2006 Keynote Speech: Change the World and Benefit Humanity


Vice-Presidents, Elders, Directors, Chapter Elder-Advisors, Chapter Presidents, Distinguished Guests, Buddha's Light Members, greetings to you all!

This year marks both Buddha's Light International Association's 15th anniversary and Fo Guang Shan's 40th anniversary. I feel much joy and delight in seeing so many of the world's Buddha's Light members gathering at Fo Guang Shan Headquarters for the association's 2006 General Conference.

Throughout the past fifteen years, BLIA members around the world have been striving to change the world and benefit humanity. Everyone has devoted tireless efforts to propagating Buddhism, establishing sub-chapters, organizing a wide range of activities and even supported and helped promote the events and undertakings of Fo Guang Shan's branch temples. Not only have you dedicated your time and built upon your religious experiences, you have also created history for both yourselves and society. As I witness the growth of BLIA and your achievements in the globalization of Buddhism, I offer my most sincere praises and admiration to all of you today. At the same time, I would also like to use this opportunity to propose “Change the World and Benefit Humanity” as the theme of this year’s general conference, which is also my expectations and wishes for every Buddha’s Light member. Speaking of “Change the World” and “Benefit Humanity,” I am reminded of a thought that has existed in my mind ever since I became a Buddhist monk at the age of twelve, that is, “it is for Buddhism's sake.”

It has all been for Buddhism's sake. Despite having grown up inside a monastery living a frugal and simple life, I never for a moment felt mistreated or deprived, because it was all for Buddhism’s sake. I became ordained for Buddhism’s sake; I remained firm against temptations of rich offerings from conducting chanting services, because I had resolved to devote my life to propagating the Dharma and benefiting sentient beings for Buddhism's sake; I declined positions of abbot and those of authority and fame from a young age, because I had my own thoughts and directions, and it was “all for Buddhism's sake.”

What do I mean when I say “It is for Buddhism's sake”? I knew that for the sake of Buddhism, I had to study, travel and learn, be diligent, resolve to make things happen, develop good connections, and establish all kinds of Buddhist undertakings. For this reason, I broke my commitment to never be trapped by an endless array of chanting services and offered to chant for people in the morgue and even agreed to conduct over-night chanting services just to raise funds for the first Buddhist College that I established. I was very clear with what I was doing, because it was all for Buddhism's sake. Even when faced with all kinds of hardships and difficulties in my attempts to establish Fo Guang Shan temples and to promote Buddhist culture, art, charity and other Dharma propagating events, the thought of giving up never for once crossed my mind, because it was all for the sake of Buddhism. For the same reason, I have continued traveling around the world on a hectic schedule to give Dharma talks despite being eighty years old. Everything I have done is for Buddhism’s sake.

For Buddhism's sake, I have dedicated my whole life to “Change the World” and “Benefit Humanity,” because these are the true meanings of “It is for Buddhism's Sake.” Therefore, I propose today, the following four suggestions based on the topic “Change the World and Benefit Humanity.” May all Buddha's Light members find mutual encouragement and future directions in them:
1) Change the World and Benefit Humanity by Self-Awareness and Integrity
2) Change the World and Benefit Humanity by Resolve and Energy
3) Change the World and Benefit Humanity by Participation and Involvement
4) Change the World and Benefit Humanity by Bodhi Wisdom and the Power of Vows 1)Change the World and Benefit Humanity by Self-Awareness and Integrity.
Buddhism is a religion that emphasizes the pursuit of enlightenment. Prince Siddhartha reached buddhahood not only by becoming enlightened himself, he also enlightened other beings and perfected his own practice and wisdom. This is exactly what his teachings embodied, “to guide sentient beings in becoming enlightened to what the Buddha was enlightened to, and awaken to what the Buddha awakened to” so as to help them realize that they are on equal terms with the Buddha. Therefore, the main purpose of learning Buddhism is to seek wisdom and pursue enlightenment. Enlightenment consists of two parts, first it is the wisdom that enables one to become awakened to the wondrous truth and nirvana, while the second means to allow true wisdom to arise and convert illusion into truth. Although learning Buddhism requires us to learn from the Buddha’s thoughts and conduct, enlightenment must be attained by our own effort. By relying on others, our achievements will be very limited; especially when it comes to enlightenment and spiritual practice, these can only be accomplished by self-awareness. For example, we must be aware of the worries, sorrows and distress of life; be aware of the fact that life and death are both impermanent; be aware of the fact that people change very quickly; be aware that our world is subject to dangers, can be very unstable, and that it is not the ultimate place for us to settle our body and mind. Only with self-awareness will we find the strength to deal with these worries and illusions, resolve to maintain our integrity, and find peace and stability. Without self-awareness and self-awakening, even Buddha cannot help us attain enlightenment or attain buddhahood.

