A Letter to Dharma Protectors and Friends in 2021

Dear Dharma protectors and friends, 

Auspicious greetings! 

“A man’s lifetime diligence brings a lush land of green; an ox’s ever-trodding hooves turn over million acres of gold.” In the Year of Ox, I, Hsin Bau, on behalf of the Fo Guang Shan Board of  Directors and worldwide Fo Guang Shan Sangha, wish for everyone to “Cultivate a Heart that Blooms  in All Seasons.” May we practice diligently for the blooming of wisdom all year round. 

In the early days of Fo Guang Shan, the founder Venerable Master Hsing Yun built a pathway over  a valley—the Treasure Bridge—for visitors to reach Tsung-Lin University and the Great Compassion  Shrine on the other side. In recent years, however, Venerable Master noticed that the flight of stairs  leading to the bridge was not easily accessible by elderly devotees. As such, he instructed for the  construction of a “new” Treasure Bridge to connect the Main Shrine directly to the Great Compassion  Shrine. Upon its completion, Venerable Master joyfully said, “Though it is a very short bridge, it is a  boundless pathway in life.” This exemplifies the bodhisattva spirit of giving as advocated by  Humanistic Buddhism. 

In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, showing us how insignificant human beings are in the  face of nature, we humbly initiated the efforts of monastics and laity worldwide to collectively chant  the Heart Sutra as a prayer for a swift end to the pandemic. Accumulating over 25 million recitations,  all merits were dedicated to those affected. In Venerable’s Master’s “A Prayer to Avalokitesvara  Bodhisattva for Safety from the Coronavirus Outbreak,” he gives the following words of  encouragement: “No matter how difficult the situation, as long as there is compassion and wisdom.  When we all practice the Three Acts of Goodness—do good deeds, speak good words, and think good  thoughts—if we all protect the environment and have respect for all lives, we shall be able to turn peril  into safety.” For us to live and work peacefully, it is important to remember that human beings coexist  with Mother Nature. 

Upholding the spirit of striving to rescue all beings from suffering and adversity, the Buddha’s  Light International Association (BLIA) World Headquarters initiated the donation of over 4.3 million  masks worldwide, in countries such as Mainland China, the United States, Canada, and Brazil. Together,  BLIA members have delivered personal protective equipment to medical care centers, government  agencies, and police departments, as well as to rural clinics and vulnerable institutions. This endeavor  was only possible through the assistance of many people including Zhang Jingzhi—Secretary-General  of the Master Hsing Yun Cultural and Educational Foundation; Lim Bong Khai—Elder Advisor of  BLIA Malaysia Chapter; and Hong Tsu Ho—Elder Advisor of BLIA Brazil.

Development of Online Dharma Propagation due to COVID-19

As countries and cities across the globe announce lock-downs and stay-at-home orders to ensure  public health and safety, we too have made adjustments to our methods of Dharma propagation. Under  the guidance of Ven. Hui Chuan—President of the Fo Guang Shan Executive Council, Ven. Hui Zhao’s  team at the Information Technology department has assisted Fo Guang Shan branch temples worldwide  and the BLIA in using technology to hold various activities online.

In March, for example, the 2020 Chan and Pure Land Prayer Service held in front of the Main  Shrine at Fo Guang Shan was broadcasted live through Beautiful Live Television (BLTV) and the  internet. Over 70,000 people worldwide joined the 500 monastics on-site in a collective prayer for  world peace and prosperity. 

In April, there was a live broadcast of the Bathing the Buddha Ceremony held at the FGS Main  Shrine in celebration of the Buddha’s Birthday. To commemorate the significance of the Buddha’s birth in the human world, over 4.7 million people from 152 countries participated in the virtual bathing  of the Buddha. 

In August, the 2020 International Buddha’s Light Young Adult Conference was held online with  “Faith and Legacy” as its theme, bringing together 800 youths from 23 countries. Transcending the  differences in time and space, it united everyone in the spirit of “Bodhisattva Heart and Youthful  Strength.” Similarly, in October, the BLIA hosted its 2020 World Conference online. Venerable Master  Hsing Yun offered his best wishes during the opening ceremony, touching the hearts of participants  around the world. Throughout the conference, which I had the honor of chairing, Venerable Tzu Jung— Acting President of BLIA World Headquarters—offered her guidance for each motion on the agenda.  The conference was held in nine languages with simultaneous oral interpretation in Chinese, English,  German, French, Japanese, Cantonese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Korean. 11,000 members from over  50 countries and 101 BLIA Chapters took part. When Venerable Chueh Pei— Secretary-General of  BLIA World Headquarters—made this fact known at the conference, it was met with enthusiastic applause. 

