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21st Century World and Humanistic Buddhism

2009年03月29日 15:05:00 佛教在线 点击:0

 

Ven. Dr Anoja

President BLIA Nepal Chapter Kathmandu

Introduction

21st Century World is characterized by extremities and complexities in the thoughts and practices of people. Really today's world is complex matrix of people of different races, regions, faiths and religions. Different languages, types of governments, traditions and cultures, economies and technological advancements have developed various organizations which have constant interactions and influences of one upon another. The world has been facing problems and chaos due to materialistic attitude of worldly beings at the cost of spiritualism. Modern day science and technology have been able to provide comfortable life to people, but the advancement has failed to enter deep into human mind to give peace and happiness to them. The challenges modern people facing are to achieve peace and tranquility of mind and true happiness.

It is strongly felt the need of creating an inspiring environment for a change of heart in people by every good means.

"Change of hearts of people" is not possible overnight but it can  be achieved gradually with sustained efforts, effective means and ways by imparting the Buddha's teachings of loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity.

Shakyamuni, the Buddha taught that all beings contain within themselves the seeds of enlightenment which could be germinated only by eliminating ignorance. The timeless messages of the Buddha inspire people to make endeavour to learn 'dharma' in true sense and practice 'living in awareness' every moment. Such a living surely helps people realise the reality and truth of life by which they will be able to get rid of ignorance leading to enlightened, happy and successful living.

It is desired that people working in the field of social service and propagation of 'Dharma' in true sense, play an important role to inspire people to respond positively to the need to improve inner self and outer social environment.

Religious and social workers while working for the cause of entire humanity should be able to bear in mind the necessity to discuss emotions, morality and ethics, relationship with family and society, government, globalism, nature and environment which have impact on individual overall personality.

For a well desired and fruitful result they should be very much conscious of above points while choosing activities that should cover wider areas.

We have a strong belief that Buddhism should be regarded as a 'dharma' a living dharma, the integral part of daily life situation. Practice of Buddhism should be linked with direct experience rather than with scholastic learning and conventional ritualistic religion.

In the countries with the diversities in race, culture, tradition, religious faith, language and physical structure, we should have policy to work for unity in diversity, communal harmony and peace to eradicate any type or form of communal and sectarian conflict and division.

Humanistic Buddhism- Its rationale and theme

Most Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the Propounder of Humanistic Buddhism has spent sixty years with conscientious effort for the noble cause to establish 'dharma' in five continents by promoting Humanistic Buddhism. His main aim is to propagate Buddhism through culture, to foster talent through education, to benefit society through charitable programmes and to purify human minds through Buddhist practice. Humanistic Buddhism interprets Buddhism as 'Dharma' which stresses on 'humanity' and the development of human values.

Shakyamuni, the Buddha never enforced to convert people of other faiths to his own. What he did was to enlighten people through his skillful means to help them to achieve peace and happiness of mind in true sense.

The rationale and theme for Humanistic Buddhism derive from Buddha's original teaching that the central focus of dharma is human being and the relation of person to person in his or her life on earth.

In his great renunciation, 'Mahaviniskraman', Shakyamuni, the Buddha left behind his family, royalty, palace and everything and sat for meditation that led to discovery of four noble truths, the theory of impermanence of everything, Pratitsamutpat, the doctrine of cause and effect, the doctrine of middle path, Panchasheela, the eightfold path and Prajna Wisdom etc. The noble and enlightened one did never prefer to pass his life in the forest and solitude aloof from the society.

Bahum  Vē Saranam Yanti

Pabbatāni Vanāmi  ca

ārāmrukkha cētyāni

maunussā bhayatajjitā

(Many a refuge do they seek

On hills, in woods, to sacred trees,

To monasteries and shrines they go,

Folk by fear torminated)

ētam khō saranam khēmam

ētam saranam uttamam

ētam saranam āgamma

Sabbadukhā pamuccati

( Such refuge isn’t secure,

Such refuge isn’t supreme,

From all dukha one’s not free

Unto that refuge gone.)

These are the sacred lines spoken by Shakyamuni, the Buddha to admonish Paribrajaka Aggidatta. The Buddha said that seeking refuge in the mountains, forest or grove, or tree will not release people from sufferings.

