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The Interaction Between The Society Of Papua New Guinea With Humanistic Buddhism

2009年03月29日 16:28:00 佛教在线 点击:0

The Interaction Between The Society Of Papua New Guinea With Humanistic Buddhism

Rev Jue Chuan

巴布亚新几内亚文殊精舍监寺

Abstract: It has always been the vision of Fo Guang Shan to “let the Buddha’s Light shine over the three thousand realms and let Dharma water flow through the five continents”.   True to this vision, Humanistic Buddhism as taught by Venerable Master Hsing Yun of Fo Guang Shan, has been propagated throughout the five continents in the past forty years, from affluent countries to poorer countries, from big cities to smaller ones.  It has far reaches from its Headquarters in Kao Hsiung, Taiwan to countries such as Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Brazil, Paraguay, Canada, United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia etc. 

Key words: interaction  humanistic Buddhism  cultural exchange  education  charity  cultivation

This paper will discuss the propagation of Humanistic Buddhism in Papua New Guinea (PNG), a country which geographically lies just above Australia.  The paper pays particular emphasis in cultural exchanges, education, charity and cultivation and discusses how each activity interacts with the dissemination of Humanistic Buddhism in PNG.

1.  Papua New Guinea

In order to be able to propagate Humanistic Buddhism in PNG, it is imperative that there is an understanding of what the people of PNG require, whether the “traditional way” of propagation is suitable and whether this type of propagation can be accepted by the locals.  This is the fundamental requirement of localism.

PNG is country with diverse cultures.  There are over 850 different languages using among the villagers with English being the official language of the nation.  The majority of people live in small villages and many are still carrying traditional livelihood styles. The tribal system is still very much prevalent and the economy remains reliant on agriculture and sea.   

PNG has been part of the British Commonwealth colonies for centuries.  The immigration of Europeans and Asians has altered the nation cultures. As the society rapidly grew, the impacts are at a greater extent. The growing developments in big cities are moving faster than people can adjust and adapt.

The traditional way of life has becoming boring to the new generation. Villagers are moving from the remote parts of a state to find new way of life. However, living manners in cities are different from rural in the way of funding life styles. Better job opportunities are available but without required skill set; these opportunities seem to be far out of reach.

The relationships among the people of PNG are categorized by Whiteman (2008) into four groups:

i.The relationships with the ancestors  – “on the     Sepik River, there is a famous tradition of wood carving, often in the form of plants or animals, representing ancestor spirits” (Wikipedia 2009a).

ii.The relationships within the community - The relationships within the community are a gathering of brother-to-brother affairs. These associations have become what are called a “Wantok system”.  The mutual assistance, support, cares and well-being of each tribe is very much reliant on this brotherhood system. Job seekers will have more success in the positions they are applying for if their relatives are working in the same company.

iii.The relationships with the other communities - The contacts with other communities are not stable.   Unless the communities are related or are related via marriage among society members, the communities do not interact with each other.  Fights and other disruption to peace sometimes arises due to the different values adhered by the tribes.

iv.The relationships with the total environment - the relationships with the total environment are defined by the relationship with various spirits and powers. Whiteman (1984) provided that “proper relationships mean a healthy community, which in turn is the way to life….” If the relationships with the environment are damaged, then the healthy lives will decline. The traditional way is something people grew up with and these are still inherent within the people that have moved from the rural areas to the cities.

Educational systems are always under pressure because of the demands on skills requirements in the organizations. There are a small number of qualified teachers available in the country due to the lack of Government funding. Teachers in the state schools are not getting income regularly which lead to declining motivation and discipline. In additional, income schemes are minimal and government employees are hardly able to afford to live in the wider societies. As such, many of the teachers work in the private institutions for the superior income packages offered.

PNG has the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS in the Pacific region and is the fourth country in the Asia Pacific region to fit the criteria for a generalised HIV/AIDS epidemic.  HIV/AIDS awareness is increasingly raised with the assistance from the Australian government and other non-profit organizations.  This has resulted in more people being aware of the disease and assisting in the prevention of further transmission.

