The intention of this
paper is to show how Humanistic Buddhism developed over 2500 years ago and has
"re-become" in today's world due in part to the determined and steadfast
efforts of Grand Master Hsing Yun of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order which
has its main temple in southern Taiwan. From its beginnings in northern India
by Sakyamuni Gautama to its current renaissance, Buddhism has gone through many
transformations and developments. Grand Master Hsing Yun has attempted to capture
the original essence of the Buddha's teachings, especially those related to
applications in today's world, as well as to developing new interpretations
appropriate to current needs. He has built his beliefs as well as actions not
only on the original teachings of the Buddha but also on the experiences and
insights of previous masters such as the 6th Patriarch of Ch'an, Ven. Hui Neng,
and Ven. Tai Xu.
The Buddha taught ways for transcending earthly suffering as well as how to deal with day-to-day issues in this lifetime. He advocated equality of every human, the interconnectedness of all sentient beings, the sanctity of life and created principles related to developing positive living. In building upon these humanistic ideals, the Grand Master promotes integrating the Buddha's teachings of kindness, compassion, joyfulness and equanimity into daily life for the benefit of both self and others. He has created a world-wide network of temples and chapters which work to bring Buddhism to every corner of this planet. It is his hope that through this process a Pure Land can be developed here so that all sentient beings can positively live their lives in order to move on to the higher levels of existence such as Bodhisattvahood, Buddhahood and Nirvana.
This paper shows how the Grand Master emerged out of the chaos of 1940s China to create the system of Fo Guang Shan which is substantially influencing many cultures through his writings, teachings and social actions. Finally, the future of Humanistic Buddhism is explored through studying the current structure of Fo Guang Shan and obtaining viewpoints from many members within it including the Grand Master himself.
We are living in a modern era. Buddhism must change its traditional ways by coming out of the forest and entering into society. We must expand the functions of temples to serve the community through involvement in families, nations and the world ... [i]n order to promote harmony, understanding and friendship among all humans. (Grand Master Hsing Yun)
This paper on Humanistic Buddhism (hereafter written as HB), attempts to describe and explain the essence of Grand Master Hsing Yun's ideas, teachings and practices. Because no one can fully or accurately interpret another's beliefs, and
because of the continuous "re-forming" of HB in today's world, this presentation is a limited exposition based on my extensive readings, first-hand experiences, interviews and personal practice over the past several years. In addition, relevant written material related to the above topic has been incorporated in this discourse as supportive testimony. I will provide the reader the Grand Master's perspective expressed within these parameters in which I have been working. [*]
The "what" (content)
of HB will make up the core work of this paper, but also the "how"
and the "why" are included as well because, according to Fernando;
the "why" and "how" determine the "what" (see
Antony Fernando, p. 127). Without the "how" and "why", the
"what" cannot be adequately understood. I believe that to deal with
a topic as diverse and profound as HB, we need a broader vision than that obtained
from basic information only. Therefore, this paper will illustrate the content
of Grand Master Hsing Yun's teachings as completely as possible, but also their
origin and the process used in their development. The results of those ideas/beliefs/teachings
put into practice in today's world will also be presented. In this way the reader
can sense, at a deeper level, the meaning of the Grand Master's words in the
context of HB. Both the historical and current contributions of Grand Master
Hsing Yun will be offered. As far as possible, HB will also be related to the
original Buddhist teachings by illustrations, references, quotes and explanations.
The main purpose of this paper, then, is to "bring him to life" for the English speaking community, so that more people can better understand Grand Master Hsing Yun's contributions, their background, history and application in today's world.
Master Hsing Yun has demonstrated that the deep-rooted pragmatism of Buddhism makes it a religion valid today and for all times. In addition to this, he shows us how to apply the teachings of the Buddha to our daily lives... [It is]
*. Often the Western world has not yet developed the vocabulary to express many of the insists of Buddhism. Even our most suitable English words do not yet have the depth of associations needed to convey the full meaning of the traditional terms. In writing this research paper I often paraphrase, synthesize, and/or summarize the Grand Master's writings (from English translations). Also, certain pertinent statements by him I do quote directly with suitable references (if available) for the reader.
I have tried to stay away from the use of the most judgmental dualities we have in English such as "good"/ "bad", "right"/ "wrong". I have chosen to use alternative terms such as "positive"/ "negative" and "correct" /"incorrect" that are still dualistic but not quite as judgmental and, in my experience, more authentic to Humanistic Buddhist teachings.
This research does not come from the original language of Buddhism such as Pali and Sanskrit or Humanistic Buddhist writings in Chinese (except interviews). All written research material was in English, therefore its accuracy as to the original intention may not be complete. For traditional Buddhist terms, I use the Sanskrit spelling.
Buddhism engaged in service to others and grounded in monastic communities and lay organizations dedicated to Buddhist teaching and practices. It is his conviction that Humanistic Buddhism, in its practical implications, symbolizes the goals of all schools and sects of Buddhism in the world, and therefore, serves as a unifying concept for the redefinition and interpretation of the teaching of Buddhism for the benefit of humanity today. (Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge)
"HB is a new lotus blossom rising out of the mud and opening up to the world. " (Grand Master Hsing Yun)
He was born into a mid-level, peasant family in rural Jiangdu, Jiangsu Province of Eastern China in 1927 which was at the time in great social/political turmoil and under tremendous stress. Both poverty and civil war were rampant in the countryside where his new life began. Hsing Yun's grandmother had been a devout Buddhist since she was seventeen. She was an important role model for him, especially her industriousness, frugality, kindness and ability to cope with the conditions in which they were forced to live. Under her influence, he began a vegetarian diet when he was only four years old. Somewhat later he attended a local primary school where he was considered a brilliant student.
"Mother I will be your pride!", said Hsing Yun, when he was reportedly only 10 years old.
The economy at home, as underdeveloped as it was then, required that we cross a canal by boat to make purchases on the other side. During the Sino-Japanese war, no one would risk boating across even for ten or twenty cents. On seeing this, I, then but ten, volunteered my service. I would strip to my waist, tie my shirt around my forehead, and plunge right into the moving stream. In no time I would return with everything everybody had wanted. The villagers, giving me the thumbs-up, would say, 'That second brother from the Li family sure is something!' Realization of this unmistakable pride in my mother's smile reassured me and I even vowed, 'I'm going to be better still!' (p. 6, Balley)
The following year, during
the Sino-Japanese War, he escorted his fragile mother on a quest to find his
father who had left home to do some business, but never returned. On the way
they passed Qixia Shan temple and monastery near Nanjing. For some reason he
gave the abbot Zhi Kai his word that he would receive the tonsure and renounce
worldly life. His mother, held back her tears upon seeing his determination.
She returned to Jiangdu alone. Again he said quietly, "Mother, don't
worry. I will be your pride!"
Hsing Yun became a `sraama.nera (novice monk), was fully ordained at the age of 14 (the usual age was 18) and began receiving his moral education at Qixia Vinaya
school and Jiao Shan Buddhist College which was noted for its hall dedicated to the combined practice of Ch'an meditation and Pure Land devotion.
The traditional temple teaching was by disciplining and reprimanding and not guiding and encouraging. Barring novices from returning home was based on the fear that exposure to outside influences might be distracting, and they would forget their quest for truth. Rigorous training was supposed to teach monks to prevail with mental fortitude. It entailed the endurance of pain and poverty. In the end they learned to let go of material life.
Hsing Yun adopted a traditional form of discipline that would not interfere with daily responsibilities. He ate one meal before noon, copied the sutras, carried out the prostrations drill late at night, practiced meditation, remained in silence for long periods of time, concentrated on Buddha's teachings and did some retreats. He never went into lone seclusion for long periods of time. These exercises did not bring him immediate enlightenment, but bolstered his aspiration for and faith in Buddhism.
Many years of character building by way of a rather rigid and disciplined education in a large monastery setting enabled him not only to just smile at life's adversities but also to delight in complying with others. He was given the names of Wu Che (Dharma name, inside - "Completely Wise") and Jin Jue (Daily use name, outside-"Enlightened Today").
China, especially after World War II was finally over, was a vast land of destitution. Even in temples, there often were not enough provisions to feed all the monks. They survived on very little. They had little to wear so were often shivering in the winter cold. Rags others threw away were converted into socks. Hsing Yun had no money. He couldn't even mail any letters to his mother.
Admitted to Jiao Shan Buddhist College in 1945, he enjoyed reading books, newspapers and other information. By the time he left Jiao Shan in 1947, Hsing Yun had studied in the monastic system for close to ten years. He completed his training in Buddhist discipline, teaching and doctrine. He also experienced an immersion in the Mahayana spirit of the importance of both practice and understanding. Afterwards, with youthful ardor, he stepped into a gravely afflicted society and found himself embroiled in the survival of both the nation and his faith.
He lived in a struggling time -- the belligerence of the warlords, the aggression of the Japanese, the strife between the Nationalists and Communists, the incursion of Western ideas and the suffering of the common folk. He promised to "revitalize" Buddhism in order to establish peace and tranquility. He could not stop thinking, "Don't ask what Buddhism can give me. Ask what I can give Buddhism!" (p. 50, Fu)
In 1947 he arrived at Da Jue temple in order to become abbot and principal of White Pagoda Elementary School. There he founded a monthly newspaper and was arrested a couple of times by either a "bandit" group (or, by some accounts, the Communists or Nationalist government). He became director of Hua Zang temple in Nanjing in 1948 and edited the Splendid Light supplement to the newspaper Xu Bao. In some of his extensive readings he came across a science book on the universe which explained the role of nebulae in creating stars. He was so impressed he created the name Hsing Yun (Star Cloud) and put it on one of his ID cards. Later, in his time of always having to move around, he lost his other ID papers and thus took the name Hsing Yun as his official name.
The Maoists took over most of China by 1949. Hsing Yun lost contact with his widowed mother during this Civil War. Also, his great teacher and mentor Zhi Kai died. The pain of separation from these two important people made him more determined in his resolve to spread the Dharma. In order to be in a place with less turmoil so he could re-examine his life's intentions, Hsing Yun and several other monks joined a medical relief mission and arrived from Shanghai at the port of Keelung in Taiwan.
For many years in Taiwan, he also endured great hardships. He arrived without a cent to his name. It was almost impossible to find food and shelter. Newcomers from the mainland were viewed with suspicion. He was soon arrested with others on allegations of subversive activities since they were from mainland China. The political atmosphere was extremely paranoid at that time. Finally, after his release and weeks of wandering, the Yuan Kuang temple in Chungli took him in. Out of gratitude, he began serving others by undertaking the menial tasks of pulling carts, buying food, fetching water, cleaning latrines and cutting wood.
At that time Taiwan was
seen as somewhat anti-Chinese Buddhist (they were more into the Japanese Zen
tradition) and had few temples, most of which were in the "mountains and
forests." In spite of all these problems he saw Taiwan as the "brave
new world" for Buddhism. He moved on from the menial tasks and became involved
in a lot of teaching (including in prisons), writing and publishing as well
as founding a kindergarten. At Yuan Kuang temple, under Master Miao Kuo, he
authored his first
book, Singing in Silence.
The Buddhist monasteries in Taiwan were unlike the land-owning, self-sufficient establishments of China. Donations from devotees and contributions to the monastics were their main sources of sustenance. In these early days Taiwan was in economic plight, and purse strings were tight. Hence, for the longest time, the Buddhist community was busy just trying to survive. Progress had to wait. Buddhism was mostly for funeral ceremonies. Intellectuals looked West. Catholic and Protestant Christian influences increased from the presidential level on down.
But, Hsing Yun worked diligently with an open-minded, persistent, perfectly willing and humble attitude. His early publications advocated the reforming, opening and saving of Buddhism in China and Taiwan. In many ways these ideas were extremely dangerous to have at the time. But the more he was deterred, the bolder and more determined he became. He always seemed to be a revolutionary, advocating positive change and new developments in order to transform lives and society. His goal was to promote Buddhism and care for and serve others. He was perfectly willing to dedicate everything, even his life, to this cause.
Often he would be "going against the tide" of established culture. At that time most "worshipers" were connected to family, Daoist, Confucian, or Matsu Temples. Youths might be attracted to Buddhism but after compulsory military service, they lost interest and gave into the temptations of society. In spite of these trials and tribulations, he wrote articles at night after long days of manual labor. Even if left to beg, he vowed he would work for education and spreading the teachings of the Buddha.
Hsing Yun was asked by a lay Buddhist to teach Buddhism in Ilan in 1952 at the Lei Yin temple, which had been built during the Qing Dynasty. The conditions there were very basic and inward looking. Taiwan was still reeling from almost a century of
Japanese oppressive rule, a low education rate among the people and fear of outsiders. His "reaching out" was often seen as threatening, but he was persistent. This was his first opportunity to really try out practicing his concept of a humanistic form of Buddhism. He gave regular lectures, officiated at chanting ceremonies, set up a Buddhist youth choir to perform publicly, wrote for Awakening the World magazine and Buddhism Today, helped with youth education and construction projects and promoted art. He finally was able to make a positive impression on the people of Taiwan.
Lei Yin temple is where the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order began! There, his mission became to awaken Buddhists to the causes and conditions of this current age.
Thus, in Taiwan he began fulfilling his long-held vow of promoting Humanistic Buddhism -- a Buddhism that takes to heart spiritual practice as daily life in the ordinary world. In 1955 Hsing Yun established his first temple in the city of Kaohsiung, near the southern tip of the island of Taiwan. With the assistance of other Venerables he created a Buddhist Cultural Center in Taipei in 1957 as a means of promoting cultural activities, publishing Buddhist books and make recordings. In 1964 the Shou Shan temple was completed in Kaohsiung along with a related Buddhist college and school of commerce. The now Grand Master gave lectures and published them in Awakening the World which in 1979 became Universal Gate magazine. He never stopped writing. Knowing that temples and monasteries alone could not revive Buddhism, purify minds, or rectify negative tendencies, the Grand Master believed that education was also needed.
In those early times, both in China and Taiwan, the development of HB and its progressive thinking sometimes got the movement into trouble with warlords, politicians, land-owners, community leaders, reactionary monks and bureaucrats. These conservatives would band together and beat monks. Mobs would be created to try to destroy their temples. But, the Grand Master, with steadfast determination, worked to keep going his mission of "giving to develop equality and compassion for all beings." The development of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order shows how important a vision can be, when coupled with courage, for overpowering traditional power and wealth. "When in the right, never yield." (p. 155, Hsing Yun, Perfectly Willing - Hereafter, all quotations from publications by Grand Master Hsing Yun will just note the page number and title.)
Those able to practice forbearance are deemed individuals of tremendous power. If, on the other hand, one is unable to joyfully endure the evil, venomous cursing of others as the drinking of sweet dew, then one cannot be called a person of penetrating wisdom. (The Buddha in his last instructions before entering Nirvana.)
Early on he innovated by creating more Buddhist choirs, slide presentations, children's Sunday schools, student clubs and traveling groups to propagate HB. He was at the vanguard of innovative methods in a conservative, and often feudalistic, society. He faced a lot of opposition especially to his broadcasting and incorporating variety programs into Buddhist festivities. Grand Master Hsing Yun stood up to governments and orthodoxy without wavering or retreating. Finally, in 1967 he began
Fo Guang Shan temple (hereafter written FGS), in the hills of Kaohsiung County some distance away from the city of Kaohsiung. FGS was established with the aim of propagating HB in Taiwan and the world. 1977 saw the completion of Pu Men High School, next to FGS. In the 1980s both Taiwan and other countries became more open to Buddhism, so he began to travel and develop HB overseas. Also, in the 1990s he finally got the chance to re-visit China and re-unite with his mother after so many years of separation!