Speaking of “becoming a buddha,” the word ‘buddha’ as described in Treatise on the Buddha-bhumi, as some thing that “under any circumstances or form, is able to enlighten oneself and others. A buddha is like someone who has awakened from a deep sleep, or a lotus flower that has come into full bloom.” While the Buddha is enlightened to the truth of this universe, he is still an enlightened sentient being, and sentient beings are buddhas-to-be. Since a buddha originates from a human being, every human being has the potential to become a buddha, because his or her pure nature is no different from that of a buddha. For this reason, The Lotus Sutra uses examples such as a beggar carrying a priceless pearl in his sleeve without knowing so, and a poor man unaware of the treasure that he owned to explain the greatest pity of humanity.

When we resolve to learn about Buddhism, our most important objective is to eliminate our worries and uncover our Buddha Nature, and the way to do so is to observe the precepts, practice meditation, and cultivate our wisdom in order to extinguish the flames of greed, hatred, and ignorance. Once we eliminate the Three Poisons and allow the Three Wisdoms to shine, we will be able to put an end to our beginningless ignorance, and this is what we mean by self-awareness. In other words, it is what the Chan School means by enlightenment or realizing our true nature.

The lineages of Chinese Chan schools have always placed much emphasis on “self-awareness,” we must do all the inquiries and thinking by ourselves, because no one can offer us specific instructions. When the Buddha picked up a flower on Vulture Peak to show the assembly, only Mahakasyapa knew what he meant and smiled back, therefore the Buddha announced, “I have the Right Dharma-Eye Treasury, the wondrous mind of nirvana, the reality beyond form, the wondrous method without written language and not to be transmitted externally. The Dharma-door of mind-to-mind transmission has been entrusted to Kasyapa.” With a flower and two smiles, Chan was transmitted from a master to his disciple the moment an unspoken agreement was established between the two. This is also what we mean by self-awareness.

Self-awareness is also a way of self-education, and this also refers to what is mentioned in the sutras, “Rely on yourself, rely on the Dharma, and rely on nothing else.” Self-education is the key to our success, as we are most clear of our own faults and ignorance, we must educate ourselves and teach ourselves how to rectify our shortcomings. In other words, we must be demanding of ourselves, and attain the ability for self-learning, self-enrichment, and self-reflection. We need to learn to seek the cause in ourselves and make consistent effort in questioning ourselves, be self-aware, be one with our own initiative, and enlighten ourselves. Through continued self-reflection, we are able to find our true self. Otherwise, it will be as Sutra of Bequeathed Teachings indicates, “I am but a guide that points out the path to you; if you do not follow, it is not the guide to blame. I am but a good doctor who prescribes the medicine for your illness, if you do not take the medicine, the fault does not lie with the doctor.” If we do not even attempt to enlighten ourselves, not only will the Buddha not be of help to us, even a world of books on Buddhism will not help us gain understanding of the profound prajna wisdom. Therefore, we must read extensively and study deeply the Buddhist texts; the process of listening, thinking, and practice will enable us to be self-awakened and self-enlightened.

