Dear Dharma Friends,
I was very happy when I heard from the venerable chair that the theme of this conference, which is ushering in 1990, is Humanistic Buddhism, the foundation of the Fo Guang Shan International Buddhist Order. I have spent these past few days speaking with the armed forces, and upon my return to Fo Guang Shan, Venerable Tzu Hui invited me to give the keynote address for this conference. I know that giving a speech to such a scholarly audience requires extensive research, so my first thought was that I needed more time to prepare. However, the conference organizers encouraged me saying, "You have been promoting Humanistic Buddhism for decades; why don't you just speak from your heart about your own experiences?" Yes, Humanistic Buddhism is not only in my heart; it is also always in my actions and thoughts. Therefore, I am delighted to have this opportunity today to share with you my views on the basic concepts of Humanistic Buddhism."
Since the theme of this conference is "Humanistic Buddhism," we need to have an understanding of what this means. What, then, does this term suggest?
To begin, we know that the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha, is the Buddha of our world. He was born into this world; he cultivated his spiritual development, attained enlightenment, and shared with others in the world the deep truths he had realized. The human world was emphasized in everything he did. Why did the Buddha not achieve Buddhahood in one of the other five realms? Why did he not attain enlightenment in one of the other ten dharma-worlds? Why did he, instead, attain complete awakening as a person? Taking this question one step further, why did the Buddha not attain enlightenment in a past or future [kalpa]? Why did he choose our saha world and our present [kalpa]? There can only be one reason: the Buddha wanted the teachings of Buddhism to be relevant to the human world. [The Buddha's very life as a human being has given us all an inspiration and a model for the spiritual path and for making our own lives a spiritual practice.] The Buddhism that the Buddha gave us is humanistic, and Humanistic Buddhism is the integrating of our spiritual practice into all aspects of our daily lives. Humanistic Buddhism has the following six characteristics:
1. Humanism. The Buddha was neither a spirit, coming and going without leaving a trace, nor was he a figment of one's imagination. The Buddha was a living human being. Just like the rest of us, he had parents, a family, and he lived a life. It was through his human existence that he showed his supreme wisdom of compassion, ethical responsibility, and intuitive wisdom. Thus, he is a Buddha who was also a human being.
2. Emphasis on Daily Life. In his teachings, the Buddha placed great importance on daily life as spiritual practice. He provided guidance on everything, from how to eat, dress, work, and live to how to walk, stand, sit, and sleep. He gave clear directions on every aspect of life, from relations among family members and among friends to how we should conduct ourselves in the social and political arenas.
3. Altruism. The Buddha was born into this world to teach, to provide an example, and to bring joy to all beings. He nurtured all beings, for he always had the best interest of others in his mind and heart. In short, his every thought, word and action arose from a heart filled with deep care and concern for others.
4. Joyfulness. The Buddhist teachings give people joy. Through the limitless compassion of his heart, the Buddha aimed to relieve the suffering of all beings and to give them joy.
5. Timeliness. The Buddha was born for a great reason: to build a special relationship with all of us who live in this world. Although the Buddha lived some 2,500 years ago, and has already entered nirvana, he left the seed of freedom for all subsequent generations. Even today, the Buddha's ideals and teachings serve as timely, relevant guides for us all.
6. Universality. The entire life of the Buddha can be characterized by the Buddha's spirit of wanting to save all beings, without exclusion. [The Buddha loved beings of all forms, whether they were animals or humans, male or female, young or old, Buddhist or not Buddhist, etc.]
[In the past, it has been difficult for people to see the relevance of Buddhism in their modern, daily lives.] I can still recall [the exchange between Mr. Shu-ming Liang and Master T'ai Hsu about the relevance of Buddhism to our human world.] Mr. Shu-ming Liang cited the reason that he felt Buddhism did not emphasize human concerns sufficiently to explain why he parted ways with Buddhism and focused his energy in Confu-cianism. When Mr. Liang was invited by Master T'ai Hsu to lecture at Han Ts'ang Buddhist College, Mr. Liang began his lecture by writing on the board: "Now, Today, and Us." He said, "It is precisely for these reasons that I chose to study Confucianism. Buddhism speaks of the countless past, present, and future kalpas, but I believe the present time in which we live is the most important. Buddhism speaks of space and the elements, of this and other worlds, of the countless worlds in all ten directions, but I believe our own world is what we must purify. Buddhism speaks of humans and all beings of the ten dharma-worlds, but I believe humans are the most important." After the lecture, Master T'ai Hsu offered his insight about the matter. He said that although Buddhism speaks of the past, present, and future, it particularly highlights the universal welfare of the beings of the present world; although Buddhism speaks of this world and countless other worlds, it particularly underscores the welfare of the beings of this world; and although Buddhism speaks of all beings of the ten dharma-worlds, it reserves the most emphasis for humans.
