|2012 BLIA General Conference Keynote Speech Fo Guang Shan, Taiwan October 11-14, 2012Distinguished guests, BLIA members, greetings to you all!
It has been twenty years since Buddha’s Light International Association was inaugurated at the Los Angeles Music Center in 1992. As we look back at the past two decades, we see that BLIA members have propagated Humanistic Buddhism across the world, brought light and hope to humanity, served and contributed to society, and also left their own marks in history. I would like to take this opportunity to express my utmost admiration for your dedication.
In today’s world, technological and medical advances have prolonged the human lifespan. However, such advances have also led to increasing estrangement and apathy among people. More and more people are feeling the lack of happiness and peace in their lives. Hence, the theme of this year’s General Conference is “Happiness and Peace,” through which I hope all of you can take home the essence of happiness and peace and spread it across the world, apply it to your daily lives, and be free from sorrow, worries, suffering, and trouble. At the same time, may happiness and peace broaden your minds and raise the standard and quality of your lives to higher levels.
Speaking of happiness and peace, what is the purpose of our existence in this world? Is it to find happiness? Or to experience suffering? Of course, most people would say, “Happiness!” In reality, how many people actually enjoy happiness and peace? What we hear and see most often are the wails of grief over the catastrophes of this world. These include natural disasters and man-made calamities such as war, violence, famine, poverty, and various stresses and anxieties experienced in everyday life. Very few people think of life as truly happy.
The average person is committed to becoming famous and rich, but is happiness and peace found within fame and fortune? The answer is not entirely yes. In general, people like to pursue money and love, but can happiness and peace be found within money and love? Again, the answer is a bittersweet yes and no. As for those who pursue freedom and democracy, even if the country is free and democratic, without inner peace and ease, life is still without true happiness and peace. Therefore, it can be said that the happiness and peace that have been sought by people for so long are in fact in the possession of very few.
How do we attain peace and happiness in life? I offer the following four suggestions:
1. Happiness and peace come from detachment and contentment In this world, some people pursue material happiness and others pursue nature’s tranquility and peace, while some pursue material transcendence and spiritual happiness attained from detachment and contentment. So what type of happiness should we be pursuing? Material life may satisfy our daily needs, but it does not bring sustained happiness; only detachment and contentment allow us to enjoy lasting happiness.
As the saying goes, “a mind without desires makes a character noble.” A person may be without glamorous outfits or sensual enjoyments, but as long as he or she is not greedy for anything, he or she will naturally be noble in character. A person who is detached and without desires does not get jealous or compare himself with others, does not oppose or fight with others, and does not treat people or matters with arrogance and insolence, but follows any conditions with perfect ease. Take the many eminent and virtuous people throughout history, for example. They earned the respect of others not because of their wealth, but because of their moral integrity nurtured through living simple but content lives. They are the true models of living the philosophy of emptiness.
Only by liberating ourselves from the shackles of desire can there be hope in finding true happiness and peace. Yan Hui, a renowned disciple of Confucius, lived “with a bamboo dish of rice, a gourd vessel of drink” in perfect ease and peace. Tao Yuanming of the Jin Dynasty was willing to retreat from the trappings of officialdom to live a secluded life of farming and reading, carefree and content in “plucking chrysanthemums under the eastern fence and serenely gazing at the southern mountains.” Master Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty “spoke no words of fame and gain; performed no superficial acts” while receiving royal patronage and remained detached from fame and gain to maintain his integrity. Master Hong Yi of recent times used the same towel for decades, and when a dish was too salty, he still consumed it with ease by saying, “Saltiness is a taste; so is blandness.” From the above, we can see that there were many people able to nurture a noble character by being content in poverty.
While most people pursue wealth and fame, they need to know that a beautiful life with a broader vision can be attained by “enjoying” instead of “possessing.” For example, although I do not own the mountains, rivers, lands, flowers, and trees, I can still wander through them in a carefree manner. Is this not happiness? While someone else may own the entire world and I do not, I can still enjoy the cool breezes and the bright moon. I can still care for the world I live in and regard all people as my brothers and sisters. To be able to enjoy the entire universe and the vast emptiness makes my world bigger and broader than owning a town, a city, a country or immeasurable wealth. Hence, life is not about the pursuit of what we can own, because no matter how much we have, we can never satisfy our greed. Enjoy life with a detached mind and happiness and contentment will be found everywhere.
I have always admired the Hakka expression given in response when you ask someone if he has eaten. Generally people would say, “Yes, I have eaten,” or “I am full.” But a Hakka does not respond in this manner, he tells you, “I am content!” This is quite interesting, because this expresses that not only has he eaten, but he is also very satisfied. A simple expression of “I am content!” shows so much ease and confidence. How can one be troubled by poverty? A content heart makes one the wealthiest person in the world.
Detachment and contentment give rise to the strengths of concentration and wisdom. The more detached you are, the more concentrated you can be, and thus, the more you are able to redefine the meaning and value of life. Just as Taiwan’s vegetable vendor Chen Shu-chu is detached from money, allowing her to give generously so that the value of money can be maximized. As such, she has won the respect of everyone.
Detachment and contentment means: there are things we should do, things we should not do in life; there are things that we should desire, things we should not desire in our minds. When we can be content, we will not be enslaved by life and will be able to settle both body and mind to enjoy the wealth and happiness of contentment. Therefore, detachment and contentment are true wealth, and people who understand detachment and contentment will naturally have happiness and peace in life.
2. Happiness and peace come from compassion and tolerance Compassion is an asset jointly owned by all living beings; it is not exclusive to Buddhism. Only when there is compassion can humanity coexist in mutual prosperity. Upon the founding of BLIA, I composed the BLIA Verse to serve as the motto of life by which BLIA members worldwide should abide. The opening line, “May kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity pervade all Dharma realms,” is an expectation for all of us to open up our minds and emulate Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva’s spirit of great loving-kindness and compassion, bringing joy to all living beings and liberating them from suffering. In other words: to give kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity to all living beings. Ch’an Master Jindai loved orchids, so he planted many precious orchid species in the temple garden. One day, as he was preparing to leave the temple to attend to certain affairs, he reminded his disciple to take care of the orchids during his absence. Unfortunately, while watering the plants, the disciple accidentally knocked over the shelf and broke the pots. He was full of shame and thought to himself, “I have destroyed my master’s beloved orchid plants. Master is going to get so angry when he returns!” Upon Ch’an Master Jindai’s return, the disciple acknowledged his mistake and asked his master for forgiveness. To his surprise, instead of scolding him, the Ch’an master comforted him and said, “I planted these orchids to beautify the environment and to offer them to the Buddha. I did not plant orchids so that I could get angry!”
