Being members of this ever-changing world, the first thing we want to examine urgently is the problem concerning our future, namely, an outlook for future development. Young people who immerse themselves in Buddhism must hope that Buddhism will have a bright future. If the future of Buddhism has hope, we as Buddhist youth can feel that life is full of hope and meaning; we can have a sense of peacefulness both mentally and physically and feel secure. Let us look at the future of Buddhism from six points of view:
1. The future of Buddhism from the world's point of view
The world in which we are living now is called the "Saha World" According to Buddhism, "Saha World" means the world of suffering. Duhkha is the Sanskrit term for Suffering. it can obstruct the pure Buddha Nature within us, thus it is called "cover" or "barrier"; it twines and twists in our heart like a heavy rope, thus it is called a "knot"; it drives us to revolve in the wheel of transmigration (samsara) through our ignorance (avidya), thus it is called "pursuer" it makes us lose our self-nature, thus it is called "illusion" (moha). Other than the above, "fire", "poisonous arrow", "tiger and wolf ", "trap" etc., have also been used as similes for suffering. What kind of sufferings do we have in this Saha World? We suffer when our wishes are not fulfilled, we suffer because of our unbalanced personal relationships filled with love, hate, separation and union. We suffer because of natural disasters such as wind, rain, fire and earthquakes. We also suffer physically because of sickness and death and psychologically because of greediness, anger and stupidity. All these will be with us forever. However, living in such a Saha World, we are not completely without happiness. But happiness is very limited compared with what we have to suffer.
Buddhism does not want people to be like a withered log or a dead fire and to talk about the sufferings of this world in a serious manner all the time. Buddhism is a happy religion and hopes that everyone will find supreme peace and happiness. If Buddhism is a happy religion, why does it emphasize the suffering of life? It is because if you do not know suffering, you will not know happiness. Then you will not know why you have to learn about Buddhism. Suffering is what causes us to cultivate the Buddhist path. This Saha World of ours can gradually develop into a heavenly Pure Land. In Buddhism, when we talk about heaven, we mean the twenty-eight heavens contained within the three realms (Triloka). They are the six heavens of the realm of sensuous desire (Kamadhatu), the eighteen heavens contained within the realm of form (Rupadhatu), and the four heavens contained within the formless realm (Arupadhatu). There is a marked difference between the life of the people who live in these heavens and the life of our Saha World. These heavenly people have very long lives. For example, the people who live in the four heavens of the four Deva-Kings (Catur- Maharaja-Kayikas) are the nearest to our Saha World. One day and one night in their world is equivalent to fifty human years. Their life span is five hundred years, which is equal to nine million human years. Life in the formless realm is even longer; it is difficult for us to imagine.
Other than longevity, the blissful life of these heavens are also very remarkable. For example, when these heavenly people need clothes, clothes will appear by themselves; if they want to eat, food will come immediately. All wishes and desires will be satisfied. Moreover, their bodily weight, dwelling places and the serenity they attain through meditation are also remarkable. Considering the conditions of our Present world, we are approaching the standards of this heavenly life. We have air conditioning in hot summers, central heating in cold winters. We have automobiles, trains and airplanes that will take us to far-off places for work or travel. We have all kinds of delicious food to satisfy us when we are hungry. Radio broadcasts in the United States can be heard in Taiwan instantly. When we turn on the magic switch, we can watch ball games or boxing matches on television. We really can do whatever we want and have whatever we wish. Thus, materially, this world of ours will gradually develop into a heavenly wonderland. Although this Saha World can change from suffering to happiness and the happiness of heaven is boundless, this is not the ultimate. Even to live nine million years is only a limited life span. if the people of this Saha World start to believe in Buddha and recite Buddha's name, they can gradually attain a world of ultimate bliss which is different from the heavenly worlds. This world of ultimate bliss is a land of purity, where sensual relationship is not required for the continuation of life. It is a vast and wonderful place where ageing and impermanence do not exist. The ground of this Pure Land is covered by seven kinds of natural precious stones. There are no hazardous places such as high mountains, oceans, seas, rivers, canyons, etc. The weather there is just right all the time. There are no seasons such as spring, summer, autumn or winter. Houses are made out of seven precious stones. The water there has eight virtues and is sweet like nectar. All kinds of precious lotus flowers are everywhere. The people who live in this Pure Land have no sexual differences. When they are born, they all reincarnate from lotus flowers. They do not have to worry about any financial problems since food is everywhere, and no one would hoard it because whenever they want to eat they will feel full and content right away. This wonderful Pure Land also has hundreds and thousands of different kinds of lights shining, making it a magnificent and brilliant place.
