The Significance of the BLIA
The significance of human life is not to be found solely in a person’s ability to care for his material well-being. It is far more important that a person also raises his consciousness and achieves spiritual liberation. When a person joins the BLIA, he immediately begins to mingle his small self with the larger self of an international organization. What is the benefit of doing this? In the next four sections, I will try to give a detailed answer to this question.
BLIA advocates compassion and tolerance
The Lotus Sutra says, “With great compassion we strive to save all sentient beings.”
When most people speak about love, they make a distinction in their minds between themselves and other people.
In contrast, true compassion makes no distinction between the self and others.
Compassion stands in a position of dynamic mutuality. Compassion creates an ongoing relationship that is not based on one’s own self interests. For this reason, we should do our utmost to have compassionate relations with everyone we love. At the same time, we should also strive to have compassionate relations with all others as well. We should all work to develop pure hearts that benefit ourselves as well as others. As the old saying goes, we should “feel compassion for no reason, and loving-kindness toward all beings.” If we really try to accomplish this high ideal, we will find that our ability to be tolerant and open-minded will grow very rapidly.
Think of how beautiful this world is, and how much variety it holds. Flowers are red, trees are green. Birds fly through the skies as fishes leap through the waves. So many differences intermingle and are present in the same place. It is truly a wonder!
In much the same way, people all are different. Our ideas are different. Our manners and customs are different. Our genders are different, and our languages take many different forms. If we are tolerant, we will at last be able to cooperate and help each other, and this world will become a truly glorious place.
The BLIA is based on compassion and tolerance.
We do not just admit members of Fo Guang Shan to the BLIA, nor do we only accept Mahayana Buddhists who share our beliefs. We allow all Buddhists to join. We accept people from all kinds of Buddhist organizations, no matter what their particular bent might be. The BLIA even has a “Friendship Club,” which invites Christians, Muslims and members of many other religions to meet together. If we perceive a need somewhere, we don’t ask ourselves whether Buddhists are involved or not, we simply go and help. I hope that all members of BLIA will take some of this energy into their own lives, and really try to live up to the ideal of honoring diversity within unity, while finding unity among the diverse. Above all else, we must be sure that the BLIA is an organization that always exhibits tolerance and compassion.
Equality among its members
The BLIA is a global organization dedicated to helping all sentient beings. For this reason, we make no distinctions between people as to their race, age, gender, nationality, or wealth.
What are sentient beings? The Agama Sutra says, “There is no distinction between respectable and disrespectable, between higher and lower. All of them were born into this world, and that is why we call them all sentient beings.”
The Mahayana-bhisamaya Sutra says, “All sentient beings are formed out of the same delusive conditions, and that is why they all are called sentient beings.”
The Anunatvapurnatva-nirdesa-parivarta Sutra says, “The Dharmakaya is covered with delusion. Coming and going, living and dying – these are called sentient beings.”
The Avatamsaka Flower Adornment Sutra says, “There is no difference between mind, Buddha and sentient beings.”
In many other sutras, Buddha often says that Buddhas and sentient beings are equal, that sages and common people are equal, that the ultimate principle and all phenomena are equal, that the four castes are equal. All beings in the Ten Realms are equal, and there is no differ- ence among them.
This is the way the world should be seen by Buddhists. However, all of us know well enough that no matter where we go, people always make big distinctions between the powerful and the weak, the wealthy and the poor, the high and the low, the educated and the uneducated. No matter where we go, these kinds of social distinctions produce resentment and anger, and then often lead to serious social conflict and even violence.
I hope all BLIA members will bear this fact in mind and always base their behavior on a deep sense of equality.
The Buddha himself was brave enough to disregard caste distinc- tions in his own time, and those of us who follow him today should be brave enough to create rules and social organizations that will lead to equality among all the world’s peoples. If we can find the spirit within ourselves to do this, I am certain the world will come to resemble the sea in its wide-ranging tolerance and profound expansiveness. In that kind of a world, all of us will be able to practice the Dharma with the greatest possible harmony and mutual consideration.