Buddhism is a religion for human beings, and the regard for human concerns is very much at the root of this religion. In the various sutras and sastras, the Buddha said repeatedly that he, too, was a member of the community, in order to emphasize that he was not a god. The Vimalakirti Sutra states: "The Buddha realm is found among sentient beings. Apart from sentient beings, there is no Buddha. Apart from the multitude of beings, there is no path to Truth." The Sixth Patriarch also taught that, "The Dharma is in the world; to understand the world is to understand the Dharma. Seeking enlightenment apart from the world is like seeking horns on a rabbit." To achieve Buddhahood, we must train and cultivate ourselves in this human world of ours. There is simply no other way to attain Buddhahood. [Now that we are so fortunate to be reborn as humans, we should live our lives consistent with Humanistic Buddhism, integrating our spiritual practice and our daily lives.]
[When we say that Buddhism is a religion for human beings, we also need to understand that the human form is something we should treasure and not take for granted.] In fact, the Lotus Sutra uses an analogy to illustrate both the difficulty and the preciousness of being born as a human. The sutra states: "In a pitch black night, a blind turtle hopes to find a shallow shore. In the vast ocean and endless darkness there is only one piece of wood. This piece of wood has one hole. Over the course of one hundred years, the turtle only comes up for air one time. Only if it is able to find that hole will it be able to survive." In the Agama Sutra it is also written: "The count of those who lose the human form are as numerous as the particles of dirt on the earth; the number of those who are able to attain the human form are as scarce as the dirt under a fingernail." These quotations all indicate how precarious and precious human existence is.
Once I was at a fellowship meeting in San Francisco. A teacher in the group asked me this question, "When you ask us lay Buddhists to work toward freeing ourselves from the wheel of rebirth, we have no such desire. When you teach us the path to Buddhahood, we have no such aspiration. Both of these are too remote and distant. We are happy if we can just live our lives a little better than others, a bit more cultivated than others." This comment greatly disturbed me, because such people perceive Buddhism as a religion removed from humanity. This perception of Buddhism is characterized by isolation, retreat to forests, self-concern, and individualism; it has lost its humanistic quality. It has reached the point that many who are interested in entering the gate of Buddhism dare not do so; they hesitate as they peer in and wander about outside. We must refocus and redouble our efforts on helping all sentient beings.
The first 100 to 300 years of Buddhist history was the period of the Small Vehicle, but not the Great Vehicle; that is, Theravada Buddhism was popular, while Mahayana Buddhism remained obscure. The following 600 years saw the emergence of the practice of the Great Vehicle, but not the Small Vehicle, that is, Mahayana Buddhism gained popularity but Theravada Buddhism receded from view. For 1,000 years after that, Tantric practice developed. The Humanistic Buddhism I advocate invites the integration of all Buddhist teachings from the time of the Buddha to the present—whether they are derived from the Theravada, Mahayana, or Tantric traditions.
Humanistic Buddhism is truly the study of the bodhisattva path. Chinese Buddhism has long honored the bodhisattva path, which Humanistic Buddhism embodies. Over the course of the development of Chinese Buddhism, four mountains have gained fame as pilgrimage sites. Each of these mountains is associated with a particular bodhisattva: Avalokitesvara (Kuan-yin), Manjusri (Wen-shu), Samantabhadra (P'u-hsien), and Ksitigarbha (Ti-tsang). Of the four, Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, and Samantabhadra all manifested as lay Buddhists; only Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva manifested as a monastic. Why did three out of these four bodhisattvas manifest as lay persons? This is because, while monastics emphasize detachment from and transcendence of the mundane world, it is the optimism and active engagement of lay Buddhists that holds the greatest potential to realize the goals of Mahayana Buddhism and is more true to the spirit of the Buddha. As Master T'ai Hsu once said of himself: "A bhiksu I am not, nor have I become a Buddha; instead, I hope, to be called a bodhisattva." What he meant is this: I dare not call myself a bhiksu since it is so difficult to uphold the bhiksu precepts with perfection. If you say that I am a Buddha, I have not yet become one. My hope, however, is to serve others as a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is not merely a clay statue to be worshipped in a temple; rather, a bodhisattva is an energetic, enlightened, and endearing person who strives to help all sentient beings liberate themselves. We can all become bodhisattvas. It is for this reason that Master T'ai Hsu dedicated his life to spreading the words and ideals of Humanistic Buddhism. To fully realize the bodhisattva way of being is the goal of Humanistic Buddhism.