The Buddha came back to the society, stayed with people, gave sermons and taught them how to liberate oneself from the sufferings Shakyamuni Buddha said, "I'm part of the society, the dharma is to be found in the society." He spent 45 years of his life talking about spiritual path to gain actual happiness of life, 'Nirbanapatha.' What the Buddha spoke for all the time is about purification of mind as a way to lead life of "dharma", the spiritual way of living. Vajrachhedika Sutra, (diamond sutra) says, "Among all devotions, devotion to dharma is the highest." Humanistic Buddhism gives meaning to religion as dharma quite different from the conventional interpretation. Humanistic Buddhism spares Buddhism from the concept of religion which may lead people to narrower communal division.

Humanistic Buddhism and Spiritual Self

This modern 21st century Buddhism gives emphasis on what the Buddha taught on moderate living without resorting to excessiveness. Buddha never went against materialistic life and what he said was not to be materialistic at the cost of spiritual values. Humanistic Buddhism related Buddhism to the purification, purity in the sense to liberate mind from impurities, defilements, pollution and contamination.

Humanistic Buddhism talks not of outer personality on the surface level but the inner personality of a person, the inner or the spiritual self. A true Buddhist always attempts to assess himself. He always asks himself how far he can work with patience and to what extend he can tolerate or forget or forgive to others' mistakes and deeds they have done which are not acceptable to him.

Human beings we are, we have weaknesses which we should be conscious of if we want to elevate ourselves to the height of spirituality. It is not enough to have faith only which can be shaken if it is not based on solid ground or the depth of knowledge of reality.

Bodhi mind leading to true happiness in Life

One should be fully aware of how one misinterprets 'dharma'. We should be conscious that 'dharma' should not be defined and explained in our own way to comfort and ease of our own 'self' as per the situation demands.

The base of 'dharma' is equality not discrimination. Theory of impermanence is the beauty of Buddhist Philosophy. Let us see nature minutely and try to understand it. The beauty of spring comes because faded leaves fall down and new bud sprouts or opens up. Greenness overshadows grayness. Newness displaces oldness. Freshness appears and staleness goes. The same law applies to the human mind and an analogy of nature holds in the state of human mind. Good, noble and righteous changes make human mind brighter and turns it to Bodhi mind leading to true happiness in life. Our effort to change our 'self' cleans every dirt, pollution and contamination and it makes us religious in true sense to lead to enlightenment.

Universal human emphasis as Humanistic Buddhism

Humanistic Buddhism is part and parcel of life, not separate from it. Humanistic Buddhism gives emphasis on bringing truth of Buddhism into every home and integration of Buddhism with day to day life. It will be a great mistake if Buddhism is interpreted in the limited sense of stereotype practice of just rites and rituals blindly, although they are thought to be of importance as effective means to propagate Buddhism in practical life.

Master Tai Hsu said "When you become fully human, you will become a Buddha." We call universal human emphasis as Humanistic Buddhism. This is the living meaning of truth. The philosophy of Humanistic Buddhism stresses that every sentient being has Buddha Nature, therefore, should be treated on the principle of equality without any kind of discrimination. "Open hearts to all sentient being and bring benefit to all and no one should be left outside of the circle of compassion." According to Master Tai Hsu, the deepest truth of Buddhism is that we achieve Buddhahood through our human nature and human path is the path which leads to Buddhahood. "Whatever is spoken by the Buddha, things that are needed by people and anything that is pure, good and beautiful is Humanistic Buddhism."

Humanistic Buddhism as a Global Religion

Humanistic Buddhism does not oppose to any type of Buddhist sects, schools of thoughts, philosophies and traditional or cultural practices of Buddhism and it gives recognition to them. It regards that Buddhist traditions are rich in beauty of Varieties. There has been ample common ground among all the schools of Buddhism and they should be open to learn from every other Buddhist tradition. Esoteric and Exoteric Buddhism like Bajrayana or Tantrayan, Theravada and Mahayana, Buddhism associated with nations like Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, Newar Buddhism, Northern and Southern traditions make up the fullness of Buddhism. Every best extract and essence makes up Humanistic Buddhism. Humanistic Buddhism preaches for active virtues rather than mere passive good characters. Propagators of Humanistic Buddhism believe that future development of Buddhism depend upon leaning towards humanity rather than on abstract discussion and raw theoretical knowledge of the philosophy. Buddhists scattered all over the world should be able to intermingle not only with fellow Buddhists but also with others of different religious faiths on the principle of equality and peaceful co-existence. They should realize and bear responsibility to preserve their culture and traditions adapting to changing situations of the world. Those who have faith on Humanistic Buddhism should take Buddhism as a global religion with open mindedness and the virtue to follow the tradition of all inclusiveness. The circle of our concern should be widened to include all ethnic groups, and nations, members of other religions, men and women, rich and poor etc.

