Everyone in the world has some duty. The duty of a soldier is to protect the nation, the duty of a teacher is to educate the young, the duty of a farmer is to grow food for others, and the duty of a scientist is to make discoveries that will enhance the well-being of others.
It is important for all of us to have a strong sense of duty. When we have this sense, we are able to exert ourselves to the fullest and conscientiously perform even the smallest tasks that fall to us. If a person does not have a strong sense of duty, he will pass his days half-heartedly doing one thing after another. Nothing ever gets finished, and even if you give him some important thing to do, he will neglect it and not bring it to a satisfactory completion.
What duties do members of the BLIA have? In the next four sections I will discuss the answer to this question in detail.
It is the duty of the BLIA to preach the Dharma to the whole world
In the past, due to language barriers and barriers in transportation, Buddhism was pretty much confined exclusively to East and Central Asia. In those days, there was little or no chance to bring Buddhism to other parts of the world. Those of us who are in the BLIA must recognize that the world has changed. The basic nature of Buddhism is tolerance and inclusiveness. No one should be left out, and no country anywhere should be ignored if we have the means to preach there. Buddhism properly belongs to the world and to all the world’s peoples.
When the Buddha was alive, he expended enormous energy to preach the Dharma all over northern India.
Today, the BLIA is fortunate to have members all over the world, and we are very fortunate to have members with many different kinds of skills and abilities. Many different languages are spoken by BLIA members. With modern communication and transportation devices, we are able to keep each other informed of events all over the world. This makes it possible for us to inaugurate a new age of Buddhism in which the Buddhism of traditional Asian societies can become part of the entire world’s inheritance. If we are firm in our vows, we will be successful in spreading the seeds of bodhi wisdom to every corner of the earth.
It is the duty of the BLIA to promote a humanism that is deeply involved in the everyday lives of ordinary people
The Diamond Sutra says, “The Tathagata says that all phenomena belong to the Dharma.”
The Vimalakirti Sutra says, “All Dharmas are designed to liberate us from form.”
Buddhism is a religion that must be lived and practiced in this world. To try to leave this world in order to be liberated from its delusions is impossible. To try to do that would be as foolish as looking for fish in a tree. Liberation does not happen somewhere else. It happens here.
There is a saying, “The moon in the window is always the same.
Then there is a plum flower, and the moon has changed.”
You can’t get any value from Buddhism if you don’t actively practice it in your daily life. At the same time, you won’t get any value from your life if you don’t actively live in accordance with the precepts of Buddhism. The two go hand in hand, and that is why the BLIA constantly stresses Humanistic Buddhism and the importance of practicing it daily, wherever you find yourself. Our highest ideal is to bring the Pure Land into this world, and we will do that only if we succeed in taking Buddhism out of its temples and disseminating it throughout the world.
To be effective in this effort, we need to use computers and electronic media. We need to write essays and publish magazines. We need to make our homes and our temples as beautiful and attractive as we can. We can accomplish this through large means, like architecture and engineering, or we can accomplish this in smaller ways, through flower arranging, decorating or painting.
Beyond these methods, we need to have BLIA members who are willing to preach the Dharma. These members must learn how to speak in public and present the ideas of Buddhism in a way that can be understood and accepted by people everywhere. We need members who will study Buddhist music and painting, so we can share these beautiful arts with others. We need to train performers who will be willing to travel around the world bringing the joy of Buddhism to all levels of society. This world is full of color and sound. BLIA members should conform with the ways of the world and transform themselves into instruments that can carry the magnificence of Buddhism everywhere.
It is the duty of the BLIA to benefit all sentient beings through our compassion
Confucianism stresses mercy and love, but since Confucianism
makes a distinction between one’s own family and other people, this kind of love is not sufficient to bring help to the whole world. The Chinese philosopher Mozi advocated a kind of “universal love,” but since his concepts were impractical, his “universal love” never succeeded in being much more than something on the pages of a book. The French Revolution advocated, “Liberty, equality, fraternity.” Within a few years of the revolution, however, it was more than clear that these ideals, too, were quite ineffective in actually improving anyone’s life.