[In concert with our goal of becoming a bodhisattva,] we should all strive to live in a pure land. While we speak of the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss to the west and the Pure Land of Azure Radiance to the east, in reality, pure lands are not just found in the east or west. Pure lands are everywhere. Maitreya Bodhisattva has the Tusita Pure Land, and Vimalakirti has the Pure Land of the Mind. Many of you are already familiar with the concept of Pure Land on Earth. Instead of resting our hopes on being reborn in a pure land in the future, why don't we work on transforming our planet Earth into a pure land of peace and bliss? Instead of committing all our energies to pursuing something in the future, why don't we direct our efforts toward purifying our minds and bodies right here and now in the present moment? It is in this spirit that Fo Guang Shan provides retirement care for long-time, loyal devotees who have dedicated their lives to the Order. In this way, they do not necessarily need to be cared for by their children. They do not even need to wait until death to finally enjoy the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha. We tell them, "You have done much for Buddhism. We will care for you and provide you with a pure land in your lifetime." I feel that Fo Guang Shan temples and monasteries should instill in these disciples the confidence that the Order can provide for all their needs and that they can find the joy of a pure land right here. I believe that Humanistic Buddhism must focus more on issues of the world rather than on how to leave the world behind, on caring for the living rather than for the dead, on benefiting others rather than benefiting oneself, and on universal salvation rather than cultivation for oneself only.
Regardless of the school (Theravada or Mahayana) or the emphasis (tantras or general teachings), Buddhism should have a humanistic dimension so that it can remain relevant as times change. Because Humanistic Buddhism attends to the trends of the current age rather than merely following traditions blindly, it is a beacon for the future. It is all the more important to spread the ideals of Humanistic Buddhism now because, as Master T'ai Hsu observed, we live in the period called the Declining Understanding of the Dharma. During the earliest stage of Buddhism, the Mahayana spirit of the Dharma was seen through the eyes of sravakas, traditionally called "holy practitioners," thus this was the period of the True Understanding of the Dharma. Subsequent to this was the period of the Semblance Understanding of the Dharma, when the Mahayana spirit was seen through the eyes of the "celestial vehicle" practitioners. We are currently living in the last stage of Buddhism when the Mahayana spirit is seen through the eyes of the "human vehicle" practitioners. This is the period of the Declining Understanding of the Dharma. According to Master T'ai Hsu, during this period [when our spiritual maturity is nascent], it is important that we understand the Dharma via practice in our everyday life. With this being the case, I'd like to offer the following six points regarding how Humanistic Buddhism is the applying of the Buddhist teachings to our everyday living.
1. Humanistic Buddhism is [the integrating of] the Five Vehicles
We know that Buddhism speaks of the Five Vehicles, which are the human, celestial, sravaka, pratyekabuddha, and bodhisattva vehicles. The human and celestial vehicles focus on worldly matters. The sravaka and pratyekabuddha vehicles focus on matters that transcend the world. The bodhisattva vehicle combines the worldly spirit of the human and celestial vehicles with the transcendental spirit of the sravaka and pratyekabuddha vehicles. We should strive for the bodhisattva goal of simultaneously benefiting, delivering, and awakening self and others. If we understand that self and others are inextricably inter-related, we will see that to benefit others is to benefit oneself. When we deliver other sentient beings, we also deliver ourselves. Thus, when the inter-relatedness of the teachings of these five vehicles is comprehended, we have Humanistic Buddhism, or Buddhism for the human world. Let me illustrate what I mean by the following example. Suppose I want to go to Taipei today. Taipei is the goal of my Buddhist cultivation; it is a pure land. As I take the train, I pass through Tainan, Taichung, and Hsin Chu. Although I do not have to get off at these stops, I have no choice, however, but to pass through Tainan, Taichung, and Hsin Chu. This is to say that while we have to pass through the cultivation of the human, celestial, sravaka, and pratyekabuddha vehicles, we can strive for Buddhahood by directly practicing the humanistic Buddhist teachings [of the bodhisattva path] among the multitudes.