As noted in a Buddhist sutra, “Loving-kindness ends greed; compassion ends anger.” If we can learn from Ch’an Master Jindai’s virtue and reflect upon ourselves by asking, “Did I make friends to get angry at them?” “Did I get married to get angry?” “Did I have children so that I could get angry at them?” “Did I start my career so that I could get angry?” Of course not! A change of perspective can put an end to greed and anger, resolving conflicts.
Compassion is not a demand on others, nor is it a standard by which we judge people. It is a way to discipline ourselves. Compassion does not mean blind tolerance to physical attack or verbal abuse. When justice is threatened or when good people are being slandered or attacked, we should stand up bravely for them. Compassion is not a momentary emotion, but a persistent service for others. Compassion is not just being kind only to our friends and family, nor does it mean we are to expect anything in return. Compassion is not always about praises and encouragement. Sometimes, in the interest of common well-being or to subdue the hard-headed, an angry expression is required to subdue villains. This is actually the greatest and most difficult form of compassion.
There are no enemies in the eyes of compassion. Compassion brings good affinities. Compassion harmonizes self and others, and is one with the universe. As the saying goes, tolerance fosters greatness; with compassion and tolerance, we can naturally unite people and create many supporting conditions. Confucius traveled to different regions to teach and had no fixed home, yet he still had a following of three thousand disciples. The Buddha traveled across India to teach the Dharma, and many of his assemblies were attended by a million people and heavenly beings alongside the regular entourage of 1,250 followers. Different people have different characteristics and needs, hence, it is difficult to please them all. If we can treat others with a kind and tolerant mind, we will certainly develop good affinities broadly and receive the support of many.
However, compassion and tolerance alone are not enough. They need to be supplemented by wisdom. In this world, the meaning of compassion is often distorted, leading to excessive indulgence and turning a blind eye to what is wrong. When applied inappropriately, compassion can become the source of crimes and wrongdoings. For instance, the common practice of freeing live animals actually causes harm to more animal lives. Inappropriate and lavish giving of money only nurture greed and corruption. Therefore, true compassion and tolerance must be supplemented by prajna wisdom to prevent traveling down the wrong path, rendering the initial intentions futile. Once, a young man had a quarrel with his neighbor over a wall. He wrote to his father, an imperial minister, hoping that he would help him win this wall dispute. Being a reasonable man, the father replied, “A letter sent across ten thousand miles just for a wall, what harm can there be in yielding him three feet of space? The entire length of the Great Wall of China is still intact, yet Emperor Qin (who built it) is no longer around.” These simple words are sufficient to explain the interaction between people as well as the wisdom and art of tolerance.
According to the sutras, “there is a world in a single flower; a buddha in a single leaf.” Within a grain of sand, a piece of rock, a flower or a single leaf, we can see the three thousand great chiliocosms. This means that all matters in nature coexist in mutual prosperity. The same applies to people. Differences in character, thinking, and belief need to be tolerated. The different religions, races, and skin colors among nations require even more tolerance.
Looking at the conflicts in this world, they are usually caused by intolerance between different nations, cultures, races, and religions. Poverty gaps and social stratification are the causes of various conflicts, a problem faced by humanity as a whole. If we wish to be free from these dilemmas, compassion and tolerance are the only solution. Only compassion and tolerance can awaken people’s morals and conscience for society to flourish and improve. Only compassion and tolerance can help to resolve conflicts, prevent wars; only compassion can enhance and sustain world peace. It is my hope that from today forward, all BLIA members can spread the spirit of compassion and tolerance from self to their family, society, and to the entire world and humanity. Only when the world is filled with compassion and tolerance, can we have lasting happiness and peace.
3. Happiness and peace come from letting go and picking up with perfect ease Very often, we hear people complaining about the stresses and anxieties of life, and relationships that become too much to bear. Exactly what is causing this lack of peace for the body and mind? When we feel too much pressure in this world, it is usually due to our lack of willingness to let go. For example, when we were young, we were most likely caring too much about who our parents loved more. In school, we compared grades with our classmates. As adults, we worry about whether or not our friends will look down upon us. In running a business, we calculate profit and loss daily. When we are sick, we worry about suffering and death. When we are old, we worry that there will be no one to take care of us.
Unable to let go, the human mind is constantly worried about all kinds of interpersonal problems, troubled by disputes over right and wrong, and plagued by all types of comparisons. Once, a Brahmin brought two vases to see the Buddha. Upon seeing him, the Buddha said, “Let go!” and the Brahmin put down one of the vases. Again, the Buddha said, “Let go!” and he put down the other vase. However, the Buddha continued to say, “Let go!” Confused, the Brahmin said, “I have already put down everything that I was holding, what else would you like me to let go of?” The Buddha replied, “What I am telling you to let go of is not the vases, but of unwholesome thoughts and emotions such as your arrogance, pride, anger, jealously, and hatred.”
I often use the suitcase as a metaphor for life: we pick it up when we need to, and we let go of it when it is time to do so. When we pick up something, we should be able to shoulder the responsibility with courage, with the resolve and sense of mission in serving. When it is time to let go, we should also follow conditions and let go in a calm and composed manner. The ability to let go makes it easy to pick up again. When you are willing to take a step forward, there will be hope for the future.
There was once a puppy running around in circles chasing after its own tail. An older dog saw this and asked, “What are you doing?” The puppy replied, “Someone said that a dog’s happiness is on its tail, so I am chasing after my happiness.” The dog then said, “You can never find happiness by chasing after your own tail. All you need to do is walk forward with your chin up, and happiness will follow you naturally.” In picking up, we are picking up right mindfulness, right actions, right speech, right thought, compassion, morality, good conditions, and diligence. In letting go, we should have the flexibility to be big or to be small, to give or to take, to have or not to have, and to stay high or to lie low.
We should let go of our greed for fame and gain as well as the attachment to troubles and defilements. We should even let go of the delusive thought of having to let go of something. Just as the Sixth Patriarch Huineng indicated, “Inherently, there is no thing, where can it attract dust?” this is true letting go. As the saying goes, “With a troubled mind, even heaven and earth become small; with a mind at ease, just a bed can be big and broad.” Once we let go of our attachments, we will be so carefree and at ease!
Picking up and letting go are two sides of the same coin; they are equally important. To pick up does not mean to fight for something; it is a resolve, a form of tolerance, and wisdom. To let go does not mean to ride on a loose rein and indulge oneself; it is the bodhisattva spirit of giving, only making contributions and not expecting anything in return.