Great Boddhisattvas are our models

Humanistic Buddhism follows Bodhisattva Path of Mahayana and look upon Boddhisattva as a role model to establish the world of harmony and peace. After three asankhyas and one hundred Kalpas of Boddhisattva practices and virtuous active lives of morality, compassion, loving-kindness, six parami Dharmas, purity, observing patience, determination and resolutions, Boddhisattva Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became Samyek Sambuddha.

Buddha defined Boddhisattva as the one who can carry the burdens of others and can give best to others. For an ordinary person, Boddhisattva practice may be impossible but at least one should raise one's feet to follow the path shown by Boddhisattvas like Avalokitesvara, Manjushri, Samantabhadra and Ksitigarbha. Boddhisattvas exemplify immense selflessness, compassion and determined spirits. Avalokitesvara became Buddha but returned to Saha world to help sentient beings. Manjushri Buddha, also called 'Great Dragon Tathagata', preferred to remain Boddhisattva. Samantabhadra Boddhisattva vowed to lead the dying to the pureland of Amitabha Buddha. Ksitigarbha Boddhisattva swore not to become a Buddha until hell is empty. The Maha-Ratnakuta Sutra says that a Boddhisattva never finds the Dharma in non-action. Joy is fundamental to Buddhism and positive energy and helpful attitude are the original source of Joy.

Respect for Triple Gem

Humanistic Buddhism respects triple Gem which bring light and joy in this Saha World and we should take refuge in them to seek and find liberation from sufferings.

First Gem is the Buddha himself, the enlightened and accomplished one whom we bow with highest reverence for his all enlightened noble characters virtues and qualities which we should always be mindful. Second Gem is Dharma, his teaching of righteous way of sacred living which we to the fullest extent should try to follow. Sangha, the third Gem is the Community of Buddha's followers (Bhikshu Sangha) abide in Sangha order of discipline as a role model for lay Buddhist for living in a group or Community.

Yō ca Buddhan ca Dhamman ca

Sanghan ca saranam gato

Cattāri ariyasaccāni

Sammapannā passati (14:12)

( But going for refuge to Buddha,

To Dhamma and the Sangha too,

One sees with perfect wisdom

The tetrad of the Nobel Truths.)

ētam khō saranam khēmam

ētam saranam uttamam

ētam saramam āgamma

Sabbadukhā pamujccati. (14:14)

( Such refuge is secure,

Such refuge is supreme,

From all dukkha one is free

Unto that refuge gone.)

The Buddha gave timeless sermons that if a person takes shelter in triple Gem, he/she will be able to observe the four noble truths with high wisdom. Such refuge in Triple Gem is totally secure and supreme, and it helps a person to gain release from all sufferings.

In the Vimalkirtinirdesh Sutra, Vimalkirti exhorts a group of heavenly women and says "Take Joy in Buddha, take Joy in the dharma and take joy in aiding all sentient beings." Joyful mind and joyful practice are the characteristics of Bodhi mind possessed by Boddhisattva who has uprooted the real causes of sufferings i.e. bad karmas caused by body, speech and mind.

Establish Pureland in this Human World

Humanistic Buddhism believes that purelands of different Buddhas can be established in this very world if we can develop respectful and harmonious relations among us on the basis of selflessness, loving-kindness(Maitri), appreciative joy (Mudita) and equanimity (Upekshya) compassion and benefit. Pureland is a part of our very minds and it can be built by the effort of individuals heart by heart and home by home to communities and nations toward harmony and cooperation.

In this way humanistic philosophy dispels the misguided impression that Buddhism is passive and pessimistic.