Catalyzed by the global pandemic, online Dharma propagation has reached far and wide. For  example, I had the opportunity to preside over a “Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem Ceremony” online  for 500 devotees from 20 European countries, where simultaneous oral interpretation in English and  French was provided. Moreover, Venerable Yung Ku of FGS New York has hosted daily episodes of  “Good Morning Dharma” on YouTube. Venerable Yung Fu has led her team of monastics at FGS Hong  Kong in the making of videos on Buddhist stories and on Between Ignorance and Enlightenment.  Venerable Chueh Ju of FGS Hui Chung Temple has released a series of online talks by various speakers  in “Future and Hope: Cloud Lecture Hall.” Our branch temples worldwide also offer online Dharma  talks, aiming to bring people peace of mind. Likewise, Venerable Miao Nan of FGS Tsung-Lin  University has invited a panel of youthful monastics— including Venerables Hui Rang, Hui Zhi, Hui  Ping, You Xian, and You Ding—to produce the online Buddhist college program, “What’s in Tsung Lin?” Venerable Miao Guang and the FGS Institute of Humanistic Buddhism Team have released  “Bodhi Light Tales” Podcast to bring the Dharma to English speakers worldwide. Moreover, as part of  a series of online English Dharma Services broadcasted through YouTube, they have invited monastics  across the world to give weekly Dharma talks and guided readings in English on the Complete Works  of Venerable Master Hsing Yun.

The Continuation of Culture by Bridging Past and Present

It is necessary for Buddhist culture, dating back over two thousand years, to adapt to the needs of  various locales and time periods. As such, it must keep up with modern developments. To allow  Humanistic Buddhism to stay relevant, Venerable Master has proposed the following: the  modernization of Buddhist language by using vernacular language, the modernization of Dharma propagation by utilizing current technology, the modernization of cultivation by focusing on daily  living, and the modernization of temples by functioning as schools. 

The FGS Buddhist Canon Committee published the 55-volume Sravaka Canon of the Fo Guang  Buddhist Canon in August. Under the guidance of Elder Venerable Tzu Hui and editor-in-chief  Venerable Yi Heng, the editorial team spent 12 years compiling the canon, which includes 42 historical  and influential sectarian commentaries—such as the Mahāvibhāṣā Śāstra and Abhidharmakosa  Sāstra—alongside its respective research. On a similar note, as reported by Venerable Jue Yuan,  Director of the FGS Sutra Repository, Fo Guang Shan is one of the few Buddhist orders in Taiwan with  a comprehensive collection of Buddhist canons, which has an important effect on the preservation of  Buddhist culture. The repository houses 50 editions of the Chinese, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhist  canons, published in 17 languages and from 13 different countries. Most of the canons were collected  by Venerable Master over the last 50 to 60 years, including the Pinjia Canon and the Japanese Tetsugen  Canon, serving as Venerable Master’s references in his youth when he wrote the Biography of  Sakyamuni Buddha

Keeping up with the rapid development of internet technology, Venerable Jue Nian from the Voice  of Ganges Co. Ltd. released an app for Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s audiobooks that allows people  to listen at their convenience. Furthermore, she invited Venerable Yi Kung—Chancellor of FGS Culture  Council—to give a series of talks introducing the Complete Works of Venerable Master Hsing Yun.  Also, Venerable Man Guan from Fo Guang Cultural Enterprises was pleased to unveil the electronic  version of the Complete Works, facilitating the learning of the Dharma. 

Moreover, 15 public talks were organized around Taiwan as part of the 2020 annual tour of the  Humanistic Buddhist Reading Conferences on Sutras, with over 70,000 people reading the Complete  Works of Venerable Master Hsing Yun. In particular, one of the talks broadcasted online had over  200,000 viewers across Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and India. 

Further good news came in August from Venerable Chueh Yann in Portugal: 365 Days for  Travelers: Wisdom from Chinese Literary and Buddhist Classics has been published in Portuguese.  The book, with Venerable Master as editor-in-chief, has now been translated into 12 languages. Over  1.75 million copies have been distributed by the Association of Ancient and Modern Humanities to  schools, libraries, and hotels. As we travel on this journey of life, Venerable Master hopes to bring  inspiration to the readers of this book so that those who are weary can find encouragement, and those  who are dejected can gain new clarity of mind. 

