2023--Coexistence and Coprosperity
2023 BLIA General Conference
Theme: Coexistence and Coprosperity
Time: October 2023
Venue: Fo Guang Shan, Kaohsiung
Keynote speaker: Most Venerable Hsin Bau
English Translation: Ven. Miao Guang
Dear Buddha’s Light members, auspicious greetings to you all,
On the 15th day of lunar January this year, day of the Lantern Festival, our most beloved founder of Fo Guang Shan and Buddha's Light International Association (BLIA) Founding President Venerable Master Hsing Yun, passed away peacefully. Buddha’s Light members and friends worldwide are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of a great spiritual teacher who had selflessly dedicated his entire life to the betterment of society. Before the opening of the Buddha's Light International Association General Conference, I, Hsin Bau, hereby invite every member here to join in paying our highest respect to the Venerable Master.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun dedicated his entire life to the propagation of Humanistic Buddhism. We are deeply blessed and fortunate to be born in his time and to have the privilege to follow his footsteps in learning and practicing the Dharma. Just as The Diamond Sutra states, “They planted virtuous roots not just with one buddha, or two buddhas, or three, or four, or five buddhas, but planted virtuous roots with infinite tens of millions of buddhas.” What a blessing this is! It is hoped that all Buddha's Light members will never forget our initial vows and continue to abide by the Humanistic Buddhist teachings advocated by the Venerable Master as a guideline for our conduct in the world. Furthermore, we shall remember the Venerable Master's final words of advice in his An Honest Revelation — An Open Letter: “The most fitting way to honor my memory and my sincere wish is for everyone to bear the teachings of Humanistic Buddhism in mind and always practice Humanistic Buddhism.”
In retrospect, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed our way of life. Humanity is now taking a serious look at their relationship with the world and has come to realize that no one can exist alone on this earth. As the Venerable Master said, humanity share a causal relationship with one another, with matters, and with everything on earth. It is important for us to respect, be inclusive, and make peace with each other. For this reason, I would like to introduce “Coexistence and Coprosperity,” which was often written by the Venerable Master in his calligraphy, as the theme of this year’s General Conference. The theme will now be unfolded under the following six points:
Aspire to Be of Service and Contribution so as to Coexist and Coprosper with the Community
The Venerable Master had dedicated his entire life to the propagation of Humanistic Buddhism. So what is Humanistic Buddhism? The Venerable Master once said, “The core spirit of Humanistic Buddhism is to be of service to all living beings.” Therefore, since the founding of Fo Guang Shan, everything he had achieve were all based on the goal of providing the best service to the public; all of the undertakings and activities are aimed at serving the public. Consequently, the establishment of the Buddha's Light International Association profoundly expanded the scope of Buddhist service.
The meaning of life lies in service, the Venerable Master once said, “The future is all about service. Service is the only way to survive, and service is the light of future society.” Despite the advancement of technology as well as the increasing power of Artificial Intelligence, which has largely replaced parts of the human labor force, the “human touch” is still the essence of humanity. As Buddhists, Buddha's Light members in particular, it is important for us to put the “human touch of Humanistic Buddhism” into full play by caring for people at all times, being of service in every possible way, bringing peace and joy to society, and enhancing the coexistence and coprosperity of humanity.
Service and dedication is an offering of the body, speech, and mind. Treating others with respect is a “physical offering,” saying words of praise to others is a “verbal offering,” and giving them our blessings is a “mental offering.” Among all kinds of services, the service of volunteers is the most recognized. In particular, BLIA members not only volunteer at the Fo Guang Shan temples and events, you also go out into the community on behalf of Fo Guang Shan to serve as volunteers. What you have shown is the spirit of the Four Givings advocated by the Venerable Master: give others faith, give others joy, give other hope, and give others convenience; these are the manifestation of the Humanistic Bodhisattva in the world.
Although a volunteer does not ask for reward or fame, the joy gained from serving others is far greater than any kind of reward ever received. Volunteering not only offers learning opportunities and broadens our horizons, it also proves true what the Venerable Master said, “Volunteers are the backbones of social norms and the enhancement of goodness and beauty in society.” Volunteers are a force for betterment and virtue in society. As the Buddhist saying goes, “Before becoming a buddha, one must first establish affinity with others.” I hope that all of us at BLIA will have the spirit of volunteerism and follow the example of the buddhas and bodhisattvas. Let us volunteer for all sentient beings, and establish good affinity with others, so that more people will recognize the BLIA spirit and join us in fulfilling the Venerable Master’s ideal of “Let happiness and peace shine on all five continents.”