With the influences of city life, the population has become materialistic.  This has lead to various social problems.  The rural societies in the past were much simpler as the people could live off the land.  Nowadays, these lands have been developed into buildings, housing, schools and other development projects.  The author believes that the root of social issues in PNG is stemmed from the inadequacy of income from employment to support the family, materialism, lack of education and inability to cope with “new” diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

2.  The Arrival of Humanistic Buddhism in PNG

Buddhism is not a common religion in PNG. It is often seen as a religion with Eastern influences.  However, Humanistic Buddhism is Buddhism that can be applied into everyday lives.  It is not restricted to Eastern or Western cultures.  Anything that is the truth, is good and beautiful can be said to be Humanistic Buddhism.

In PNG, local tribal rules, traditions and relationships with spirits are still very much prevalent within the society.   As discussed earlier, the society is still coming into grips with the Western ways of the world, understanding materialism, the need for education and coping with a variety of “new” illnesses and diseases.  With this in mind, for the local PNG communities to understand Humanistic Buddhism, accept it and to apply it, the propagation of Humanistic Buddhism in PNG was required to be tailored with local needs.

The concept of Humanistic Buddhism was introduced to PNG on 5th October 1996 with the opening of the Manjusri Buddhist Centre in Port Moresby.   Although the propagation of Humanistic Buddhism is very much tailored to local needs, it did not stray from the four main objectives of Fo Guang Shan, that is:

1.To propagate Buddhist teachings through cultural activities;

2.To foster talent through education;

3.To benefit society through charitable programs; and

4.To purify human minds through Buddhist practice.

3.The rest of the paper will discuss the propagation of Humanistic Buddhism with the four objectives in PNG.

3.1  Cultural Exchanges

PNG is a country with many different cultures.  As such, it is important to ensure harmonization between the different cultures and religious beliefs.  One means of doing so is to promote understanding between the different cultures and religions.

Over the years, Fo Guang Shan has been working together with various community leaders to promote harmonization in diversity.  These include dialogues and exchanges at the annual Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogues co-sponsored by New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.  The author represented Fo Guang Shan in the various dialogues with the most recent one being the third Asia–Pacific Regional Interfaith dialogue hosted by the New Zealand Government on 29 – 31 May 2008 at Waitangi in Northland.  The opening address by the New Zealand Prime Minister, Rt Hon Helen Clark was followed by other speeches including addresses by the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rt Hon Winston Peters, and President of the Philippines H.E. Gloria. Macapagal-Arroyo and various statements by the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, H.E. Dr, Nur Hassan Wirajuda and the Foreign Minister of Australia, H.E. Alexander Downer.  This regional process brings together faith and community leaders, experts and other civil society representatives from 15 countries from Southeast Asia and the South Pacific to discuss and promote means of enhancing mutual understanding, tolerance and a peaceful co-existence amongst the each faith, religion and community - and in so addressing some of the potential causes of religious conflict and extremism in the region.

Since PNG became part of the British Colony, Christian missionaries have been arriving in PNG in hope for integration between people, providing educational systems, raising awareness and bringing God into the everyday lives.  The author has been working very closely with these missionaries, such as the St Joseph and St Mary Missionaries and the Mission of Charity. 

The author has participated in three-week “Cultural Orientation” workshops and classes with the missionaries to discuss and understand the problems and issues faced by the local Papuans.  Included in these workshops are discussions on the organization of the missionaries, the running of these organizations, research and anthropology.  All the workshops were very practical and pragmatic, with no differentiation between the Christian and Buddhist missions. The author believes that it is very important for all religions in PNG to be in harmony so as to be able to promote more truth, goodness and beauty into the society.

3.2  Education

As discussed above, education is seen to be an integral part of the future of PNG.  Without a proper education system, the people of PNG will not be able to keep up to date with the rest of the world.  According to the Buddha’s teaching: “Mind is the fore-runner of everything.” The Constitution of UNESCO has also declared: “Wars begin in the minds of men and therefore it is in the minds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed.”