Throughout history, many sages and eminent people were respected because they placed the wellbeing of others before their own and never thought of personal gains, even sacrificing their lives. Wen Tianxiang of the Song Dynasty was captured by the Yuan army during a resistance war. The enemies lured him with the position of a prime minister, but he remained unmoved and wrote the “Song of Integrity” in jail to state his will, thus, leaving a good reputation in history. Confucius expressed, “Sacrifice one’s life to preserve one’s virtue,” and Mencius said, “Give life for righteousness.” Guan Yunchang exhibited a “righteousness soaring high into the clouds” and nourished “a vast, flowing nature,” while Fan Zhongyan stated, “Bear hardship and bitterness before others; enjoy comfort and happiness after others.” These are all paradigms that show by letting go of the smaller self, a greater self is accomplished.
Furthermore, there was Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, who relinquished the palace life of a prince for treading on the path of spiritual cultivation. Eventually, he attained enlightenment and spent his life spreading his teachings across India to help all beings to be liberated from suffering and attain joy. Knowing to let go allows us a much bigger world; being brave to pick up permits our short and limited life to be more at ease. Because we learn to give, naturally, happiness and peace will follow us.
4. Happiness and peace come from altruism and selflessness No man is an island. We all must rely on various causes and conditions to survive. In other words, the life of a person is closely tied to all walks of society. However, the greatest flaw of humanity comes from selfishness and attachment. For example, people usually give with expectations of reciprocation; the more they give, the more they expect to receive in return. When their expectations are not met, they become troubled. That is why Buddhism advocates the sublimation of moral character through compassion and the purification of our worldly sentiments with rationality. As the Buddhist saying goes, “Complain not of a temple’s bland tea and food, for the sentiment of a monastic is far less strong than that of a worldly person.” Without selfishness and attachment, what appears to be heartless actually embodies boundless compassion and wisdom. Only within simplicity can the greatest truth be found; only within the most ordinary can a longstanding path be found.
Zi Xia once asked Confucius, “What are the ‘Three Impartialities?’” Confucius said, “Heaven covers all without partiality; earth sustains and contains all without partiality; the sun and moon shine on all without partiality.” This means that because heaven and earth are impartial, they can be large; because the sun and moon are impartial, their light can shine in every direction. If we wish to achieve major accomplishments in life, we must be impartial and always strive for the well-being of others and the general public. Then naturally, we will be supported by the right conditions to succeed. People who only think for themselves will not only lack the affinity and support of others, but will also encounter difficulties in accomplishing tasks without the strength afforded by teamwork. Being selfless and altruistic expands our hearts and saves us from being self-centered. Wu (nothing or without) does not mean to be without principle, nor does it mean no distinction between right and wrong; rather, wu means to be steady in principle and to have compassion that transcends all.
One day, when Confucius’s distinguished disciple, Yan Hui, was out running errands, he saw two men fighting in front of a fabric store. The seller asked the buyer for twenty four dollars, but the buyer shouted, “If it’s three dollars per foot for this fabric, and 3 x 8 = 23, why should I pay you 24?”
Upon hearing this, Yan Hui approached the buyer and said, “My friend, your calculations are wrong. 3 x 8 = 24, that is the amount you should pay.”
Refusing to comply, the buyer angrily pointed at Yan Hui and said, “What gives you the right to speak? Only Confucius is qualified to decide whether 3 x 8 = 23 or 24. Let’s go ask him!” “Fine! Confucius happens to be my teacher. What are you going to do if he says you are wrong?” asked Yan Hui.
“If I am wrong, I will give you my head. But what if you are wrong?” “If I am wrong, I will give you this hat that I am wearing on my head.”
The two went to Confucius and explained the dilemma to him. Confucius immediately turned to Yan Hui and said, “Yan Hui, you have lost. 3 x 8 is 23. Give him your hat!” When he heard this, Yan Hui felt like the world had been turned upside down, and he thought, “Can it be that Teacher has lost his mind?” However, since he never disobeyed his teacher, he quietly took off his hat and gave it to the buyer.
Afterwards, the more Yan Hui thought about the incident, the more troubled he became. Finally, he could not help but ask, “My teacher, is 3 x 8 = 23 or 24 after all?” In response, Confucius asked him, “Tell me, which is more important, someone’s head (life) or someone’s hat?”
“Someone life, of course!” replied Yan Hui. “That is correct. If I said 3 x 8 = 23, a hat would be all that you lose, but if I were to say 3 x 8 = 24, then he would have lost his life!” said Confucius. In Buddhism, nothing remains fixed and unchangeable. Since rules can be flexible, 3 x 8 can be 24, 23, or even infinity. There is no need to be attached to a fixed answer. This is the wisdom of a sage.
In daily life, each and every thought can be a point for cultivation. If we can face the world with selflessness, altruism, detachment, and no desires, then we will naturally have respect and tolerance for everything. As such, our lives will benefit so much more, and happiness and peace will come naturally.
Since its establishment, BLIA has selflessly and altruistically served society. I hope that when we are serving others, we are also making our lives more meaningful at the same time. With selflessness, we can embody the public; by placing others before ourselves, our minds will be broadened by being selfless. With altruism, we can reduce our attachments; we will think for others, society, and our country. Selflessness and altruism open up our minds and broaden our vision, allowing us to find happiness and peace in life.
To sum up, happiness and peace are what everyone seeks and the vision all humanity strives to attain. A happy outlook in life brings peace in living. It is my hope that all BLIA members and friends from all directions can nurture a character of contentment and detachment, have a mind of compassion and tolerance, learn to pick up and let go with perfect ease, and achieve a character of selflessness and altruism. Let us work together, contribute to the happiness and peace of humanity, and build a “Humanistic Buddhaland” that is filled with happiness and peace here and now. Last but not least, may your hearts be filled with Dharma joy, and may each and every one of you live a life of happiness and peace.
2) A bodhisattva reverses route to deliver sentient beings, while a volunteer cultivates oneself to achieve bodhi wisdom. Any Buddhist would be familiar with the fact that we live in a place called the Saha World, an impure land stained by the Five Pollutionsii. For this reason, everyone wishes to be reborn in a pureland in which they can enjoy happiness and peace.
There are several types of pureland in Buddhism: Amitabha’s pureland, Maitreya’s pureland, Vimalakirti’s pureland, the Lazurite pureland, Avatamsaka pureland, the Pureland of Eternally Tranquil Light, the Pureland of Innate Nature, and so on. Then, which pureland should we choose to reborn in? Some feel that it is not required to totally eliminate one’s defilements or reach the state of undisturbed single-mindedness but as long as one sincerely recites Maitreya bodhisattva’s name, then one will be reborn in his pureland. Furthermore, Maitreya’s pureland seems most approachable since it is the closest to the Saha World, either monastic or lay Buddhists can be reborn in it. Thus, many have vowed to be reborn in Maitreya bodhisattva’s Tushita pureland.