Venerable Miao Pu from Shanghai Dajue Culture also reported that all 132 volumes of Selected  Chinese Buddhist Texts in Modern Language have been published in Simplified Chinese. This is not  only a step forward in the modernization of Buddhist sutras, but also a great occasion in terms of Cross Strait Buddhist cultural exchanges. Furthermore, Chineseall.cn has produced 164 ebook editions of  Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s works, benefiting millions of readers and listeners. 

The Fo Guang Shan Institute of Humanistic Buddhism (FGSIHB) has nominated 40 scholars as  honorary professors and researchers for the advancement of research on Humanistic Buddhism and its  propagation. Hailing from eight countries, amongst them are Lewis R. Lancaster (University of  California, Berkeley), Kiyotaka Kimura (University of Tokyo), Lou Yulie (Beijing University), and  Wei Daoru (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences). The FGSIHB’s Center of International Affairs has  not only published the Studies on Humanistic Buddhism series, but also the Glossary of Humanistic Buddhism and the first three volumes of Buddha-Dharma: Pure and Simple in English. Other FGSIHB  publications include Religious Syncretism: Collection of Papers on When Buddha Meets the Gods  Event. As reported by Venerable Miao Fan, Chancellor of the FGSIHB, this is the first study on the  practice of religious syncretism in Humanistic Buddhism. Also, in celebration of its 20th anniversary, the Merit Times has collaborated with Thailand’s  Universal Daily News to issue special weekly editions. According to Venerable Miao Xi, President of  the Merit Times, this is another laudable event resulting from the newspaper’s collaboration with 18  overseas temples and their local Chinese media. Readership of the weekly overseas edition of the Merit  Times has now reached over a million.

Fostering Future Talents with a Focus on Education

In his article “The Future Prospects of Fo Guang Shan,” Venerable Master Hsing Yun highlights  that education is the foundation for the prosperity of Buddhism. For the future, Fo Guang Shan disciples  should strive to support its five universities as well as other social education and cultural endeavors.  There is a saying, “Ten years are needed to plant a tree, while a hundred years are needed to nurture a  man.” As our hundred years of work has just begun, we must solidify the foundation of our universities  and ensure the continuation of the Million-Member Fundraising Campaign to support education. 

With the efforts of Presidents Yang Chaur-shin and Lin Tsung-ming, both Fo Guang University  and Nanhua University had full enrollment as Advanced Subjects Test (AST) results were announced.  Moreover, Fo Guang University received the Ministry of Education’s Arts Education Contribution  Award for its emphasis on establishing foundations in Art and Culture. Nanhua University also  achieved excellence in being certified as a National Environmental Education Institute and  Environment Education Facility by the Environmental Protection Administration. The university also  received other awards such as the National Enterprise Environmental Protection Gold Award and Green  Action Award.  

We were informed by Venerable Man Ko from Australia that Nan Tien Institute’s accreditation  by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) has been renewed for another seven  years and that the first class of students specializing in Humanistic Buddhism graduated. On behalf of  the monastery, Venerable Yung Guang in the Philippines expressed our gratitude to Dr. Helen Correa  for fulfilling her term as the first President of Guang Ming College. Acknowledging Venerable Master’s  ideals, Dr. Michael Tan, former President of the University of the Philippines, will continue to advance  education in Humanistic Buddhism as the next President of Guang Ming College. 

In 2020, Pumen High School had 26 students admitted to college via the Multi-Star Project, among  which 15 were admitted to national universities. The school’s baseball team won third place, for the  third time, in the Wooden Bat Division of the High School Baseball League and was recognized with  the 2020 Award for Excellent High School Sports Team. The first athletes of Nanhua’s soccer and  baseball teams have graduated and are now serving in related professional fields to continue pursuing  their athletic dreams. Holding on to Venerable Master’s ideal of “sports as education,” Liu Chao-ming,  President of the Three Acts of Goodness Sports Association, especially expressed his gratitude to its  sports coaches: basketball coaches Yang Shu-ching, Liao Che-yi, and Tai Wan-rong; baseball coaches  Tsai Chung-nan and Hung Rong-hung; and soccer coach Tu Teng-sheng. The association will continue  its full support to dedicated and hard-working athletes.

Fo Guang Shan Malaysia has collaborated with the University of Malaya, one of the top 60 universities in the QS Global World Ranking, in establishing the UM Humanistic Buddhism Research  Centre at its campus. Representatives Venerable Jue Cheng—Abbess of Fo Guang Shan Singapore,  Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia—and Datuk Danny Wong Tze Ken—Dean of the UM Department of  Anthropology and Sociology—signed the collaboration agreement, marking the establishment of the  first academic institute dedicated to the study of Humanistic Buddhism in an Islamic country.  