2. Humanistic Buddhism is [the practicing of] the Five Precepts and Ten Virtues
Earlier today the principal of the military academy asked me, "Can you please tell me specifically some concrete examples of what Buddhism can offer to the nation and society?" To this I replied that the nation and society can benefit from the Buddhist teachings of the Tripitaka. Indeed, just the Five Precepts alone can bring peace to the country and the entire world. As you may all know, the Five Precepts teach us to abstain from killing, abstain from stealing, abstain from sexual misconduct, abstain from lying, and abstain from the use of intoxicating substances. To abstain from killing is to show respect for the lives of others; if we do not encroach upon the rights of others, we can all enjoy freedom of life. To abstain from stealing is not to infringe upon the property rights of others; then there can be freedom of wealth. To abstain from sexual misconduct is to show respect for the body and honor the integrity of others, allowing all to enjoy freedom of body and honor. To abstain from lying and false speech is not to impugn on other's reputation, and no one's name is harmed. To abstain from intoxicants and stimulants is to avoid doing mental or physical harm to ourselves, and thus keeps us from harming others as well. If a person can keep the Five Precepts, then that person's character and morality are well grounded. If a family can keep the Five Precepts, the character and morality of the members of that family are in good order. If all in an organization, society, or nation can keep the Five Precepts, then that nation will certainly be one that is characterized by stability, peace, and prosperity.
We only need to visit a prison to realize that all those incarcerated for their crimes have violated the Five Precepts in one way or another. For instance, those who have committed murder, manslaughter, or aggravated assault have violated the precept against killing. Those who are guilty of corruption, misappropriation, or robbery have violated the precept against stealing. Pornography, adultery, polygamy, rape, abduction, and prosti-tution are all examples of violating the precept against sexual misconduct. To engage in fraud, intimidation, and defaulting on loans is to violate the precept against lying. In addition to proscribing the drinking of alcohol, the precept against intoxicants also includes heroin, cocaine, and other illegal drugs, all of which adversely affect one's mind, harming one's own cognitive abilities, and causing one to do unconscionable acts. If everyone can uphold the Five Precepts, then prisons will be empty.
There is a lesson here for us Buddhists as well. Today, some Buddhists look at Buddhism as a folk religion. They pay their respects to the Buddha because they want to pray for longevity, wealth, a prosperous family, fame, and health. If we can raise the level of our faith and uphold the Five Precepts with reverence, we will indeed enjoy great blessings, without even asking for them. If one does not kill but also protects life, how can one not have longevity? If one does not steal but also acts generously, how can one not be wealthy? If one does not engage in sexual misconduct but is also respectful, how can the family not be harmonious? If one does not lie but is also honest, how can one not have a good name? If one does not become intoxicated but also looks after the body, how can one not have good health? The Five Precepts, indeed, have a great impact upon the individual, society, and nation.
Thus, what does Humanistic Buddhism mean? Humanistic Buddhism is the practice of the Five Precepts and Ten Virtues. The Ten Virtues are extensions of the Five Precepts. In one's deeds, do not kill, steal, or engage in sexual misconduct. In one's speech, do not lie, slander, cheat, or be offensive. In one's thoughts, do not be greedy, hateful, or corrupt in views. In Buddhism, the development of right views is called the study of wisdom, the ultimate goal of which is to awaken the wisdom of one's true nature. The Five Precepts and Ten Virtues are tools to help us achieve this goal. This is also what Humanistic Buddhism is about.
3. Humanistic Buddhism incorporates [the characteristics of] the Four Boundless Vows
The Four Boundless Vows are kindness, compassion, joy, and generosity. In fact, one does not have to look further than these Four Boundless Vows to understand why Chinese Buddhism has lost its vigor. We Chinese Buddhists have not put the Buddhist teachings into practice and have lost touch with the Dharma. The Buddha teaches kindness and compassion. How many of us are truly kind and compassionate? The Buddha teaches joy and generosity. How many of us are really joyful and generous? Regardless whether we are lay persons or monastics, if we do not practice the Dharma, how are we different from non-Buddhists?