Speaking of Maitreya Bodhisattva, many would know that when he practiced alongside Sakyamuni Buddha, long after the latter had attained enlightenment, Maitreya was still practicing the bodhisattva path in his inner court. Such result was caused by the difference between the vows they had made. Maitreya Bodhisattva practiced the Four Boundless stated of Mind and was especially caring towards sentient beings in the Saha World. He vowed to establish a majestic and beautiful pureland amidst the impure and filthy world that requires the ability to endure, so that sentient beings from the realm of desire can be reborn in pureland without having to depart from the Saha world. For this reason, he vowed to remain within the cycle of rebirth for as long as his defilements may still exist. Through retaining defilements to help sentient beings, he continues to practice the great bodhisattva path for the purpose of benefiting sentient beings. His world is always filled with kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity that obliges sentient beings.
“To retain defilements to help sentient beings” means those who have reached the seventh stage of bodhisattvahood, although having already eradicated two kinds of illusioniii and will never be reborn in the three realms again, they still vow to keep the subtle defilements and habits, remain within the three realms so that they can save and deliver sentient beings.
On the other hand, although some bodhisattvas have already reached nirvana, they advocate that “wisdom does not abide in any kind of existence, nor does compassion abide in nirvana.” Thus they reverse their directions on the path to deliver sentient beings across the ocean of birth and death. According to the sutras, Avalokitesvara bodhisattva had already attained buddhahood countless kalpas ago and was titled the Tathagatha who clearly understands the True Law. His compassionate vow resulted in his retreat from buddhahood and returned to the Saha World to deliver sentient beings who had sufficient connections with him. Manjusri bodhisattva was the Buddha of the race of honorable Dragon Kings from the World of Equality in the past, his great wisdom also inspired him to remain in different worlds to help sentient beings be free from their illusions.
While bodhisattvas are inspired by their compassion to deliver sentient beings, this also proves the theory that “buddhahood can only be sought amongst sentient beings.” Without sentient beings, there will be no buddhahood to attain, thus even accomplished bodhisattvas need to attain buddhahood through their practices of benefiting themselves and other sentient beings in the three realms at the same time. Bodhisattvas “retain defilements to help sentient beings” and reverse their route on the path to buddhahood all for the purpose of saving sentient beings. Some of the greatest bodhisattvas in particular, vowed to go to the most remote and harsh lands to save sentient beings, because the more sentient beings experience suffering, the greater the need of these bodhisattvas’ rescue and aid.
Bodhisattvas base their spiritual cultivation on “placing every thought on the attainment of buddhahood, and focusing every mind on delivering sentient beings.” Ordinary beings from the Saha World on the other hand, usually use spiritual cultivation as an excuse to retreat into mountain forests and live a secluded life so as to pursue liberation for themselves. However, according to Hui-neng the Sixth Patriarch, “Buddhism’s being in the world is not separate from the awareness of the world. To seek bodhi apart from the world is like searching for the horn of a hare.” How can one speak of spiritual cultivation or attaining buddhahood if one remains distant from the world and its people?
As have been said, “one needs to first develop good personal relations before the attainment of buddhahood is possible.” True spiritual cultivation means to serve and be willing to benefit others. Every phenomenon in this world arises because of causes and conditions; thus every one of us needs to rely on our parents, family, society, and people of all walks of life to survive. Having realized our dependence on others, we also need to give others the conditions they need. “One for all, all for one” is the greatest meaning of existence for volunteers. Therefore, to learn about Buddhism and cultivate oneself means to practice the bodhisattva path, and then progress to buddhahood; but before attaining buddhahood, one must first offer to serve others, and the best way to do so is by being a volunteer for everyone.
It is priceless to be a volunteer. The purpose of being a volunteer is not for money but dedication. Nor is being a volunteer about getting fame, but for learning to be compassionate, learning to smile, getting along with others peacefully, giving others joy, enabling the spread of merit, and broadly developing virtuous conditions in and outside this world.
Various typed of public welfare and charity organizations, and even hospitals and schools are recruiting volunteers to offer their service. Buddhist temples also offer many volunteer opportunities in the areas of culture, education, reception, Dharma services, administration, public relations, paper work, cooking, serving meals, offering tea, traffic directing, plumbing and maintenance, activities, charity and relief aids, free medical services, liaison and mediation, and Dharma propagation. If one can volunteer for a few hours during the week to help others by driving, teaching the Dharma or others arts and crafts, participate in cultural or educational endeavors, join in social welfare and charity works, care for the disabled and old, help the ill and needy, or care for the environment, he or she will surely be blessed with good conditions everywhere.
Nevertheless, the key of Dharma lies in the need for it to be taught in a way suitable to the learner’s aptitude, and that it is applicable to the problem at hand. Therefore, when a volunteer serves others, one needs to take into consideration the recipient’s needs, and that what one is doing is in fact helping to solve the problem. For this reason, a volunteer not only needs to choose a service fit to his or her character, specialty and time; the following four points also need to be kept in mind: 1) Praise: The most beautiful and easiest way of giving is to speak loving words. The first step to being a good volunteer is to learn to speak kind words. For example, praise the goodness of Buddhism, the kindness of other members, and wonderfulness of the temple, and how dedicated the devotees are. A competent volunteer not only needs to show facial expressions and smile, he also needs to express himself through voice and action, and understand how to praise others. Once these are added to the colors of hard work, a volunteer will naturally develop broader and deeper connections. 2) Fellowship: This means to put oneself in other’s shoes, and bear their interests in mind. Their suffering would be our suffering. To show fellowship means to be considerate, and this will inspire us to develop the passion and capacity to help or be tolerant towards others. 3) Beneficial Deeds: This means to make things easier and convenient for other, and help others at any time and place. Be it as easy as lifting a finger or creating a condition for others, anything that helps others overcome their difficulty can be considered a beneficial deed. 4) Joyous Giving: This also means to give. Only when you give your time and strength will you be able to give joy to others. If you are unwilling to give, you cannot allow others to gain anything. Therefore giving or generosity means to give joy and Dharma to others. Giving without the wisdom of Dharma cannot be called generosity. To give with expecting reward will always make one poor, only formless givingiv can be considered joyous giving.