The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment says, “The gold does not come into being because it is smelted, but its form of gold is perfected by the smelting, and after refinement, will never revert to being ore.” The process of learning Buddhism is like excavating a gold mine; although Buddha Nature is an intrinsic part of us, without spiritual cultivation, it is like gold buried deep within a mine that is never discovered. The following are some methods of self-assessment that should enable us to know whether we do or do not have self-awareness and integrity:
1. Do I have confidence in taking refuge in the Triple Gem?
2. Am I clear about the concept of the Five Precepts?
3. Do I posses the right understanding of causes, conditions, and effects?
4. Am I sincere in serving and helping others?
5. Am I protecting the Dharma in a proper manner?
6. Am I participating in activities and events with pure intentions?
7. Are my practices of Buddhism improving by the day?
8. Have the theories of the Dharma assimilated into my thoughts and actions?

If we have positive and confident answers to the above eight questions, then it means not only do we have self-awareness and firm belief in the Dharma, we also have the ability to maintain our integrity on the path of spiritual cultivation and a mind open to the Four Immeasurable States of Mind and the Six Paramitas. We may even progress at a very active pace and help all sentient beings to be liberated from suffering. Otherwise, our life will have been lived in vain, because we will have never really benefited from being a Buddhist. For this reason, I have proposed self-awareness and integrity as the first point, because without self-awareness, no matter how precious the treasure we are given, how many theories are taught to us, they will all be useless. Only with self-awareness will we see the need to keep improving, maintain our own integrity, and then change the world and benefit humanity. 2)Change the World and Benefit Humanity by Resolve and Energy
Among the thousands of ways of Buddhist practices, to resolve is the most important, just as it is said in An Inspiration for the Bodhicitta, “The key to entering the Way is having resolve; the essential for cultivation is making vows. With a firm vow, then sentient beings can be saved; with resolve, the path of Buddhahood is attainable.” To resolve is to cultivate our mind and to construct a more complete self. Buddhism uses a field or a ground as a metaphor for the mind, and no seeds can grow in an uncultivated field. Similarly, without first developing the field of the mind, bodhi wisdom cannot be cultivated. Hence, resolve becomes the first step to practicing Buddhism; for example, resolve to develop the Four Immeasurable States of Mind and the Four Universal Vows. Only by then will we be equipped with the energy to put into practice the Four Means of Embracing and the Four Good Roots so as to enlighten ourselves and others.

Speaking of resolve, Buddha's Light members have for the past fifteen years, resolved to take on the roles of presidents, executive members, Lay Dharma Lecturers, elder advisors, and elders; some have resolved to participate in reading clubs, subscribe to Buddhist publications, sponsor the printing of sutras, promote the Merit Times, recruit members, donate money, take part in relief programs, support temples, lead pilgrimages, attend Dharma services, distribute “la-pa congee” on Dharma Day, propagate the Dharma, take part in alms processions to raise funds for Buddhist education institutes, and reached out to schools and prisons to provide civic education and spiritual counseling and give Dharma talks. You have proven with your actions that Buddhists in the 21st Century are on the move, that they now know how to make themselves heard, and that they have extended their influence outside their families and connect with society, conducting exchanges with the community. Take for example what has taken place in the past fifteen years, the BLIA has organized General Conferences, Board of Directors' Meetings, International Young Executive Conferences, Men's Fellowship Conferences, Women's Fellowship Conferences, Scouts Meetings and so forth. Having encouraged exchanges between East and West, and between continents, these events have spread Buddhism far and wide, and enhanced inter-personal harmony. These can only be accomplished because of the energy that all of you have exerted from your resolve.

To resolve means to cultivate the field of your mind, which is also the first thing we have to learn as Buddhists. Without cultivating and developing the field of our mind, no matter how good the conditions we may possess, or how much fortune and merits we may have, the sprout of bodhi wisdom will still not grow. This is similar to a seed without a good and fertile land, no good flower or fruit will ever grow out of it. Therefore, if we wish to open up and develop our spiritual wealth or utilize our energy, we must begin by resolving.