From this, we can see that this ultimate blissland is much more supreme and wonderful than heaven. Why are more and more people in Taiwan reciting the Buddha's name? Because they want to change this human world into a Pure Land. A Buddhist proverb says, "A pure heart will create a Pure Land." This is not just someone's imagination or merely a fairy tale. According to the sutra, this blissful land is ten thousand million Buddha-realms away from us, one Buddha- realm being 3,000 great chiliocosms or universes. This means that the distance between our Saha World and the blissful Pure Land is 10 thousand millions of 3,000 great chiliocosms. This astronomical figure could really scare people off. However, the sutras also tell us that we can go to this world of blissfulness when we leave this world, if we have such a wish. Today, it takes American astronauts several days to land on the moon, which is over 20 million miles away from earth. Even so, it just takes us a moment's thought to arrive in the Pure Land, which is 10 thousand million Buddha-realms away. This is not a scientific or material world, it is a world of faith. If more people start to recite the name of Buddha, our world will gradually become a Pure Land.
If one continues to practice in this way, the world will eventually develop into the "Lotus- world" (The Pure Land of Vairocana). In this Lotus-world, 3,000 great chiliocosms can be contained within a tiny speck of dust. You may recall what is stated in the sutra's concerning Indra's famous net. The pearls on the net reflect each other. The whole universe is seen in them. They shine on heaven and earth. Time and space all merge together. There is no distinction between mind and matter. Buddha-realms from the ten directions and all the specks of dusts in the universe all revolve around each other in mutual interdependence. In such a world of infinity, everything is interconnected perfectly, spread across the three dimensions and the ten directions. There is no inside nor outside, no past nor present, no shortages nor deficiencies of any sort. The concept of space and time has been transcended. The concept of possession and nonpossession has been eliminated. If the ideal of a Lotus-world were fulfilled, we could dwell in such a world without worrying whether we are rich or poor. We would feel happy and content, delicious or rotten food would be tasteful, praise or insult would sound like pleasant melodies.
In the Pure Land of Vairocana, it does not matter whether it is a blade of grass or a tree or a person or an object, there is no difference between one or many or between pure and impure. If we keep practising diligently, it will not be difficult for us to reach the stage of perfect equanimity. Today, a lot of people feel that the end of the world is coming soon. I think this is an overly pessimistic and irresponsible type of mentality. We Buddhists, if we are really concerned about the destiny of mankind, should practice what the Buddha taught. Then our world will not only become a heaven, it will also turn into a Pure Land or a Lotus-world.
2. The future of Buddhism from history's point of view
We called the prehistoric time the "Divine-power" era. At that time people's intelligence was not yet developed. Their life was very simple. They ate raw meat and drank blood. They lived in caves. They felt that all kinds of natural forces were unpredictable, especially those natural destructive forces such as wind, water, thunder, rain and fire. Primitive people faced all these inescapable and incomprehensible outside forces with terror. Thus, they imagined that there must be some kind or many kinds of forceful and invisible things that were controlling their fate and punishing the human race. They asked for forgiveness through various methods of sacrifice and worship. This created the "Divine-power" era, in which many gods were being worshipped. In the eyes of primitive people, a sudden roar from the sky together with lightning meant that the god of thunder was angry. When strong winds were blowing, the god of wind was showing off his power. Pouring rain and flooding was a warning from the god of rain. Moreover, the sun, moon, mountains, rivers, streams, seas, stars, clouds and smoke, etc., all had their own god. Today in Taiwan, even a big tree can be called a god. Rocks or land can also be called a god. Thus, we can see that this kind of "Divine-power" idea is not limited to primitive people. The primitive people believed that anything that was unknown to them must be a god. The creation of everything, the formation of the universe, all these were the ideas of the god. God was the ultimate.