In my country, there is a common saying: "Every family has Amitabha, every household has Avalokitesvara." There, Avalokitesvara is wor-shipped in every shrine. The best spot in the house is selected for Avalokitesvara. Why is this so? Because Avalokitesvara is compassionate. Com-passion is welcomed in each household; com-passion earns one respect and wins the hearts of others.
I don't know when Buddhism took on such shades of pessimism. Whenever Buddhists see each other, they often say things like, "Life is suffering! All is impermanent! Oh, imper-manence!" But Buddhism is happy in character and joyful in spirit. The teachings speak of boundless happiness and endless compassion, and we Buddhists have the responsibility to share this with the world. When the Buddha spoke of suffering as the First Noble Truth, it was because the Buddha wanted us to recognize the cause of suffering, and how we could be liberated from delusions and attain true joy. We should not just stop at understanding that life is full of suffering. The Buddha teaches us that all phenomena are impermanent. Impermanence is actually quite wonderful! It makes change possible, for the bad can then be transformed into the good. Because of impermanence, adversity can be followed by felicity, and bad luck can change for the better. It is because of imperm-anence that fate is not irrevocably determined. Our task as bodhisattvas is to spread the seeds of joy so that the whole world may hear of the Dharma, and everyone can have a life of well-being, peace, and joy.
Sometimes a prosperous material life, such as that created by a flourishing economy, does not necessarily alleviate the suffering of life. More money and material possessions can give people more troubles. The joy of the Dharma is the peace and happiness that we can all experience when we are at ease with ourselves; this joy is derived from the understanding of Ch'an and the realization of truth. Often, people's religious practice is based on greed; people pray to the bodhisattvas and gods for peace, fortune, a happy family life, longevity, and a winning lottery number. Such religious faith that stems from covetousness is not a deep level of spiritual maturity. We should base our faith on giving. To practice a religion is to contribute, make sacrifices, and work to benefit others. Since one of the characteristics of Humanistic Buddhism is the spirit of giving and benefiting others, Humanistic Buddhism incorporates the characteristics of the Four Boundless Vows of kindness, compassion, joy, and generosity. This is also the meaning of Humanistic Buddhism.
4. Humanistic Buddhism is [applying] the Six Paramitas and the Four Great Bodhisattva Virtues
The Buddhist teachings of the Six Paramitas (giving, upholding the precepts, patience, diligence, meditative concentration, and wisdom) and the Four Great Virtues (giving, amiable speech, conduct beneficial to others, and cooperation) is humanistic and relevant to human interactions.
While I was traveling in the United States spreading the Dharma I felt that, although America is not a Buddhist country, Americans have the character of Humanistic Buddhism and the spirit of the bodhisattva. Take giving as an example. Americans are very willing to give. Many willingly provide donations to their church. When a social problem arises, everyone happily does all they can to help. No matter where you are, Americans often smile and greet you warmly saying, "Hello! How are you?" This, too, is giving. A simple smile, a short greeting—these are the ways of practicing giving through one's expression and speech. These are examples of how Americans have integrated giving into their daily life.
As for upholding the precepts, Americans are very law-abiding people. Upholding the precepts means observing the rules of the law. America is a country in which people follow the rules of the law. One need not go to a court of law to see how laws are observed. When Americans come to a red light, even if there are no other cars or police officers around, they still do not run the light. If there is a stop sign, they will not immediately go through the intersection, but instead stop for a moment before continuing on. Everyone also lines up in an orderly manner. One time when I was in Hawaii, a large tour group of people, including several of us monastics who were also in the group, went to watch a hula dance. When the attendant saw us, he told a group of people to move away from the shade of a large tree so that we monastics could sit there. Without any protest, everyone did as they were told. Why? Because religion is respected in America, as are laws and rules, and because those in positions of authority are respected and obeyed. When it becomes too crowded for attendants to direct everyone, they simply use a rope to guide people where to sit. Everyone stays within the rope, whether they are kings, state officials, governors, or senators. Why? Because the rope symbolizes the law, and no one is above it. The solemn sacredness of the law is fully integrated into the daily life and attitude of Americans. Because everyone is compliant, it is naturally a country that follows the rules of the law.