In this world, the bigger your resolve is, the greater your success will be, because the power of resolve is indeed inconceivable. While Confucians urge people to have aspirations, practitioners of Buddhism encourage people to make vows. Aspiration or vow, both of them are in fact resolve. Once you resolve to do something, you will have an aspiration; once you resolve to do something, your vow will be accomplished. The power of resolve can indeed be wondrous. For example, if you resolve to eat, not only will you be full from the food, you will also find it extra tasty; if you resolve to sleep, not only will you get a good night's sleep, it will also be extra peaceful. Once you resolve to do something, the outcome of your endeavors will be very different. Just as the verse, “The same moon outside the window becomes different when plum blossoms are present.” However, it is a pity that most people tend to search from without rather than from within, and end up neglecting the endless treasure hidden inside. While they know the need to cultivate the wastelands and hillsides in the physical world and turn them into plantations or construction sites, they have failed to utilize their inexhaustible inner treasures and energy. Therefore, the wise learn to seek from within. We should turn away from the external and develop our inner treasure and energy instead.

To resolve is like a small investment that brings a ten-thousandfold profit, therefore, Buddhism encourages people to resolve to be compassionate, resolve to develop the bodhi mind, and resolve to develop the adhicitta, a state of mind that promotes calmness. Now, how exactly do we make such resolves? The following are some suggestions:

1) We need to feel shamefulness for how little we know. For example, we need to admit that there is a lot of literature and there are many classics that we have not yet understood; there is still much about science and technology that we do not know; there are still philosophical theories that we are unclear about; and there are still many ways of interpersonal interactions that we have yet to master. We must feel shamefulness for our incompleteness; when we feel shame for having little talent and insufficient learning, we will be inspired to learn and absorb as much knowledge as possible. We would encourage ourselves to learn how to drive, how to use a computer to manage information, how to keep the books, or learn to sing or play musical instruments if we cannot do any of the above.

2) We need to be ashamed of how limited our abilities are. For example, I feel ashamed for not being thorough enough in completing a task, for not fulfilling my duty as a teacher, or for not being accomplished enough as a leader. As we have shamefulness for our incompetence, we will resolve to strengthen ourselves in order to become more dependable and responsible.

3) We need to have shamefulness for how impure our minds are. For example, we are ashamed for minds that are often filled with greed, hatred, and defilement, that are filled with thoughts that offend others, or that are full of schemes and conspiracy. As we feel shamefulness for the impurity of our minds, we will resolve to improve and purify ourselves.

4) We need to be ashamed of how weak our good thoughts are. For example, we feel shamefulness for not being able to maintain kind thoughts, or for not devoting all of our energy into doing the good. For these reasons, we will resolve to do more good deeds, give more generously, and bring more joy to others. Other than the above, we also need to develop our true mind in the following four ways: 
1) Develop a true mind that is as vast as the ocean: Not only is the ocean a palace for aquatic animals, it is also a place filled with inexhaustible treasures. Take a look at oil drillers today. Don’t they always dig deep in the ocean for the oil? The ocean’s resources are usually what supports and makes a country wealthy; this is why every country protects its water rights, because to them, they are protecting their national property. Our mind is also like the ocean, it is a womb that nurtures the treasures of compassion and bodhi wisdom awaiting us to uncover.
2) Develop a true mind that is as immense as space: The universe can be used as a metaphor for our mind, “the mind is like the universe; its capacity immeasurable like grains of sand.” Within the universe exist the sun, moon, and stars; within the universe exist thunder, lightening, rain, and dew. Every phenomenon is embraced within. Therefore, the nations of the world are all interested in exploring the universe, hoping to discover treasures from within. Our mind too is like space filled with limitless treasures of joy and contentment. It is only through development that we can discover the treasures.
3) Develop a true mind that is as boundless as the earth: The earth is our mother that nurtures our life. Not only does the human race depend on the sky and the ocean’s resources for food, they also depend on the earth to survive. The earth supports all forms of life that grow on it, while underneath it there are mines of gold, silver, bronze, and all kinds of minerals. Our mind too, is like the earth in which our Buddha Nature and true nature lie deeply within. We must know where to dig and how to develop in order to uncover these treasures.
4) Develop a true mind that is as intrinsic as our nature: Each one of us possesses an intrinsically true nature. Once we uncover the true nature that is like the ocean, like space and like the earth, we can take one step further and uncover our original face, return to our native home, and retrieve what has been ours from the very beginning. In general, anything that enables us to accomplish the ultimate goal of benefiting both oneself and others as well as enlightening both oneself and others must never be lost or forgotten by learners of the Dharma. These include gratitude, humility, determination for the Way, merit, deep belief, respect, magnanimity, and endurance, all of which are the resolves that Buddhists cannot do without.