Grand Master Hsing Yun followed the causes and conditions in his life and as a Ch'an master, became the 48th leader of the Lin Ji (Renzai - Japanese) lineage.
Through fifty years of monastic life I have never ceased to quest for self improvement -- from daily exercises and ascetic practice to community service; from reclusive study to wide travels; from chanting and meditation to preaching the Dharma; and from charity to educating the masses, (p. 25, Happily Ever After)
Grand Master Hsing Yun does not show any partiality to a particular tradition of Buddhism. His main background in Mahayana (and one of its schools -- Ch'an/Zen tradition), his experience with other religions and spiritual belief systems and his sensitivity to the myriad of issues facing people in today's life have all influenced his enlightened understanding of human beings and their current needs.
The personality of Grand Master Hsing Yun appeared to me as gentle, open, not dogmatic, tolerant, full of calming energy, centered, sensitive, compassionate, humble, kind, patient, caring and supportive. To me and many others, he is a real spiritual entrepreneur -- hard working, diligent, goal-oriented, pragmatic, courageous and focused -- a person with a grand vision and always showing a "smile of light." Through his missionary zeal and passion for development, he has become a true catalyst for positive change. Both gratitude and loving charity have enabled him to journey through turbulent times.
It is through the faith in the rarest of encounters, that those who owe a debt of karma, and those who have known glory and insult, and experienced slander and praise should become patient and tolerant, and be able to welcome adversity with a smile and feel at ease in it. (p. 99, Perfectly Willing)
Through insightful, visionary, positive and often unconventional methods Grand Master Hsing Yun has been at the forefront of spreading the Buddhist Dharma in the world. Like Xuan Zang, Fa Xian, the Bodhidarma and other significant contributors to the propagation of Buddhism in ancient times, the Grand Master has taken the responsibility, based on his training and insight, to carry the banner forward. Also, with a child-like purity he has developed a special affinity with his fellow human beings. His mood and attention are automatically capable of tuning in to the changing times and places. He is flexible but has also been quite opportunistic in his mission.
Now he focuses more on quiet cultivation, teaching (worldwide), studying and writing.
"Endurance is for the reciprocation of the Buddha's favor; labor is for the benefit of all sentient beings." (The Buddha)
Life rarely reaches seventy;
That I am seventy is a surprise.
I was too young the first ten years
And too old the last ten.
There are only fifty years in between.
Half of that time was spent at night.
By calculation I have only lived twenty five years.
During which I have endured much toil and trouble. (p. 25, Balley)
The Grand Master does
not aspire for personal elevation or the attainment of
When I look back through the vista of the past, life seemed to have elapsed in all those attempts of mine to make the most out of every moment. Although I regret not having studied the Buddhist Canon as thoroughly as I might or generated wisdom as deep as the ocean, I know I have incorporated my understanding of the Buddhist teachings in daily life -- not accumulating wealth but giving freely, and not demanding unreasonably of others but taking on the responsibilities myself. Content with simplicity, plain rice and tea feed me well no matter how hectic the day is. At ease under any circumstance, I can rest on any floor, study in any cubicle, or compose on the road. I help keep others on track, fulfill their wishes, endure hardships, brush aside criticisms, never tire of teaching or bringing others happiness, am thankful for favors and blessings bestowed upon me, and forgetful and forgiving of past animosities, keep time and promises, uphold ideals, am fearless of adversities, and with one mind and one focus, practice according to the principles of Buddhism.
Much as I pay respect to the Buddha and follow him, however, I have no wish of becoming a Buddha. I practice giving without any wish of ascending to the heavens, and I uphold the Buddha's name but do not aspire for rebirth in the Lotus Land. My resolution is to accumulate more resources for the path of the Buddha, not to transcend life and death; and my wish is to be reborn again and again in the saha (material) world as a monk with a non-discriminatory mind. (p. 28,29, Balley)
Do no evil ever.
Do good always.
These are the teachings of the Buddha. (The Dharmapada, and the Discourse of the Six Buddhas)
The Buddha had an iron will, profound wisdom, universal love, boundless compassion, selfless service, perfect purity, a magnetic personality and employed
exemplary methods in order to introduce his teachings and implement his final success. He certainly was one of the most persuasive spiritual teachers. He never used compulsion or fear as a means of gaining disciples. His teachings illuminate the way by which we can cross from a world of unsatisfactoriness to a new world of light, love, peace, happiness and true freedom.
The Buddha (Sakyamuni Gautama) lived in what is now Northern India from 623 to 543 BCE (or 566 to 486 BCE depending on which tradition you follow). After his passing on from this world, there were early councils called at various times to remember his teachings and decide on rules of the Sangha (monastic life). Later thousands of pages were finally written down in an attempt to preserve the Buddha's original teachings.
As with any system of human community, divisions occurred when the teachings spread throughout the Indian sub-continent (including today's Sri Lanka). Major divisions included Mahayana and Sravakayana (or Hinayana -- now Theravada), especially as it moved into Central Asia (before the C.E.) and China (about 60 C.E.). In China eight schools developed, including Ch'an. Clashes and connections with Confucians, Daoists and Emperors led to further changes and developments. One school of the five divisions of Ch'an is the Lin ji.
Buddhism, though it evolved into so many schools and sects in the many countries of Asia, is actually similar in most of its basic teachings and belief (see below) but differs in the way monks and nuns should (or should not) propagate the teachings and work with their devotees. These schools also differ in rituals, ceremonies and methods of realization used by any individual for attaining their goal for a more positive life or even enlightenment.
To all Buddhist traditions, the Buddha is not the "creator", nor does he control the world. He is the Enlightened One. He knows all the truths of universal existence and how to transform life from suffering to enlightenment. This process is based on understanding the Triple Gem -- Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Buddha is an inspiration which can awaken all beings. He is a teacher and his knowledge can positively influence human progress towards enlightenment and developing a Pure Land here on earth. Dharma includes the teachings of truth which can nourish all beings. It is this truth by which we must live our lives, if we seek fulfillment and enlightenment. Sangha is the support system (traditionally the monastery) of similarly intended people. It is the place which supplies the Dharma and aids us in manifesting it in our lives.
The renaissance of "humanistic" Buddhism in this century can be traced back to the mainland Chinese monk, Venerable Master Tai Xu (1889-1947 C.E.). [*1] He supported the Ch'an school of Buddhism but also tried to cooperate with other divisions such as the Pureland sect. Their emphasis focuses upon reaching nirvana mainly through chanting and deity worship, believing that the Pureland is beyond this world. Tai Xu advocated an understanding that the Pureland not be thought of as some place to escape to after this lifetime, but rather as a state of mind that we can open up to in this life. He taught that through our daily practice of purging our minds
*1 The life and career of Venerable Master Tai Xu are dealt with in greater detail in Dr. Darui Long's article in this Journal (pages 53-84 )
(including Pureland chanting) and through study, we can manifest in all our actions the Pureland that is already present for the benefit of all beings.
Although his vision of a worldly, "humanistic" Buddhism which focuses on the living and not on the dead, was a departure for the then most influential schools of Buddhism in China, it was a re-vivification (re-becoming) of the kind of Buddhism practiced during much of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 C.E.). During that era of Chinese history, Buddhist groups made great contributions to society. They created banks and offered zero-interest loans to the poor. They opened shelters providing temporary boarding for the needy. The monks and nuns were taught that their mission at all times was to aid in the deliverance of all sentient beings, not just work with themselves. However, after the Tang Dynasty, it was their usual practice during suppressed times to take refuge in their monasteries and only when in favor, emerge and again take part in the world.
Master Tai Xu taught that we can only attain Buddhahood in this earthly realm, not in any others. "We attain Buddhahood through our human nature. This is the deepest truth of Buddhism." (p. 26, Zhou)
During the 1800's, a massive "invasion" of China from the West had occurred. Many Chinese lost confidence in traditional culture. They began to adapt to Capitalism, new production and trade, foreign business practices, Christianity and Western thought. City people and intellectuals began to accept technology and its related belief system. Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism were thought to be out of date for their current needs.
Master Tai Xu emphasized Mahayana Buddhism because he considered it to be accepting of outside influences, including the academics and religions of all countries. He also thought it was necessary to attach equal importance to the doctrines of the eight schools in Chinese Buddhism. Tai Xu held that Chinese Buddhism should not only absorb Confucianism and Daoism, but also learn from Christianity. He taught, just as Yeshua (Jesus) did, that through such beliefs and practices people can change their destructive ways and enhance their virtues, thereby creating the altruism of the bodhisattva life which can aid and enlighten all at the expense of self.
Master Tai Xu admired the following features of the Christianity he experienced: It attached importance to education; set up hospitals around their churches taking care of patients with humanitarianism; had strong organizational abilities and propagated by going into communities using methods such as medical care, prison visits, community lectures, scripture classes and study groups, orphanage work, famine and flood relief, caring for and liberating living creatures, creating local Red Cross organizations and supporting Youth Associations. He wrote:
Buddhists should not only fulfill their obligations as persons, but also do something to benefit the public. The Christians devote themselves to social benefits. They propagate their teachings by practicing altruism. This is something of significance, and we may adopt it. (p. 22, Zhou)
The Westerners have changed the life patterns of the Oriental people by their material force whereas we Oriental people should change them by our spiritual morality, (p. 23, Long)
He traveled not only widely in China but also in Burma (now Myanmar), India and Sri Lanka where he experienced Buddhism "in society". These practices
stimulated him to create a new focus for Buddhism in the 20th century. His first visits to Japan and Taiwan were in 1915. In 1928 he traveled for nine months in France, England, Germany, Belgium, the United States and Japan. Tai Xu was one of the pioneer Buddhists who went abroad in this century. He wanted to propagate a humanistic form of Buddhism he called "Engaged Buddhism" world-wide as well as to see how Westerners studied Buddhism at that time. During these trips, he met with many Christians for discussions. In this way he was able to teach about the similarities and differences among the beliefs and practices of Buddhism, Christianity and Science.
Master Tai Xu was both a rebel and reformist. He wanted missionaries to take Buddhism throughout the world. During his lifetime, he also had dialogs with Muslims, Daoists and other major world religions and philosophies. He believed that Buddha's teachings should be translated into various languages in a clear and simple, but accurate, manner.
Service in society and commitment to any beneficial cause was emphasized by Master Tai Xu. For most people to live in this earthly world was normal. Therefore, so should monks, nuns and Dharma teachers. In life and society Buddhism could be propagated to inform and change human living for the benefit of all sentient beings. In this way purification can occur and a "human Pure Land" can be created in this lifetime.
In re-structuring the Sangha he trained all monks to be Dharma teachers and nuns to be both teachers and nurses. He believed that monasteries should be self-sufficient through individual efforts and cultivation. In the past, temple self-sufficiency had gone through periods of monastics producing their own food and clothes to total dependency on donations and alms giving. Master Tai Xu urged that factories be set up and run by monastics not only for self-sufficiency but also to benefit society. He emphasized responsibility, honesty and keeping one's promises in all relationships, especially in business.
Master Tai Xu believed that there was also a need for more public ceremonies, not just funerals, to change the temples' and monasteries' indifference to secular life. If one really wants to become a bodhisattva, one should not give up the secular life and leave social activity, but handle it in a special way without attachment. Also, he believed, a highly developed educational system would be fundamental to reform. He taught that, "the nation, society and all living beings are one."
His concept of a "human Pure Land" was for all Buddhists to participate in society in order to stimulate and develop its progress and purification. In this way there would be a great benefit to both society and its people in this lifetime.
In the early 1930s at the inaugural meeting for World Religions in Shanghai, he advocated the cooperation not only of all schools of Buddhism but also Buddhism with other spiritual practices. He hoped that each sect would, "learn from the other's strengths and overcome their weaknesses." (p. 13, Long)
Master Tai Xu said that we were now in a Period of Degenerate Dharma (a Dharma Ending Period -- time of spiritual diminishing) in human history. Therefore, it is all the more important to promote HB. He taught that, "Everyone is responsible for his country's destiny and every monk is responsible for the survival of Buddhism." (p 33, Zhou)
Most of his "projects" for carrying out his ideas did not mature into lasting developments. His main legacy has been in his teachings and writings and their influence on others who have begun to realize them in this world.
Venerable Yin Shun, another disciple who was influenced by Master Tai Xu, also advocated a form of "humanistic" Buddhism and carried his ideas to Taiwan after his Master's passing in 1947. Yin Shun's disciple, the nun Cheng Yen, devolved the Tzu-Chi Compassion Relief Foundation both in Taiwan and other parts of the world, which includes a network of hospitals and clinics to serve those in need and are unable to pay.
Many of Grand Master Hsing Yun's teachers at Jiao Shan Buddhist College had studied under Master Tai Xu. The Grand Master read most of his writings and heard him lecture on a number of occasions. He was greatly influenced by both Master Tai Xu's teachings and determination. Master Tai Xu taught a re-direction of Buddhism from the passivity of reclusion into the activity of human society. He was both a role model and mentor to Grand Master Hsing Yun.
As described above, Grand Master Hsing Yun developed his teachings and practice of Humanistic Buddhism from the original teachings of the Buddha and their evolution through the Mahayana Tradition from India (as well as Theravada and Vajrayana), Ch'an (and other Mahayana sects in China), the Lin Ji lineage of Ch'an and the teachings of Master Taixu. The following is a summary of the basic principles he has taken from the original Buddhists teachings, as well as other influences, and how he has applied them in today's world.
The Buddha taught not only the necessity of an inner revolution of the individual for human happiness but also the need for an outer revolution the life of Society, (p. 75, G.P. Malalasekera in Gems of Buddhist Wisdom, Dr. Sri K. Dhammananda)
HB is not just reforming
Buddhism, but actually reviving its old traditions. When the Buddha was alive,
he did not have any profound sutras to teach his disciples. He merely utilized
the small things happening around him as examples for teaching people how
to live joyfully, treat others positively and devote their love to all in
In order to transcend the narrow boundaries of one's ego-self, a new outlook and practice needs to be implemented. It is the "re-becoming" of Buddhism (re-claiming its true nature in today's world) through the teachings of Grand Master Hsing Yun, that can bring this about. No matter at what stage of life (birth, youth, adulthood, old age, death) or position of association (self, nature, family, community, work) one finds his/herself in, HB can be cultivated to develop one's own Buddha Nature and create harmony in relationships with others. People are the results of what they have created, and will be the results of what they create now.
Before we enter the area of the Grand Master's interpretation of Buddhism and development of HB, one point needs some clarification. Is Buddhism a religion? By the usual definition (Religion -- a system of faith and worship, human recognition of a personal "god" entitled to obedience and the effect of such recognition on human conduct: Oxford Dictionary), Buddhism is not a religion. Even though sometimes people do "worship" the Buddha, this was neither the intention of the founder or a practice advocated by Grand Master Hsing Yun.
