How to Advance BLIA
Whenever I visit BLIA chapters around the world, I am heartened by their dedication and perseverance. The BLIA can grow only through the work of its members. Since our chapters are spread our all over the world, I want to use the following sections to describe in detail how each member should think of the BLIA. In earlier chapters we discussed the general aims of the BLIA. Those aims are our guiding principles, and they are very important. At the same time, it is equally important that each member of the BLIA also have a concrete under- standing of how to participate most effectively in the BLIA.
Be a good member
The ideal member of the BLIA would be a perfect bodhisattva. Since few of us have reached this level of accomplishment, it would be good for all of us to concentrate on developing the qualities of a bodhi- sattva: patience, wisdom, compassion, forbearance and caring. As we strive to develop these qualities in ourselves, each member of the BLIA should also make himself thoroughly aware of the aims, goals and beliefs of the BLIA.
When all of us hold the same goals, our work together will be very productive. Thus, it is important that we all read BLIA publi- cations and participate in BLIA activities. Since there is more BLIA reading material available in Chinese than in other languages, and since we are unable to translate everything fast enough to keep up with the demand, people who do not read Chinese should look to their local temples, or to Chinese speakers among them, for more detailed explanations of BLIA affairs. I do not want to encourage non-Chinese speakers to be passive here. Speakers of other languages can develop their own publications and offer their own ideas for the development of the BLIA at any time. The BLIA is a worldwide organization. As time goes on, we will invariably develop centers steeped in languages other than Chinese. For the time being, the very attempts of non-Chi- nese speakers to participate fully in the BLIA will create excellent conditions for all of us to learn from each other.
Since the world changes so fast nowadays, I want to encourage every chapter of the BLIA to hold a chapter meeting at least once a month. BLIA members should do their utmost to be present at these meetings. Every half-year, BLIA chapters should hold larger meetings at which semiannual reports are presented and ideas for the next half-year can be worked out. These meetings should provide an opportunity for every member to express himself or herself, and they should, ultimately, encourage all of us to be as creative as we can throughout the year.
Be like family
For most of us, the family is the most important unit of social inter- action. Our personalities are formed within families, and most of our adult needs circle around family. The BLIA should be like a family to its members. We all have the same beliefs and ideals, and on the basis of these, we should seek to develop the acceptance and sharing that must characterize an effective family unit.
In addition to this, the BLIA should be exceptionally open to participation by whole family units. We should encourage husbands and wives to join together, and we should encourage children to attend events designed for them. In this way, the Dharma can be passed on to the next generation when members of that generation are still small and receptive. There is nothing better for a family than to have all of its members worship and learn together. And there is nothing better for Buddhism than to have many generations learning the Dharma together.
Be a community
Community, essentially, is an expansion of the family. In another sense, community is growth beyond the family. I hope members of the BLIA will not allow themselves to become narrow Buddhists who only are willing to practice in small groups or by themselves. All of us must work together to make our chapters inviting and pleasant for all members. At the same time, we should always be looking to expand our influence beyond the limits of our current enrollment. When we are successful at building community among ourselves, we will naturally want to reach out to include more people.
Acommunity should be dynamic, and it must be open to persons of all kinds. The very basis of true community is harmony among differ- ence. Do not expect to be on good terms immediately with everyone in your BLIA community. We should, however, all be expected to communicate and try our best to find common ground that will allow us to build our organization.
Communities meet many kinds of human needs. As we recognize our own need for community, it is imperative that we simultane- ously recognize the needs of other people to be in community with us.
Cooperation need be built on nothing more than that realization. Beyond that, if the truths of the Dharma are added to our efforts, the communities we will succeed in building will have enormous value for us, as well as for the generations after us.
The Pure Land
To make this world into a Pure Land is our ultimate goal. The Pure Land is our highest standard, and it is our highest ideal. But what would a Pure Land in this world look like? In a Pure Land, everyone would take refuge in Buddhism, everyone would uphold the five precepts, everyone would understand cause and effect, and everyone would do his or her utmost to develop good relations with others. With these fundamental attitudes in place, this world would become a very beautiful place indeed. People’s vision and awareness would be raised to the point where beauty was present in everything. Every sight, every sound and every word spoken would be part of a larger vision of beauty and compassion that included all sentient beings. Every act would be born of kindness, while emotions like jealousy and anger would disappear. Respect would replace hatred, joy would replace greed, and wisdom would replace ignorance. The Pure Land is a fundamental aspect of our minds. By emphasizing these positive aspects, and by acting on them, the BLIA will do a large part of the work necessary to bringing the Pure Land fully into reality in this saha world.