Respect for family
A family is not just a place where a small group of people can find small comforts among themselves. It has a much more important social function than that.
If a husband and wife have a harmonious and positive relation- ship, that relationship will be a very important part of both of their capacities to grow and change for the better. The way parents speak to their children has a profound effect on the kinds of characters their children later develop. Family dynamics is one of the most important factors in the development of personality. For these reasons, the BLIA places even more emphasis on family life than it does on development of the individual.
The BLIA hosts all sorts of meetings and gatherings to further the development of the family, and we always welcome family members to all of our functions.
We sponsor family visits, family sporting events, and family get-togethers for the sole purpose of increasing communication and harmony among families. We sincerely hope that relations among BLIAmembers and BLIA families will always be marked by an attitude of deep concern, kindness, joy and mutual helpfulness. We also hope
that families themselves will see to it that all of their members fully understand and participate in BLIA activities.
If an entire family bases its life on the beliefs of the BLIA, it will open an area in its members’ hearts that will allow for rapid growth and freedom within the wise embrace of the Dharma.
Family members should think of themselves principally as friends who travel together along the bodhi way. If all of us can do this, our lives will be in harmony with the heavens, our nations will be prosper- ous and secure, and the world soon will know the meaning of real peace.
Committed to the social good
The Flower Adornment Sutra says, “If you want to save all sentient beings from suffering, do not put your own happiness above theirs.” The Buddha came into this world to accomplish the great deed of
saving all sentient beings from delusion.
The great saints and sages of history, similarly, have dedicated themselves to that same spirit of saving all beings from the pain and hardship of living a life of delusion. And those saints have been practical in their efforts. They have helped clear new land, they have cured diseases, they have helped build buildings, and they have taught others how to control their negative emotions. In these ways, they have done much to advance the well-being of all of society. Without their contributions, the world would be a far poorer place in which to live.
It is a shame, but I don’t know how many times Buddhists in the past have been content merely to come together in small groups for a little chanting. Or they have been content to hide away and meditate all by themselves. What good does that do? That kind of behavior shows a lack of great compassion exemplified by the great bodhisattvas. Even when small organizations do make attempts to do something for society, they often fail completely because they have no rules or regulations and they simply do not have the numbers to really have any lasting effect.
The world has changed very much in recent years, and all of us have had to experience great shocks to our inherited senses of what is right and wrong. So many people nowadays spend so much time seeking the pleasures of material things that their inner lives have become rigid, while their relationships with each other have become volatile and unforgiving. As they chase material pleasures more and more, their lives become even more committed to selfish gain and the devious wiles of unrelenting profiteering. Truly, the task before us is great!
In this kind of a world, it is my opinion that the BLIA must be able to rely on itself, and not wait for some other force to come along and help. Instead of waiting for others to help us, we should be asking ourselves, what can we do to help them? Members of the BLIA should really strive to adopt this kind of an attitude. When we say we intend to save all sentient beings from delusion, we must mean it, and we must not expect the task to be easy.
As the world constantly changes, the forms of people’s entrap- ment in delusion also change. The basic nature of deluded thinking is always the same. It is always dependent upon greed, anger and ignorance, but the outward forms these delusions can take are always changing. Therefore, it is imperative that members of the BLIA have a firm commitment to Buddhism, and it is imperative that all of us be constantly willing to change our methods of dealing with the world’s problems.
Since its inception, the BLIA has been involved in many very practical movements. We have advocated environmentalism in Taiwan, healthful vegetarianism, and we have done many things to try to bring the different classes of society closer together. We have established mobile clinics, which travel deep into the mountains to provide health- care services for those who would not otherwise have access to them. We have been involved in disaster relief in many parts of the world. We have helped the government of Taiwan with anti-drug programs, and we often send monks into prisons to preach the Dharma to the inmates. We have TV and radio shows, and we sponsor many kinds of activities for young people so they will be able to participate in society in a constructive fashion.
These are the kinds of activities the BLIA should always look to be doing. Our foundation is one of compassion, equality, tolerance and commitment to the social good. From this base, it is important that we strive actively to be a benefit to peoples and societies in all parts of the world.