"Buddhism is a practice of investigation and integration based on wisdom and truth." (The Grand Master, interview)
Buddhism is not a superstitious dogma but a rational process of learning truth, and also it may be said to be a living, practical knowledge of empirical metaphysics. What the Buddha taught is education, self development and life practice. His teachings allow us to leave suffering and attain truth and joy. Buddhism shows us how to live a joyful, fulfilling and contented life. It is a life-centered spiritual practice. Buddhism is free from theistic moorings and is grounded upon two directly verifiable foundations -- concern for one's own integrity and the happiness and welfare of others.
Buddhism has a comprehensive doctrine and profound philosophy containing several unique concepts not included in other such systems. It is the investigation of our reality. Buddhism is an education about us, and our living environment. In this sense it is a testable science.
According to Venerable Hsin Ting, abbot of FGS temple. Buddhism is a cosmology, philosophy and thinking process that can be applied to daily life -- a personal spirituality, a broad teaching of truth and a method of understanding existence beyond material reality. It is not merely a belief system to which one can easily become attached. For the Buddha, written sutras and worship were not required. Therefore, true Buddhism does not belong to a traditional idea of religion. Buddhism de-emphasizes faith in the unknown and unknowable and rejects dogmatism. For the purpose of this study, we can say that HB is an "educational and spiritual practice".
If we use the Latin-based word for religion, religio, which means "reverence for and a link back to our universal source of great compassion (Buddha Nature)", then Buddhism can be considered a religion. In this definitional context it can be seen as an institutional representation of the transcendent.
A question often asked by non-Buddhists is, "Why deny oneself of all worldly pleasures to follow a difficult path?" The Buddha lived and practiced in this world. Those on the Buddha path should also and not try to leave this world (escape) in order to be liberated from delusion. Even becoming bodhisattvas (fully realized beings returning to this earthly world to facilitate, aid and support others in their path to enlightenment) allows one to re-become here and become involved in the everyday lives of ordinary beings. This strong sense of duty is HB.
HB teaches sentient beings how to deal with life today and how to make themselves a more positive individual for tomorrow. If each one can make improvements in him/herself, they improve all of society. Another goal of HB is to
develop a Pure Land here on earth -- a land of peace and bliss for all sentient-beings. FGS temples, monasteries and schools instill in their disciples the confidence that all their needs can be provided for in a Pure Land here and now. HB focuses more on becoming a part of the world than leaving it. Caring for the living is emphasized over caring for the dead thus, benefiting others rather than benefiting oneself -- aiding others before practicing on one's own.
HB gives purpose to our lives and a focus/direction. It teaches responsibility as well as dedication. HB is not only "prayer" (paying respects to the Buddha and bodhisattvas), chanting sutras and meditating. It is growing and learning the Dharma with an open mind and practicing in the world, including teaching, which leads us into our transformation to Buddhahood. Thus, HB is an integration of all of the above processes.
"I am part of society. The Dharma is to be found in society." (The Buddha, Lectures on Three Buddhist Sutras, Audio Tape)
In summary, HB focuses on bringing the teachings of the Buddha into modern life in order for everyone to cultivate the realization process and to develop a Pure Land consciousness here on earth in order to facilitate the advancement of all sentient beings.
In order to carry out this project the Grand Master wishes to do the following: propagate the Dharma through cultural activities, foster talent through education, benefit society through charitable programs and purify human hearts and minds through Buddhist practices. HB is not new Buddhism, but it is following the Buddha's original teachings and practices with some adaptation to today's world and individual needs.
"The Buddha never asked us to flee this world; he taught us to understand it and deal with it." (p. 136, Being Good)
"The Dharma is to be found in this world and not in another. To leave this world to search for the Dharma is as futile as searching for a rabbit with horns." (Hui Neng, 6th patriarch of Ch'an, 638-713 C.E.)
The Buddha appeared in this world for one main cause, namely, to establish teachings to guide all beings, enabling all to awaken and enter the way of Buddhahood. Thus, authentic Buddhism is based on human well-being and is often referred to as "people-vehicle Buddhism."
The Buddha taught so that the deluded could come back home to their true nature. To accomplish this we need an understanding of the unsatisfactory nature of all phenomenal existence and the cultivation of the path leading away from this unsatisfactoriness. Human life is one continuous cycle of
being and becoming until that happens, (p. 22, How I Practice Humanistic Buddhism)
True belief systems should not encourage people to permanently leave society and be separate. This is not taking responsibility. Buddhism has a flexibility which enables it to evolve appropriately to meet the demands of different times and cultures as well as a structure that offers basic precepts and teachings that have stood the test of more than 2,500 years of development.
Ch'an and Pureland knowledge as well as information from other schools of Mahayana (as well as much of the teachings of Theravada) are HB. The Buddha's teachings are vast and profound, and from them a great many sects and schools have developed. The teachings of the Ch'an and Pureland schools, the doctrine of the unity of form and emptiness and the Middle Path are all part of HB. Those who have gained enlightenment are able to realize liberation, to settle their minds and bodies in the here-and-now of daily life, to live in the moment with a carefree mind and experience their true nature.
The basic principles of the Buddha's many discourses, such as the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Law of Dependent Origination, Six Paramitas and Five Precepts have been kept intact in Grand Master Hsing Yun's work. Thus, it is central to HB to make available to all people the truths that the Buddha professed and the techniques he taught for self realization (such as how to serve others, engage in mindful meditation and participate in chanting the sutras) in order for everyone to experience and develop their Buddha Nature potential, therefore creating social stability and harmony in life.
These are Grand Master Hsing Yun's interpretations of what are the most important and powerful of the Buddha's teachings:
1. Self directing karma -- Our own actions control our own destiny. There is no god who directs our lives. When we do positive things, we plant a positive seed. When we do a negative action, we plant a negative seed. Karma is absolutely under our control (we reap what we sow).
2. Conditioned genesis and the Middle way -- Nothing in this world can exist independently of other conditions. We all exist in a web of inter-related cause and conditions. HB does not only speak of becoming nor ceasing, existence or non-existence. It emphasizes the Middle Way (neither extreme asceticism nor material indulgence).
3. Democracy and equality -- There is no difference between the Buddha and us humans. There are no superior or inferior beings. We are only in a different state of being, not yet enlightened. All sentient beings are equal.
4. Transcending the notion of self -- The duality of self and others is a factor of the small mind or ego to which we are attached. If we transcend the notion of self, others, living beings and life span, then we have transcended everything without any attachment. In this state of mind we can look at all existence with equanimity and without distinction. (BLIA Newsletter, May, 1998)
Since 1967, The FGS Buddhist Order has worked tirelessly to propagate the Dharma teachings through cultural activities, fostering talent through education, benefiting society through charitable programs and purifying human hearts and minds
through Buddhist practices. In this way inner peace and realization of truth can be made available to all sentient beings through a commitment to vows of service, practicing compassion and seeking wisdom.
Before going into the teachings on human life, the Grand Master's HB notions of deeper existence will be briefly articulated in order to set the backdrop for understanding the processes behind all behavior. The first concept is Dependent Origination (Conditioned Genesis) which is the fundamental law behind all cause and effect relationships (as well as the conditions under which they occur), including karma. This process of creation and destruction is diverse and complex. It has multiple causes as well as many results. Dependent Origination means that all existing phenomena of this universe arise due to the coming together of the appropriate cause and conditions. There is no such thing as a creator who creates this universe and everything in it.
All material creations include some or all of the six elements of existence: earth (solid state, form), water (liquid state), wind (gaseous state), fire (non-material energy), emptiness and consciousness.
Volitional actions lead to the formation of karma (defined below). This karma results in conditioned consciousness -- mental and physical phenomena including the five senses and mind development. These sensations and desires often lead to attachments. This kind of becoming results in conditioned birth. Through birth, pain, grief, decay and death a new cycle of re-becoming is created.
Buddhism is the adaptation of one's life to harmonize with these natural laws. It teaches how to understand things as they really are, rather than trying to interpret theories of nature through narrow images and imagination which prevents anyone from knowing the true nature of the universe.
The second tenet is Emptiness (sunyata). It is pure energy without organized patterning or material elements. Emptiness is not permanent, not dependent and is dynamic and open. Emptiness is non-obstruction, omnipresent, has no discrimination, is formless, primordial, vast, negates selfhood, cannot be grasped or attained and goes beyond all that have "limits." There is infinite existence contained within emptiness. Emptiness is the basis of existence and the non-dual "nothingness" which embraces both existence and non-existence. Such a "nothingness" is real emptiness. Awareness of emptiness can bring about the realization of non-attachment. This is ultimate wisdom. It is an open opportunity.
There is nothing that is never changing or does not have an independent existence. Emptiness is the essence of the universe, the origin of human life and the source of the phenomenal world. When certain causes and conditions happen in emptiness, objects and actions come into being. One great ignorance is to believe that the world exists in the way it appears to exist through one's senses. There would be no existence without emptiness. The usual perception of existence is illusion.
Emptiness is not the usual concept of being without anything. On the contrary, because of emptiness, things exit. It is only when we live a life of
awareness/realization of emptiness that we can create what we need to move on to Buddhahood. Emptiness can be understood as an opening for something new to be created. The arising of existence depends on emptiness. Emptiness is the basis of all existence. Without emptiness there could be no material objects arising.
This meaning of emptiness includes everything. Everything is essentially empty and closely related to all other things in this universe. Emptiness is produced by causes and conditions like everything else. Thus, it is not just when something ceases to exist that we speak of its emptiness. Even when an object is perfectly intact, it is fundamentally empty, for emptiness is not a separate, independent state of being.
Some people explain emptiness as spirit and existence as matter. Some say emptiness is truth and existence is phenomenon. Some say emptiness is one, while existence is manifold. Truth and phenomena are one, and the one and the many are not different. Therefore, emptiness is not contrary to existence. Some say emptiness is the true nature of things, while existence is their external appearances. The true nature of things and their external appearances are not different, so emptiness and existence are one. Thus, we are a dynamic, changing, patterned energy form in this world, and possibly connected to other realms, depending on causes and conditions.
When the Buddha became enlightened under the Bodhi tree, he saw that the deepest truth in the universe is the fundamental emptiness of all conditioned phenomena.
What is a human being?
Humans are the integration of outward behavior and inner truth. Each person
is made up of three kinds of nature: Animal Nature (DNA/inherited, instincts).
Human Nature (habitual, intellectual, emotional) and Divine Nature (greater
mind/spiritual, karma influencing action, consciousness). Everything in life
arises due to causes and conditions. When the causes and conditions are no
longer present, objects and phenomena cease to exist. Effects arise from causes.
People and their behaviors exist because of previous actions and processes.
All phenomena are created in accordance with the basic truths of existence.
Put simply, everything that arises will cease whether in the past, present,
or future. This statement is true in every part of existence. Regardless of
how developed people are culturally or how advanced technologically, they
cannot escape from the fact that anything
which arises will cease.
If life is a product of causes and conditions, death is a product of their dispersal. If people can gaze upon life and death from the highest level of truth, they will understand that they are fundamentally nonexistent. Nothing is really born and dies. The truth is far deeper than that. This is why great Buddhist masters work not so much to overcome the apparent cycle of birth and death, but rather to see deeply into their own basic nature, for this nature already is beyond life and death. When sentient beings can glimpse into their inner nature, they free themselves from immense trouble, for this inner nature is nothing less than their "Buddha mind".
Connecting with this natural world, which is the material basis of being, can rejuvenate a person so that he/she can resume their journey in life with renewed vigor. Reading thousands of volumes of books cannot compare to traveling thousands of kilometers in the heart of nature. In this way humans can experience the immensity of life and expand interpersonal relationships and experiences which will improve their knowledge and deepen their understanding of themselves and the world. Moving with
an open and unbiased mind throughout the world allows people to expand their capability of perceiving and understanding their true nature.
There are also times to maintain quietude so that one can appreciate his/her surroundings in tranquility. There are times that call for dynamic interaction. To be close means that one must attend to things with utmost care. The sounds made by rivers expound the Dharma. The colors of nature are manifestation of the pure body of ultimate reality. Nature offers much inspiration. Therefore, to connect with nature is to enrich the self, broaden the mind, expand awareness of others, become able to be active in quietness and enjoy the material base of existence.
The Three Characteristics which condition all beings are Anitya (Anicca -- impermanence), Duhkha (Dukkha -- suffering) and Anaatma (Anattaa -- without self or soul). Suffering comes from three causes -- conflict with nature, conflict with other humans and conflict with self.
All people conform to the basic patterns of natural law. When they conform willingly with the imperatives of nature, they experience peace. When they go against them, they experience anxiety. If people take more than they give, it is a violation of the laws of nature. If people hurt others whether by thought, word, or deed, they go against any natural, positive force. If anyone's attitudes toward life produces pain and anxiety that influences others, then those people are willfully rejecting a constructive course of life.
An earthly environment is part of each person's worldly origin and home in this lifetime. All of this material essence is a product of nature, and just as one's body comes from the elements of this world, so does one's consciousness come also from the deep foundation that underlies all things. This is the profound interconnectedness all beings have. Humans are neither separate from nor above nature.
There are states of consciousness in which it is possible for human beings to live in perfect accord with nature. In these states there are no differences between thought and reality. Respect for nature in HB is as fundamental as compassion. This truth brings people into a closer communion with their natural origins and with each other. It teaches that the mind (including its spiritual essence) and the Dharma are one, that the foundation of the phenomenal universe is mind. A human being comes and goes on this earth, but mind and the karma from which his/her body issues will cause hunger to re-become again. Life is produced by causes and conditions. When causes and conditions are ready, life will come into being.
To live as human beings, certain aspects of nature must be utilized. But, to live constructive and creative lives people must be willing to be of use and service to nature as well as society. People only really live fully insofar as they contribute positively to all the world and to those with whom they interact. The unsustainable, consumer society is the antithesis of respect for human origins and purpose in life. Such exploitation supports the destruction of nature both to the detriment of its vital richness but also of human sustainability.
So far, humans have not learned how to take the responsibility of protecting and supporting the source of their being. As of now, they are far from the Pure Land in which all beings can feel secure within their natural right to life, free of fear and the unsettling disturbances that arise whenever any sentient being acts in ignorance of the larger truths that govern existence.
Humankind for too long has thought of itself as the only "soul of nature", and because of this it has ceased showing respect and appreciation for the many other
species of animals and plants that inhabit this earth plane. To satisfy the greed of the moment, many are willing to pillage and destroy entire ecosystems, leaving their own future in a state of uncertainty.
Nature is part of truth. It is the fullness and culmination of the development of all beings. Nature and human karma are connected. When people do something constructive for the environment, a positive result comes about. When they do something destructive to the world, a painful retribution results. Death and destruction are not absolute ends. Their results persistently come back to influence everyone in their future actions.
All sentient beings are one. Thus, people need not only conform to the natural world, they must emulate it as well because they are part of it. Just as the sun and rain nurture humans, they must turn their attention to the needs of others. Compassion should be directed towards nature and all sentient beings, not just humanity.
It is by morality, meditation and wisdom that people can live lives that conform positively to the deep laws that govern all of life. Through compassion and generosity people return to nature what they have received from it. "The natural world is our great body. We are it, and it is us." (Grand Master Hsing Yun, public lecture)
Living peacefully with all beings of this world means banning no one and no thing. All sentient beings are precious. When people violate other beings by taking their lives from them, a violation of the highest laws of nature as well as the most basic precepts of Buddhism occurs. Rather than killing sentient beings, humans should be working towards protecting them. When people compassionately reach out to all beings in the universe, they not only fulfill the teachings of the Buddha, they also fulfill the highest imperatives of the most profound laws of nature.