Advocate Environmental Preservation so as to Coexist and Coprosper with the Earth
With the advancement of technology and civilization, and abundance of material life, the harmonious relationship between humanity and all things in nature has been damaged. The Earth, what we depend on for our survival, is facing ever more disasters caused by climate change, and human lives are constantly under great threat.
The Earth is our home, and we only have one Earth. Although scientists are actively exploring livable planets, space immigration is still a faraway dream. Even if there is another planet where we can live on, similar crises will still arise if we fail to improve our attitude towards the environment. Therefore, as the Venerable Master said, “Environmental preservation should start from the mind; if the mind is sound and has a compassionate environmental awareness, the world can be saved.” In order to leave a good environment for our future generations to grow up in, everyone should establish a correct concept of environmental preservation, develop good environmental habits, and take practical actions to care for and protect the earth.
With regard to the global concern for ecological preservation, in the past, the Venerable Master had put forward the view that “in order to promote ecological preservation, we should first emphasize the enhancement of the right to life.” The Buddhist concept of care for living beings advocates care for sentient beings such as people and animals, as well as for non-sentient beings such as flowers, plants, trees, mountains, rivers, and the Earth. The Venerable Master stated, “Environmental preservation is to care for the Earth, and protecting lives is an emphasis on importance of life. The promotion of environmental preservation should start with respecting life.” Only when everyone respects life is there a way to coexist and coprosper with the Earth.
BLIA has long been committed to implementing the Venerable Master’s philosophy of “Environmental and Spiritual Preservation.” In recent years, in order to respond to the United Nations carbon reduction goals, BLIA has launched “Vege Plan A” across the five continents to promote the direct environmental benefits of a low-carbon diet, encouraging people to become more aware of vegetarianism. In order to expand the promotion of the program, BLIA and the Pure Green Foundation jointly launched the “VegRun Global Veg-Revival Online Charity Run” to promote the “You Run, I Donate Meals” and “You Run, I Donate Food” programs, inviting the public to contribute to the sustainable development of the environment. In addition, the “T-Earth Tree-planting Project,” which started in Taiwan, has completed forest restoration demonstration sites in three climatic zones in Taiwan, and has received enthusiastic responses from Buddhists around the world. The program further received support from local governments in different regions, this will enable the program to gradually expand to the rest of the world.
“Environmental protection is a long-term movement and a long-term education,” said the Venerable Master. In the future, BLIA will continue to practice and promote “environmental and spiritual preservation” as advocated by the Venerable Master through activities, lectures, conferences, and forums, so that we can do our part to protect the earth we live on.
Organize Various Activities so as to Coexist and Coprosper with the Public
For a long time, Buddhists believed that true spiritual practice only include chanting sutras, making prostrations to the Buddha, chanting the Buddha’s name, or practicing meditation. However, the Venerable Master advocated that organizing activities which can benefit the body and mind is also a kind of spiritual practice. “Organizing activities serves the purposes of learning, broadening our horizons, increasing fellowship, and accomplishing greater achievement.” Doing so can enhance people’s confidence, spiritual practice, and the Buddhist population. Therefore, Buddha's Light members must be confident that that participating in Buddhist activities is the bodhisattva way of self-benefit and altruism. In addition to developing our inherent compassion, wisdom, vitality, and energy, it is also a skillful means of attracting the public to learn and practice Buddhism.
At the beginning of BLIA’s founding, the Venerable Master stressed that BLIA is an active organization. According to him, “The development of the Buddha's Light International Association depends on activities, for only with activities will there be vitality and strength.” He also said, “I hope that wherever there are Buddha’s Light members, meaningful activities can be organized.” Based on the compassionate wishes of the Venerable Master, BLIA has been established for more than 30 years and has never stopped organizing activities of all scales. Even during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, BLIA remained active in organizing online activities to provide members with a channel for physical and mental solace.
According to the Venerable Master, Humanistic Buddhism is a Buddhism for people and helpful for their lives. In order to respond to the needs of the public, BLIA has been planning a rich variety of activities according to different target audiences, interests, and specialties, including social services, international conferences, seminars, symposiums, book clubs, concerts, athletic events, scouting, recreational activities, learning camps, competitions, social exchanges, and seminars on life. Through the concerted efforts of worldwide chapters and subchapters in planning and mobilizing, the activities have blossomed all over the world.
In the past, in order to improve social atmosphere and purify human minds and hearts, the Venerable Master initiated a series of Humanistic Buddhist social movements such as the Rediscover Our Mind Campaign, Seven Admonishments Campaign, Compassion and Loving-Kindness Movement, Three Acts of Goodness Campaign, Media Environmental Conservation Movement, and so on, which have received positive responses across society. Now, in his final words, the Venerable Master encouraged us, “Speaking good words is truthful, doing good deeds is virtuous, and thinking good thoughts is beautiful. We must let truth, virtue, and beauty take root in our society through practicing the Three Acts of Goodness.” It is hoped that all Buddha's Light members will make the Venerable Master’s will their own and continue to organize relevant activities in response to the Three Acts of Goodness Campaign so that the Three Acts of Goodness will be planted in everyone’s mind. When everyone practicing the Three Acts of Goodness, society shall become a better society, and it will be a society where all people can coexist and coprosper.