On the contrary, what is the situation in developing countries? Do not mention ropes. Even if there is a wall, everyone tries to think of a way to climb over it. Hence, to follow laws is to keep precepts and regulations. Whether or not a country's populace obeys its laws will affect its image, its development, and its prosperity. Humanistic Buddhism is built upon the principles of laws and regulations.
Americans are also very patient. Patience does not mean keeping quiet when being yelled at, or taking it on the chin when struck. These are not examples of patience. Patience means taking responsibility; patience means being strong. To be patient is to be proactive, progressive, willing to make sacrifices, and able to shoulder burdens. Americans work hard, don't they. In lining up, they don't skip ahead. This, too, requires patience. So, when everyone is patient with each other, society can be orderly and without chaos.
Everyone knows about how diligent Americans are. Americans are ambitious, dedicated, and hardworking. We fantasize that America as a heaven [where everyone is automatically well provided for]. In reality, Americans are very industrious and conscientious; they work hard and have a lot of pride in the quality of their work. Their work ethic is very much like the Buddhist notion of diligence. Buddhism speaks of diligence as the Four Right Efforts of bringing forth goodness, developing the existing goodness, ending the existing harm, and preventing the arising of new harm. Americans are well-known for their dedication to doing research, developing breakthroughs, and striving to be the very best. This is why their country has become a world power.
We can also find examples of meditative concentration in the American lifestyle. Instead of running about the streets after work or school, adults and children often spend their time at home. And when they speak, they usually do so in a soft voice so as not to disturb anyone. When using public transportation, they are often relaxed and at ease, as if in meditation.
As far as wisdom is concerned, some people say that Americans are lacking in this area. They say that if you sell them six things that cost two dollars each, (the total is, of course, twelve dollars), the Americans take quite a bit of time to figure out what the total should be. Instead of multiplying six things at two dollars each, they will add two plus two, plus two, plus two, so on and so forth to get to twelve. We should not, however, think that Americans are slower in doing these mental calculations; it is just that the Chinese are shrewd, sometimes too shrewd for their own good. Americans are very methodical in calculating figures. They may appear slower in dealing with numbers, but actually Americans go by the rules so that one is one and two is two. Hence they are very precise in their scientific and technological research and are very reliable in all they do.
At this point, everyone may say that I am proposing that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. This is not the case; I am just exasperated. Taiwan is a country that promotes and practices Mahayana Buddhism, so why is it that we often find ourselves being miserly, snobbish, selfish, irresponsible, and unkind? Why do we only look out for ourselves? Therefore, we have to spread the ideals of Humanistic Buddhism. In practicing the Four Bodhisattva Virtues of giving, using amiable speech, performing conduct beneficial to others, and cooperating, we are again making Buddhism relevant to the needs of contemporary society. Indeed, the Five Precepts can provide a stabilizing effect on society, the Six Paramitas can serve as a good foundation on which to build a country, and the Four Boundless Vows can be a fountain of goodness for all of us.
5. Humanistic Buddhism is [the under-standing of] cause, condition, effect, and consequence
During these past few days, when I was visiting the army, the officers told me that they have a personnel problem. Some young draftees will question them saying, "I enlisted last year, at the same time that he did. How come he is now a sergeant, while I am still a private? It's so unfair. We have the same qualifications and enlisted at the same time, so why is there such a difference in the advancement of our careers?" We should know that, in the law of cause, condition, result, and consequence, condition is right in the middle. When conditions are different, the results will be different. Take two flowers for instance: if one is given a bit more water and fertilizer, and is planted in a richer soil, then even though both flowers are nurtured by the same sunshine, they will grow differently. The two are the same variety of flower, but because of different conditions, the result is not the same.
Some complain about their fate and condemn the world as unfair. They criticize that this family member or that friend is no good. If they would just look closer at their own causes and conditions to discover the source of their problems. For example, they might see that they had lost the opportunity for promotion to a sergeant because of something inappropriate they had said. In another instance, although someone had an edge in terms of qualifications over another person who was competing for the same promotion, the other person strengthened his or her conditions by providing a great service, saying the right thing, shouldering a huge responsibility at a critical moment, thereby earning the promotion. Buddhism teaches us to improve our conditions and make positive connections with others. It is said, "Before achieving the Buddha Way, we must first cultivate good causal relationships with others." In our daily life, we should know that a single grain of rice is the culmination of many causes and conditions. We should appreciate all the various causes and conditions. We should be grateful for all those who have given us the opportunity to be here in this conference. We should be thankful to the Buddhist College for their sponsorship and for providing all the amenities that make our attendance here so enjoyable.