Da Ci Children’s Home, founded in 1970, also celebrated its 50th anniversary. Venerable Yi Lai  and Hsiao Pi-liang Shigu, who have accompanied and cared for over 1,000 children, both expressed  their joy in seeing the children raised at the home grow to establish themselves and contribute their  talents to society.  

Promoting Humanistic Buddhism Through Awards and Honors

The 8th Hsing Yun Education Awards was held by the Venerable Master Hsing Yun Public  Education Trust Fund. Dr. Chen Rong-chi of National Taiwan University’s College of Medicine was  the honored recipient of the 2020 Lifelong Role Model for Education Award, after unanimous  agreement from President Yung Chaur-shin and fellow committee members. In addition, the Award for  Exemplary Teacher was presented to 18 individuals. Furthermore, 198 elementary and high schools  became Three Acts of Goodness Schools. With the assistance of Professor Lee Jui-teng, the Hsing Yun  Award for Global Chinese Literature is now in its 10th year, with Sima Zhongyuan, a renowned author,  receiving the Award of Contribution. Other awards were also presented to 25 authors. 

The Future of Buddhism is in My Hands is a documentary conceived by Dr. Charles H.C. Kao and  Cora Wang, respectively the founder and CEO of Global Views-Commonwealth Publishing Group.  Chronicling Venerable Master’s Dharma propagation for over half a century, the documentary won an  honorable mention in the 2020 Heritales: International Heritage Film Festival’s category for long  documentaries—a testimony to Venerable Master’s contributions in spreading Humanistic Buddhism  across the five continents. 

The FGS Buddha Museum, certified as the youngest member of the International Council of  Museums (ICOM) in 2014, also joined the Federation of International Human Rights Museum Asia Pacific (FIHRM-AP) last year. Additionally, it has received the Travelers’ Choice Award from  TripAdvisor for its third consecutive year—an honor received by only 10% of travel destinations  worldwide, according to Venerable Ru Chang, Director of the Buddha Museum. Moreover, the  Museum once again received the Best Public Restroom Certification by the Kaohsiung City  Government Environmental Protection Bureau. It has also been included as one of the top 25 disabled friendly attractions in a guidebook compiled by the Kaohsiung Tourism Bureau to promote a more  accessible city for all. Similarly, CommonWealth Magazine has praised the Buddha Museum as being  a “humanistic museum for the future.” 

In the past year, the Buddha Museum has brought joy to many through several events. For example,  it has collaborated with the Ministry of Culture’s Bureau of Cultural Heritage to jointly organize the  “National Treasures Exhibition: A Close Look at Taiwan’s Traditional Crafts.” 15 national-level  artisans congregated for the first time to exhibit their unique crafts. Additionally, in response to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Buddha Museum collaborated with the National Science and Technology  Museum to organize the first Taiwan Science Festival, with the theme of “The Earth, Ours to Care,”  and an exhibition on “Technology and Readiness for Disaster Reduction.” The exhibition was an immersive and interactive learning experience for the many students who visited during the  International Book Fair and Vegetarian Expo. Furthermore, the Yunlin County Bureau of Tourism held  the “Craftsmanship of Yunlin: Beigang Centennial Religious Arts and Crafts Exhibition” at the Buddha  Museum. Last but not least, the Buddha Museum has joined the Google Arts and Culture platform.  

Having promoted the Three Acts of Goodness and taught in correctional facilities for years, the  BLIA was awarded the Public Welfare Contribution Award by the Ministry of the Interior, the only  religious organization to receive such an honor. The following FGS branch temples also received the  Religious Group Commendation Award from the Executive Yuan for the past consecutive years:  Lanyang Temple, Chi Le Temple, Che San Temple, Da Ming Temple, Fa Bao Temple, Hong Fa  Association, Yuan Fu Temple, Fu Guo Temple, Nan Ping Temple, Gangshan Lecture Hall, and Hai  Tian Monastery. Fo Guang Shan branch temples play a key role in bringing kindness to society. For  example, 2.5 million bowls of Laba congee are distributed annually by branch temples on the Buddha’s  Enlightenment Day. 

Interfaith Harmony in International Dharma Propagation

In February, Fo Guang Shan Thaihua Temple held a consecration ceremony for the Triple Gem  Buddha Statues in its Main Shrine. Upon Most Venerable Abbot Hsin Ting’s invitation, the ceremony  was presided by His Holiness Somdej Phra Ariyawongsakhatayan, the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand.  The ceremony included chanting from both Northern and Southern traditions, as well as a Sangha  offering to 2200 monastics. Although Thaihua Temple is less than a decade old, it is the only Chinese  Buddhist temple listed amongst the ten most magnificent temples in Thailand. 