The purpose of work may sometimes be living, for one’s career, for one’s interest, to repay others, for one’s religious belief, or sometimes for a sense of honor and justice. When you volunteer for Buddhism, the Buddha will see your initiative, and cause and effect will never turn against your contributions. To be a volunteer for Buddhism, not only are you serving the multitude, you are also nurturing your own fortune, which can be of benefit to you in many lifetimes, thus its value is formless. Therefore, to be volunteer may look like it is for the benefit of others on the surface, but we are in fact the one who is receiving the most benefits.
What benefits can be gained by being a volunteer? For example, greater confidence, faster personal growth, new acquaintances, broad development of good affinities, discovery of new talents, courage to shoulder responsibilities, equal emphasis on understanding and practice, and benefits for oneself and others. When we aspire to be volunteers who serve others with our work or even treat it as our own spiritual cultivation, volunteer work will enable us to broadly develop good affinities and cultivate our fortune and wisdom. Once our human character is complete, we will also be able to complete our buddhahood. Therefore, on our path to buddhahood, it is important for us to learn from the bodhisattva compassion in reversing their route on this path just to deliver sentient beings, and their vows to retain defilements to help sentient beings. By volunteering our services to others, we are also helping ourselves at the same time, and this shall bring us closer to the attainment of bodhi wisdom.
3) A Bodhisattva is always a ferry in the ocean of suffering, while a volunteer is always an unrequested helper. The Chapter of Simile and Parable in the Lotus Sutra says, “There is no peace in the three realms, just like the burning house, which is full of various suffering, and which is extremely terrifying.” Buddhists usually refer to the Saha World as an ocean of suffering, or describe the three realms as a burning house; thus creating a horrifying image of the human world. As a result, those who may have some interest in Buddhism to start with would turn away because of fear.
Deposit the above, it cannot be denied that suffering is in fact a truth in this world. Life has always been an ocean of suffering, but that’s why the Saha World is in need of bodhisattvas who “respond to a thousand cries from a thousand places, and always be a ferry for those drifting in the ocean of suffering.” Furthermore, since beginningless time, sentient beings have died and been reborn in the cycle of birth and death over and over again. They would be reborn in the realm of heaven in one lifetime, and then suddenly fall into the realm of animals in the next. It is as it they are drifting in the boundless ocean of birth and death, and they are always in need of help and deliverance. For this reason, bodhisattvas have made vows to always be a ferry in the ocean of suffering, and that they will always act as the condition that delivers sentient beings and never become impatient or desert these beings.
How can bodhisattvas persist in acting as the compassion ferry, remain in this world to teach sentient beings without ever felling tired? The main reason is that they cannot bear to see Buddhism degenerate or see sentient beings suffer. Their great compassion thus arises and drive them towards the Mahayana path. Bodhisattvas do not become satisfied with the attainment of nirvana with a remainder that is usually the goal for the Two Vehicles. Instead, they make a vow to practice diligently and bravely in order to transform from the smaller vehicle into the greater vehicle. They are not fearful of the difficulty faced in delivering sentient beings, nor of the length and farness of buddhahood. Their determination is as strong as a diamond, and their mind abides firmly in their bodhisattva vows.
The so-called bodhisattva vow refers to the willingness to bear the suffering and hardship experienced by sentient beings, and a promise to never desert these beings. This is like a dutiful son’s love and respect for his parents. In order to benefit sentient beings, bodhisattvas do not give rise to any single thought directed solely at their own benefits. A bodhisattva does not desire worldly enjoyments but choose to experience all types of suffering in this world. Since they are pursuing the supreme buddahood and practicing ways to benefit others simultaneously, the time they need to complete their practice becomes a period of endless Kalpas.
Since these bodhisattvas have experienced very long periods of cultivation in practicing the most difficult practices, and enduring the harshest hardships, they are able to remain patient and never become angry when confronted with adverse circumstances and humiliations. Take the heavenly being by the name of Patience Under Insult as mentioned in the Diamond Sutra for example; when king of Kalinga cut his flesh from every limb, he had no perception of anger or hatred at all. Sadaparibhuta Bodhisattva (Bodhisattva Never-Disparaging) as mentioned in the Lotus Sutra never got angry when people bullied, hurt, humiliated or insulted him. Instead, he would respond respectfully, “I dare not disparage you, for you will all become buddhas.”
As bodhisattvas deliver sentient beings without ever expecting rewards and without regrets or resentment, repay every kindness bestowed upon them and never held grudges, regard people as buddhas and treat family and foe with equality, and see oneness between themselves and others and help beings selflessly, they are able to remain diligent and persistent and thus enter the stage of non-retrogression.
Non-retrogression is the “sharp weapon” used by bodhisattvas to guide the confused and lost out of illusion and into the ocean of wisdom, and ferry sentient beings across to the opposite shore of enlightenment. It is also an essential source of motivation for beings who are pursuing buddhahood. On this long journey toward buddhahood, vows can be difficult to make, but difficult to persist with. Some may vow to learn the Buddha’s way enthusiastically, but fail to withstand the tests and retreat or become discouraged easily when confronted with setbacks. This is why the following saying has become well-know in Buddhism, “As one starts learning Buddhism for the first year, the Buddha is right in front of your eyes, but three years later, the Buddha becomes far away in the west.” This tells us that on this very long path, the attainment of buddhahood will become impossible without persistence and determination. Therefore, other than the making of great vows, one also needs to be persistent, just like how bodhisattvas vow to ‘always’ be a ferry in the ocean of suffering.
While persistence is important, one must also never forget the initial vows, and be an unrequested helper to people. To be an unrequested helper means to actively offer your help, and never fall behind others in shouldering responsibilities.
People usually wait for others’ requests or invitation before offering their help, but a truly compassionate and generous person will automatically step forward and offer a helping hand when seeing others in need. Just as said in the Vimalakirti Sutra, the bodhisattva “befriended and pacified people without being requested.” To be an unrequested helper to our families, friends, society and country is a demonstration of the best volunteer spirit.
Master Fa-hsien traveled to India in search for the Dharma, Master Husan-tsang journeyed westwards to collect sutras, and Master Jian-zhen crossed the ocean to Japan to propagate the Dharma. These great masters had all been unrequested helpers to sentient beings to be able to complete such arduous missions. Other than the above, Ch’an Masters Tetsugen from the Japanese Shogunate period was aware of the serious shortage of Buddhist Tripitaka in Japan, which made it difficult for the spread of Buddhism. Therefore he made a vow to carve and print a set of the Tripitaka. He spent more than ten years rushing about to raise funds. On two occasions, he did manage to raise sufficient money for the project, but both were in time of famine. Therefore he used the money to help the victims and began raising funds from scratch again. Although the process was very difficult, he finally completed the Tetsugen Edition Tripitaka that consisted of 7,334 scrolls. This is one of the many examples of great masters through out the history of Buddhism. In fact, all buddhas and bodhisattvas in Buddhism act as unexpected helpers to sentient beings. Since they were not helping sentient beings under any requests but out of their compassion and kind intentions to share the Dharma, they are all regarded as unrequested helpers to all beings.