In the morning, newspapers are delivered to our homes. In the evening, many television programs bring us enjoyment and information about local and global events. Have we learned to appreciate others' work? Imagine the limited view and monotony of life if these things were not available. Causes and conditions enable us all over the world to connect with one another. Efforts and contributions of many people have provided all of us with a lot of conveniences. We should value these causes and conditions. Since others have labored to provide us with such good conditions, what can we do to repay their kindness? We can learn to be grateful and to truly enjoy the wealth and satisfaction of life anywhere and anytime.
Speaking of cause, condition, effect, and consequence, the law of cause and effect is profound. Some people misunderstand the law of cause and effect. Some regularly recite the name of Amitabha Buddha, but the moment a problem arises, they blame Amitabha Buddha for not looking out for them. They say, "I've been cheated out of my money, and now I'm bankrupt. Why didn't Amitabha protect me?" "I haven't made any money in the stock market. Where is Amitabha's power?" "I am a vegetarian, but my health is going downhill. Why is Amitabha Buddha not more compassionate?" But where is the connection between the fact that one recites the Buddha's name or is a vegetarian and the fact that one is wealthy, healthy, or lives a long life? We must not be confused about what causes what effects. How can a person who plants a melon expect to get beans? Chanting and keeping a vegetarian diet are in the realm of religious and moral cause and effect. Amassing great wealth is in the domain of economic cause and effect. Having good health or a long life are health-related causes and effects. How can people attribute all their problems to religious faith? Therefore, there are too many people today who, having confused the connection between particular causes and effects, are not able to accurately understand the law of cause and effect.
Once a passer-by stole a coconut from a family's yard. The owner said, "Hey! How dare you steal my fruit!" The passer-by responded, "What do you mean this is yours? It's from the tree." "Well, I planted the tree," yelled the owner " The passer-by retorted, "The coconut you planted is in the ground. Mine is from the tree." Is there not a connection between the two? Cause and effect are forever linked; they can never be disconnected. A cause, upon encountering the right conditions, will bear fruit. There is the saying, "Bodhisattvas fear causes, sentient beings fear effects." Bodhisattvas, knowing that causes are not to be taken lightly, do not haphazardly create causes. Because sentient beings do not fear causes, they act without thinking through the effects. In the end they fall into the depths of hell, with the most frightening consequences.
In my hometown in Yang Chou, China, there were no police for tens of miles and no courts for hundreds of miles, yet crimes or murders were very rare. In the case of a conflict, people did not fight and quarrel. Instead, we would go to a temple and both of us would take an oath in front of the gods. We all believed this was very fair. Why? Because we believed that the law of cause and effect knows best. Even when there was no way to appeal, everyone had peace of mind. We all knew that the law of cause and effect would not betray us. As the saying goes, "All acts, both good and bad, bear consequences; it is only a matter of time."
When the Buddha was alive, he experienced the phenomena of aging, sickness, life, and death just like all of us. He, too, existed in the realm of cause and effect, and therefore was subject to the workings of cause and effect. This is a great notion, for in the face of cause and effect, everyone is equal. No one can escape this law. There is a saying: "People take advantage of those who are nice, but that which sees to justice does not. People are fearful of those who are mean, but that which sees to justice is not." Who or what is this "seer of justice"? In Buddhism, the seer of justice is cause and effect. Cause and effect are always fair and just. We who are promoting Buddhism strive to firmly establish the concept of cause and effect, for it is very scientific and rational. If everyone believed in cause and effect, it would serve as each person's police and guide. Cause and effect would be each person's principle of law.
6. Humanistic Buddhism [encompasses the teachings] of Ch'an, Pure Land, and the Middle Path
Buddhist teachings are vast and profound, and there are many sects and schools. The teachings of the Ch'an and Pure Land schools, the doctrine of the unity of form and emptiness, and the Middle Path are some of the Buddhist teachings for everyday living, thus they are part of Humanistic Buddhism. In the Ch'an tradition, patriarchs and masters do not practice meditation to become Buddhas, but to attain enlightenment. With enlightenment, they are able to realize liberation and settle their minds and bodies in the here-and-now of daily life. What is most gratifying to Ch'an practitioners is to find peace of body and mind, or in other words, "to illumine the mind and see one's True Nature." Thus, Ch'an practitioners are very much focused on life in this world.