Education is also one of the main objectives in Fo Guang Shan.  Venerable Master Hsing Yun has been advocating education as part of fostering future talents.  As such, PNG Fo Guang Shan has established a kindergarten in the last few years.  The kindergarten operates five days a week and teaches about 150 students a day.  The main subjects that are taught are English, Mathematics, Science, Hygiene, Art and Music.  It has been very popular amongst the locals as the parents can see the improvements that education has made to the self-confidence, motivation and self-esteem for the children.

In addition, it has been recognized that there is a need for motivating and increasing the self-esteem of the local adults.  As such, after discussions with the various missionaries, it is believed that the religious groups in PNG can unite to provide holistic/whole educational program, such as self-awareness training with the basic educational systems as a means to develop the people. 

3.3  Charity

Basic needs such as food, shelter and medicine are always in demand in PNG.  In the thirteen years that Fo Guang Shan is in PNG, Fo Guang Shan has been donating food and medicinal supplies whenever that is required and has worked closely with the Department of Community in providing essential needs. 

The devastating tidal wave caused by an undersea earthquake at the Papua New Guinea Coast, Aitape on July 19, 1998 resulted in at least 9,000 victims injured, left homeless and about 3,000 were killed. After receiving this tragic news, PNG Fo Guang Shan launched an urgent relief operation lead by the author.  The Fo Guang relief team donated food and clothing.  A local airline, touched by Fo Guang members' act of kindness, offered free aircraft services to drop off food and emergency supplies to the stricken villages.

On 25 July 1998, the author brought more food, water and medical supplies to visit the victimized villagers and to assist in the distribution of these supplies.  On 30 July 1998, Lee Bo Fu and Shen Yo Chen from the Buddha’s Light International Association (“BLIA”) in Taiwan traveled  to the capital of Papua New Guinea.  They met with PNG Ministry of the Interior to express BLIA's sympathy and to discuss the assistance required by PNG in this unfortunate casualty.

Under the guidance of Venerable Master Hsing Yun and Venerable Tzu Jung, Secretary General, the urgent relief commissioner, Mr Robert Liao and his wife represented BLIA to travel to Aitape to help with the rescue operations on three separate occasions, July 24, July 25 and August 31.  In addition, BLIA World Headquarters donated $10,000 Australian dollars as emergency aid.

Other than assisting in emergency aid, PNG Fo Guang Shan has also tried to alleviate pain and sufferings of patients in hospitals.  There has been a weekly visit to the hospitals by the author with BLIA members to provide care, food, story books and toys for patients.  These weekly hospital trips enable the patients to temporarily forget that the pain that they are suffering and experience the comfort and joy.  This is in accordance with the work motto of all Fo Guang people of “Give others joy, give others hope, give others confidence and give others convenience”. 

Many children die of malnutrition in PNG.  The bodies of these children lie in hospital morgues until there are sufficient numbers and money to perform a burial.  PNG Fo Guang Shan has also been donating coffins for these children through the Friendship Association.

3.4  Cultivation

Teaching the concepts of Buddhism and propagating Humanistic Buddhism has not been easy in PNG with its many different cultures, traditional practices and ideas.  However, Fo Guang Shan does not give up the ideal of letting the Dharma water continuously flow throughout the five continents. 

Venerable Master Hsing Yun has always encouraged his disciples to “walk out into the society”.  One such event in PNG is that of the annual Buddha’s Birthday Celebrations.  Each year, the event is held at the Fo Guang Shan Temple and attracts hundreds of people to participate.   This is one opportunity for the locals to see and have a basic understanding of the Buddha and his teachings. 

In addition, weekly Buddhist Dharma services are held for the Buddhists in Port Moresby.  The services are intended to assist those attending in the diligent practice of Buddhism, the cultivation of self-imposed attitude, the roots of benevolence, and the cultivation of wisdom and to purify one’s mind.  The services are attended by 20 – 30 people weekly.

4.  Conclusion

PNG is a country of diverse culture and traditions.  Although it has experienced Western influences for a long time, Eastern ideas and culture have been relatively new.  Buddhism is almost unheard of and not practiced much at all. 