The philosophy of Humanistic Buddhism in action

Venerables Master Hsing Yun founded Fo Guang Shan Monastery in1967 to promote Humanistic Buddhism which is the essence of the Buddha's teachings Buddha's Light International Association was established in 1992 to translate the Humanistic philosophy into action in humanistic spirit to let the Buddha light shine in all worlds and dharma stream flow in this Universe.

Under the wise and able leadership of Ven Master Hsing Yun, with more than 170 Chapters and 1000 Sub Chapters and a million members in sixty countries, BLIA has been promoting human values through humanistic and philanthropic activities all over the world. BLIA accomplishment on human development has been recognized by the U.N. as it officially received the special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).

Humanistic Buddhism reflected in our way of life

T'ai Hsu, Master (1899-1947) and Ta Hsing, Master (1900-1952) were early reformers of modern Chinese Buddhism and proponent of humanistic Buddhism.

In Chinese history, many Buddhist monks did not keep themselves confined to monasteries to conduct rituals and they came out to serve human beings. Great monk Fotuchen took risks in attempt to soften cruelty of rulers. T'an Yao built and stocked a granary to help people in times of famine. Asvaghosa (100-160) and Siladitya (7th Century) Composed dances and wrote Buddhist poems and plays. We find beautiful descriptions of Buddha in the Sutra.

From the very early years, we can find practical application of humanistic Buddhism reflected in way of life, customs, culture and tradition of people although the term 'humanistic' not had been used. Buddha's followers- Monks and Nuns and lay Buddhists revered Buddhism by developing and introducing rites and rituals, traditions and festivals in their communities. To make Buddhism alive and lively, they took humanistic approach by creating Buddhist art and architectures, Buddhist dances, musical chore etc.

All such prevalent activities of Buddhist people have added flavors in Buddhist practices which made Buddhism 'Living Buddhism' with humanistic touch.

Humanistic Buddhism applied in domesticity and community

In Nepal, especially in the Kathmandu Valley and its neighbourhood, Bahals and Bahils (special Buddhist residential areas) are in existence in Shakya and Bajracharya Communities which clearly signify that they are particular lay Buddhists who have direct connections with Buddhism applied in domesticity and Community.

'Sangha' concept of Buddhism is duly applied in way of life of Shakya and Bajracharya inhabitants of those Bahals and Bahils. Shakyas and Bajracharya Communities of Nepal live in their Buddhist Culture and Customs which are alive and have been handed down from generation to generation. Shakya and Bajracharya from communities live in their own Sarba Sanga (Community) in their particular Bahal and Bahils following their own code of conduct and discipline through age-old rites and rituals and customs. The inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley are exhibiting their devotion and feeling of respects for Buddhism as a way of life rather than just religion. In Sangha system, Shakya and Bajracharya work to decide in community with fellow beings in anything. Such a practice reminds us of Santhagara system of Kapilvastu, Kingdom of Buddha's time. The Santhagara system applied by Shakya Kingdom of Kapilvastu was in fact a crude form of modern day parliamentary system.

Shakya and Bajracharya communities and other Buddhists gave humanistic approach to Buddhism by giving concrete forms to their devotion, dedications, religious feelings and views for the cause of Buddhism and its propagation by creating beautiful arts and architecture, idols, images, painting and carving etc. Even today, they are upholding Sanghadana and Panchadana (offerings) to their Sangha (community). A unique Buddhist custom of Chudakarama or prabajya (ordination) is a compulsory ritual that a Shakya and Bajracharya boy should undergo. It is an age-old practice of Buddhist Community of Shakya and Bajracharya with symbolic significance, the act of reminiscence to cherish the memory of the Prince Siddhartha's great renunciation, prior to long march of 'Mahabhiniskramana' to enlightenment. This ritual also reminds us of Buddha's serene and pure life of righteousness and dharma until his Mahaparinirvana and motivates to observe such a pure life at least for a few days. Besides, in those communities, there have been traditions of reciting Buddhist sutras and lines from sacred books and worshipping them regularly. There have been customs in the valley of Kathmandu to make round trips to Buddhist monasteries and temples on the auspicious days and months and performing of indigenous dances of Buddhist deities.

Role of Buddhist Education in the propagation of Buddhism

Buddhist education is only an effective means to manifest Buddha nature, qualities and perfection innate in human mind and it is a continuous process throughout life.