To resolve means to have goals, in other words, it is to make vows. Resolve is energy. Regardless of any kind of machine, the capacity of its energy output is crucial. We must also ask ourselves what is the capacity and strength of our energy. Energy and power come from our resolve; the greater our resolves are, the more powerful we will be. Therefore, I hope all Buddha’s Light members will strive to be resolved and use the power gained from such resolve to change the world and benefit humanity. 3)Change the World and Benefit Humanity by Participation and Involvement
Every phenomenon in the world depends on a set of causes and conditions for its existence. “Everything exists when the conditions gather; everything ceases to exist when these conditions cease to exist.” Without the necessary causes and conditions, not only will it be difficult to accomplish a goal, individual survival is also at stake. Therefore we cannot survive if we move away from people, because they are our causes and conditions; they are the criteria for our survival. This is why Buddhism emphasizes that dependant origination, collective effort, and conditions are the backbone of our achievements.

In Buddhism, human beings are referred to as “sentient beings.” In other words, they are beings that come into existence once the necessary conditions gather together. In this world, there is no such space or time that enables an individual to exist alone, because beings must depend on each other in order to survive. Only when the conditions around us gather together will we be able to live. For this reason, we must allow these conditions to gather together, and then share them with others, and allow other people to benefit from them. We must never leave the crowd and become selfish practitioners, because buddhahood can only be attained by interacting with sentient beings; without them, not only are we no longer able to survive, buddhahood will also be out of reach.

The word ‘beings’ has a very wonderful meaning, for example, “all beings are equal,” “treat other beings as you treat yourself,” “make other beings the top priority,” “unity of all beings’ will is an impregnable stronghold,” “the hands of many beings make easy work,” and so on. It is also said in the Buddhist sutras that every Dharma gathering or undertaking requires the presence of an assembly of beings to happen. Therefore, the only way to success is by working side-by-side with other beings. It is an undeniable truth!

Speaking of the importance of ‘multitude,’ if we look at nature’s kingdom, we will see that trees also grow in ‘multitudes’ to make a forest; even flowers, plants and animals grow and flourish in ‘numbers.’ Therefore phrases such as “birds of a feather flock together” exist. Human beings are no exception. We all come into this world empty-handed, and even though we may have had a family, assets, and a career while we were alive, we still have to leave empty-handed in the end. Therefore, the best assets we can ever own in life are the Dharma, merits, virtues, fields of merit, the multitude, and the future. These are the resources that can be sustained over time, and these are also of highest value in life.

In particular, the most valuable things in this world are neither gold nor jade, nor houses nor cars; it is our conditions or affinities with others. There need to be good conditions between ourselves and others in order to have harmony; there need to be good conditions between ourselves and a matter in order to have success in what we do; between people and society, between matters, or between ‘you,’ ‘me’ and ‘him’ or ‘her,’ there has to be the right conditions in order achieve fulfillment and merit. Therefore, there are many good deeds worth doing in this world, for example, giving, abiding by the law, contribute to others, or serving others. Amongst all the virtuous practices, there is nothing more important than “giving others some positive conditions.”

‘Condition’ is not a special Buddhist term; rather, it is the truth of the universe and life. ‘Condition’ is a part of every one of us; it is what keeps us moving in life. Take ‘opportunity’ as an example. In simple words it means the right condition; everything in this world depends on a set of ‘conditions’ to happen. A house short of as little as a brick or a tile is still deemed incomplete. On the journey of life, some people have come across another who offered a hand in times of difficulty. This is because of a good connection made in the past. Therefore, developing good connection or affinities today may be helpful to us in times of need in the future. It can be said that making good connections or affinities is the safest investment one can ever make.