Later on, this "Divine-power" era was superseded by the "King-power" era. People's life gradually changed from family to tribal living. A person who was more intelligent and had leadership abilities would rise above the rest of the people and unite all the tribes and thus become the emperor. The emperor was the most powerful man. He could control the life and death of all his subjects. This era continued for several thousand years in our world.
Gradually, people started to realize that this kind of "King-power" was not reasonable. Thus, they began to revolt and promote "People-power". Eventually, this made it so that every man had his own freedom. The barrier between the ruler and the ruled was broken. From then on, people's affairs were managed by the people themselves. For example, in the Republic of China we practice the Three Principles of the People: Nationalism, Democracy and Livelihood. Public servants have to be elected by the people. Freedom of choice is respected because everything is determined in accordance with human rights.
This modern era of "People-power" gives people a lot of freedom and rights and protects people's life, but is this the ultimate? Is this where people's ideals stop? A person who is knowledgeable would expect that a ôLife-power" era would appear following this "People- power" era.
Life means all kinds of living beings. In the future, all living beings should have an equal right to existence. This would include men of all types of family background, looks, character, intelligence and physical make-up, whether rich or poor, pretty or ugly, strong or weak, wise or stupid. it would even extend to all kinds of animals, reptiles and insects. Today, more civilized countries have already established laws to protect animals, and many nations have created wild life protection areas. In Taiwan, we have an animal protection day. A lot of people protest against cruelty towards animals because all animals are living creatures. From the material point of view, we are all made up of bones, flesh and skin. if we send animal hair, skin, bone and flesh to the laboratory and have them analyzed, we will find that they are all made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium and iron, etc. From the mental point of view. although animals' feeling, thought, behavior and knowledge are not as developed as that of men, their perception of pain and happiness is obvious. From the higher animals such as man to the lower animals such as ants and insects, all show the same desire for survival and dread of death. We all wish to escape from pain and seek happiness. After the era of "People-power" we should enter into an era of "Life-power", which is exactly what Buddha meant when he said, "All living beings have the Buddha Nature."
3. The future of Buddhism from society's point of view
The kind of society formed by primitive people was called nomadic society. They moved around to places where there was natural water and grass for herding in order to maintain their life. Gradually, they started to settle down and developed into an agricultural society. Through the knowledge of farming, they maintained their life by growing plants. After the industrial revolution, the structure of the society changed rapidly. All human thought and values were challenged. In an industrial society people endlessly pursue material knowledge. The material world is the object for inspection, research, experimentation and utilization. This materialistic outlook not only colors our knowledge of the material world but also corrupts our knowledge of the spiritual realm. Confusion leads to moral corruption. The industrial era allowed people to have a comfortable life materially and also made people have a strong desire for material goods.
Materialism and the development of technology fail to allow relationships among individuals to develop in real freedom and equality. The same applies to the relationship between people and the material world. Worse, materialism creates conflicts, setting people against people and people against the material world. For example, the invention of the nuclear bomb can prevent military invasion, but on the other hand, it has created distrust between all the highly developed countries in the world. We can say that the development of our industrial society can enrich only our material life. The growth of our spiritual life and the raising of our moral standards must wait for the arrival of "The Ethical Society".
Skyscrapers are rising up everywhere. Life is pleasant. As our society is gradually becoming more prosperous, people's minds are becoming more corrupt and deluded. The development of society is in direct proportion to the number of people seeking for a balanced inner life. Material life cannot provide us with permanent peacefulness; only Truth itself is forever. For example, the United States is a highly industralized country, but the people of America today need religious belief more than ever before. They desperately need spiritual cultivation in their lives. Many people feel that the worshipping and praying on Sundays by the Protestants and Catholics are not enough.