Such education can be imparted to general public not only in monasteries and Buddhist temples but also at schools, homes, parks, clubs, playgrounds, factories, farmlands, jails and anywhere informally.

Monks, Nuns, Upasaka and Upasikas (Lay men and women Buddhists) are four wheels of the cart that help roll Buddhism. They have equal important role to play in propagating Buddhist education.

Young Adults and Humanistic Buddhism

'Youth' is the crucial state of human life when seeds are sown to be fully-grown as the plant in the later state, i.e. adulthood.

Venerable Master Hsing Yun tells us that vigor of the young adult, like the sunshine signifying the beginning of a day and of our life, is very important. Humanistic Buddhism stresses on the spiritual development of a person from the very early state of young adults with the progress through the Buddhist teaching which provides true meaning and purpose of life aiming towards enlightenment.

One should be very careful that young adults need not necessarily imply immaturity just that their innate power lying dormant to come out when time is ripe, i.e. when suitable conditions are met. The analogy that seeds grow into plants, when they get adequate soil, water, air, manure and all requirements and factors meet, hold in the case of young adults.

Youths need to be properly guided through the path of spirituality with the varieties of activities suited to their interest and abilities. Youths should be activated in an efficient way if we want to keep the spirit of philosophy of Humanistic Buddhism to enlighten the youths to know and shape the mind, and free it from illusions.

Venerable Master Hsing Yun emphasized that Buddhism is not merely for older adults but it is also for the young. He advised the young adults to have a grateful heart, sensible spirit and magnanimous feelings.

Experiential living with practice and realization are stressed by Humanistic Buddhism which every young adult should be made aware of. Youths are to be developed as contemplative persons to exercise the purification of mind. Humanistic Buddhism considers that religious practice is essential as a strong force in the society. A youth should learn to maintain a proper sense of decorum. He should be able to reflect on the virtue of triple gem and merit of renunciation.

For a lay Buddhist (upashaka or upashika), the discipline and code of conduct do not demand renunciation of household life as a prerequisite for holy life. Renunciation is the matter closely related to the heart and mind rather than the physical body of person. Renunciation is intrinsic rather than outer expression. Youths should be motivated to practice renunciation of senses of desire and aversions by "letting go" of attachments and ego.

Young adults should bear in mind the concept, ideals of Humanistic Buddhism and its application in spirit and action in the society. Mere liturgical practice is not enough to be a true Buddhist but active involvement in social and humanitarian activities greatly count as they help accumulate merits.

Religious and social workers should seek young adults' dynamic participation, sharing of experiences with others in community, educational, cultural and recreational programs.

Young adults should be taught how to polish their personalities by practicing self-restraints, modesty and humility. Outdoor and indoor activities that help strengthen the minds, bodies and spirits of young adults should be emphasized.

Conclusion

Venerable Master Hsing Yun advises people to stand locally and think globally and not let practices of Humanistic Buddhism limit to certain regions and among certain groups of people. Venerable Master encourages people to use effectively the available resources, literature, art and music, and to produce such materials to propagate Buddhism. He stresses on needs "to read a first rate book, to be a first rate person and to build a first rate society" by creating a study group on varieties of Buddhist literature. Interaction among people also is needed to promote Buddhism. Buddhism will have value only to the extent to which it can confirm to the times providing people with joy and happiness.

Let us be mindful of this verse from Dhammapada, "Sukha-Sanghassa Sa-maggi, Samaggana Tapo Sukho."

Happy is the Unity and Harmony of the Sangha (the community). Happy is the concord and the discipline of the United ones (brotherhood). Humanistic Buddhism gives emphasis on full realization of the spirit of this verse and motivates everyone to strive for establishment of pure land in this very World by beginning from the very individual extended to family, neighborhood, region, country and the Universe.

References:

Trearury of Truth- By Ven. Weragoda Sarada Maha Thero

Epoch of the Buddha’s Light- Ven. Master Hsing Yun

Humanistic Buddhism, A Blue print for Life- Ven. Master Hsing Yun

The way to Buddhahood- Ven. Yin Shun

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying – Sogyal Rimpoche

Shakyamuni the Buddha and Shakya Heritage – Bhuvan Lal Pradhan

The Dhammapada- K. Sri Dhammananda

Handing down the light – by Amy Lui Ma

 

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