Since human beings depend on causes and conditions to survive in this world, I hope Buddha’s Light members will collaborate with the multitude and get involved with different activities, so that we can all develop wide and good connections. The more connections we have, the greater our success will be. In particular, we must establish various types of Buddha’s Light undertakings in order to benefit humanity. In the past, people used to think that Buddhist undertakings were nothing more than chanting sutras or holding services for the dead, or it was a lifestyle that takes place deep within mountain forests where Buddhists remain self-sufficient by farming. The truth is, Buddhists have for the past thousand years remained connected to society by providing medical treatment, social welfare, educational, and cultural undertakings, dedicating themselves to the well-being of society and the benefit of humanity.

For example, Sangha Accounts and Sangha Granary during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) assisted the government in ending a famine. The Buddhist temple banks from the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), and the “Inexhaustible Storehouse” owned by the Three Stages Sect of the Tang Dynasty had all very successfully established oil mills, pawnshops, hostels, tea houses, refectories or watermills to make life more convenient and the nation more prosperous. In particular, the temples that knew how to develop Buddhist undertakings to help and benefit people were the main reason why Buddhism was able to flourish and prosper during the Sui Dynasty (581-618) and Tang Dynasty (618-907). The grain mills, rice mills and warehouses set up by Buddhists enabled people to develop their livelihood; the hostels and stalls for horses and donkeys made traveling convenient for merchants; the tuition-free schools, private schools, Buddhist text repositories, and sutra translation centers enhanced society’s level of culture and education; Sangha granaries and temple banks stabilized the nation’s finance; while the clinics and pawnshops helped take care of the needy.

On a broader level, all Buddhist temples and monasteries over the ages had established undertakings to help and benefit living beings. For example such undertakings included plantation and wasteland cultivation; digging wells and ditches, irrigation projects, water conservation; construction of roads, bridges, public toilets and pavilions which made traveling convenient; mills, public bath houses, famine and poverty relief, medical treatment and supplies, care for the young and old, emergency relief, free schooling, and even free graves. It can be said that ever since Buddhism came to China, it has kept up with the changing times and contributed to developments from agriculture to industry, from travel services to hospice care, from pawnshops and oil mills to warehouses and watermills, and from charity to culture and education. Not only had Buddhism contributed to the development and prosperity of the economy, it had also enhanced society’s level of education and culture.

Today, as Buddha’s Light members with the objectives of realizing Humanistic Buddhism, we need to continue to establish all kinds of Buddhist undertakings under a well-structured plan in order to benefit society. For example, we can establish a Buddhist artifacts circulation department to provide Buddhists and members of society access to a variety of Buddhist publications and Dharma instruments, as well as audio and visual products in order to enhance the propagation of Buddhist culture. We can also establish Fo Guang Yuan Art Galleries, Water Drop Tea Houses, translation centers, and medical centers in different places. Even the promotion of Reading Clubs, Sounds of the Human World Music Competition, spiritual conservation programs and environmental protection projects can enable us to establish a connection between people and Buddhism through the use of language, public talks, music, art, life protection, relief programs and medical treatment in order to bring benefit and happiness to all.

Buddha’s Light members also have the opportunity to study at different levels at educational institutes established by Fo Guang Shan or join the Buddhist Studies Institutes to study Buddhist texts and do research so as to promote Buddhist thought texts on Humanistic Buddhism. You can also go to Fo Guang Shan’s Meditation Hall or Amitabha Chanting Hall to experience the dual practices of Chan and Pure Land, and actualize the ideal of equal emphasis on Buddhist understanding and practices. You can even join the Fo Guang Shan Order or get a paid job within the organization. The following are some examples of undertakings suitable to Buddhists for the reference of Buddha’s Light members: Culture: Newspaper, radio station, television station, record company, Buddhist artifact circulation department, art gallery, cultural square, printer, translation office, theatre, concert hall, and conference center.

Education: School, kindergarten, tutoring classes, reading class for foreign brides, Evergreen College, talent and skills center, devotee’s university, and community university.

Social Welfare: Hospital, rehabilitation center, dialysis center, sanatorium, retirement home, senior’s club, childcare center, and children’s home.

Service Industry: Travel agency, funeral parlor, florist, shipping company, consulting service, law firm, insurance company, job center, and training center.

Industry and Business: Supermarket, Buddhist department store, hotel, vegetarian restaurant, product distribution center, interior design company, landscaping company, power company, water works, farm, and factory.

