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Chinese Buddhism engages the world
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By Dharma Drum Mountain    Shih, Chang Hwa

Chinese Buddhism Engages the World

Change and Innovation

Living in the 21st century, while information technology and biotechnology are continually making astounding progress, and transformed our ways of life, conversely, they have also introduced many contentious issues to our civilization. The world’s religions also need to be resilient and adapt to these changes from the inside out. With change comes opportunity, whilst preserving our religious identity.

The Most Venerable Master Sheng Yen, founder of Dharma Drum Mountain, once said, “As sociological patterns in the 21st century changes, so does the sociological psychology. We should adapt to these changes accordingly. This adaptation is not merely reacting to change, but we should also be proactive about change. ”

Just like the current earthquake disaster at Sichuan, we are grateful to the Chinese government for authorizing Dharma Drum Mountain to be part of the first group of organizations to arrive at the devastated region. We were able to mobilize many sectors of the society to join us toward our disaster relief efforts.

My teacher, the Most Venerable Master Sheng Yen, utilizing the principles and spirit of Chinese Chan Buddhism, introduced to the world “Protecting the Spiritual Environment”, “Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance” and “The Six Ethics of the Mind” campaigns, under the auspices of Dharma Drum Mountain, to actively bring about the virtuous transformation of society. This is a manifestation of innovation and change in Dharma Drum Mountain.

Bridge Buddhism and Science

Currently in the West, the trans-disciplinary study of science and religion is rapidly rising in popularity, especially for the younger generation and the intelligentsia. Many world religions are trying to link with science. Tibetan Buddhism has been collaborating actively with scientists in medicine, neurobiology, psychology, quantum physics, cosmology, etc. In the series of research, the topic of how meditative practices influence the brain is of particular interest to the general public.

In 2007, Dr. James Austin delivered a speech on Zen and the Brain at Dharma Drum Mountain. Dr. Austin is a neurologist and an experienced Zen practitioner for over 30 years. He merged these two fields together perfectly and shed new light into both subjects. Also, recently, Dharma Drum Mountain organized a spiritual dialogue between the Most Venerable Master Sheng Yen and the American astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell also broaches into the topic of science and religion. In the future, Chan practitioners and scientists will have more opportunities to interact and collaborate through dialogues and research.

Learn from Others

Engaging the world raises another subject matter, and that is the need for mutual understanding and learning amongst religions and discipline. Many mainstream religions have been actively involved in interfaith dialogue. Representatives from different religious denominations were coming together to share their opinions and experiences, to develop common objective and undertake projects in bringing peace and harmony to the world. Therefore, it is very important for us to be actively involved in the affairs of the world.

From my limited experience and observation; Christian and Catholic groups are very socially engaged, for example, giving care to patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, orphans, senior, inmates, and even the marginalized children and youth suffering in poverty; Muslims and Jews incorporate religion as part of their lives, they value family life and the their religion is passed through marriage and children; Hinduism is not only part of the Indian life, but it has also become a culture. Several Hindu spiritual practices and yoga, which emphasis the balance of the body/mind/spirit have become very popular in the West. All these are good lessons for us to learn.

The Standpoint of Chinese Buddhism

Chinese Buddhism puts emphasis on self-liberation (Liberation Path) and the benefiting of others (Bodhisattva Path). It incorporated principles of Confucianism that centers on human morality and harmonious relationships and the principles of Taoism that centers on the Laws of Nature. Combined with the unique Buddhist principles of “emptiness” and “no-self”, this shed light on the unlimited potential of the Buddha nature of all living beings. Chinese Buddhism will find its niche to benefit people of the world.

For the continued sustainability of Chinese Buddhism, both monastics and laity need to work together, and examine holistically issues on the training of human resources, the creation of international management systems, program development and the establishment of friendships and partnerships.

Lastly, I would like to thank the Chinese Buddhist Association and the Chinese State Administration of Religious Affairs for inviting Dharma Drum Mountain. May this meeting be successful and fruitful.

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