The sunshine of May brought 2,500 peonies from Heze, Shandong into blossom at Hosuiji Temple,  Japan. Abbess Venerable Man Run dedicated the occasion to Venerable Master, for enabling the  conditions that brought about this symbol of auspiciousness and hope for all in this pandemic. In  addition, Shibukawa City and the Kan-etsu bus system has included Hosuiji Temple as a key destination  to promote local tourism—an opportunity for locals to learn about Humanistic Buddhism. 

Across the globe in Bussy Saint-George, France, hailed by the United Nations as the city for  interfaith dialogue, Fo Guang Shan France hosted the “8th Interfaith Prayer and Light Offering for  World Peace Concert.” As reported by Venerable Miao Duo, representatives from Judaism,  Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Buddhism congregated to pray for world  peace. 

In response to the global pandemic, Venerable Man Shin of Fo Guang Shan North Island New  Zealand created a 3G4G (Three Acts of Goodness and Four Givings) banner hung outside the temple  to bring comfort to all who see it. This banner drew the attention of the Auckland Museum and is now  part of their collection. In November, Kia Ora, the inflight magazine of Air New Zealand, published  an article on the temple’s Water Drop Tea House, art gallery, and garden aesthetics, giving passengers  a chance to sample Humanistic Buddhism. 

According to Venerable Miao You from Brazil, close to 10 million people have registered as “hard  of hearing” and sign language is now the country’s second official language. To meet the needs of those  with disabilities, and allow them the opportunity to learn about Buddhism, Zu Lai Temple has planned  a series of Dharma classes given in sign language. Furthermore, the Lotus Gesture that represents Humanistic Buddhism and BLIA has been included in the vocabulary of the Brazilian Sign Language.  This is indeed a new beginning of Dharma propagation in South America. 

Venerable Miao Yuan—Head Abbess of FGS South America—has reported that Hospital Los  Angeles Paraguay-China and BLIA Chinese Charity Foundation of Paraguay have donated 17  incubators, 12 bili lights, and 10 vital signs monitoring devices to 11 public hospitals in Paraguay,  saving more than 10,000 infants to date. 

To commemorate the 32nd year of Hsi Lai Temple, Venerable Hui Dong especially created a short  film about its history, beginning in 1978 when Venerable Master first instructed Venerable Tzu Chuang  to build a temple in the United States. Despite many challenges along the way, Humanistic Buddhism  had finally been brought to the West. 

In November, the United Association of Humanistic Buddhism, Chunghua held the “5th Humanistic Buddhism Development Seminar and Members Conference” at Jin Guang Ming Temple.  The conference consisted not only of several proposals and discussions, but also included a panel  discussion on the Buddhist perspective regarding management. There were 300 participants, including  representatives from Dharma Drum Mountain, Tzu Chi Foundation, Bliss and Wisdom Sangha, and  other temples. During the conference, member organizations that established Buddhist colleges were  presented with a set of the Fo Guang Buddhist Canon

Under the leadership of Venerable Master, Fo Guang Shan Ancestral Temple Dajue Temple is  nearing the completion of its fourth phase of construction. Similarly, the construction of Tianlong  Temple in Nanjing is also coming to an end. These are the results of the collaborative efforts by  Venerable Miao Shi—Superintendent of FGS Mainland China—and Venerables Hui Kuan, Hui Hao,  and Hui Ming in Nanjing.  

Lastly, I would like to use this opportunity to invite everyone to participate in the Buddha  Museum’s 10th Anniversary Celebration this upcoming year, and be part of the united effort in  promoting culture and establishing a Pure Land on Earth. 

The fruits of Dharma propagation, as reported by abbots and abbesses worldwide, are possible only  by the whole-hearted support and contributions of our benefactors, devotees, and friends. In the words  of Venerable Master, “Humanistic Buddhism is the light of hope for the future of humanity.” As long  as we continue to uphold the spirit expressed by the saying “Buddhism depends on me,” and practice  the Buddha’s way—as long as we remember our initial aspirations and find strength in forbearance— world peace and a Pure Land on Earth are not far in the future. 

My best wishes to you in perfecting merit and wisdom, and may all be auspicious!

Hsin Bau 

Head Abbot 

Chairperson, Fo Guang Board of Directors  

New Year’s Day, 2021 

(Translated by the FGS Institute of Humanistic Buddhism, Center of International Affairs)