Other than the above examples, as long as it is an undertaking or a career that helps change the world and benefit humanity, contribute to the well-being of the country, its people, society, economic prosperity, and bring happiness of the general public, Buddha’s Light members are most certainly encouraged to take part according to their own field of expertise, interest, and financial resources. In the future, Buddha’s Light members will also need to strive for the integration of tradition and modernism, and reform conventional methods into something acceptable to today’s people. For example, the manner of gatherings, chanting services, and activities need to be reformed. Extra attention needs to be paid to young adults and scouts so as to attract them to Buddhist undertakings. This will certainly contribute to Buddhism’s role in changing the world and benefiting humanity. 4)Change the World and Benefit Humanity by Bodhi
Wisdom and the Power of Vows While Buddhism emphasizes wisdom, it also values compassion, practice and vows. All buddhas and bodhisattvas have perfected their paths by cultivating compassion and wisdom, making vows, and putting all of the above into practice. That is why it has been said earlier that to resolve and to vow are the first step to learning Buddhism. Just as said in the Mahaprajnaparamita Shastra, “Mere accumulation of merits without vows will find one no goals; only with the superior guidance of vows will success be achieved.” The Sutra of the Great Gathering also says, “The making of vows gives one the weapon to defeat the evil army of defilement.” From this we can see that the entrance onto the path of buddhahood is none other than the making of vows, because while an effect or result is derived from our practices, without the power of vows, no matter how hard we practice, we still cannot reach our goal. Therefore it is essential for Buddhists to develop the bodhi mind and make vows in order to attain bodhi wisdom.

Bodhi mind refers to the great vow of enlightening both oneself and others; in other words, a bodhi mind is one that aspires to “seek buddhahood from above, teach and liberate sentient beings below.” The main reason that Buddhism declined in the past was because Buddhists did not strive hard enough to cultivate their compassion and wisdom, make vows and put the above into practice. Take the Four Universal Vows as an example, most people only dare chant them out loud but have very little courage to put them into practice. Therefore, if we wish for Buddhism to prosper today, then we must follow the examples of sages and eminent masters from the past, and resolve to develop the bodhi mind. For example, Sakyamuni Buddha vowed to never leave his seat from under the Bodhi tree until he attained enlightenment; Amitabha Buddha made forty-eight vows to create the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss; Medicine Buddha made twelve vows to adorn his Eastern Pure Land; the Bodhisattvas Manjusri, Samanthabadra, Avalokitesvara, and Ksitigarbha have also based their practice on compassion and vows.

Other examples include Master Xuanzang who traveled westwards in pursuit of the Dharma, and Master Jianzhen who traveled eastwards to Japan to propagate the Dharma; their spirit and resolve to change the world and benefit humanity is something worth learning from. In fact, every practitioner of Mahayana Buddhism is obliged to follow and practice the Four Universal Vows. Therefore, every Buddha’s Light member who vows to practice the bodhisattva path needs to cultivate bodhi wisdom and the power of vows in order to change the world and benefit humanity. Once it deviates from the path of bodhi mind, Humanistic Buddhism will only be further away from the Buddha’s Way, and is only as good as worldly knowledge. How exactly do we develop the bodhi mind and find strength from vow making? The Suramgama Sutra says, “A deviant cause will only result in a tortuous effect.” When we resolve to do something and make vows, our intention must comply with what is said in Commentary on the Awakening of Mahayana Faith, they must be grand, upright, perfect and truthful. “If even a flaming wheel rotates on the top of my head, I still will not relinquish the bodhi mind because of the burning pain.” By making such a vow, we shall not diverge from the right path.

The following are some examples of vows that Buddha’s Light members can make:
1) I vow to be a Buddhist of right belief who shares the Dharma with the world.
2) I vow to spread the right beliefs of Buddhism throughout the world.
3) I vow to go to remote areas and outlying territories to propagate the Dharma.
4) I vow to reach and offer my love and care to areas of distress.
5) I vow to dedicate all my property to a Buddhist organization for sustainable management; I vow to dedicate my legacy to a Buddhist organization for the benefit of all sentient beings.
6) I vow to build a Buddhist family with right understanding and right views, and value religious heritage within the family.
7) I vow to be loyal to one teacher and one path, and will protect the right Dharma.
8) I vow to write, speak, practice, and spread the Dharma.