With the establishment of Fo Guang Shan in Port Moresby, Buddhism is slowly being introduced and accepted.  The Humanistic Buddhism that is propagated needs to be slowly incorporated into the daily lives of the locals through cultural exchanges, education, charity and weekly Buddhist Dharma services. 

The author believes that with Humanistic Buddhism being introduced to the society, it will bring about a better lifestyle.  This will be done through increased education, self-awareness, self-confidence and self-esteem and will empower each individual, bringing stability, values and peace to the society.

5.  Reference

1.Gunaratana, V H 1991, Mindfulness In Plain English, Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan.

2.Hornby, A S 2000, Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Oxford University Press, China

3.Joku, H 2009, Chiefs praise reforms in schools, Papua New Guinea Post Courier, No. 10128, 17th February 2009

4.Josephs, M J 2000, EDUCATION FOR ALL ASSESSMENT 2000: PAPUA NEW GUINEA COUNTRY REPORT, Department of Education, Viewed 20 February, 20009 at 1:50 pm, http://www.unesco.org/education/wef/countryreports/papua_new_guinea/contents.html

5.Mantovani, E 1984, An Introduction To Melanesian Religions: Point series No. 6, the Melanesian Institute, Goroka, Papua New Guinea.

6.McInnes, D 2000, Walking Together, Pixie Publication Pty Ltd, Waigani, Papua New Guinea.

7.Noho, B 2008, Victim urges tougher violence penalties, No. 9850,Papua New Guinea Post Courier, 6th February 2008, pp.5

8.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2008, Operation set to quell the increased use of ‘Ice’ in PNG, No. 9865, 6th February 2008

9.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2008, Hospital cuts operation due to lack of staff, No. 9865, 6th February 2008

10.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2008, Being self-reliant, No. 9865, 6th February 2008

11.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2008, Elementary education ‘plays vital role’ in PNG education, No. 9873, 18th February 2008

12.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2008, Dentistry school get boost, No. 9873, 18th February 2008

13.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2008, View Point: Ethnic violence wrecking lives in our urban centres, No. 9873, 18th February 2008

14.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2009, Act of shame!, No. 10127, 16th February 2009

15.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2009, Nasfund: 2009 to be tough, No. 10127, 16th February 2009

16.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2009, NCDC set to reclaim land in the city, No. 10127, 16th February 2009

17.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2009, The drum, No. 10128, 17th February 2009

18.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2009, Student turn to music to pay for fees, No. 10128, 17th February 2009

19.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2009, Police target Market place, No. 10128, 17th February 2009

20.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2009, View Point: No link to Buai trade and  rural closures, No. 10128, 17th February 2009

21.Papua New Guinea Post Courier 2009, View Point: Where has the people’s money been going, No. 10128, 17th February 2009

22.Sri Dhammananda, K 1989, How to live without FEAR & WORRY, Buddhist Missionary Society, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

23.Sri Dhammananda, K 1989, What Buddhists Believe, Buddhist Missionary Society, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

24.Tapakau, E 2008, Parkop eyes ban on buai, Papua New Guinea Post Courier , No. 9873, 18th February 2008, pp. 7

25.The National 2008, Govt to address issues affecting academics, 17th January 2008

26.The National 2008, Morans urged to respect the law, 17th January 2008

27.Victor, F 2009, Personal Observations: Papua New Guinean characteristics, 31 Years Lecture in Catholic Theology Institute, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Oral Interview, interviewed 9th February 2009.

28.Weeler, T 1993, Papua New Guinea – a travel survival kit, Lonely Planet Publications, Victoria, Australia.

29.Whiteman, D L 1984, An Introduction To Melanesian Cultures: Point series No. 5, the Melanesian Institute, Goroka, Papua New Guinea.

30.Wikipedia, 2009a, Papua New Guinea, Viewed 20 February 2009 at 1:00 pm, Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papua_New_Guinea#History

31.Wikipedia, 2009b, Education in Papua New Guinea, Viewed 20 February 2009 at 1:30 pm, Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Papua_New_Guinea

32.Wikipedia, 2009c, Education in Papua New Guinea, Viewed 24 February 2009 at 1:30 pm, Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holistic_education

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