The reason these movements in the past were not successful is human emotions are changeable and imperfect. One day, anything seems possible; the next, it all seems hopeless.
The compassion advocated by Buddhism is a different order of emotion.
Buddhist compassion brings the small self of the individual into an ongoing relationship with the larger self of the whole world. Buddhist compassion teaches us to think not of ourselves, but of the good of all sentient beings. Compassion can be thought of as a higher form of love or as a purified form of love. Compassion is like the sky. It takes the heavens as its perspective, while all things under it are the objects of its concern.
The Flower Adornment Sutra says, “The bodhisattva is compassionate because he sees the need for compassion among sentient beings. Once his mind has become compassionate, he begins to nurture his bodhi nature. Because he nurtures his nature, he moves closer to full Buddhahood.” In another place, this same sutra says, “A bodhisattva is born of compassion, and not of mere goodness.”
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has vowed, “I will not become Buddha until hell is empty.” This kind of compassionate vow is born only in the deepest realization of truth.
BLIA members all should emulate the great bodhisattvas who vow to “place the good of all sentient beings above their own happiness.”
This vow is especially important because, ultimately, we can only save ourselves through others.
When we practice compassion, it is not enough simply to feel pity for people, and it is not enough simply to experience compassion as a state of mind while we are alone. It is far more important that we act on our understanding.
We must actively reach out to others and actively do things that will make the truth of the Dharma available to even more people. We must establish social organizations and social activities that will disseminate the ideas of Buddhism so that even more people will have the chance to enter upon the bodhi way. We must take it as our mission to spread the ideas of Buddhism as far and as wide as we can. By doing this, we will set in motion a new social movement that will infuse the world’s culture with the wisdom and morality of the Buddha himself. I deeply hope that all members of the BLIA will elect to give of themselves in this way.
None of us should ask for rewards for what we do. Rather, we should look to serve all sentient beings with a compassion and generosity that completely transcends ourselves. This is our highest duty, and once we have seen it, we must never turn back from it again.
It is the duty of the BLIA to use right understanding to discriminate between right and wrong
There is a saying, “Compassion and wisdom grow together.” Deep compassion must be led by wisdom. Only when they are guided by wisdom can the energies of compassion meet with deep success.
Think of how many people today dote on their children and use this “love” as an excuse to do evil. Or they find other reasons to lose themselves in the acquisition of money, or in the indulgences of sensuality. They seek out false teachers who support them in the erroneous ways, and in so doing, they harm both themselves and all others who come in contact with them. When many people act like this, societies begin to unravel at their very cores. It is painful to think of what is happening all around us. Isn’t it obvious how important it is that people develop right understanding before they make their major life commitments?
The errors of the world are of many kinds, but generally speaking they can be grouped into four basic types.
First, there is the error of turning your back on truth and understanding nothing at all. Second, there is the error of seeing a bit of truth in some path or other, but not really understanding what it means. Third, there is the error of understanding the Four Noble Truths, but using that understanding only to arrive at a concept of self-emptiness. With this concept alone, one has a bit of the truth, but one has not yet comprehended the greater emptiness of all things. Without this deeper understanding, it will be impossible to comprehend the great equality that underlies everything. Fourth, one has understood the truth of emptiness and one comprehends the equality that underlies all things, one understands the need to help others, but still there are areas of one’s consciousness that remain unenlightened.
Only in the depths of our inherent Buddha natures can the ultimate truth be realized completely. Only there can we at last fully understand the meaning of universal compassion, all-embracing wisdom, and the joy of guiding others out of delusion.
All members of the BLIA are ultimately guided by none other than the Buddha himself. It is imperative that all of us make ourselves deeply aware of this truth.
We must constantly work at studying Buddhism if we want to be of real benefit to the peoples of this world. We must all read Buddhist texts, listen to Buddhist lectures, and discuss Buddhism among ourselves. Beyond this, it is even more important that all of us think deeply about the Dharma, because we will only be fit to guide others toward the truth insofar as we comprehend it ourselves. All of us must constantly check ourselves to be certain that our understanding of Buddhism is correct. If all of us do have right views and right understanding, then the BLIA truly will be able to guide others away from delusion.