In a very real sense, everything has energy and everything is important. A blade of grass, a small stone -- these too have been produced by the vast and complex interworkings of all phenomena in the universe. To violate even the smallest part of this complex web of interconnected causes and conditions is to violate the whole. How much worse is it then when humans destroy whole forests or tear out the hearts of mountains in a vain search for even more so-called "wealth"?
All beings can use themselves in this world to upgrade their bodies, minds and consciousness to a higher level due to the merit and karma they produce. However, the giving of "things" is an external process. It does bear fruit in re-becoming but is not the main path to Buddhahood. People can also merely indulge in seeking physical or mental satisfaction, experiencing the full range of sensory activities, including suffering and sorrow, available here on this earth plane. By following this path they set the stage for themselves to re-become into a similar (or lesser) realm. These choices belong to all persons to make for themselves!
"If one does not understand life, how can one comprehend death?" (Kong Fu zi - Confucius)
Death is the beginning of a new life, while each life is the start of a new death that is yet to come but now building. Death is never an absolute end to anything and life is never an absolute condition that persists without change. The temporary
appearance and disappearance of a body in this world is nothing more than a manifestation which is born of much deeper causes.
At death a sentient being is transformed from a finite and bounded form to a limitless and formless state. After death, the consciousness is no longer constrained by the confines of the body, and all the problems associated with that physical body also vanish with it. While alive, a being's faculties are limited by their body. After death, they are no longer bound by the simple laws of physics. During the time after death and before the next re-becoming, one's consciousness is in a state of "intermediate being". Depending on the cumulative karma from previous lives, an intermediate being will re-become into any of the many realms of possible existence.
We should not be consumed with the fear of dying, which in itself is a physical process. What is more tragic is living our lives; in delusion and ignorance; we may be alive in body, but dead in spirit... The urgent task at hand is to see life and death in the context of impermanence, suffering and emptiness. If we do, we will be able to find meaning in life and death, (p. 25, When We Die)
No persons need fear aging for if they use their youth and middle age to work diligently, then they will be satisfied with their lives as they grow older. And, neither is death something to be afraid of, for if a person has lived well and contributed to society, their next incarnation will be a positive one. Death is frightening most of all to people who live lives that are of no benefit to others. When they come to the end, they can feel how profoundly they have wasted their time on earth as they face the emptiness of an uncertain future.
In this life people need to acknowledge that they will, in fact, die! All sentient beings are, day by day, dying! Those who are actively dying hunger for a sense of peacefulness and calm. However, they should realize that all beings are organized into entities they themselves created. Every one has senses and decision making patterns. This structure is the believed personhood, but it is really only the subtle energy of a being's true essence that continues after death.
Karma and re-becoming are part of the process of life and death. No one can escape the past. It conditions the circumstances of the present. Re-becoming (a broader term than "rebirth" used in most translations) provides the conditions for more mind and body, more senses and craving, more karma and further "rebirth." The word "re-incarnation" implies an eternal soul therefore it is not normally used in HB. Re-becoming, or the process of "renewed existence", can be regarded by some as a Buddhist view of the new life after death.
The attachments that seem to be the strongest are also the ones that only each individual can sever. They are the links of craving and attachment. Conquer these and one can conquer re-becoming, suffering, woe and despair.
The world is made by the karmic forces produced by the mental activities of all beings. All people have contributed to this existence by their actions past and present. It is collective consciousness and events that create existence. Any physical, verbal, or mental action performed with intention can be called karma. The body, speech and mind are the three masters of karma.
Since karma is the response of volition, the seeds of wholesome and unwholesome karma performed by volition are stored in the greater consciousness of our being and will manifest themselves when the right conditions arise. Karma can be categorized according to the time in which it ripens. There are three such categories: Karma that ripens in this life, karma that ripens in the next life and karma that ripens in future lives. Negative karma cannot cancel out positive karma, or vice versa. One can only dominate the other if it is sufficient in amount. Some positive merit can be saved and utilized when the situation calls for such a resource.
Karma is created by each being. Taking responsibility in this lifetime for one's deeds is fundamental to karmic action. Karma can even influence death by being part of the causes and conditions present. There can also be strong influences from external forces such as natural cataclysms and other individuals. The more the principles of karma are understood, the more individuals can know how careful they must be in their actions, words and thoughts and how responsible they are to their fellow beings.
Restlessness, ambition, self-exaltation, pride, vanity, delusion, craving all come from believing that the small ego-self is a permanent soul or entity. The failure to learn from past experiences and forgetting the tragedies of life by losing them in a round of artificial pleasures, insufficient self control, immoderate living, fear/anger, ill will, hatred and irritability, destructive habits, sexual excess and impropriety are the causes of suffering. The Four Great Rivers of Suffering are birth, sickness, old age and death.
What meaning can an understanding of re-becoming bring to life? What meaning does re-becoming add to existence? With re-becoming, existence has continuity -- life is no longer limited to a short span of a hundred years or so. With re-becoming, life is unlimited in hope and possibilities. Within the cycle of "rebirth", death is the beginning of another existence. It is every person's responsibility to determine how and when each action takes place.
Re-becoming is what gives existence universality, timelessness and connection to all other life. The cycle of becoming and re-becoming treats everyone equally no matter their earthly status. Everyone must face the consequences of the wheel of life. A new life can become a new chance. The concept of re-becoming liberates everyone from the attachment to a "divine power", for it is one's own karma that controls the life process. A "creator" cannot protect anyone from the consequences of their own crimes, "gods" cannot take away any positive merits one may accumulate.
Therefore, the wise action for anyone to take is to intelligently understand re-becoming, to become freed from that cycle and to transcend the material realms, ultimately transforming the wheel of re-becoming into the Dharma wheel of a bodhisattva life or Buddhahood.
Liberation is achievable in our present existence. Pre-occupation with past or future existences is an obstacle to the true goal. But, virtue should never be practiced just for the sake of benefits in an afterlife. A virtuous life is valuable for the very reason that it creates a more fulfilling life now. Re-becoming not only refers to the physical rebirth of an individual but also one's moral, emotional and behavioral re-becoming in this life.
There are four ways to acquire positive karma: unremittingly carry out the Buddha's teachings, be merciful and compassionate, teach truth to fellow humans and tolerate calmly any insult. Giving things to others is an external practice. This kind of
action does bear positive fruit, if it is part of a positive action, but it is not the main way to attain Buddhahood.
"All beings have the wisdom and virtue of Buddha." (p. 63, Epoch of Buddha's Light #1 )
HB summarizes the Buddha's Teachings as follows: For most people life is a real struggle with a lot of suffering and sorrow. There are reasons for this (cause and effect, dependent origination) and ways to remove the elements of the negative causes (karma, illusions, desires, attachments). The "tools" to carry out this process (for those who are ready) include a correct morality, insight meditation/concentration practices and a realization of wisdom. With sustained practice higher states of consciousness (enlightenment and nirvana) can be attained and the person can move on to either arhatship (a sage who has received deliverance to a life in another, but more pleasant realm of existence), bodhisattvahood (return to this life but in a more serving way without suffering), or full Buddhahood (complete mind transformation into the highest realms of existence). Any of these choices are for each individual to make. Everyone creates their existence and, therefore, must live it. But, they can also change it.
The Buddha had a very positive approach to the problems of life. He led people on a path to ultimate fulfillment through solid and verifiable methods of inquiry and practice. He avoided dogmatism or ego power. He neither claimed infallibility nor demanded the "surrender" of his devotees to his power. The Buddha rejected the supernatural and the miraculous as being important to personal transformation. He deliberately acted contrary to the prevailing social order. Not only did he denounce caste but also advocated equality in all ventures regardless of gender, age, class, or ethnic origin. The Buddha claimed to be a "re-discoverer of a true path". He was certainly a pioneer in spreading important teachings throughout many societies.
According to Grand Master Hsing Yun, the Buddha
... practiced in this world, became enlightened in this world, saved sentient beings in this world, and entered into nirvana in this world. Hence, he is the Buddha of the present. The Buddha manifested humanistic Buddhism in the world with the following characteristics:
1. He showed his compassion, practice, and wisdom transcending time and space in the daily life.
2. In his teachings, he instructed as to how to maintain good relationships with members of family and community, and how to join community and national activities.
3. He was born to this world to educate and benefit sentient beings.
4. Buddhism is a [spiritual practice] oriented towards spreading happiness. The teaching of compassion advocated by Buddhism is to solve problems for sentient beings and give happiness to them.
5. He has left behind good causes for sentient beings to be saved. Up to now we still consider his thought and teachings our model.
6. Buddhism talks about the past life, the present life, and the future life, but emphasizes this life; Buddhism talks about this world, other worlds, and endless worlds, but emphasizes this world; Buddhism talks about sentient beings of the ten Dharma realm, but emphasizes the importance of human beings, (pp. I, ii. How I Practice HB)
The relationship between Buddha and each person is like a teacher with a student, which is not religious in nature as would be master to servant. He is a role model, not a worshiped icon. True education is seeking for and finding out one's true nature. It is seeking for meaning and the value of human life, the relationships among human beings as well as those between humans and the universe (and beyond). It seeks harmony in society as well as between humans and all of nature. Authentic education focusing on truth and spirituality offers the door to wisdom and enlightenment.
Now is the beginning of a new period of "humanistic and harmonized" Buddhism. The HB promoted by the Grand Master harmonizes and synthesizes most Buddhist teachings from ancient times to the present and from many traditions. There is a strong basis for such a process since, according to the Grand Master, all traditions agree on the following: Siddhartha Gautama is the fully enlightened one; We should first take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; Accept the true teachings of the Buddha; Nirvana is the final goal; the Four Noble Truths are the foundation of Buddhism; The Eightfold path is the practical approach used to reach our goal; Conditioned genesis is the scientific analysis of the arising and cessation of beings; Karma is the generating factor in re-becoming; Development of attaining enlightenment often happens through stages of arahatship to boddhisattvahood and ultimately Budhhahood; The Three Fold practice is morality, mental development and wisdom; The Three Fold root cause for the arising of unwholesome actions is greed, anger and delusion; The Three Fold universal characteristics include changeability, unsatisfactoriness and instability. In summary, this "humanistic and harmonized" Buddhism focuses on practicing kindness, compassion, sympathy and equanimity with the mind as the mover behind all actions.
The Path is a Process. The Middle Path is revolutionary still today. The way to liberation from this world is to avoid the extremes of physical sensuality or asceticism; to live "in" this world but not "of' it; and to confront material reality, and overcome attachments from the "inside" way not the surface. The following summary of Buddhist teachings are interpreted by Grand Master Hsing Yun and therefore, are part of HB.
Before anything positive can happen, people must admit that human suffering (sorrow, stress, pressure, pain, pleasure, unfulfillment, worry, fear and so forth) exists. All this suffering has its origin, often in a domain of complexity. Therefore, if the causes which bring about our suffering can be determined and dealt with, then the suffering will be ended. After learning this process, continuous practice must initiated it in order to prevent more suffering.
Some useful ways to stop current and prevent new suffering in order to live a more joyful and fulfilling life are as follows (traditionally called the Noble Eightfold Path): Moral discipline is training in conduct emulating the Buddha (Correct Speech,
Action, Livelihood); Meditative concentration is the training of mind focus, be calm, control consciousness and transcend emotions (Correct effort, Mindfulness and Concentration); Wisdom is training in knowledge for a penetrative understanding of the path of liberation (Correct Understanding and Thought).
A more detailed explanation is presented in the following paragraphs in order to explain each truth in greater detail. An accurate view of the reality of this world and all things in it must be developed in order to avoid all kinds of misunderstandings and misjudgments. By learning more about the true reality of this world and all beings in it, people can create new ideas beyond the knowledge already gained through the sense organs. This new truth can be used to express one's feelings and ideas accurately, communicate with others well and educate and influence other beings without producing negative side effects because of inaccurate use of speech.
Learning well, working well and living well alone or along with others is attained by using correct and non-destructive behavior. By creating productive and non-abusive living, one need not rely on others, and in this way can contribute his/her work and services to other beings and society. A positive and productive harvest only comes out of correct and adequate effort. In keeping positive ideas in mind at all times, no matter what place or what action is performed, one can get rid of all negative and destructive thoughts. In this way everyone can keep their minds clean, pure, clear and bright. Paying attention to whatever action takes place keeps one's mind calm and heart warm.
Through following these eight ways one can be his/her own master using the guidance of correct mindfulness. In this way one can go from self-centeredness to otherness and oneness. This is the great commitment. The alternative is spiritual poverty. The Noble Eightfold Path is the application of the principles of the Buddha's teachings to life -- establishing constant mindfulness, endeavoring to keep open and being unbiased and fully present.
Once one knows that there is suffering (both mental and physical) and the real nature of suffering, he/she can move a step further and find a way to put an end to suffering. Understanding the existence of suffering is only part of the process. Learning how to put an end to it so that full liberation can be realized is the ultimate purpose of exploring suffering.
After purging the mind (creating one's own Pure Land) individuals can contribute to the purification of society. By the way of proper training of the mind, the Grand Master hopes to see the entire society hasten toward positive fortune, amity, peace and joy. Also, by reciting the Buddha's name and practicing spirituality, one not only adorns the Pure Land of the next life but also purifies the world in this life.
By following the Five Precepts of Buddhism (no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, or use of intoxicants), everyone can bring peace to the family, community, country and the entire world. This means respect for all and keeping from infringing on the domain or rights of others. Integrity in all relationships and sensitivity for other's beliefs and actions are included in these concepts. Not killing means do not violate the lives of others. Not stealing means do not violate the boundaries of others. Avoiding sexual misconduct means not to violate the self-respect or reputation of others. Not lying means not violating the trust of others. No use of intoxicants means non-violation of the senses. The Ten Virtues are an extension of the Five precepts. In one's deeds, do not kill, steal or engage in sexual misconduct
(excess or exploitation). In one's speech do not lie, slander, cheat or be offensive. In one's thoughts do not be greedy, angry or have destructive views.
Avoiding doing harm to one's own body and the bodies of others is fundamental to the Buddhist precepts. Therefore, by following this way, a person's character and morality are kept in order as well as the family and society as a whole. Stability, peace and prosperity are the results. If everyone upholds the Five Precepts, prisons and insane asylums could become empty. If people directed their energy to the Precepts and beyond just worship and prayer for longevity, wealth, a prosperous family, fame and health, they would find even greater blessings in the Buddha.
The Four Boundless States are incorporated into HB -- kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. HB is not pessimistic in talking about suffering or impermanence. It offers hope with a joyful spirit and endless compassion through following the precepts and practices by an increasing number of people. Liberation from the traps of this earthly life can happen. Transformation is a truth. Material wealth, without responsibility and with attachment, usually does not alleviate suffering. It often creates more troubles. HB is a spiritual belief system and practice incorporating benevolence, contribution, sacrifice and benefiting others.
The Four All-Embracing Virtues are included in HB -- giving, amiable speech, conduct beneficial to others and cooperation. These four can also be interpreted as giving others what they need, speaking to others with kindness and compassion, offering aid in times of need and adapting oneself to others all in order to lead them to the Dharma Way.