Allow me to use the ordination at Fo Kuang Shan in 1977 as an example. We had a doctor of psychology, a master of linguistics and two professors who came from America, which is thousands of miles away, in order to be ordained as Buddhist monks and nuns. Recently, many Tibetan, Japanese and Chinese (Taiwanese) monks and nuns have gone to Europe and America in order to propagate Buddhism. The spreading of Buddhism in Europe and America is taking place at a very fast rate. In some places Buddhism is still in a germinating process, but in other places, Buddhism has already aroused an enthusiastic response. In America alone, many universities have organized Buddhist study groups, meditation classes, talks and discussions on Buddhism. Harvard University has a Department of Buddhism and a meditation hall. In Britain, the students of Oxford, Cambridge and London University have organized very lively Buddhist clubs. Because of the industrial development of society, people will gradually recognize the necessity of a life of cultivation. Thus, from society's point of view, the future of Buddhism is bright and full of hope.
4. The future of Buddhism from religion's point of view
Religion came into being from the beginning of human existence. The earliest people believed in the religion of nature. Just as we mentioned earlier, these primitive people did not understand the changes of nature, so they worshipped all natural occurrences as the will of God. They worshipped the moon, the sun, the wind, the rain, the thunder, the lightning, the trees, the stones, the sky, and the ground. We could even-say that there was nothing they did not worship or believe. The religion of nature slowly evolved to become the religion of gods and ghosts. Supernatural events were believed to be the manifestation of gods and ghosts. Village legends held that so and so had become immortal, or so and so had become a god worthy of worship. Later on, the religion of gods and ghosts gradually evolved into a religion of hero-worship. A person who had performed great feats among the people would be chosen as an object of worship. People adored him, considering him a hero and worshipping him as a god. Today, the religion of hero-worship is very popular in Taiwan. Nevertheless, it is my belief that this will gradually develop into the religion of Truth.
As the quality of education increases. people's intelligence also increases. Thus, people need a religion that responds to their craving for Truth. This religion of Truth does not talk about "god power", which makes people lose their senses and ability for self-realization. This religion of Truth is not blind belief due to the fear of nature, nor is it a religion that only worships people for their heroic acts. A religion of Truth must face all the problems of our universe and life. It should be able to solve people's inner conflicts and develop people's characters. It should allow people to attain the state of Nirvana that is the state without the pain of birth and death. Buddhism is a religion that suits the requirements of such a religion of Truth.
Buddhism is a wise belief. It is not a belief of superstition. What Buddhism believes is that all living beings have the Buddha Nature. All have the potential of becoming Buddha. The Buddha Nature contains everything, it is fundamentally pure. It was not born and it will not die. All things and phenomena are formed due to the combination of all the right causes (hetupratyaya). They do not have any self-nature and all have been created by the mind only. The purpose of believing in Buddhism is to attain supreme equality and enlightenment; that is, wisdom developed to the highest level and life evolved to the perfect state. We are full of confidence in the future development of Buddhism.
5. The future of Buddhism from life's point of view
The earliest Buddhist life-style was that mendicancy. Every day, the monks went out to beg for alms. They ate only once during the day and they sat under the trees to meditate. In primitive Buddhism, Buddha and his followers all begged for alms to meet their fundamental needs. When Buddhism spreaded east to China, the differences in the structure of society and life-style were such that begging for alms was not convenient. Thus, "Farming Ch'an" gradually became a way of life for the monks. "Farming Ch'an?made the monks or nuns self-reliant, since they farmed and practised at the same time. Ch'an Master Pai Chang Huai Hai was famous for his statement, "A day without work is a day without food." Master T'ai Hsu suggested that the monks do "Working Ch'an". His opinion was that farming and Ch'an practice could be done at the same time. Although working is a kind of physical labour, he felt it could coexist with Ch'an practice. Both Farming Ch'an and Working Ch'an gradually developed into an acceptable way of life for monks and nuns. A person who had renounced secular life and became a monk or a nun and wanted to lead a life of practice, did not have to live in the forest to meditate, or farm in order to provide for himself or herself. He or she could join a group, live and practice with the group, or join a monastery or go into the forest and lead a cooperative, harmonious and progressive life. Before, this kind of practice took place only in monasteries and in the forests, but now many places other than the monasteries offer this kind of living situation; for example, Buddha recitation groups, lay Buddhist groups, etc. If one continues to practice together in this way, what kind of result will it lead to? It will lead to enlightenment. If we encourage each other, study and discuss with each other, and stimulate each other to delve deeply into Buddhism, it can truly lead to enlightenment.
