When people first come in contact with the BLIA, they often ask, "How will I benefit if I join this organization?" It is good for all of us to be able to answer this question.
In the first place, simply joining the BLIA is a benefit because the BLIA is an international organization with projects all over the world. We promote culture, education, and the arts, as well as compassion and humanistic Buddhism. Simply by joining the BLIA, a new member begins to participate in these activities while learning the truths of Buddhism. In the following sections, I will discuss the benefits of joining the BLIA in more detail.
Emotion and friendship
There is a saying, "When we are young we depend on our parents. When we are grown, we depend on our friends." The more good friends we make, the better our lives will be. As Buddhists, it is important that we always seek to increase our friendships. The best kinds of friends for us to have are other Buddhists with whom we can work in ways that benefit all sentient beings. BLIA activities offer many ways for us to meet new people. As we work together and get to know one another, our best qualities are brought to the fore, even as our emotional needs for community and companionship are met.
Study and learning
The BLIA offers many chances for all of us to learn. We have classes, study groups, meditation sessions, chanting services, youth groups and many other activities. When we learn together, we learn faster and better. All that is required of us is the simple act of joining.
Professional and personal fulfillment
The BLIA offers many opportunities for personal and professional growth. The more we grow in and through our interests, the more fulfilled our lives become. Throughout most of the Twentieth Century, societies and individuals became atomized, isolated and ineffective in most everything except conflict and self-aggrandizement. Those days are nearly gone. The new world taking shape around us is both smaller and bigger than the old one. There are more opportunities than ever before precisely because our world has "shrunk" due to convenient travel and easy communication. By joining the BLIA, a person increases his opportunities to make contact with others and share in the benefits of large-scale cooperation.
Joy in celebration, community in times of sadness
One of the principal aims of the BLIA is to provide supportive community for the length of people's lives. We encourage Buddhist marriages, anniversary celebrations, festivals and parties with no special purpose at all. When people are ill and dying, the BLIA also is there to provide comfort, chanting services and other forms of solace. We encourage everyone to give of themselves, but if people have needs, we also encourage them to come forward and ask for help.
"A family with many joys is a family with many blessings." Becoming a member of the BLIA has a beneficial effect on one's family. The BLIA does many things to encourage families. When one member of a family joins the BLIA, other members benefit through him. When a family begins to learn the Dharma, nothing but good will result.
There is an old saying, "Giving your children a magnificent inheritance is not as good as teaching them a skill." This saying expresses very well the importance of education and training. If our children are well brought up and taught the skills they will need as adults, they will have little difficulty in taking on the responsibilities of adult life. Rather than be burdens on society when they are grown, they will be in a position to contribute and help others.
The BLIA has many classes and opportunities for young people to increase their skills. We offer art classes, language classes, summer camps, and many other kinds of organized activities designed to teach children how to live productive and moral lives. By coming together in groups, young people learn how to get along with others. They learn good manners and the ways of society, as well as how to make friends and cooperate.
"We welcome each other when we meet and acknowledge each other when we part."
This is one of the verses of the BLIA, and it is an important part of our basic beliefs. This verse asks something of us when others come to visit, but it also assures us that we, too, will be treated like friends wherever we go within the BLIA. You can find a friend almost anywhere in the world now simply by contacting the nearest chapter of the BLIA.
Wholesome activity purifies the body and mind. Our bodies and minds are our closest companions in this life. If we use them well, we will receive much benefit. If we use them for ill purposes, we will receive our just retribution one day. The BLIA sponsors many kinds of activities to give everyone a chance to participate in wholesome activities. Vegetarian cooking groups, sutra study groups, parent-child organizations and many other activities give everyone the chance to find something they can enjoy.
Vowing to do good
The Sadharma-smrty-upasthana Sutra says, "All goodness is to be loved, like the acts of a mother and father. Goodness is beautiful and it naturally disentangles us from argumentation and dispute. The Heavens love good people. Goodness augments courage and strength. It increases our families. It separates us from the three lower realms. Goodness ends all evil. It disentangles us from suffering and puts an end to false language. All of us should practice goodness."
Good begets good is a fundamental law of the universe. The BLIA is dedicated to the benefit of all sentient beings, and thus, anyone who joins the BLIA becomes an active participant in that goodness. The contributions we make to the world all will come back to us in the form of blessings one day.
We practice together
Modern society is characterized by anxiety and separation. The BLIA is an antidote to those afflictions. By learning and practicing together, members of the BLIA both encourage and comfort each other. BLIA study groups and meditation groups are capable of helping each and every one of us transcend the numerous emotional difficulties of this age.
Just to hear the Dharma is a blessing. The Diamond Sutra says that upholding a single verse of the sutras is more valuable than any possible act of material generosity. It also says that listening to the Dharma, contemplating it, and practicing it lead to Samadhi. Membership in the BLIA gives us the chance to hear the Dharma often. It also gives us the chance to contemplate it, and practice it with like-minded people. These opportunities help us increase our wisdom, as they plant good seeds which will sprout into the blessings we one day will be sure to reap.
The BLIA gives us a place to study, and it unites us with other people who want to study as much as we do. In addition to this, the BLIA also provides each of us with the opportunity to unlock infinite sources of wisdom within ourselves.