While buddhas and bodhisattvas served as unrequested helper to deliver sentient beings, as sentient beings, we should also follow their spirit, actively step into society and volunteer our services to people. The BLIA was established under such ideas and concepts, thus not only does the association emphasize family harmony, it also asks the members to care for society. In order to do so, the association has organized countless relief aid programs every year: In May 2008, immediately after the China Sichuan earthquake occurred, we made a contribution of ten million RMB. The BLIA then organized a rescue team that consists of professional medical staff and reached the affected areas to start the 4-in-1 rescue mission (rescue, medical treatment, daily supplies, and humanity care).
In 2004, the earthquake in Indonesia caused the Southeast Asia Tsunami which resulted in severe damages. The BLIA rescue team immediately went to affected areas to give relief aids. At the same time, Fo Guang Shan’s Education Council initiated an alms-procession across Taiwan to raise funds for an education and support foundation to help the orphans from the disaster. Another donation of five hundred thousand US dollars was made to India as a second stage relief project to build orphanages.
In 2003, SARS caused great fears across the globe, and Taiwan was of no exemption. I returned to Taiwan from Japan and organized a prayer for Taipei Heping Hospital, hoping to comfort the fearful medical staff, patients, families and general public. The whole BLIA was also in action. They set up check points at airports, stations and other public places to take body temperatures and provide information on SARS prevention. Chanting services were also provided to pray for the medical staff who sacrificed their own lives in line of duty. Other chapters across the world helped donate more then 400,000 N95 masks, 100,000 protective garments, 3,000 thermometers, and $US200,000.
When the 2001 September 11 attack happened, I led my disciples to ground zero to conduct a purification ceremony, and donated all $US200,000 collected from the tickets sold at Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Hymn Choir’s US tour which took place in the same month. BLIA members also responded immediately and actively participated in the relief aid programs for the Mid-West flood, LA fire, and New Orleans Hurricane disasters in America.
Immediately after the September 21st Taiwan earthquake in 2000, BLIA members across the world set up a relief aid center and participated in the rescue, reconstruction, settling of victims, and spiritual consolation works. These included provision of food, water and housing, sterilization of affected areas, free medical treatment, chanting and prayer services, and psychological counseling. The association also assisted in the reconstruction works, set up mobile houses, and adopted the reconstruction projects of Tungshi Chung Ke Elementary School, Chungliao Shuang Wen Primary School, Nantou Ping Lin Elementary School and Nantou County Fu Kung Primary School. Fourteen Fo Guang Yuan spiritual service centers were also set up to provide continued spiritual care for the affected. Furthermore, more than twenty million NT dollars were donated to the floods caused by the typhoons in 1994 and 1996 in Taiwan. A donation of five hundred thousand US dollar was also made to the Hua-nang flood in China. BLIA members continued to serve as unrequested helpers and provided relief aids to the disaster-affected places in the world. Other than emergency aids, we are also actively contributing to helping the poor and needy at normal times. For example, BLIA, Paraguay Chapter gathered resources from local Chinese immigrants and established Hospital Los Angeles Paraguay-China to provide free medical services to the poor. This was an unprecedented example of Buddhist and Catholic cooperation in founding a hospital. Other charity events include our wheelchair donations during the South-East Asia Charity and Dharma Propagation Tour, and Northern Thailand Medical and Relief Aid Team. In particular, we provided continued assistance to Bangladesh, Ladakh, and Nepal. In Taiwan, we also assisted with the rehabilitation projects for prison inmates by establishing the Tainan Drug Rehabilitation Center and Pingtung New Life Center. The BLIA has also showed their care and concern to the Japan Osaka earthquake, flood in Philippines, Stanley Prison in Hong Kong, Vietnamese refugees, and homeless people in America.
In the past, people visited the hut of eminent ones thrice to express their sincerity in recruiting them. In Buddhist Dharma services, a thrice invitation is also performed out of respect for the Dharma. All of these are understandable. However, when it is a life and death crisis, or if it is of help to the general public, we should all be an unrequested helper and offer our hands without any hesitation. Just like how Vimalakirti taught the Dharma inside pubs, and Srimala devoted her effort to children’s education. They are all examples of unrequested helper which today’s volunteers should follow.
Volunteers are the guardians and protectors of the temple; they are also practitioners of the bodhisattva path. Let us become volunteers who serve like an unrequested helper as described in the Vimalakirti Sutra; never forget our initial vows as taught in the Avatamsaka Sutra; let go of old grudges as said in the Sutra of the Eight Realizations of Great Beings; and remain unmoved by society while following the right conditions as mentioned in the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana. Furthermore, to protect and support the Triple Gem, gain an in-depth understanding of the Dharma, cultivate wisdom diligently, benefit and bring joy to sentient beings, we will then surely perfect our characters, improve our moral values, purify our body and mind, and eventually accomplish perfection in life.
4) A bodhisattva encounters different stages of spiritual cultivation, while a volunteer faces different levels of dedication. There is a phrase that says, “There is no innate Maitreya, nor natural Sakya.” No one is born a bodhisattva. In order to proceed from a bodhisattva’s stage to the result of buddhahood, one is required to spend Kalpas of diligent spiritual cultivation, and learn to help and benefit others. A bodhisattva is required to complete the following fifty-one stages: The ten stages of faith, the ten stages of security, the ten stages of practice, the ten stages of transference of merits to others, the ten stages of developing the Buddha-wisdom, and the stage of buddhahood. This is similar to the process of becoming a university professor. One needs to go through elementary school, high school, university, and then acquire a master or doctorate degree in order to qualify as a professor.
In other words, any “newly inspired bodhisattva” who begins to develop the bodhicitta will be required to practice and realize the Four Universal Vows, Four Boundless States of Mind, Four Embracing Virtues and Six Paramitas. Like new students in school, they need to progress level by level, continue to enlighten and deliver both themselves and others. The goal of buddhahood can only be reached until they have progressed through fifty-one stages and allow both themselves and others to be complete with Buddha-wisdom.
