In the Jataka Tales, the stories of the Buddha's many lives, the Bodhisattva dares not raise his voice to scare others, walks softly so as not to trample the ground, and would never pollute the land and streams with garbage and toxic waste. The ancient monasteries were always situated in the wilderness.

Monks have always protected the environment and surrounding natural resources. Based on the spirit of compassion, Buddhism promotes vegetarianism to provide refuge for all living beings. As Buddhists, we should put forth our best effort to protect all life. Truth is magnanimity. It can encompass all. How should we promote the teachings of magnanimity for the sake of world peace?

Have magnanimity for those who are different. Because of differences in environment, customs, and languages, it is not surprising that we have disagreements. Still, the Diamond Sutra says that in order for a Bodhisattva to develop a great heart and deliver all beings from their suffering, the notion of self, other, group, and identity must first be eradicated. We should develop a mind of no-self and honor those who are different. Otherwise, how can we liberate ourselves from suffering, to say nothing about trying to liberate others.

Buddhism is a religion of magnanimity. The Buddha promoted the idea that "People from all castes who renounce the world become the family members of Shakyamuni." From nobles to commoners, even heretics to prostitutes, in fact, anyone who becomes a believer, will be accepted into the sangha. After his conversion to Buddhism, King Ashoka reduced taxes, refrained from the habit of killing, and respected all religions. Not only did he win the praise of his subjects, but his nation also became prosperous and strong. Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty divided into eight schools, yet Buddhism's popularity and development continued to grow. Competition actually ushered in an age of splendor for Chinese Buddhism. Thus, honoring differences does not lead to division; on the contrary, it increases vitality and fosters growth.

The five fingers of a hand are of differing lengths, yet together, they can grasp an object. The five senses function differently, yet together they produce cognition. Magnanimity and unity are strength. Magnanimity and cooperation bring about results.

Have magnanimity for those who are suffering. Prior to undergoing surgery in April of this year, I told my doctor, "As a monk, I have no fear of death. I just worry that the pain will ruin my image and self-respect." My doctor replied, "A healthy person has an image, but a patient also has dignity. Is not shameful to be in pain. Patients should be shown respect." A doctor can be a Bodhisattva, relieving not only the suffering of the body, but also easing emotional fear and hurt.

Kshitigarbha tolerates the greed, hatred and ignorance of beings in hell. He is a light of hope in the darkness of misery. Amitabha Buddha tolerates the ignorance of all beings. Even with negative karma we can be reborn in the Pureland of Ultimate Bliss.

Avalokiteshvara tolerates the turbulence of this world. She aids those who are in need. Because of the compassion and magnanimity of these Bodhisattvas, they have honored places on the altars in our homes. It is only when we have magnanimity for both good and bad, success and misfortune, the part and the whole, that we can posses the entire world.

Have magnanimity when insulted by enemies. The highest teaching of the Buddha is that we are all equal. When the Buddha became enlightened under the bodhi tree, he exclamation: "All beings already possess the wisdom to realize their Buddha nature." The Lotus Sutra speaks of a particular Bodhisattva who respected and praised all creatures saying, "I dare not have contempt for you, you will all be a Buddha one day." Some people teased him with sticks and stones, but the Bodhisattva still praised and respected his tormentors. Beings who dwell in the Avatamsaka Pureland realize the oneness and equality of all. No quarreling or fighting arise. All beings contribute their boundless compassion and steadfast vows, and also their mutual respect and magnanimity, shining in the completeness and fullness of the Avatamsaka Pureland. Our saha world is comprised of "half-and-half": half are Buddhas and half are unawakened, half are male and half are female, half are good and half are bad, half are wise and half are foolish. We live in world of half-and-half. One cannot have just the beneficial "half" and abandon the adverse "half." It is only through magnanimity and acceptance for all, that we can realize the fullness of existence. Hatred never cures injustice. We can only open to the misfortunes of life with compassion and fairness. By being magnanimous towards hatred and discord, we can bring respect, love, and fullness into our lives.

Have magnanimity for unintentional mistakes. We are not saints: we all make mistakes. But correcting the mistakes we make is the best virtue. No one wants to make mistakes, and mistakes are not necessarily bad. Learning from our mistakes builds the foundation for success. We should be strict with ourselves, yet go easy on others. We should diligently correct our own faults, yet tolerate patiently the shortcomings of others. We should give others an opportunity to find a remedy, guiding them with kindness and wisdom, so that they, too, can develop the right understanding. In confronting other's mistakes, we should try to exchange places with them. We should exhibit magnanimity rather than resentment, understanding rather than hatred, encouragement rather than scorn, care rather than negligence, unity rather than division. If we can do that, society will make favorable progress, and life will be just that much better.

Our achievement is proportional to the size of our heart. If we can show magnanimity towards those in our family, we can be leaders in our homes. If we can show magnanimity towards those in our community, we can be leaders of our communities. If we can show magnanimity towards those in our nation, we can be leaders of our nation. If we can get beyond all opposites, appreciate everything in the universe, and help where it is appropriate, we will be as free as the king of the Dharma realm is. It is said: "Bamboo packs tightly, but water can still flow through it. The mountain is high, but clouds are not stopped by it." If we have magnanimity, we can be like clouds and water, penetrating all obstructions. We will be able to travel freely throughout the universe.

In this age of technology and close interaction, respect and magnanimity are essential. We should respect the freedom of others by upholding the Five Precepts, instead of taking advantage. We should respect the value of life by being generous and charitable, instead of killing. We should respect the possessions of others by sharing, instead of being selfish. We should respect the vitality of nature by protecting, instead of exploiting. Furthermore, we should have a large heart that honors all our differences. We should have the compassion to tolerate the pride of those who are hurting. We should have the wisdom to forebear insults from enemies. We should develop the right understanding so that we can be patient when unintentional mistakes occur. If we work and interact with respect, serve and help all beings with magnanimity, it is only matter of time before this world will become a pureland.

I sincerely pray that the blessings of the Buddha will shine over all of you, that you will have much fortune and happiness, and that this conference will be a great success.