Giving should be part
of daily life, not just at a time of social or natural crisis. Giving smiles
should come out of a pure heart. Being patient and diligent bring to fruition
the practice through taking responsibility. It also includes a sense of
optimism and sacrifice. HB is based upon following humane and sensitive
guidelines in a
conscientious and industrious manner.
The Four Correct Exertions are part of HB -- bring correctness into existence, develop existing positiveness, eradicate existing negativity and prevent the arising of new immorality and corruption. All these practices result in social stability and universal benefit.
In the fragmented perception of today's modern world, wholeness and freeness are important concepts fundamental to a healthy and free life. "Wholeness" is being integrated (full mind and body in Buddha Nature) and behaving in a most natural and perfect way, like a small child. "Freeness" is liberation from suffering and afflictions. Looking at everything with magnanimity allows us to see the meaning of life, enjoy life and have wholeness and freeness.
The following analysis of "Wholeness and Freeness" was made by Grand Master Hsing Yun to the BLIA:
Contentment in daily life leads to wholeness and freeness. By transcending greed (the greatest pitfall in most lives) contentment can be attained. Transcending material attachments and having compassion for all sentient beings leads to wholeness and freeness. People can "have and use" without "possessing and owning".
Equality among people leads to wholeness and freeness. Duality leads to a perception of fragmentation. Treating self and others equally is harmony between all.
If one practices the Four Great Vows of kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity there will be wholeness and freeness.
Using wisdom to influence one's ordinary consciousness is part of wholeness and freeness. This is the natural flow of wisdom and skillful means that is within each person. Peace and stability based on truth and responsibility leads to wholeness and freeness. It is only when, through practice, that a community becomes peaceful and stable. Then it can develop into a "whole and free" society in which conflicts can be easily prevented or resolved without violence.
Harmony within the family leads to wholeness and freeness. A healthy family is the refueling station in the journey of life. It is the refuge and support system society needs to build a Pure Land beyond the individual mind. Family members need to respect and learn from each other and accept others as important beings. They should support, encourage and comfort each other in mutual sensitivity and cooperation. It is only in harmony that people can achieve mutual benefits and joy.
A healthy body and mind lead to wholeness and freeness. One's thoughts and actions are equally important. Exercise, complete vegetarian meals, meditation and chanting builds the health that leads to wholeness and freeness.
Self-liberation leads to wholeness and freeness in the human world. Attachment to the illusions of sex, wealth, power and ego leads to bondage. To achieve liberation and freeness one has to let go of everything, open his/her mind, expand horizons and know the fullness of reality. Letting go of all personal gain benefits others and sets each person free.
Non-attachment to possessions brings happiness. Science has made life a little more comfortable (at times) but it has not made us happier. To be free from material attachment, one should own (or even use) as little material goods as possible.
In summary, it is through practicing Buddhism that we can hope to overcome the suffering of the world and move on from negative behaviors and karma to a state of wholeness and freeness resulting in a Pure Land here on earth. HB can make these truths available in order to inform everyone. It can't force people to change. In this transformation process HB may even face resistance as it expands more into mainstream society.
"Those who love others are loved in return. Those who respect others are respected in return." (Ancient Chinese Wisdom)
HB comes from a long, historical lineage but has evolved as well because of its adaptable aspects. It is a kind of "living and developing Ch'an." HB's approach is to be natural, truthful and well balanced -- to show the positive aspects of one's mind and not dwell upon the negative. Its practice is to have faith, persistence and compassion -- to have freedom of mind and be full of kindness, compassion, joy and equinimity. The way of living Ch'an is to cultivate regularity and simplicity and to cherish one's fortune by abiding by the precepts and be contented with a simple life. Employing living Ch'an is to live skillfully. The spirit of living Ch'an is to shoulder responsibilities, be courageous and fearless, work with dilligence and realize all beings
possess the Buddha Nature. The purpose of living Ch'an is to attain the bodhi mind and be carefree -- to cultivate a life of wisdom and freedom through selflessness.
"When life is complemented by the flavor of Ch'an, the meaning of life will be grasped all the more clearly." (p. xv, The Lion's Roar)
Living Ch'an does not mean that one should abandon the enjoyment of life. To be exact, it transcends all five sensual desires and the six worldly defilements in order to attain a peace and harmony which is even more practical in this world.
In Living Ch'an practice a questioning attitude is very important, and conversations between masters are usually in the form of questions. They usually answer one question with another question. Living Ch'an's emphasis is on personal development, self-realization and self-discovery of one's own pure nature. Hence, it is very important that each one practices (contemplates) and realizes the truth for his/her self. Living Ch'an is not some scholarly theory, but rather, it is life. According to Grand Master Hsing Yun, when Ch'an can be implemented into daily life, people will respect and dwell in harmony with each other.
Bringing the monastery out of the forest and into communities and circumstances where people live and work is to manifest the teachings of the dharma in myriad ways to reach all sentient beings in a way each will understand so they can put into practice the way to liberate themselves from the experience of suffering. (p. 1, Gibb)
The Grand Master emphasizes the supreme wisdom of true compassion (acting without seeking rewards) applied to all of daily living in order to benefit everyone. Deep compassion is guided by wisdom, not indulgence in sensuality or aquisition of things or money. If practiced in a joyful manner, the influence can be profound. This is the timeless and universality of the Buddha's teachings.
HB believes mostly in the present. With the present as the base, we can deal with the past and the future. The full meaning of life is supreme enlightenment. The details of this ultimate are the smaller elements that are dependent on our handling our chance to grow and develop. People are here, but also so is their suffering, due to their strong craving for existence. Every pleasure ends in suffering.
Discord arises through greed, ill-will and delusion. Greed is the cause of selfishness and avarice. Selfishness is the cause of envy and jealousy while avarice is the cause of covetousness and the competitive spirit. Ill-will is the cause of resentment and anger. Resentment is the cause of pride and revenge, while anger is the cause of malice and strife. Delusion is the cause of attachment and fear. Attachment is the cause of craving and lust, while fear is the cause of superstition and intolerance.
Harmony arises through Charity, Love and Wisdom. Charity is the cause of unselfishness and generosity. Unselfishness is the cause of sympathy and altruism while generosity is the cause of equanimity and love. Equanimity is the cause of humility and good will. Good will is the cause of compassion and self control. Wisdom is the cause of renunciation and serenity. Renunciation is the cause of contentment and mental tranquility, while serenity is the cause of sound judgement and tolerance. These HB principles are all compatible with Ch'an'.
"The great calamities of life are caused by a grazing sense of self." (Lao Tzu)
First, realize the essence of mind and one's true nature. Second, practice it. Move beyond the cycle of birth and death. Purify our own minds and guard one's own behavior to reach nirvana. The Buddha did not create the truths (Dharma) but he discovered, understood and taught these universal truths. (President Nai Chen Chen, Hsi Lai University -- Philosophy of Education, In progress).
"If you want to travel far, you must start where you are." (Grand Master Hsing Yun, interview)
According to the Grand Master, the greatest shortfall of Buddhism today is taking it out of the context of everyday life. Wisdom is not only obtained within the confines of a secluded retreat or from the reciting of the Heart Sutra. Wisdom can often emerge in the midst of ordinary activities of our daily lives, while eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, dealing with others, or dealing with crises. The teachings are everywhere if one is able to see and accept them. HB is a functional, practical and utilitarian way to transform behavior while living in today's world. All individuals have the responsibility of living in the world, not just retreating to meditate. One does not have to abandon all worldly affairs, only treat them differently. Concentration and wisdom must be cultivated at the same time. Most people cannot exist away from society forever. To find true peace and security for the self, one must find it in every being. In this way bliss can be attained.
May kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity pervade all dharma realms.
May all beings benefit from our blessings and friendship.
May our ethical practices of Ch'an and Pureland help us to realize equality and patience.
May we undertake the Great Vows with humility and gratitude. (BLIA Newsletter, March 1998)
Taking refuge means "to return and rely upon." When one takes refuge in the Buddha, he/she is returning from a deluded state of mind and will begin to rely upon an awakened, understanding mind. When one takes refuge in the Dharma, he/she is returning from deviant views and will begin to rely upon correct views and understandings. When one takes refuge in the Sangha, he/she is returning from thought pollution and disharmony to a safe and supportive environment and will, with
the aid of guides and teachers, begin to base life upon Purity of Mind and the Six Principles of Living in Harmony. These vows are taken formally as a commitment to entering and staying the path leading to enlightenment and Buddhahood. "These vows include serving all beings without limit, ending all delusion, learning all methods for doing this and becoming perfected in the Dharma of enlightenment. One's first priority is to purify the mind and cut off all attachments to erroneous ways.
Grand Master Hsing Yun's Ten Wishes for the 1999 New Year are as follows:
1. harmony brings relatives together and wholeness in all families.
2. all lives be content without shortage and may people aid those in need.
3. we stabilize our emotions and act with dignity.
4. we eradicate afflictions and cultivate with diligence.
5. we volunteer to aid others and work with others with compassion.
6. everyone's career run smoothly and in a healthy manner.
7. we make progress in spiritual practice and increase our perceptions and
8. HB prosper and all sentient beings be saved from the cycle of birth and death
9. society be safe and peaceful and bring happiness to everyone
10. the world have peace, and may we celebrate in joyfulness. (BLIA Newsletter, February, 1999)
In order to clear the past and move on one must repent the negativity he/she has created with true remorse so they can act positively in the future. This penitence is the beginning step to freeing oneself from the traps, barriers and attachments created by the ego. Repentance is not an occasional confession but the introspection of a lifetime, and not an ornamental declaration but the assiduous cleansing of greed, anger and ignorance. Repentance can happen during special ceremonies or on one's own. The key is to act with truth and responsibility.
Buddhist ethical conduct is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. Merit includes giving, self-discipline and meditation. Merit is the fruit of well-intentioned behavior and positive action:
1. Offering -- useful things (clothes, food), incense, flowers and fruits to self, temple and the world.
2. Make four vows -- save all beings without limit, end all delusion, learn methods, be perfected in the Dharma.
3. Carry out the four virtuous methods -- giving others what they like to lead them to Dharma, speaking to others in kindness and compassion, offer aid, adapt to others' needs.
4. Follow the six paramitas -- giving the best of ourselves; uphold the precepts; act with patience under insult; keep active progress going; practice morality, concentration and wisdom and live in humility and humbleness.
5. Stay on the Noble Eightfold Path.
"One seed of grain planted in the spring produces ten thousand seeds in the autumn." (Ancient Chinese Saying)
The Buddha proclaimed that the power to transform one's existence is in each person's hands and not in the power of a personal "God or gods." Everyone should be self-reliant. It is not the Buddha who changes people but he teaches how each one can change themselves even as he changed himself. The Buddha is like a wise and compassionate father/mother who sees all beings like "children" playing in the consuming fire of worldliness and employs different expedients to bring them out of this burning house leading each one to the safe asylum of Nirvana. Thus, the main aim of transformation is not to find the "I" (ego) but the true "self" (our Buddha Nature).
The present human life, then, can be a process wherein each one can move on to the full mind (the true self) using the skills of HB, thereby releasing whole-self from the physical entrapments and illusions that the small ego-self has created.
No matter how high the mountain, the clouds are not impeded. No matter how difficult the obstacle seems, we can pass through it. If we are empty of dualities, no encounter will obstruct us. (The Grand Master, interview)
This practice begins by connecting with the spiritual essence/consciousness using various techniques and practices to develop true Buddha nature. Along the way one can pay respects to the Master and the Buddha to show gratitude, practice self-development through meditation and incorporate the moral teachings into one's life.
Even during the normal way of living, it is possible to have insight and gain a lot of understanding by using reason and discursive thought. Sometimes one may feel that such insights are deep and important, for they may reveal things about life and people which one had never realized before. Yet, when that understanding is reviewed, it does not really have much effect on the internal self. It is surface only. It may be quite true, but it does not alter one's outlook or nature.
We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
and happiness will follow you
as your shadow, unshakable. (The Dharmapada)
Let go of anger.
Let go of pride.
When you are bound by nothing,
you go beyond sorrow. (The Dharmapada)
However, when vowing to perform lofty, virtuous deeds and cultivation, the practitioner usually encounters many obstacles that test their will and challenge their endurance.
Can practice overcome karma or even go around it? One can create positive karma from practicing the Five Precepts. This new positiveness can often have a stronger influence than some of the negative karma of the past.
Sometimes an uncomfortable event can awaken the practitioner, making it easier for them to escape thoughts of attachment and re-double their efforts in cultivation. Some comfortable activities can, on the other band, may make them quietly retrogress, without even knowing it.
All people are ego-addicts because they view the world in a self-referencing mode. Often they believe they should be right all the time. They seek respect, to be special, to be noticed. Even when physical needs are met, they can still be driven by ego hunger. This process can lead to great destruction, even war. When ego drives one's life's decisions, he/she is doomed to suffering. When egos are fed, narrow pride takes over. It doesn't last. Even if one tries to hold on, nothing lasts except "mind". There are no guarantees in the material world. Egos grasp to control the uncontrollable.
Letting go of ego is seen as a painful "loss". But, without this release no one can create a space for the "divine", that is, each one's Buddha Nature. By studying self, without attachment, in order to know the trueness of being, a realization that there is not actually a "self" comes about. The ego self is a created illusion.
People in this world use various methods to satisfy their desires. What do they really possess at the end? People come to this world empty-handed, and they will leave in the same manner. If people want to enjoy themselves, then the cool wind, the bright moon, the mountains and rivers are all here for the whole world to enjoy. Why engage in all sorts of schemes for material gains? Just as no one can steal the moon, neither can anyone steal the Buddha-nature that is within each of us. (p.64, The Lion's Roar)
Each person needs to earn his/her own living, to not feast off of others. Such dependency creates attachments that are difficult to break. By standing on one's own feet a door is opened to practicing unselfish giving. In this way one's ideals can be put into action in charity, medicine, education and culture. (Everyone can do so in business as well.) Avoiding confrontations with others can also be initiated by being flexible and giving in a little. Potential disasters can be changed into incidents of fortune by showing gentle, loving attitudes. There is a bright future for those who are merciful towards others.
Meditation can lead to a universal connection. In this state of being inside and outside merge together and the person opens up to the "who and what they are" which is beyond ordinary cognition. In this way one can come to the child-like discovery that the true self is innocent and in a primal state of being, an emancipation from self-consciousness.
Catalysts make things happen especially under circumstances in which they would not normally happen. Meditation is a catalyst. It promotes change and can do so under circumstances and conditions in which change seemingly has not yet begun. Meditation achieves its ends within the realm of the mind -- throwing light on old patterns and half-glimpsed ideas and views; rooting out what binders, freeing one from the poisons of greed, hatred and delusion and eventually allowing a completely new purified consciousness to emerge.
Self-cultivation also includes sutra reading, ceremonies, offerings and charitable practices, observance of discipline, name reciting and chanting and retreats. All of these practices can be part of and a support for the process of awakening.
Controlling the mind is often like reining in a typhoon. It needs to be worked with in stages. Meditating is to turn one's attention away from material attachments and focus completely on mind. Exploring the mind and learning about true self happens through focusing on intentions, past actions and needs. These are some of the steps in meditation recommended by the Grand Master:
First Stage: Re-direct attention/focus, calming, relaxation, tranquility. (ordinary meditation)
Second Stage: Shut down all senses except the mind. Mindful insight, aware of thoughts and body, lower blood pressure, immune system stronger, begin evening to emptiness.