The Pure Land school is the same. Pure Land practitioners practice mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha and recite the Buddha's name in our present world in the hope of attaining rebirth in the Pure Land. If their practice is inadequate, rebirth in the Pure Land is impossible; so they consider this world as the foothold for devoting themselves to their cultivation and to being mindful of Amitabha Buddha. There is no shortcut. Pure Land practice is a wonderful method for calming our minds and bodies, especially when we are faced with the demands of modern society. If you practice both the Ch'an and the Pure Land Dharma methods, you are truly practicing Humanistic Buddhism.
The Middle Path, which is the wisdom of harmonizing emptiness and existence, allows one to venture directly into the true reality of all phenomena. If one has the prajna wisdom of the Middle Path, then one enjoys happiness and blessings in this very life. Some people place too much emphasize on materialistic life; they get lost in the red-hot zeal of worldly pursuits. Others abandon the world, retreating deep into the mountains to be alone. Blind to the suffering of the world, such people are as unfeeling as a withered piece of wood or a pile of cold ashes. A life that is either too detached or too passionate is not healthy; it lacks the harmony of the Middle Path.
The "Middle Path" refers to the prajna wisdom of contemplating the harmonized mean. If we have this type of wisdom, we will know the underlying principles at work in various situations and the appropriate actions for dealing with them. [If we have the wisdom of the Middle Path, we will know that] existence occurs within emptiness; without emptiness, nothing could exist. If there were no emptiness of space, how could we gather together here? Without space, how could the myriad phenomena of the universe develop? Only in the midst of emptiness can existence arise. Humanistic Buddhism recognizes that the material and spiritual are equally important in life and therefore calls for a life that provides for both. There is the external world of pursuits, and there is also the internal world of the mind. There is the world before us, and there is also the world behind us. If one insists on charging forward blindly, one inevitably gets hurt; one must also look back and within. Humanistic Buddhism allows for both existence and emptiness, possession and non-possession, the world of companionship and that of solitude. By harmonizing everything in the world, Humanistic Buddhism allows people to achieve a beautiful and wonderful life.
The Humanistic Buddhism that I promote may be seen in the objectives that I have established for the Fo Guang Shan International Buddhist Order. The objectives are to give people faith, to give people joy, to give people hope, to give people convenience. I believe that being willing to serve others, giving others a helping hand, establishing friendly ties with others, and giving others joy are the teachings of the Buddha. Simply put, the goal of Humanistic Buddhism as promoted by Fo Guang Shan is to make Buddhism relevant in the world, in our lives, and in each one of our hearts. Simply close your eyes, and the entire universe is there, within. You can say to yourself, "Everyone in the world may abandon me, but the Buddha within my heart will never leave me."
In today's world, we are all burdened with responsibilities. We all feel stressed from our obligations toward home, business, and family. So how can we live a happy and satisfying life? If we practice Humanistic Buddhism, or in other words, apply the Buddhist teachings to our everyday living, then we possess the entire universe, happy and at peace in all we do. As Ch'an Master Wu-men said, "The spring has its flowers, the autumn its bright full moon; the summer has its cool breezes, the winter its snow. So long as one is not caught up in mundane worries, then every season is a wonderful season." "When the mind is burdened, the whole world seems limiting; when the mind is clear of burdens, even a small bed feels expansive." When we truly touch the world within our minds, then we are one with all sentient beings and all the worlds. With this awareness, we can be joyful and at ease. How do we achieve this awareness? We can only do so if we continually apply the Buddhist teachings in all aspects of our everyday living. This is the true spirit of Humanistic Buddhism.
I have just presented six different ways of how Humanistic Buddhism embodies the traditional teachings of the Five Vehicles; the Five Precepts and Ten Virtues; the Four Boundless Vows; the Six Paramitas and the Four Great Bodhisattva Virtues; cause, condition, effect, and consequence; Ch'an, Pure Land, and the Middle Path. As this conference on Humanistic Buddhism gets underway, I offer these thoughts to you. May everyone be blessed!