An enlightened life means a life that is based on the experience of egolessness and impermanence (anitya). It is a life that possesses freedom and is free from the shackles of life's suffering. The realization of egolessness allows the desire for possessions to be given up. When one understands the fact that everything arises from conditions and that voidness is the nature of all things, one is free from one's dependency on people or material goods. When such a state is attained, possessing money is still a convenience but possessing no money is no longer a burden since the richness within is much more important than money. A high position is certainly glorious, but a low position is also acceptable and does not do any damage to our self-respect, since within our own heart we feel our equality with all Buddhas. Having a healthy body is certainly fortunate, but sickness or even death is no longer threatening in the eyes of an enlightened person. Life and death are like a water bubble; when the bubble is broken, the nature of the water is still quiet and peaceful as usual. Although our physical body still has birth, aging, sickness and death, these are only phenomenal changes. Our timeless nature does not have any birth, aging, sickness or death at all.
If You understand that death is only physical and phenomenal, You can realize that our nature does not have any birth or death. Let us use gold as an example. You can use gold to carve out ear-rings, bracelets and rings, but all these things are not gold itself. The nature of gold does not change.
If through cultivation we begin to realize our true nature, it does not matter whether we live or die, whether we have or have not, or whether we come or go. There is no difference between life and death. Possession and non-possession are the same, come and go are one. This is a completely free and enlightened life. In our era, people's intelligence is gradually increasing. We are realizing the importance of Buddhist cultivation. The life of enlightenment can come upon us very soon. In the future, we should all have a free, happy and harmonious life.
6. The future of Buddhism from Buddhism's point of view
Buddha came to this Saha World and established Buddhism for only one reason, namely, to guide all beings to Buddhahood. Thus, Buddhism is concerned with the human condition. This is called people's Buddhism. After the enlightenment of the Buddha, Theravada Buddhism became popular in India. Buddhism has a history of 2,500 years. During Asoka's reign, Buddhism spread south to Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia where Theravada Buddhism is still being practised. But people who practice this form of Buddhism are starting to realize that it is not the ultimate. They are slowly accepting Mahayana (Great Vehicle) Buddhism, which is practised mainly in China, Japan, Korea and Tibet.
Ever since Buddhism was introduced to China during the Han Dynasty, Mahayana Buddhism prevailed there. However, at that time there were only Mahayana doctrines; the spiritual power of Mahayana was lacking. Afterwards, many eminent monks came forward to preach Mahayana Buddhism. Thus, the doctrines of the Mahayana School had a very lively development in China. In mainland China there are four very famous monasteries: P'u-t'o Shan is said to be the Bodhimandala (place of practice) of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, Chiu-hua Shan is Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's Bodhimandala, 0-mei Shan is Bodhisattva Samantabhadra's Bodhimandala, Wu-t'ai Shan is Bodhisattva Manjusri's Bodhimandala. Mahayana Buddhism stresses the Bodhisattva ideal and Buddhist practice for lay people. Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, Manjusri and Samantabhadra all appear as lay practitioners; only Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha appears as a monk. Thus, Mahayana Buddhism can be practiced by lay Buddhists.
The purpose of the practice of Buddhism is to train our mind in order to see our original nature, to know the truth about this universe and life, to be freed from the pain of birth and death and to attain the ultimate freedom and equanimity. We not only want to attain all of these for ourselves, but we also want all humans and animals to attain all of these as well. Ordinary people are completely ignorant about the truth of the universe and life. Through desire and clinging, they have to revolve in the cycle of life and death. People who practice Theravada are only partially enlightened. They view the three realms as a prison. They view people as their enemies. Once they renounce the world to become monks or nuns, they will never think of reentering it again. On the other hand, Bodhisattvas who have the spirit of the Great Vehicle, have realized that both the ego and all phenomena are non-existent. Through their great wisdom and compassion, they dwell in neither life nor death, nor do they dwell in Nirvana. They use their wisdom and compassion to reach for the supreme Buddha's way and to influence all sentient beings. This kind of supreme wisdom and corn passion is obtained while helping others. Wisdom without compassion is only deranged cleverness. Compassion without wisdom is only worldly feeling.