Third Stage: Confront not escape. Become familiar with self, problems and issues. Heal and overcome the past.
Fourth Stage: Practice in daily life action -- concentrate, calm emotions, increase awareness, handle things better, mindful practice. Become familiar with self, know self, contentment. Respect others more, connect more, less competition or selfishness, more harmony, be humble and giving, experience togetherness in Buddha Nature. Explore new fields inside with less concentration on things that please (engage) the senses.
Fifth Stage: Re-connect with the true essence (Buddha Nature), integrate mind/body/spirit, experience a new level of life and consciousness (realization).
Sixth Stage: Enlightenment/Nirvana -- full spirit connection.
This Sixth Stage includes the Eight Dhyanas. It is the state of being --
1.Beyond desire, beyond smell and taste (retain some hearing, touch and thought).
Feeling of joy (without pleasure and beyond happiness) and tranquility.
2. The mind is balanced, even and calm.
3. Non-clinging, non-attachment, Pure joy.
5. Emptiness without boundaries, purity.
6. The mind is clear, tranquil, and aware.
7. Non-localized -- free of all conditions, no location, boundless tranquility and vast emptiness, no past/present/future, no ego self.
8. Seeing beyond existence and non-existence.
"Disentangling oneself from the world and discovering inner joy is the start of meditation." (p. 46, Only a Great Rain)
Understanding and practice are inter-related. Disciplining and opening the mind is the first step, thereby connecting with the essence of reality. True mind is a storehouse of past memories and actions. By freeing the mind from the restrictions of
time and space through concentration, wisdom emerges. Self-realization and self-experience can be used to test reality. Opening to all consciousness results in deliverance from suffering.
People not only love other people, they love countries, plants and pets. The positive aspect is that it can give them the strength to make sacrifices, to give, to encourage and to be compassionate. It can give focus and clear visibility to life's direction. It can provide warmth and security. Love is full of surprises. But, negative aspects are also present. Ordinary love can be like a piece of rope that is binding and restrictive. It can be like a shackle and create restlessness. This love can keep one in the dark without them even being aware of it.
Regardless if one loves or is loved by others, they have to be watchful that their love does not turn sour. Love and hate are inseparable, one shadows the other. In HB there are four types of love:
1. Everyday love -- This is love of family, children and friends. While it can be blissful, there are times when it can hurt. It often becomes possessive and clinging in nature. If the object of one's love is inappropriate, it can bring headaches. It takes two to really love. But true love is not a trade. True love is giving. HB disapproves of unhealthy and unsound love that is created by ego-based exploitation. True love evolves as one grows into spiritual maturity. From loving self, this love grows into loving family and then to loving all of humanity.
2. Heroic Love -- This is remarkable and extraordinary, completely selfless love that allows one to let go of stubborn delusions. It is based on toughness and endurance, along with respect and responsibility.
3. Enlightened Love -- This is the final stage of mature love. At this stage the ties of emotions are severed and one transcends worldly desires and ego, thus, expanding love to all. This is the stage of arhat love.
4. Buddha's love -- This is love of everyone, friends and foes alike, equally and without discrimination. Buddha's love shows compassion to all sentient beings.
How does one love selflessly and offer love to all? How does one transform a possessive love to a giving love and then to a love for the Dharma? How can one purify love from a state of discrimination to one of great compassion? How is it possible to cultivate kindness without conditions and ground one's compassion in oneness? When love is offered and affection given to serve the community, then life will be much fuller and more everlasting. To truly love a person is to aid him or her in healthy growth and staying on a correct and positive path.
Compassion is forbearance while wisdom is magnanimity (beyond the ordinary mental ideas of what is "truth" in the ego/material based creation of reality). Compassion is universal love and joy and not limited to sensuality. The attainment of the transcendental state signifies the transmutation of mind itself, placing it above the law of karma and rebirth. It opens us up to the "greater existence" and free flowing compassion.
Periodic renewal through "time off" and retreats are important to the continuous development of personal growth and transformation. These occasions can take place at temples, retreat locations, or just on one's own in a quiet, safe and peaceful spot.
"Relax and let our inherent Buddha nature to express itself. Knock, and we will be let in.... Only when one knows their true nature do they become one with eternal essence." (p. 12, Two Talks on Ch'an)
"When one is ready, one is ready. Enlightenment is not something that can be forced." (p. 29, Two Talks on Ch'an)
An arhat is the one free from false identity. They have accomplished what they set out to achieve -- be released from the cycle of birth and death. This is a limited transformation. The limitless compassion, wisdom and complete enlightenment come from the bodhisattva path (non-attachment to Nirvana or a self that is to be liberated). Arhat awareness is experiencing a level of realization and enlightenment, the eternity of timelessness and the boundlessness of space. Enlightenment is when the true nature of one's own self is realized, when one can go beyond the simple creations of the ego mind. This is accomplished by practicing the three learnings: morality, meditation and wisdom.
The enlightenment process (at least at the beginning level) does not create a real, lasting result. One who transcends the influence of defilements temporarily, by using beginning enlightenment techniques, is said to have experienced transcendence through suppression. To be fully enlightened (to attain complete and pure awareness), one must delve deeper into the problem, by destroying the seed of defilement in the mind, so that it does not react with negativity to various sensations. "The mind which is not aware in the present moment is the mind which still delights or feels averse. The mind, delighting or feeling averse, must clutch onto some particular sensation. As soon as it clutches onto any particular sensation, the mind does not know things as they truly are because it falls into the past or floats off into the fixture and becomes under the influence of delight and aversion, even if only for a short time.
HB does support the arhat process as one possible step along the way to enlightenment, but it usually focuses more expansively on the altruism and compassion of the bodhisattva life of teaching, aiding, supporting and facilitating the development of other sentient beings.
"You need only to wake up and realize you have always been home." (p. 44, Living Meditation, Living Insight)
Full Buddhahood will not be attained if one is only concerned with self-cultivation. For bodhisattvas who are treading on the Path of Buddhahood, aiding and serving others is always their main concern. A true spiritual practitioner should be a compassionate bodhisatttva amongst all beings. The welfare of others is of greatest importance. Personal matters, such as clothing, eating, dwelling and traveling must
take second place to others' needs. The bodhisattva contains his/her own discomfort if it means having success in working with others. They leave personal gain or loss aside and seek societal transformation by using any suitable route possible.
The bodhisattva spirit is self-awakening through the awakening of others. Bodhisattvas are not deities that sit above sentient beings or beyond comprehension; the bodhisattva's presence is not distant, but right here in the midst of this earthly world. Bodhisattvas are not idols to whom offerings are made and respect paid. Bodhisattvahood is blissfulness even within the full awareness of and connection to "emptiness."
Bodhisattvas are peaceful in all conditions, whether in simplicity (even poverty) or complexity, and are able to uphold the Way (the path leading to full Buddhahood). They only seek to be wise and able to aid other sentient beings. Their mind is usually beyond desires and delusions and rests in the equanimity of complete truth. Such a mind has no need to live with dualities or be attached to comparisons. It does not suffer or experience pain.
The bodhisattva's commitment to others is through both feelings and wisdom. When both wisdom and compassion are directed toward the same goal, nothing can prevent its attainment. The bodhisattva is born of compassion and wisdom, and therefore, lives it.
Animals can teach humans, plants can teach humans, the environment can teach humans if only they open up to the lessons. If a serious practitioner has no knowledge of human needs, he/she can never even aid themselves, let alone others, as a bodhisattva along the path to enlightenment. Only after one has fully learned to accept the noise and confusion of this world, will he/she able to "rise above it." All humans belong to this world, but also belong to the "spiritual" domain of Buddha Nature.
"To tackle life is more important than to tackle death." (p. 225, Handing Down the Light)
The way to bodhisattvahood is through the practice of the Six Paramitas (the actions that ferry one beyond the sea of rebirth to Nirvana):
1. Charity -- give material, emotional, spiritual, or informational support and aid other sentient beings to meet crises courageously and fearlessly. Includes giving alms and gifts.
2. Keeping Discipline -- refrain from negativity. Positively observe every precept and practice virtuous deeds.
3. Forbearance -- share the commonality of struggle with others and with strength, will power, patience, endurance, brazenness and overcome adversity.
4. Zeal and Progress -- undertaking any action for both self-benefit and others' benefit with resolution and persistence without pride, indolence, or intolerance.
5. Meditation -- intensive contemplation focus to keep the distracted mind concentrated in order to complete the realization process.
6. Wisdom -- as a result of meditation, action and awareness one can perceive true reality with understanding and correct action.
How can we "help" others? HB emphasizes assisting, aiding, guiding and supporting -- not helping (getting one out of a difficulty of their own making). People will be and stay on the Buddha Path only if they are open and ready. Bodhisattvas can be a role model, supporter, teacher, facilitator and living truth for others.
Buddhas and bodhisattvas are not "gods" but the most perfect and blissful beings that can be known and from whom all can learn. They are not absolutes but are also on a tunelessly, maturing path.
The bodhi mind is like a seed for it gives birth to the Dharma.
The bodhi mind is like a good field for it nurtures all good phenomena.
The bodhi mind is like a great land for it can hold everything at all times.
The bodhi mind is like pure water for it can cleanse all troubles and pain. (The Avatamsaka Sutra)
"If you want to become a Buddha, first become a good, full and positive human being." (p. 199, Epoch of the Buddha's Light #l)
If one wants to become a Buddha, he/she first must become a positive, contributing human being. Being generous with one's "possessions" teaches how to be unattached. Speaking and acting compassionately does not mean simply using "nice" words or responding from the heart. It means acting from the true Buddha Nature.
The three minds of the Buddha (bodhicitta, mind and heart) include love, compassion and wisdom. Buddhahood happens when one awakens his/her mind, heart and wisdom to holistic being and acting. To attain Buddhahood one must make the vows to liberate all beings, uproot all blind passion, penetrate all levels of truth and attain the way of the Buddha.
These are the Ten Necessary Practices for attaining Nirvana and Buddhahood:
1. Praise the virtues, pay homage and make great offering to all Buddhas.
2. Confess and repent one's evil deeds and hindrances.
3. Be unattached.
4. Be a diligent follower and practitioner of Buddhist ways at all times.
5. Joyfully serve others for their benefit.
6. Respect and turn over one's merits to all sentient beings.
7. Always manifest positivity in following the Buddha's teachings.
8. Teach the Dharma with words and actions in perfect accordance.
9. Never resent other's actions or behaviors.
10. Live in Wholeness and Freeness, (p. 8, The Basis of Humanistic Buddhism)
A Buddha is not a supernatural being but an example for what we can attain and are by nature. Buddha Nature and true "mind" are both a "Pure Land".
The life cycle of birth/death continues until the ultimate goal of Nirvana is reached (i.e. non-attachment). A Nirvana state is not born, originated, created, or formed. It is not a heaven where a transcendent ego resides. Nirvana is a dynamic supramundane state attainable in this lifetime by anyone. It is deliverance from suffering and eradication of ego. The barriers to nirvana are: running wildly after what ego thinks is pleasant and tempting as well as reacting with aversion to what it regards as unpleasant and irritating; the unwillingness or ill-preparedness of the body and mind, producing feelings of apathy, loneliness, weariness and discouragement; distraction or concentration, confusion and bewilderment; and recurring doubt and uncertainty, loss of self-confidence and assertion.
Levels of practice leading to nirvana include: Deep concentration, realization and enlightenment. Concentration is focusing on the one-pointedness of mind. Realization is the attainment of wisdom. Enlightenment is both the understanding of pure awareness and connecting with wholeness and spiritual essence (Buddha Nature). Enlightenment contains stages: equanimity, tranquility and stillness. The final state of Nirvana experiences no time or space.There are two aspects of Nirvana, the worldly and supramundane. In both there is absolute peace, ineffable bliss, unconditioned liberation, freedom from karma, removal of the bondage-bearing negative motivations of samsara, the perfect state of tranquility without pain and suffering, attachments and mistakes -- a re-becoming in a new form.
Basic Nirvanic selflessness can be lived in this very life and in everyday experience. It is not life-denying austerity but a compassionate inner joy that is lived without attachment. Anyone can easily live "in" this world without getting caught up in any of its negativity and desires. One's life journey's end is not necessarily death. It can be enlightenment -- attaining virtue, concentration, and wisdom. At that time a new journey (but on the same path) begins!
Certain aspects of one's being, most of which each person creates, are fundamental barriers to the continuing progress of personal practice. Everyone needs to understand these features in order to overcome them and realize their goals of consciousness development.
Suffering is mainly due to our clinging to the "I" and "mine". Sense organs and object sensed are expressions of the same seed. Our critical thinking constructs what we believe is a coherent vision of existence. However, the belief that there are objects and we create a desire for them are both illusions. The realization of emptiness happens with the understanding that there are no such objects except in the way our cognitive mind has created them.
There are forms for material objects, but we create our own image, perception and meaning of them. Our consciousness interacts with them in our own way. In this
way our belief of their reality becomes more important than their actuality. Habit formation determines what we sense. Lower consciousness is always conscious of an object. If there is no consciousness, there can be no object as we sense it. We create the attributes, variables and complexities. There is no "thing" in itself. All is interactive. The knowing subject and the known object are instruments of thinking. How we know and what we know are works of imagination. "The Buddha did not teach being and not-being as separate. Once we truly learn things and know them correctly, we have a basis on which to decide whether they are beneficial or not and can serve our interests and pure intent (not desires).
One level of consciousness is without the passion for images and objects. This is enlightenment. Our lower consciousness becomes the slave of things it does not know it has created. We create, project and place our own manufactured things in space and time. We create externality to that which has no patterned essence. Polar dualities do not exist, only differentiations within our limited consciousness. Buddha awareness of non-duality frees us from attachment. The cognitive awareness of created duality level is there, but the existential attachment (commitment) to "I" and "mine" is no more. Time and space limitation and performing "meaningful" activities are dissolved in Buddha consciousness by transcending cultural barriers.
Buddha Nature is the level of mind (spirit) that is the pure essence within everything. It exists throughout the universe and fills it completely. We are brought into being through this karmic energy (a force and essence of fields with patterns of information). The Buddha Nature is our true "spiritual" (mind) nature. It is who we, and all sentient beings are. Buddha Nature is beyond consciousness/non-consciousness. It is truth.
The experience of well-being, meaningfulness and a sense of fulfillment, cannot be measured in terms of money or any other material thing. Well-being is a subjective phenomenon. It reflects the extent to which an individual is able to express his or her creativity and develop the full range of their possibilities.
"Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" (T.S. Eliot)
"Our characters must be as tall as mountains and our minds as vast as the seas. Our minds must be both vast and tolerant." (p. 26, Epoch of the Buddha's Light # 1)
Sometimes it seems so difficult for us to see the validity in someone else's opinion or idea if it differs from our own. In a world filled with diversity we so often seek conformity, not truth. Therefore, we need to learn how to tolerate all, but also test all.
Just as we should honor the wonders of nature in all its diversity, we need to honor the diversity in humanity. We can celebrate it, but not get caught up in that which is outside the path. The world we experience through the six senses exists within our consciousness. We change the universe by shifting our perspective on it.