Other than the above, Buddhists also need to vow to cater to the needs of life and help society by providing relief to those who are suffering. Examples of specific actions include the following:
1. Set up a “Dharma Line” and allow those in need, who have no one to talk to a chance to unload their thoughts on the telephone, and even receive guidance and comfort provided from the perspective of Buddhism.
2. Set up a “Relief Center” to guide those lost at life’s crossroads back onto the right tracks.
3. Set up a “Dharma Counseling Center” to provide answers to those who may have doubts or problems with their life, career, family and personal relationships.
4. Set up a “Senior’s Club” to offer the elderly a place to get together, drink tea, play chess, read, and chant. Through these interactions with others, they will also find peace of mind from the Dharma.
5. Set up a “Senior’s Home” to take care of one's own aged parents first and then extend the same care to aged people in general. By this, those elderly who live alone can be free from the suffering of loneliness and helplessness.
6. Set up a “Shelter Home” to provide temporary places to stay for the sick and needy, so they can rest, recuperate and get back on their feet again.
7. Set up a “Job Center for Women” to offer career advise to women from rural areas seeking a job in metropolitan districts, and help them find temporary accommodations while they are in-between jobs, so as to protect them from unscrupulous persons and risks of being deceived.
8. Set up a “Visiting Team” to visit hospitals or homes of the ill under an organized plan to chant for them, give them blessings, and give them books on Buddhism so as to comfort their hearts.
9. Take part in programs such as Fo Guang Shan Mobile Clinic that delivers medical supplies to remote areas, so that the healthy can provide financial support to the poor who are ill and need medical attention.
10. Organize an “Emergency Support Group” to offer immediate relief to those whose homes have been destroyed by serious natural disasters. This is also what we mean by “relieving those in urgent need is more important than helping those in long-term poverty.”
11. Allocate a tenth of your income for donations.
12. Spend a few hours each week on volunteer works for religious or charity purposes.   

Being resolved and making vows are not a practice exclusive to Buddhists; every member of society has the obligation to do so. Once one has resolved to do it, the accomplishment of a task then becomes possible; once a vow is made, a clear goal will then be in sight. In particular, a chaotic society is the cause of many people’s worries and senses of insecurity. Therefore it is vital that every member of society resolves and vows to play their roles well; for example, “As a police officer, I vow to fulfill my duty in eliminating crime, and fight against the evils of society to bring safety and stability to people;” “As a housewife, I vow to be good to my in-laws, educate my children, and be thoughtful of my husband and to ensure the morals of my family;” “As a student, I vow to excel in both my studies and conducts by studying hard, being good and caring for my parents, respecting my teachers, and getting along with my friends.” If everyone in the nation vows to bring happiness, be generous and share their joy with others, then our society is bound to be full of harmony. All in all, vow making is like excavating an endless source of energy within our minds, it is a treasure that can never be exhausted. By constantly making resolutions and vows, we will be able to leave behind history for ourselves, contributions to the family, compassion to society, and bright hopes to the world.

May all Buddha’s Light members, men or women, young or old, have with them compassion, wisdom, vows and practice to change the world, and benefit humanity with their bodhi wisdom and vows. The extensive spread of Buddhism in society and its outreach into people’s hearts can surely be expected soon.

Conclusion The establishment of BLIA has not only brought devotees’ religious beliefs onto a higher level, it is also a revolutionary act in the history of Buddhism. With fifteen year’s of dedication to the propagation of Humanistic Buddhism, BLIA members have made tremendous progress in making the life-relatedness, modernization, localization and internationalization of Buddhism happen. I hope in the future, each of our members can stay in line with the Buddhist spirit of compassion and wisdom, maintain their self-awareness and integrity, and fill themselves with the energy gained from their resolve to support and participate in the propagation of Buddhism. Furthermore, with bodhi wisdom and vows as the support, may we dedicate our hearts and strength to the propagation of Buddhism, purification of the world, and also the happiness and well-being of humanity.