The spirit of the Bodhisattva is that he looks upon all beings sympathetically and treats them as if they are all parts of himself. This spirit allows wise people to become knowledgeable, kind people to have love, the brave to do good deeds, and thus allows all sentient beings to rely on each other and exist harmoniously.
In the past, Buddhism in mainland China was presided over by the Sangha while the devotees played a supportive role. People who wanted to renounce secular life to enter the door of Buddhism had to be prepared to give up all worldly concerns and abandon this defiled world. This is the standard of Theravada Buddhism. We should arouse the Mahayana spirit. All devotees should come and join in with the Buddhist movement, and hand in hand, preach Mahayana Buddhism in the spirit of the four Bodhisattvas. if we could do this, I think Buddhism in China would be in a much better situation than it is today. Today in Taiwan, there are many university students and young people who are well educated and have high ideals. They are starting to accept Buddhism and, with a mind of compassion, are hoping to devote themselves to Buddhism. If more young people come and join us with this compassionate understanding, using wisdom and kindness to influence others without complaints, the future world will become a world of "Buddhayana Buddhism".
Some people have said that if Buddhism died in China, it would be reintroduced into China from the West. This suggestion might not be correct, for we have begun to see a new Buddhist revival slowly happening now. In the future, I hope that all sentient beings will develop the wisdom and virtue of Buddha. May all living beings attain Buddhahood.
I have just discussed the outlook of Buddhist youth. We must have faith and hope about the future of Buddhism. When we devote ourselves to such a religion of Truth, and toil over our cultivation, we may be reassured that all our hopes will come true in the future. You can all see that the future of the world can be a Lotus-world as described by Buddha, the future era can be a "fife-Power?era, the future of our society can emphasize both work and practice, the future of our religion can be beneficial to all, the future of our life can be an enlightened life, the future can be the most ideal and harmonious world. The world of "Buddhayana (Buddha Vehicle)."
Originally, Buddhism was a religion which included the young but somehow was mistaken for a religion belonging only to the elderly. For example, some people will use "Wait till I am old" as an excuse for not learning Buddhism. They seem to think that Buddhism is a religion that belongs to the aged only, and you cannot become a Buddhist unless your hair has all turned grey and all your teeth have fallen out. Some people even think that Buddhism belongs only to the dead, because sutras are always being chanted in order to free the souls Of the dead from suffering in their next life. All these are misunderstandings. In Buddhism we can see that from Buddha Sakyamuni to Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Samantabhadra and Ksitigarbha, etc. all were young people. Buddhism is a Young people's religion.
Buddha Sakyamuni was thirty -one when he was enlightened. According to our standard, thirty-one is still very Young. Master Hsuan Tsang was the greatest man in the history of Chinese culture. He was only twenty-six when he decided to go to India and bring back with him many Buddhist scriptures. It was his youthful desire and bravery that enriched Buddhism in China. He left us countless cultural treasures. In the voluminous Buddhist scriptures and history, the glorious deeds of many young Buddhists have been recorded.
Even Manjusri, a person of high virtue and prestige, had to bow to Sumati, who was only a little girl of eight. Thus, age does not make any difference. Buddhism does not look down upon young people, nor does it discriminate against females.
In the 4th century, a monk named Seng Chao who was a disciple of Kumarajiva, died at the age of thirty-one. The treatise he wrote was named after him. In the history of Buddhism and Chinese culture. it is always noted as a great piece of work. Buddhism has raised and molded many young people who in return have devoted themselves to the progress and prosperity of Buddhism. Sudhana was the most famous character in the Avatamsaka Sutra. He was a humble little boy who called on fifty-three wise sages and Bodhisattvas in order to seek the right way and to discuss with them the state of mind of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Everywhere he went, he was received respectfully. Thus, we can see that Buddhism is certainly not a religion for the aged only. It is also open to the young.