Doubt is one path to knowledge. So is crisis. If our goal is peace, not wealth, fame, or sensual pleasure, there is hope.
Returning anger with anger is evil.
Don't return anger with anger.
Not being angry is always better
than being angry. (The Samyukta Agama)
Anger is one of the three basic "poisons" or defilements discussed by the Buddha. Ignorance and greed are the other two. These are sometimes called the "three diseases" because they bring harm to sentient beings and force them to remain a long time within the cycle of birth and death. Anger is created out of fear and a deluded belief that the illusory self has lost control over something that is important to it. This loss of control produces an ignorant rage during which one attempts to restore whatever equilibrium he/she thought should have been there. Anger comes in many forms: resentment, hatred, jealousy, cruelty, abuse, or taking delight in the misfortunes of others. Some anger seems to have a reason behind it, other anger seems not to. Often one discerns a cause for the anger as an outside source. Sometimes it just arises from an inner seed planted in one's consciousness.
When we have desire and attachment in this world, anger can arise. Anger is reaction to blocked energy (usually fear). The most basic way to cure anger is to see it that way, to remove all labels from it and disentangle it from all excuses about why it is there. Seen purely as a reaction to energy, anger is more easily put in perspective and controlled. Once anger has been understood and overcome, it follows naturally that one will be successful in upholding the precepts and in controlling fear, passion, criticism, harsh speech and a tendency to complain or be bitter about one's life. Overcoming anger is the source of much positiveness.
All desires bind people to this world. Knowing how to be content with the minimum/simple needs for a healthy life is the starting point for the successful practice of Buddhism. Needs are not necessarily desires. Once basic needs are met one can allow his/her consciousness to roam freely within the greatness of existence.
Desires lead to greed. Ignorance leads to more desires. Therefore, one needs to overcome desires through wisdom and concentration. In this way one can also remove ignorance and greed from his/her defilements.
All people face struggles and suffering. If they do so with courage, then, by their resolve, they will plant the seeds of strength for a future good harvest. By examining their minds and removing from them the seeds of anger and defiled thinking, they can begin the real work of creating peace and compassion.
Greed, anger, ignorance as well as pride, doubt and jealousy are all mental defilements that run counter to the flow of nature; they always cause more problems than they solve and they usually lead us only deeper into error. People tend to respond to pleasure with craving. They believe they deserve to be happy. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right in the constitution of the United States. But, people often pursue happiness where it can never be found. In all experiences there is an element of unsatisfactoriness. This is impermanence. People must acknowledge dukkha (their suffering) as the starting point for spiritual development.
On the Buddha path all must constantly re-evaluate their goals and decide what is needed to stay true to the promise. A person on the correct path needs self work but often a teacher (who is himself/herself realized and enlightened) can also be a support and guide. HB deals with life today and how to make each one a more positive person for tomorrow. If people improve themselves, they improve all of society.
The wise who live in this world
often perform beneficial deeds.
To come to understand yourself
is the most beneficial deed of all. (The Dharmapada)
People create attachments mostly to overcome their fear of death or loss. This process is an illusion of power and a false sense of security. Real security and "home" is having inner peace. As soon as one is born, he/she is on the path that most likely will lead to death. As soon as death occurs, one can re-become. Birth and death are just aspects of the same process. Parts of everyone are always dying and being replaced. Why be happy at a birth? It is the beginning of death! Why be sad at a death? It is the beginning of a re-becoming.
Fear of death is similar to fear of enlightenment. It is giving up attachments and the known. Actually, in the state of enlightenment fear does not exist. In order to fully experience wholeness and freeness in this earthly life, one needs to prepare his/her self spiritually for the day when death comes knocking at their door.
This world is nothing to rely on. It is an endless round of disturbance and trouble, pleasure and pain. There is no peace except in inner practice.
Unreasonable desires are born of illusions and greed. Being satisfied with whatever one has is an important step toward wisdom. Often pictorial and symbolic images are more powerful than words in influencing people. It has been the image of the Buddha, the visible symbol of this enlightened person that often makes Buddhism understandable and acceptable to many of the millions of devotees. But, an image is not the Buddha. Truth is not restricted by images and the material form.
Desire is the most basic bond that binds people to the delusions of this world. Due to their desires they are born over and over again in one of the six realms of existence. Desires kindle feelings of dissatisfaction from start to finish. When people begin to desire something, they feel dissatisfied because they do not yet have it. If they get it, they feel dissatisfied because it has not lived up to their expectations or because they now fear that they may lose it. After they have lost it or after it has grown old, they feel dissatisfied again. People who have few desires feel no need to lust after things, and therefore, are peaceful and free of most troubles.
Most people have created limited minds because of their delusions. Therefore, they live in a virtual reality (fantasy existence) because they project abstract beliefs into concrete reality, without even knowing it! They create their own worlds and interpretations. Therefore, they only see/experience parts of existence. This kind of experience often clouds reality.
The three poisons mentioned earlier lead to false passions and delusions. Thoughts, words and deeds all can cause mental suffering. Often people focus only on
the surface, what they see before their eyes, rather than on what lies behind or at a deeper level. Thus, they try to solve only the symptoms and ignore the real issues.
People discriminate against others because they have an illusion of having a separate self. This illusion maintains itself by making judgements. Freedom is not believing one is an individual separate from others. This is small ego-self development which leads to fragmentation and delusions about who human beings are. When illusions which are precious are threatened, often there is reaction of jealousy or anger. Jealousy shows very precisely how much investment one has made in his/her own self-created egos. When friends overcome jealousy in their relationship and aid each other in growth, enormous and very powerful energies are released. If, however, one is deluded, how does he/she know they are deluded? He/she can know they are deluded, if they have the symptoms of delusions: anger, fear, jealousy and judgement. If one seems to receive more than he/she gives and it seems desirable, this is a delusion.
People are not really Buddhists if they only worship Buddha and not try to incorporate his moral, enlightened and wise behavior into their lives. The paying reverence to Buddha and chanting the sutras are merely beginning methods to aid in improving knowledge and awareness. It is an illusion to think one will gain enlightenment in this limited way.
The Buddha has shown us that although we can aid others in finding the path, we cannot earn or give enlightenment to others. When aiding others, we should think about benefiting the entire society and world. Expanding the boundaries of our care for others makes our lives more meaningful, full of freedom and joy. (Grand Master, lecture at FGS)
The difference between male and female is superficial. Since the Buddha Nature within all beings is the same, there is no real difference between male and female. Because many of us are misled by the different appearance of gender, we fail to recognize our identical Buddha Nature. Also, this nature cannot be seen. It can only be realized through self-cultivation and personal experience, (p. 191, The Lion's Roar)
The teachings of the Buddha and HB do focus on individual enlightenment, but they do not neglect the community and relationships. Each individual is the result of what he/she created in the past, including how they interacted with others. By influencing others, everyone influences the system.
Generosity is compassion in action. It is positive energy directed toward another being in such a way that they will feel joy or gain wisdom. To the generous, wisdom will come. Simple praise lights up the mind, soothes the heart and gives comfort. When one gives to others, he/she awakens the greatest source of wisdom in the universe.
No one can share the Dharma with others if they are ignorant of their needs, fears and joys. But, friends are important. There is little in life that is more important than the people each one chooses to call their friends. These are the people who give
support in one's growth and development. Each person also supports their friends. These people are the closest relationships of choice.
True friends tell others when they are doing dangerous things, they are kind, they are joyful in aiding others, they do not abandon anyone in time of need and they do not abuse the relationship. One can trust such true friends (or any other relations such as countries). Each one on the Buddha Path does not attach his/her self to even their best friends, for in doing so they abuse the relationship and eventually it dies. If one spends time with true friends in a positive way, his/her karma will mix with the other's positive karma for the benefit of both.
Compassion means to show our gratitude to others for the kind and caring things they have done. The Buddha took joy in the joys of others and gave all he could of himself for the growth of every sentient being. Kindness should never be a burden on self or others. It should not cause anyone to feel arrogant or that he/she can dismiss the bond they may have felt with the recipient. Repaying kindness is not settling an account or cleaning a slate but a deep acknowledgement of the importance of someone else. By acknowledging this importance, one creates conditions that will lead to a deepening of the relationship with that person and all other beings.
Whenever people deepen their relations with others, they must not do so out of a sense of greed or attachment but with compassion. This means they must not expect anything in return. As relationships with other sentient beings deepen, peoples' awareness of the importance of gratitude can only increase.
Equality (especially equanimity of perception and action toward all states of mind which condition actions) is one of the most important principles in HB. Virtually all the world's problems arise out of inequalities and the tensions they produce in societies. Women and men are not equal in most parts of the world, ethnic groups are treated differently almost everywhere, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, all are not equal. The tensions caused by these inequalities are serious and they eventually lead to very violent conclusions. True cooperation is created on the basis of equality which depends on mind.
This style of cooperation results in a kind of synergy -- a special connection that when realized results in a more positive result than found with individuals separately. Important cooperation practices in HB include those with individuals, communities, countries and other spiritual practices.
Few people are prepared to admit their own shortcomings. It is easier to put the blame on others. No one should feel defensive when his/her faults are pointed out. Faults are signposts for learning change. Temper is a poor camouflage for shortcomings.
Anyone can console others with kind words and enliven and cheer them up by their presence. But, no one should ever depend on any others for joy or expect satisfaction in life from them. If one acts according to moral principles by upholding human dignity, he/she can create a Pure Land here in this world.
Social harmony and stability are created and maintained through mutual interdependence.
The heart of the family is in the community. The heart of the community is in the nation and the heart of the nation is in the world and Buddha Nature. All life is a
collective effort. Everyone depends on all others. Without them no one could live (at least at this "level" of existence).
Encouraging family and community through interdependent cooperation is the cornerstone for developing a support system for a Pure Land here on earth. A family upholding the Five Precepts is harmonious. A community upholding the Five Precepts will prosper. A nation upholding the Five Precepts will be secure and free. A world upholding the Five Precepts is the Pure Land.
Most humans thirst for community. The sangha is one group that offers a sense of belonging, shared values and respect. In such a community people can celebrate together, be listened to, be accepted and given a sense of security, offered a chance to create and be supported. The world is each one's real community.
Every society needs ground rules, guidelines, standards and checks and balances as well as ways to control excess and evaluate actions. Some such limits are too rigid and benefit only a few. A healthy society needs to be flexible but also caring, honest and supportive.
The Buddha did not reject living in society. He did disagree with behaviors such as overindulgence in material enjoyment. In Buddhism one can still marry, do business and live with others, but not be a slave to material desires and exploit others and nature for one's own greed. Everyone should give back what they receive. Emotions are encouraged as long as they are not selfish and desire-driven.
The love advocated by HB is a love of all beings, not just some specific ones. Love without wisdom and compassion is a very dangerous trap. "Love of money" is not true love. Making money for the benefit of other beings (not just one's family) is encouraged. If it is non-exploitive and encourages the spread of HB teachings, it is useful. The Buddha put emphasis on benefiting all beings, not just oneself. Humans often get caught up in desire and pleasure because they aren't confident of any future life.
A lot of people choose to make a difference in the lives of others if they become inspired by persons of moral vision and courage. Therefore, to be socially responsible means to discover the depth of one's true nature as he/she commits his/her self to the joy and work of community making and inspiring others to bring it into being. Each one can develop ways to connect the disconnected (if they also want to) empower the disempowered (again, it is their choice) and to work cooperatively on shared concerns for the common good in communities worldwide.
In HB the most important and basic of principles of social responsibility are to live in increasing awareness of what each person does, of who each individual is and of what is happening from moment to moment. In this way negative events and emotions in each life can be transformed into positive benefits for others.
No matter in which group one lives and works, the basis for positive and constructive support and creative action is "team building." In building teams that work both cooperatively and synergistically, the human infrastructure is created for a Pure Land society.
Courteous and respectful,
let kind words be uttered.
Hopeful and content,
let happiness spring.
Civil and harmonious,
let freedom come to hand.
Compassionate and accepting,
let peace and wholeness be celebrated, (p. 228, Handing Down the Light)
"Insofar as the heart is pure, there the Pure Land lies.... A pure mind will produce a Pure Land." (The Vimalakirti Nirde`sa Sutra)
To develop a Pure Land on earth, first a "pure land" must happen in our minds and then it spreads. If we adjust to the world without getting caught up in its negativity, illusions and destructive elements, we can improve it. Whatever lesson is before us, will stay before us until we have learned it. We do not grow as a Buddhist through insult and rejection of others. When we share, we lose our limited perspective. When we share, we transmit positive energy to others in such a way that all beings everywhere are improved by the act. We need to practice spontaneous sharing without a plan to gain. True sharing is selfless. It is a flow of energy between the "self and the "world". In this way we can live life instead of it living us.
We all have our own vision of how an ideal world would be, but the question at hand is, "How do we go about constructing our ideal world (there is no absolute model)?" How do we turn an idea into reality? Worldly living includes the Material Side (food, clothes, cars, houses, satisfying desires, short-lived satisfaction), Emotional Side (connection with parents, friends, lovers, children, pets), Communal Side (dependency on others, need others to live), Sensory Side (ultimate joy, transcendental living by fully integrating the Buddha's teachings into our daily lives.) and Simple Living (disciplined cultivation with only necessities).
To the enlightened individuals who have renounced their attachments, all the happenings of the world seem like fleeting smoke or floating clouds, leaving not a trace in their minds. They remain unperturbed by worldly phenomena and are not slaves to desires. They look at relationships calmly, and everyday life live simply, peacefully, freely and harmoniously.
To develop a Pure Land on earth, creating a more humanistic and moral society is the first step. This is the base for establishing widespread concentration and spiritual mind development.
If all of us can fully comprehend the natural laws that were taught by the Buddha, and if all of us can work together to build a world founded upon these laws, then we will succeed in creating a Pure Land on this earth; a land in which all people can feel secure within their natural right to a life that is free of fear and the unsettling disturbances that arise whenever sentient beings act in ignorance of the larger truths that govern the lives of all of us. (p. 9, Nature and Life)
Practiced together, Chan and Pureland are like a tiger with horns. In this world you become a teacher to others, in the next world you will be among the Buddhas. (Master Yen Shou, 905-975 C.E.)
"When you become fully human, you will become a Buddha. That is the living meaning of the truth of Humanistic Buddhism." (Grand Master Hsing Yun, interview)
The glory belongs to the Buddha.
The achievements belong to the people.
The benefits belong to the monastery.
The merits belong to the faithful, (p. 12, On Becoming a Bodhisattva)
Where is one's Buddha Nature? In spite of his own material poverty, the Grand Master did not want to see Buddhism impoverished. Buddhism has continually adapted itself to new conditions, customs and situations. Under the influence and direction of Grand Master Hsing Yun, it is also in transition to meet today's needs. HB stresses the necessity for self-reliance and individual effort. Each person is responsible to work out for him or herself, the way to end suffering and attain wholeness. It is one's own actions that determine one's future. One's destiny is not determined by any external power or agent although these forces can have an influence. A person can progress or develop such as his or her own efforts allow. Through dedication, self-discipline and wise judgement, one can reach the highest levels of life and existence. All people have aspects of their lives which are materialistic, emotional, social and sensory. They must come to terms with them so that they can "move on".