From this, we can see that on the bodhisattva path, to progress from an ordinary being to the four pairs of stages of an arhat, then to bodhisattva who has totally eliminated all klesas, and finally to the perfect state of buddhahood, a set of stages are involved. The conditions and states of a bodhisattva also differ in depth according to the level of their practice. Even accomplished bodhisattvas can be categorized according to the ten stages of developing the Buddha-wisdomv. Only those who have entered the first stage – the stage of joy (parmudita) can be regarded as bodhisattvas with the rank of the bodhisattva grounds (bhumis) and above. Those who have not done so are regarded as bodhisattvas on the stage(s) prior to the grounds, and they will have to realize the thirty-seven conditions favorable to enlightenment in order to transcend the realm of ordinary beings and become sages.
The thirty-seven conditions favorable to enlightenment refer to: the Four Stages of Mindfulness, the Four Right Exertions, the Four Elements of Supernatural Power, the Five Roots, the Five Moral Powers, the Seven Factors of Wisdom, and Eightfold Noble Path. These are the provisions for remedying unwholesome conducts, nurturing virtuous dharmas, eradicating ignorance, and dignifying the dharma body. Even a bodhisattva who has reached the ten stages of developing the Buddha-wisdom is required to continue their diligent practice of these thirty-seven conditions.
The cultivation of a bodhisattva takes a very long period of “three great asamkhya kalpas.” The first great asamkhya kalpa focuses on the cultivation of faith, where the ten stages of faith need to be completed and nature of sunyata realized. The second great asamkhya kalpa involves the transformation from the ordinary to sagehood. At this stage, the bodhisattvas on the stage(s) prior to the grounds has completed the seventh stage of developing the Buddha-wisdom and attained the state of purity and formlessness. The third great asamkhya kalpa is when the bodhisattva has entered the eighth stage where there is no longer form or gain, realization or enlightenment, thus the attainment of the patience of non-arising dharmas, and total eradication of defilements within the Three Realms are achieved.
On this long journey of spiritual cultivation, one needs to have self-diligence, self-demand, self-encouragement, self-realization, and a belief that “one shall not retreat upon hearing the length and farness of buddhahood; and one shall not give rise to impatience or weariness upon confronting the level of difficulty involved to deliver sentient beings.” When Sariputra cultivated himself and was transforming from the Hinayana path to the Mahayana, he came close to the seventh stage of security: never retreating. A heavenly being manifested as a dutiful son to test Sariputra’s determination in following the Mahayana path by asking Sariputra to give up his eyeball which would become medicine that cures the son’s parent. After Sariputra gave up his eyeball, he realized how difficult it was to deliver sentient beings let alone practice the bodhisattva path. He began thinking about stopping his progress towards the Mahayana path and cultivate just for himself. From this, we can see that without vowing to progress courageously and diligently, and to have the compassion to persist in delivering sentient beings, it will not be easy to follow the Mahayana path, let alone accomplishing buddhahood.
While there are different stages for a bodhisattva, there are also different levels of dedication for a volunteer. Some people volunteer themselves for the purpose of fame, some for benefit, and some for others’ gratitude and reward. In America, law offenders are punished by doing community service or volunteer works at temples. FGS Hsi Lai Temple happens to have received a large number of such volunteers under the recommendations of the court, schools or police stations. Some of these offences included speeding and shoplifting.
Some schools also base their assessment of student conduct on the volunteer works in community service that they do. The length of service varies from seventy days, twenty days, forty-two hours to twenty hours. Most of the volunteers came to Hsi Lai Temple to clean up the environment, wipe windows, pick vegetables, give guided tours, or cook and serve meals for three to four hours each time. When they complete their service, Hsi Lai Temple then provides proof of service so that their record of offense can be erased for having done something that benefits the public. To replace punishment with labor, and allow law offenders a chance to mend their wrongdoing with merits does have a positive and educational meaning behind it. However, a true volunteer must not work for fame or benefit. To really reach the state of “giving without clinging to form” and not allow your mind to abide in anything will make your volunteer work truly priceless.
In addition, to serve others as a volunteer means you are making connections and sowing seeds. While bodhisattvas do not distinguish between family and foe, volunteer services also need to go beyond boundaries. The goodness or badness of the result of giving will differ according to the giver’s intentions. Therefore, one should still choose a worthy field of merit to sow your seeds in, so one’s grade of service will get higher, and has greater future potentials.
Buddhism divides generosity into three categories: 1) Material Generosity: This can be further divided into inner material generosity and outer material generosity. Inner material generosity refers to donating one’s body and life, while outer material generosity refers to the giving of one’s house, properties, clothing and wealth. 2) Dharma Generosity: This refers to guiding sentient beings with the Dharma, so that they can also be delivered. 3) Fearlessness Generosity: This refers to giving solace to the distressed and lead them away from fear and horror. The doer of emotional generosity can also choose to practice precepts and patience to refrain from trespassing against others, so that they will not be fearful of you. Take Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva for example, he traces the sounds of cries and relieves beings from suffering and fear, thus he is known as the giver of fearlessness.
According to the Diamond Sutra, “If a person, in an act of generosity, were to give away enough precious jewels to fill an entire great chilicosom…. If someone else were to receive and uphold as few as four verses of this sutra, and if he were to teach them to others, his goodness would be even greater than that.” This shows the preciousness of Dharma generosity. Therefore, the highest level of generosity should be “giving the truth, and demonstrating the Dharma,” followed by “being zealous for the common weal, and sacrifice and contribute to others,” then “helping the poor and aiding the needy,” and at the lowest level, “giving with expectations for reward, or unwilling generosity.”
I used to divide generosity into four grades: 1) giving of money, 2) giving of labor, 3) giving of language, 4) giving of goodwill. Money will be of no use if one does not know how to use it properly. Sometimes there may not be as many works available, but words of kindness will never be too much. If one offers good intentions and continue to wish others well, or even teach the Dharma to others, one will be practicing supreme generosity.
“No form of giving surpasses the giving of Dharma. “For those who volunteer themselves for Buddhism, I hope they can move from helping out with general affairs to participating in Dharma affairs; or from greeting visitors at elevator doors to receiving and guiding guests on behalf of the temple, so that every guest can bring home with them some Dharma joy from being at the temple. I also hope that volunteers can do their work with joy and gain new learnings, so that their religious faith and practice can continue to progress. This will make them first-rate or even high-class volunteers.