Participate in the Causes of Benefiting Lives so as to Coexist and Coprosper with Society
Throughout his life, the Venerable Master had created beneficial causes to meet the needs of Buddhism and the general public. In addition to the charitable causes of relieving those in suffering and hardship, the Venerable Master believed that the ultimate goal of the Buddhist cause is to purify the human mind, which is a transformation with wisdom. Therefore, in terms of cultural and educational undertakings, the Venerable Master focused on a variety of efforts. When he first came to Taiwan to propagate the Dharma in Yilan, he established the Ci Ai Kindergarten, the Guang Hua Tuition Center, the Buddhist Culture and Services Center in Taipei, etc. After the founding of Fo Guang Shan, Dharma propagation efforts gradually expanded, not only had he established a television station, a newspaper, publishing houses, art galleries, the Cloud and Water Mobile Libraries, and the Water Drop Teahouse, he also established elementary schools, middle schools, and universities to nurture talents. All of the undertakings established by the Venerable Master were not only to help people in the community, but also to coexist and coprosper with society. In all his endeavors, the Venerable Master had abided by the principle of “do what is in accordance with Buddha,” which is not for profit but to serve the populace and to coexist and coprosper with the society.
In his objectives of founding Humanistic Buddhist undertakings, the Venerable Master also advocated that lay Buddhists be given the opportunity to serve all living beings. He hoped that in the future development of BLIA, members would not only be members, but will be able to put their strengths and expertise into full play for Buddhism, contribute to the Buddhist cause; not only develop their careers in society, but also engage in Buddhist missions. For instance, the Chunghua Society for Ancient and Modern Humanities is an undertaking established by the Venerable Master to provide members with the opportunity to devote themselves to the Buddhist cause, beginning with the promotion of 365 Days for Travelers: Wisdom from Chinese Literary and Buddhist Classics.
The Venerable Master indicated, “The future of Buddhism rests on Buddhist undertakings.” It is hoped that more talents of BLIA will devote themselves to the Buddhist cause and provide more services to the public. Furthermore, may the monastic and lay communities work together to propagate Humanistic Buddhism in every corner of society, realizing the Venerable Master's ideal, “may the Buddha’s Light shine universally, and the Dharma water flow eternally.”
In addition, in the early years when Buddhist undertakings were not common, in order to support Buddhist-related businesses established by the general public, the Venerable Master spread among the Buddha's Light members such beautiful stories as “Paying Extra for Shoes”' (for the monastic shoe business) and “The Value of Noodles” (vegetarian food business). Moreover, adding the resolve of everyone to follow the Venerable Master’s final words, “Members of BLIA should be encouraged to keep a livelihood that is in accord with the Noble Eightfold Path. Let us help one another so that we can progress and develop together;” I believe we will become an extra force for the betterment of society.
Emphasize the Legacy of Faith so as to Coexist and Coprosper with the Family
Families are the foundational units of society, and happy families are stabilizing forces of society. Therefore, the Venerable Master advocated Humanistic Buddhism, which is family-centered and focuses on the peace and happiness of every individual’s family. BLIA is an association that values family life; it always encouraged members to start Buddhist families and to become “Three Acts of Goodness Families” in order to fulfill the Venerable Master’s expectation that, “all Buddha’s Light family members should become Dharma companions on the Bodhi Path” in promoting family harmony among its members. According to the Venerable Master, if a family can become a Buddhist family, sharing the same belief and common interests, and discussing how to help others and practice the Dharma, the family will certainly be happy and harmonious.
Worldly wealth will eventually run out, only the wealth of faith will last a lifetime. Faith can give people directions for life, offer refuge, and create a sense of ease in living. “Faith is the best wealth to leave to your children,” said the Venerable Master. It is hoped that all Buddha's Light members will be enthusiastic in building Buddhist families, passing on the faith of Humanistic Buddhism to their future generations, coexist and coprosper with the family, further influencing their neighbors and community to enhance social harmony.