But, in HB self development is not the only responsibility. Everyone has obligations to all sentient beings to aid them in their process of realization (as needed). Through Dharma practices and community participation (see below), HB has become a vital force for both individual and social transformation.
Humanistic Buddhism as conceived and interpreted by Grand Master Hsing Yun, attempts to reconnect us with the original spirit and essence of truth that Sakyamuni Buddha brought into this world over 2500 years ago. In this noble effort the Grand Master, along with many monastics and BLIA lay Dharma lecturers, have begun to propagate world-wide the beauty and wisdom of the enlightened one's teachings. These teachings can be summarized in the following simple phrases: Act with true sincerity towards others; Overcome suffering to create a purity of mind within; Be aware of the equality in everything we see and do; Cultivate a proper understanding of the causes and conditions of life and all realms of existence; Be compassionate in aiding others in a wise and unconditional way; See through to the truth of impermanence; Let go of all wandering thoughts and attachments; Know freedom of mind; Live in accord with the conditions in our environment but without attachments; Be mindful of the Buddha and his teachings.
In creating an existence of peaceful fulfillment without conflict or strife here on earth so that all sentient beings can live in a sustainable way in Nature, without destructive violence and conflict, HB supports a lifestyle of Wholeness and Freeness. With magnanimity of mind, contentment in all actions, accepting equality and promoting harmony among people, creating wisdom and truth for peace and stability, reintegrating the body with mind and experiencing self liberation. Wholeness and Freeness can become the foundation for daily living. In this way greater possibilities for personal awareness and enlightenment will be always available to those who wish
to access their potential and realize Nirvana. As a person is transformed, so will be their society and the world. As the world is transformed, so are societies and people.
By working toward uniting all schools of Buddhism and even cooperating with many other spiritually-oriented belief systems for world peace and tranqulity, HB promotes a non-judgmental and non-competitive view towards self-development and social progress. In emphasizing Joy and Harmony, Oneness and Co-existence, Respect and Tolerance, Equality and Peace, Grand Master Using Yun hopes that all sentient beings can come together in order to develop a Pure Land way of life without violence and hostility. Through this nourishing, sharing and reaching out, conflict will cease and the door to truth and tranquility will stay open. Thus, a constructive, cooperative, altruistic and universal process will be in place to overcome ignorance and excess.
In the teachings and work of the Grand Master there is no difference between the Buddha and us humans. There are no superior or inferior beings. Everyone is only in a different state of being, not yet enlightened. All sentient beings are equal in Buddha Nature.
By transcending the notion of ego-self, the duality of self and others as being separate can be overcome. If one transcends the notion of self, others, living beings and life span, then he/she can go beyond everything without any attachment. In this state of mind one can look at all existence with equanimity and without distinction.
HB emphasizes self-development
through experiences and reflection. Even if enlightenment isn't attained
in this lifetime, the positive kanna and experiences created here will not
only lead to a more fulfilling life now but to greater possibility of "moving
on" later. This is a way of exploring inside and arises out of eveiyday
When placed alongside all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, who eradicate suffering, bring about joy, and work in diligence for hundreds of eons, all I can do is watch in astonishment, my own achievements paling in comparison. I only hope that in the days to come, there will be more and greater hardships, so that I may harden in mind and body, and accept more suffering on behalf of the masses. Only then will my vows be truly fulfilled! (p. 156, Perfectly Willing)
Grand Master Hsing Yun teaches that authentic Buddhism is humanistic and addresses the needs of all sentient beings whether for earthly living or moving on to Buddhahood. It is about peace and harmony in everyday, earthly living. HB is about growth to full humanhood without reliance on an unknown deity, dogma, or outside influences. The Grand Master believes that HB will re-direct the course of history.
With an emphasis on not needing to "go someplace else" to find enlightenment, each one can realize true nature in the here and now, within this precious human birth and this world. When one actualizes altruism, joyfulness and universality, he/she is practicing the fundamental concepts of HB. When one gives faith, hope, joy and service, he/she aiding all beings, as well as his/her self.
"Love is the best way of teaching. Substituting encouragement for accusation and loving care for punishment are the most effective ways to educate!" (p. 97, The Lion's Roar)
The Grand Master emphasizes that we must modernize Buddhism. One way is to create temples without walls. In this way the following Roots of the Dharma in HB can apply:
Those who do not have new ideas will never improve.
Those who are too narrow minded cannot see very far.
The best thing in the world is joyfulness.
The most benevolent action in the world is friendly association.
The greatest strength in the world is tolerance.
The strongest devotion in the world is willingness.
Plants and trees will not grow well without rain and sunshine.
A personality will not be healthy without undergoing tough training.
Luck always goes with those who are brave.
Bliss always goes to those who are moral.
The lovable heart is like the fragrance of flowers bringing joy to others.
Wholesome speech is like sunshine giving warmth in all directions.
A river will flow towards the sea.
The earth will eventually build up into a mountain.
A learned man is always humble enough to learn from everyone.
A wise person never covers up any of his mistakes. (BLIA Newsletter, January 1999)
Accepting responsibility of one's actions as well as understanding them is the basis for transformation. By following the teachings of the original Buddhism every being can become enlightened in a flexible manner without attachment to any doctrine.
"The lamp is body, the light is wisdom" (The Grand Master, lecture at FGS)
The value and wonder in life is not to be found in fine living or expensive homes. The value of life can not be equated with length of life, either. The value of life can only be found in the contributions we make to the world and in the service we give to others. Similarly the value of Buddhim will never be realized if we spend our time trying to become famous Buddhists or if we try to wrap ourselves in the glory of our own individuality. The value of Buddhism can be found only when we give fully of ourselves to others and only when we try with deep sincerity to help others understand the truths of Buddhism, (p. 24, Handing Down the Light)
It is with sheer enthusiasm that the Grand Master has shared his knowledge and principles with others. He has lectured on Buddhism using the most modern methods of media available, managed temples in a democratic way, related Buddhism with real life and taken Buddhism to an international stature. He strives to relieve suffering, bringing joy and benefiting all beings. With humility and humbleness he provides guidance to everyone who seeks it.
This concludes the first part of the paper on Grand Master Hsing Yun's Interpretation of Humanistic Buddhism. The second part to be published in the next issue of the Journal includes a summary of the Development and Progress of Humanistic Buddhism in Today's World. It discusses how HB has been put into
practice throughout the World over the last 30 + years and some possible directions it may develop in the future.
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Cheng Yen, Dharma Master. Still Thoughts, Volume Two. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: Still Thoughts Culture Publications, 1995.
Chin Kung, Venerable Master. Living Dhamma. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: CBBEF, 1997.
De Gennaro, Angelo A., Letters to the Editor, Time Magazine, November 3, 1997.
Dhammananda, Venerable Dr. Sri. Buddhism and Astrology. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Buddhist Missionary Society, 1992.
_____. Do You Believe in Rebirth? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Buddhist Missionaiy Society, 1981.
_____. The Life of the Buddha, Parts One and Two. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: CBBEF. 1983.
_____. Practical Buddhism. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: CBBEF, 1987.
_____. Problems and Responsibilities. Kuala Lumpur, Malasia: BuddhistMissionary Society, 1986.
_____. Treasure of the Dhamma. Kuala Lumpur, Malasia: Buddhist Missionary Society, 1994.
_____. What Buddhists Believe. Reprinted Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: CBBEF,1993.
Fernando, Antony (with Leonard Swindler). Buddhism Made Plain. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1998.
Fo Kuang Shan -- Living Ch'an. Handbook for Meditation Retreats. FGS International Meditation Center, 1994.
Fu, Chi-Ying (translated by Amy Lui-Ma). Handing Down the Light. Hacienda Heights, California: Hsi Lai University Press, 1996.
Gems of Buddhist Wisdom. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Buddhist Missionary Society, 1983.
Gibb, Gordon. "What Does it Mean to be Socially Responsible Fo Kuang Buddhists?", Collections of Fo Kuang Shan Study Papers. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA Headquarters, 1997.
Guruge, Ananda W. What in Brief is Buddhism. Monterey Park, California: Mitram Books, 1999.
Hsing Yun, Grand Master. The Amitabha Sutra and the Pure Land School of Buddhism. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1998.
_____. The Basis of Humanistic Buddhism, Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C: FGS Publishing, 1998.
_____. Being Good: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life. New York: Weather Hill, 1998.
_____. The Buddhist Perspective on Cause and Condition, Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, International Buddhist Translation Center (IBTC), 1998.
_____. The Buddhist Perspective on Life and Destiny. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, IBTC, 1996.
_____. The Buddhist Perspective on Magic and the Supernatural. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, IBTC, 1998.
_____. The Buddhist Perspective on Time and Space. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, BTC, 1999.
_____. The Diamond Sutra and the Study of Wisdom and Emptiness. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1998.
_____. A Discussion on Perception and Understanding. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1998.
_____. A Discussion on Ghosts, Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, IBTC, 1998.
_____. Epoch of the Buddha's Light #l, A Letter to Members of the BLIA. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1997.
_____. Equality and Peace, Unanderra NSW, Australia: International Buddhist Association of Australia, 1996.
_____. The Essence of Buddhism. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1998.
_____. The Essence of Ch'an. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1998.
_____. The Fundamental Concepts of Humanistic Buddhism. Kaohsiung, Taiwan: IBPS, 1998.
_____. A Glimpse of Ch'an Through the Sixth Platform Sutra. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1999.
_____. How I Practice Humanistic Buddhism. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: IBTS, 1998.
_____. Lectures on Three Buddhist Sutras. Kaohsiung, Taiwan: Fo Kuang Publishers, 1992.
_____. The Lion's Roar, Actualizing Buddhism in Daily Life and Building the Pure Land in Our Midst. New York: Peter Lang, 1991.
_____. Looking Ahead: A Guide For Young Buddhists. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1998.
_____. On Becoming a Bodhisattva. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1999.
_____. Only a Great Rain. Boston, Massachusetts: Wisdom Publications, 1999.
_____. Speaking of Love and Affection. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1999.
_____. Still Thoughts, Vol. 1,2. Hacienda Heights, California: CUBT Publishing, 1997.
_____. Two Talks on Ch'an. Kaohsiung, Taiwan: Fo Kuang Publishers, 1987.
_____. The Unique Characteristics of Buddhism. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1998.
_____. The Wheel of Rebirth. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1998.
_____. When We Die. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1999.
_____. Where Is Your Buddha Nature? Hacienda Heights, California: Hsi Lai Univeristy Press, 1998.
_____. Wholeness and Freeness. Unanderra NSW, Australia: IBPS, 1998.
_____.Worldly Living, Transcendental Practice. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1999.
Hsu, Heng Chi. What is Buddhism? Theory and Practice. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Buddhist Book Distributors, 1983.
Huang, Wayne (translator). The Heart Sutra. Hacienda Heights, California: CUBT Publishing, 1993.
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Khammananda, Dr. Sri. Gems of Buddhist Wisdom. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: CBBEF, 1995.
_____. Practical Buddhism, Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: CBBEF, 1997.
Kung, Venerable Master Chin. The Art of Living. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: CBBEF, 1997.
Long, Dr. Darui. "An Inter-faith Dialogue Between the Chinese Buddhist Leader Taixu and Christians." Boston, Mass.: Harvard University, Center for the Study of World Religions, 1996.
Mahinda, Venerable Anoma. The Blueprint of Happiness. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1985.
Ottama, Ashin. The Message in the Teachings of Kamma, Rebirth, Samsara, The Wheel Publication No. 425/427. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1998.
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Santideva. A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. Ithaca. New York: Snow Lion Publications, 1997.
Shen Jiao-Yin. "To Exploring Humanitarian Buddhist Social Influences by Examining Buddha's Doctrine that 'Every Living Thing has the Nature of the Buddha'." Collections of Fo Guang Shan Study Papers. Hacienda Heights, California: BLIA, 1997.
Tam, Thich Thien, Dharma Master. Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith. New York: Van Hien Study Group, Sutra Translation Committee of the US and Canada, 1991.
T'an Hsu, Grand Master. On Amidism, A Short Discourse on Buddhist Catechumens. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Buddhist Book Distributors, 1973.
Thera, Nyanaponika and Hecker, Helmuth. Great Disciples of the Buddha, Their Lives, Works, Their Legacy Their. Boston, Mass.: Wisdom Publications, 1997.
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Thynn, Dr. Thynn. Living Meditation, Living Insight. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: CBBEF, 1995.
Van Loon, Louis. Why the Buddha Did Not Preach to a Hungry Man. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1990.
Vimalaramsi, Venerable U. The Anapanasati Sutta. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: CBBEF, 1 1997.
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World Sutric and Tantric Buddhist Conference Report. Kaohsiung, Taiwan, R.O.C.: FGS Publishers, 1988.
Yin Shun, Venerable. The Basic Purpose of Following the Buddha. Hong Kong: Buddhist Book Distributors, 1952.
_____. The Way to Buddhahood. Somerville, Mass.: Wisdom Publications, 1998.
Yu, Lu K'uan (translator). Master Hsu Yun 's Discourses and Dharma Words. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: CBBEF, 1995.
Yun, Yen Dr. The Spiritual Shangri-la. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: Tzu Chi Buddhist Cultural Center, 1996.
Zhou, Xuenong. "A Study on Buddhism in This World", unpublished dissertation. Beijing, P.R.C.: Beijing University, 1996.
the World, Newsletter/Magazine of Fo Guang Shan (IBPS), 1998 and 1999.
issues Other Magazines from various FGS Temples.
BLIA Newsletters from Los Angeles, Chapter.
Other Newsletters from BLIA Chapters.
Buddha's Light Newsletter, Hsi Lai Temple, Los Angeles, California.
Middle Way, Journal of the Buddhist Association, Vol. 74, No. 1. London: May 1999.
Newsweek Magazine, various issues.
Shambhala Sun, January - June 1999.
Time Magazine, November 3, 1997.
Tricycle, September 1998 - July 1999.
World Fellowship of Buddhism Review, Sri Lanka, January - March 1999.
"Enlighten Your Life", Audio Cassettes Series (1-4) Nan Tien Temple, Unanderra, New South Wales, Australia, 1997. Venerable Hsing Yun (Heart Sutra, Ch'an Talks), Dr. Chen Chi-an (Meditafion practice). Dr. Lancaster (Buddhist Philosophy)
Tapes By Grand Master Hsing Yun:
Two Talks on Ch'an. Fo Guang Shan, 1987.
Two Talks on Buddhism,
IBPS, Fo Guang Shan, 1987.
Lectures on Three Buddhist Sutras, Hsing Yun IBPS, FGS 1992.
Wholeness and Freeness, Hsing Yun's Hundred Sayings Series, International Buddhist Association of Australia, Inc., 1996.
Epoch of Buddha Light #1, Fo Guang Shan, 1996.
Foguangshan, Taiwan - February to June 1999:
Grand Master Hsing Yun (both interviews and seminars)
Master Hsin Ting, Abbot of Fo Guang Shan
Venerables Chue Jir, Chue Men, Man Hua
Hsi Lai Temple/University, Los Angeles - January
and July 1999:
Dr. Nai Chen Chen
Gordon Gibb (plus Dharma Classes)
Nanhua University, Chaiyi, Taiwan:
Venerable Huei Kai - May 1999
Nan Hua Temple South Africa:
Harold Lemke - September 1999