As implied in the name, “volunteer” means sentiment and commitment; it means a joy that arises naturally from within, a mind that is perfectly willing, full of joy and a mind that holds not grudges or regrets against serving others. A volunteer is also one who spares no effort in completing his duties in serving people and benefiting society. Therefore, even though a volunteer does not get paid, what one does is still priceless. While they may be contributing quietly, they will still acquire endless joy form doing so. I have also dedicated my whole life to works with no pay. I served as advisor for the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission, commissioner of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission, and an instructor for prison inmates as appointed by the Ministry of Justice in Taiwan. None of these were paid jobs, but I served with joy and matter-of-factly, because I am happy to serve society as a volunteer. I regard myself as a volunteer, but I never boast about it. As I remind myself that my clothing, food, everyday life needs, and the knowledge acquired depends on conditions created by others, therefore my parents, teachers, devotees and benefactors from all directions have all helped me complete my endeavors in Dharma propagation. In a way, they have all been volunteers to me.
Volunteers do not necessarily have to ask for rewards. Only those who have a heart of gratitude can be good volunteers. If one keeps a mind of giving, and think that he is giving to others, then it will be difficult to persist as a volunteer. When I donated ambulances and wheelchairs to the affected areas of this year’s Sichuan earthquake in July, I reminded myself that I was not here to give, but to come with a grateful heart. I feel I have been enriched and nourished by many Sichuan-born poets such as Tu Fu, Li Bai, and Su Dong-po. It is them who have enabled my literary qualities to grow and improve. When I read Romance of the Three Kingdoms at a young age, I was deeply inspired by “Oath of the Peach Garden” between Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei; Zhu Ge-liang’s “Three expeditions to Qishan”; founding of the Shu Kingdom, and the splendid “Long Zhong Dialogue” in Sichuan. These have helped me grow as a person. Therefore, I had made this trip out of gratitude.
This concept of repaying others’ kindness has made my life very rich. It has also inspired me to work even harder in repaying society and people’s kindness. The Waterdrop Tea House was established for this very exact idea. The working mottoes for Fo Guang Buddhists, “give others confidence, give others joy, give others hope, and give others convenience,” has also been established based on the concepts of volunteer work and repaying people’s kindness.
I have also served as a volunteer through out the sixty years that I have been a monastic. Although I never had any Sunday breaks, new years or holidays, I still gained happiness and Dharma joy from my work of Dharma propagation, and such happiness and joy can never be bought with money.
I remember when I first arrived in Taiwan fifty years ago; I settled in Chungli and woke up at dawn every morning to pull the kart for 7.5 kilometers along the dirt road to the market. I would wake up the vegetable seller, buy food ingredients for eighty people and then rush back to the temple. After breakfast, I would quickly clean up and draw six hundred buckets of water from the well to provide water for the whole temple’s residents. I also had to clean up the toilets during the day, and since there was a shortage of cleaning equipments, I usually scraped the toilets with my bare hands. When someone in the temple passed away, I would help place the corpse inside a wooden box and bring it out for cremation. During harvest seasons, I would help the temple collect rents from tenants in different places in clogs while carrying a shoulder pole. I was twenty-three years old back then. Although my days were filled with hard labor, I was always grateful to the temple for keeping me and giving me job opportunities, and that I was able to nurture my capacity to shoulder responsibilities. In 1964, I established a Buddhist college and never charged students with tuition fees through out the past forty years and more. Students were also provided with food, accommodation and uniform. I served as a teacher and headmaster without pay. I was happy to be a volunteer for young adults. When I published Buddhism Today, Human Life Magazine, Pumen Magazine, and Awakening the world Periodicals, I not only wrote articles voluntarily, I also paid for stamps, tickets, manuscript papers and letter papers with my own money. When I established the Buddhist Cultural Service Center forty years ago, I often made time to volunteer at the center. All I needed was one afternoon to reply dozens of letters, which indeed gave me a sense of achievement.
I am happy to be a volunteer in education, culture and charity. I even established the Water and Cloud Mobile Clinic and served the distressed as a volunteer. Other than being a volunteer, I also acted as a volunteer for volunteers. When I was headmaster of the Buddhist College, I always gathered students and explained the meaning of their labor before they start with their chores. I also provided tips and contents of their work to enable them experience the Dharma while working, so that they can achieve both understanding and practice of Buddhism.
For the past decades, no matter where I went, there were always a lot of people who were willing to work with me. Someone once asked me why. It is really nothing much. I just knew how to be a volunteer for the volunteer. For example, when I needed volunteers to write something for me, I would make sure the pen, paper and table was prepared, so that it would be convenient for the volunteer to sit down and write. When I needed a volunteer to sweep the floor, I would prepare the mop and the bucket for him beforehand. If I needed someone to water the plants, I would make sure that the bucket and water hose were in place, and even notify them of the taps and toolbox’s whereabouts. When it was time to eat, I would invite them to eat, and prepare refreshments for them when required. When it was time to go home, I would thank them for their work, praise them for their achievements, and even see them off at the door until the sight of their back disappear around the corner.
I feel that no one should take volunteers for granted; thus we should repay them for their contribution. Even volunteers need virtuous companies to guide them, encourage them and motivate them, because they too would also feel exhausted from guiding people into Buddhism at times. Therefore we need to be understanding, caring, encouraging, respectful and commending towards volunteers. We also need to make things convenient for them, especially in leading them, guiding them, and helping them to get into what they are doing.
Through out my whole life, I have regarded serving the public as my duty; and this vow is not only limited to the present life. When I attended the press conference for Cardinal Paul Shan’s new book this September, I even made a promise with him, that in the many future lifetimes to come, one of us will always be a priest, while the other a Buddhist monk, so that the two of us will always be serving this world as volunteers.
Volunteers are a very important part of public life. To volunteer one’s work without any monetary reward is a type of moral duty, which not only benefits the public but also promotes the spirit of oneness and coexistence. Through voluntary hard work and dedication, one will bring out the compassion and love in people, and inspire righteousness and virtue in society. Furthermore, voluntary work can contribute tremendously to public welfare and charity campaigns, relief aids, and the bettering of society. Therefore, if everyone can be a volunteer, then society will naturally be filled with peace and goodness.
“Everyone be a volunteer” means that the buddha and bodhisattva spirits are being realized. For BLIA members who regard the building of a Humanistic pureland as their duty, I hope everyone can vow to be a volunteer who follows the buddha and bodhisattva spirits to serve people with the truth. Furthermore, may they become exemplary volunteers who grow from serving and contributing to society, and then exert their influence onto their family, friends and society, so that all can become better from learning the Dharma.
i. Dragons and elephants are considered noble symbols of excellence in Buddhisam.
ii. The Five Pollutions of the Present World:
iii Two kinds of illusion:
iv Formless giving means giving without clinging to the forms of the giver, the receiver, and the given.