As for the development of the next generation of BLIA members, the Venerable Master also said that it is not necessary to make their children chant Buddha’s name or prostrate to the Buddha. Instead, they can adopt expedient means by encouraging their children to take part in activities and volunteer services so as to give them the opportunity to get close to Buddhism. In particular, the Venerable Master had set up the rites of passage for Buddhists. If all Buddha's Light members can devote themselves to helping their children and future generations to receive the blessings of Buddhist rituals in all stages of life such as the Baby’s First-Month Celebration, the Baby’s First Year Celebration, Start of School Ceremony, Coming of Age Ceremony, and the Buddhist wedding ceremony, they can grow up under the blessings of Buddhism. Not only does this help them establish a right outlook on life, they can also cultivate the habit of staying close to the temple in future. This also helps them to progress to a broader future when Buddhist teachings can serve as guidelines in their lives. With the guidance of the Dharma in living, they will also be able to embrace a broader life.
Among the various ways of governing the family, the Venerable Master said, “The legacy of faith is also a way of governing the family.” In the future, it is hoped that all our members will be willing to work towards building a “Buddha's Light Three Acts of Goodness Family,” and take pride in passing down the faith of Humanistic Buddhism from generation to generation within the family!
Propagate Humanistic Buddhism so as to Coexist and Coprosper with the World
In traditional Buddhism, it is often regarded as an End-of-the-Dharma-Era phenomenon for lay Buddhists to be giving teachings. However, the Venerable Master believed that everyone shares the responsibility to propagate the Dharma and that it is a positive matter to encourage lay Buddhists who are well-educated and knowledgeable to help spread the Dharma. Therefore, at the beginning of the founding of BLIA, the Venerable Master introduced the Lay Dharma Lecturer System aimed at promoting members to become teachers to give Dharma lectures and to propagate Buddhism around the world.
The Venerable Master said, “If Buddhists can be promoted to become teachers and go around the world to propagate the Dharma, there will be more and more Lay Dharma lecturers and teachers. This way, the globalization of Buddhism will certainly be within reach.” Therefore, as an international social organization, BLIA hopes that more members will gain a deep understanding of the Dharma. Anyone willing to speak the Dharma can become Lay Dharma Lecturers and work together for the propagation of Humanistic Buddhism in the world.
In addition to the above, some years ago the Venerable Master proposed the concept of Humanistic Buddhism Speakers so that all Buddha's Light members can begin to share the Dharma before they even become Lay Dharma Lecturers. In order to realize the Venerable Master’s vision, BLIA also established training methods to enhance the members’ right understanding of the Dharma, establish correct knowledge and vision, and deepen their level of faith in order to successfully acquire the qualification. The Venerable Master said, “Humanistic Buddhism will certainly be a light for the future of the human world.” It is hoped that everyone will actively participate as teachers and establish affinity with people through the truth of the Dharma so that the general public will have the opportunity to come into contact with and understand Humanistic Buddhism. If someone is inspired by your teaching on how to realize the Venerable Master’s philosophy in life and further joins BLIA, is it not a wonderful cause for Humanistic Buddhism?
In today’s world, people’s minds are restless, in dire need of Buddhist teachings to calm the body and mind; social issues are emerging endlessly, desperately in need of help with Buddhist teachings to resolve them. According to the Venerable Master, Humanistic Buddhism can correct people’s minds to improve day-to-day living, purify the spirit, enrich lives, enhance their being, and beautify the world. For this reason, the development of Humanistic Buddhism is the goal of BLIA. We encourage all Buddhists to join hands in propagating Humanistic Buddhism, and to fulfill the Venerable Master's wish that “All my teachings on Humanistic Buddhism should be conveyed in a way that reaches out to families and be accepted by people,” so as to benefit all sentient beings, and to coexist and coprosper with the whole world.
Last but not least, I would like to thank all members for their enthusiastic participation in BLIA affairs and its activities, and for their dedication to all Dharma propagation efforts at Fo Guang Shan. Although the Venerable Master’s physical body has already passed, his Dharma body and spirit will remain with us forever. The Venerable Master left to the world 395 volumes of “The Complete Works of Master Hsing Yun.” As long as we can read them with all our hearts and put them into practice, I believe we will be able to renew our Dharma affinity with the Venerable Master in his ocean of wisdom within Humanistic Buddhism.
Throughout his entire life, Venerable Master Hsing Yun had emphasized the peace and happiness of his followers. It is hoped that all of us Buddha's Light members will abide by the words of Venerable Master Hsing Yun in An Honest Revelation – My Final Words: “No one can exist solely by themselves, everyone must help and respect one another, coexist and thrive together. Only then can one grasp the fundamental essence of the Buddha’s teachings.” Together, let us achieve a happy and peaceful life by practicing the Venerable Master's philosophy of “Coexistence and Coprosperity.”
May I offer you all my best wishes as follows:
May Benevolence and Harmony Bring Peaceful Wellbeing;
Let Abundance and Joy Yield Auspiciousness in Our Lives!