We cannot deny that the methods some temples use to preach Buddhism are not appropriate. When we are talking to lay devotees we should encourage them to develop their mind. But some Dharma Masters, because they have renounced themselves, tend to expect their lay believers to become vegetarians, to renounce and to observe the precepts of bhiksus and bhiksunis. This has created a communication gap between the teachers and the believers. In addition to this, the unrest of the country and society in recent years has done much damage to Buddhism. Since the end of the Ming Dynasty, Buddhism has been declining. The disturbance caused by the T'ai-ping Rebellion(1850-1864) during the Ch'ing Dynasty and the destruction done by the Communists in mainland China today have both been disastrous blows to Buddhism. After all these disasters, the work of Buddhism has not been able to be carried out according to the original ideals. The great ones of Buddhism are not as numerous as they were during the T'ang and Sung dynasties. Buddhism in Communist China today is going through difficult times. There has been nothing like it since time immemorial. Living in such an era, we as young Buddhists should carry the load of Buddhism on our shoulders. We have to enhance and glorify the real spirit and original nature of Buddhism. We have to establish Buddhism as a young people's religion. In order to establish a young people's Buddhism, we have to talk about what Buddhism expects from young people and what young people must do to become the pillars which defend Buddhism. I would like to make the following suggestions.
1. Purify ourselves with sila and Dharma.
If Buddhist youths want to help themselves and others and to become the pillars of Buddhism, they must be compassionate and be ready to strive for the ideals of life. They must be self- conscious and have will-power. The basics of all these come from the purification of ourselves with the Buddhist precepts and the Dharma. If we don't purify ourselves, how can we expect society and other people to be purified? Thus, the priority for young Buddhists is to observe the precepts and to practice the Dharma. The contents of the precepts are voluminous. The precepts observed by lay disciples are different from those observed by ordained monks and nuns. Lay disciples may take the five precepts, the eight precepts or the Bodhisattva precepts. The five precepts are the basis for most of the other precepts. They are to:
If we want to have a harmonious and happy society, we all should observe the five precepts. Today, many Buddhist believers want to have a long life, and yet they kill the innocent. They want to be rich, so they steal and bribe. They want to have a harmonious family and yet they violate the peace of other's families. They want to be famous, yet they speak falsely of others. They want to be wise, and yet they always do stupid things.
Thus, if we as Buddhist youths want to stand upright, to retrieve what seems to be hopeless, to radiate brilliant light in order to benefit all sentient beings, we need to observe the precepts as our basis. A Chinese proverb says, "One wanting to climb to high places has to start from low places. One wanting to go to far-away places has to start from nearby." If we don't have the principles of Buddhism and do not observe the five precepts, we will not benefit from Buddhism at all. We can go to the jails and make an investigation. The reasons why the prisoners are locked up and have lost their freedom is because they have broken one or more of the five precepts. For example, murder and injury both go against the precept of not killing. Some people received bribes, some stole and some robbed. All these are against the precept of not stealing. Some people disturbed others' families, some did things that undermined public morality, some remarried and some raped. All these are against the precept forbidding sexual misconduct. Some people were dishonest and cheated others. These are against the precept which forbids lying. Also, smoking of opium and marijuana, glue sniffing, injection of pentarocine and the use of other drugs that can cause people to become intoxicated are more or less against the precept which forbids the use of intoxicants. Our society does not tolerate people who disregard the five precepts and violate the rights of others. The prisoners have lost their freedom due to their own misconduct. I feel that today's Buddhist youth should be passionate and lively, but they should also follow the rules of life and observe the precepts seriously. Some people say that with all these lively Buddhist youths, we could organize a Buddhist choir in order to purify our lives and bring some liveliness to Buddhism. It is true that we need to encourage the popularization of Buddhist music and chanting. Some people suggest that travelling would open our heart and eyes and help us to relax. All sorts of pilgrimages have been organized. But Buddhism also expects Buddhist youths to take a deeper look into the sutras and sastras, to follow the precepts and the Dharma and to use what Buddha taught as the basis of one's own faith. If we Buddhist youths want to awaken the people of our time, if we want to bring some new spirit to Buddhism, we have to be humble and prepare ourselves. We have to study diligently and extensively. We can overcome other religions only if we are knowledgeable about them. We can benefit all the people only when we are familiar with various skills and technologies. We can be enlightened and help others to become enlightened only if we are perfectly clear about the meaning of the Four Noble Truths, the Twelvefold Chain of Causation, the Six Paramitas and the various methods of practice.
2. Benefit all sentient beings with altruism and happiness.
For Buddhist youths, just observing the precepts, understanding the Dharma and purifying one's self is not enough. The spirit of Buddhism is not only to save ourselves. We have to save others as well. We have to benefit ourselves and others. We must attract and convert all sentient beings with altruism and happiness.
If we cannot be of any benefit to others in this world, our existence here is meaningless. Thus, ever since I started propagating the Dharma, I have been following the teaching of Master T'ai Hsu. I emphasize the preaching of the original spirit of Buddhism and pay special attention to the preaching of humanistic and living Buddhism. Buddhism is not a religion of empty talk. We have to start by improving people's lives. We cannot aim too high and forget about the fundamentals. We have to be realistic. Just talking about truth is not enough. We have to benefit everyone and make them happy.
How can we benefit others? How can we bring happiness to others? The establishment of orphanages, senior citizens' homes, schools, hospitals, Buddhist museums, libraries, cultural centres, celebration parties, Sunday schools, language classes and all sorts of social activities such as performing marriage and funeral ceremonies are all beneficial to the general public. From now on, Buddhism will not only build monasteries and perform rituals, but will also follow what the Buddha taught and bring a new life-style to people. I feel that it is the responsibility of today's Buddhist youths to benefit and bring happiness to all sentient beings. The load is heavy and the road is long and winding. If we do not take the responsibility, who will?
3. Secure ourselves in dhyana and wisdom.
Today's society is in a confused state. People always feel uncertain and anxious. The worst thing of all is not knowing where to place one's body and mind. For example, some people work at a job they do not like, yet if they do not work they feel bored. If they watch television all day or gamble, play, eat and wander around all the time, the emptiness within makes them feel hopeless. Thus, settling our body and mind is of utmost importance. In Buddhism, repeating the name of Buddha can ease our body and mind. Ch'an meditation is also a good method of relaxing ourselves. The former helps us to focus our mind on the Buddha's name, while the latter helps us to use true wisdom to dwell in the pure state of dhyana. In order to meditate we have to go through a stage of fundamental training. it is just like learning to swim as the first stage of becoming a life-guard. After we have trained our body and mind and are experienced in meditation, we will be able to feel the joy of Ch'an. We not only meditate when we are sitting, but also when we are eating, sleeping or working. There is a Chinese saying which states, "The moon outside the window is the same as usual, it is the plum flower that makes the difference." If we Buddhist youths have the experience of Dharma, regardless of whether we are walking, sleeping or sitting, or whether we are studying or practising, we can feel the beauty of life and be at ease with ourselves.
After we have attained dhyana, we still have to cultivate our wisdom. For example, if a person decided to read a chapter of a book each day, he would have read 365 chapters in a year; that would be 3,650 chapters in ten years. All of these put together is a tremendous amount. After we have gained wisdom, everything we look at is different from before. Why did Buddha say that all living creatures have the Buddha Nature? if we look at this world with our wisdom eye, we can see the light of truth. But the wisdom we talk about in Buddhism is different from the wisdom used by scientists. Worldly wisdom is not separated from the differentiations of our consciousness, while the wisdom of Buddhism is to reveal our original nature and help us to destroy all illusions.
Buddhism is like a high mountain. When we climb up, we can see through all worldly phenomena. Buddhism is also like an ocean. If we understand it, our wisdom is vast and boundless.
I hope every one of you can use sila and the Dharma to purify and strengthen yourselves, use altrusim and happiness to benefit and convert others, and dwell in Dharma and wisdom to transcend yourselves. I would like to remind myself and everyone of the Chinese saying, "If you want to see a thousand miles away, go up a little higher!"