The Character of the BLIA
People all have different characters, just as all things in the universe have their own, individual natures. The sea accepts all the world’s rivers, and the earth supports all its many forms of life. Since the BLIA is an international organization, it too must be expansive like the sea, and inclusive of all, just like the earth. I will discuss the character of the BLIA in more detail in the following four sections.
A tree can grow tall and flourish only if it has strong roots. In the same way, a human being can only live well if his or her character has deep roots. If you want to do great things in your life, you must first be certain that you have a strong and deep foundation. “The tallest buildings are built on flat ground.” The deeper and firmer the founda- tion, the taller the building can be.
The Flower Adornment says, “Belief is the source of the way and the mother of all virtue. She constantly nurtures all good roots.”
The roots of wisdom are belief. If we have deep roots of belief, then we will be able to rid ourselves of all suffering and purify our hearts and minds. If we have deep roots of compassion, then we will be able to increase our awareness of the bodhi mind as we develop our own best virtues.
Unlimited treasures lie behind the doors of belief. If you have one unit of belief, then you can reap one unit of the good harvest. If you have ten units of belief, then you will be able to reap ten units of the good harvest. Master Lingyu (518-605) of the Five dynasties period was not afraid of King Chou’s dislike of Buddhism. He preached anyway. Master Zhichao of the Tang dynasty also was not afraid of imperial displeasure. He ordained monks, no matter what the emperor thought. There were many courageous monks in the past who took great risks to preach the Dharma. If it had not been for them, there might not be any Dharma for us to hear today. Their willingness to take the risks they took was based on their unshakable faith in the truths of Buddhism. Faith is an indispensable virtue not just for what it can do
for us, but also for what it can do for others through us.
The main difference between the BLIA and other large organiza- tions is that the BLIA is founded on religious belief.
Our guiding principles are based on belief, just as our basic eight beliefs emphasize belief and faith. We proclaim our belief in the Triple Gem before all the world.
In addition to this, we carry on many activities whose major focus lies in furthering people’s belief in Buddhism.
We make belief a mainstay of our families, and from there, use it
to influence and help other people.
Since its inception in 1991, the BLIA has grown strong and our work has seen much success. We have met with success only because we have deep roots of faith and belief upon which we may constantly draw.
Buddhism is a religion concerned with the welfare of all sentient beings.
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva embodies a compassion that includes all beings. Samantabhadra Bodhisattva has dedicated himself to helping all sentient beings. Pure Land Buddhism is based on a vow all of us can take, and by this vow, it is designed to save everyone who is willing to try. Chan Buddhism shows everyone how to escape suffering, and no one is ever excluded.
Universalism is a fundamental concept that lies at the heart of all Buddhism. When we do things with a universal consciousness, we do them in a way that can bring benefit to all beings. When we always deal with people with a universal inclusiveness, then we will cast our net of mercy as widely as it should be cast.
The BLIAis rooted within the great tradition of Buddhist tolerance, which comes from deep in the past.
Not only do we welcome all disciples of Buddha into our ranks, no matter where they may come from, but we also support and help friends of Buddhism, even if they are not Buddhist themselves.
Since all of us share the same high ideals and the same ardent enthusiasm for spreading Buddhism to all corners of the world, the BLIA has been very successful in the few years since its formation. Since we make no distinctions among ourselves as to social position, age, race or wealth, we have succeeded in spreading bodhi seeds to many parts of the world in a very short period of time. Our efforts to make Buddhist virtues like compassion, prajna, meditative concen- tration and self-control mainstays of the world’s culture have been welcome wherever we have gone. Even the governments of many nations around the world have been supportive of our efforts. We have seen this sort of repeated success because our first emphasis always has been on universalism. We do this for all the world’s peoples, and no one is excluded.
Ever since the time of the Buddha, Buddhism has been characterized by its adaptability.
Buddha enjoined his disciples to use whatever means necessary to preach the Dharma and to adapt it to the conditions of whichever society they found themselves in.
An example of this willingness to adapt can be seen in the way the Dharma itself has been preserved over time.
In the Buddha’s day, the Dharma was only taught orally. There were no written sutras. In time, people began to write down the Buddha’s teachings. Over the years, sutras have been written, copied, painted, or carved in wood and stone, depending on the conditions and needs of the time and place. In this modern world, the sutras are being placed on line so they can be researched even more easily on computers.
Another example of Buddhism’s adaptability can be found in Buddhist charity works and healthcare facilities.
In the distant past, Buddhists stockpiled grain in case of famine. Gradually, temples began to amass some wealth, which they often used to lend to people in need. Many temples also oversaw lending among their members. Small interest payments from these transactions were used for temple repairs and the like. Nowadays, we have Buddhist nursery schools, high schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, clinics, magazines, and even TV shows.
The BLIA is dedicated to furthering this process of expansion and adaptability.
By preaching Humanistic Buddhism, we hope to bring the truths of Buddhism into the everyday lives of people everywhere. By preaching Buddhist morality, we hope to influence in a positive way how groups of people interact among themselves. By advocating environmen- talism, we hope to transform the way people treat the natural world around them. By using TV and radio to broadcast Buddhist ideals to as many people as possible, we hope to infuse society with the wisdom of the Buddha himself. In doing these things, we try to be as modern and skillful as possible, because only in this way can we hope to success- fully make Buddhism into a living and active force that participates in the world’s development even as it seeks to influence it.
Buddhism is vast. It is vast not only across time, but also across space. The Buddha did not preach the Dharma merely to one place at one time.
After his enlightenment, the Buddha said, “All sentient beings in the whole universe possess the wisdom of the Tathagata.”
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva has pledged to answer any call for help, no matter where it comes from. Sudhana traveled all over India to learn Buddhism. In his eighties, Master Zhaozhou (778-897) still traveled between distant monasteries in China to deepen his learning.
The BLIA is part of that vast tradition of Buddhism. We consider the world to be our home and all people to be our family.
Every year the BLIA holds its annual conference in a different part of the world. In addition to this conference, the BLIA hosts many other kinds of meetings and seminars all across the globe. We hold board meetings, meetings of lay preachers, seminars with Buddhist monks from other orders, and large interdenominational conferences designed to improve communication among the world’s different religions. We sponsor the World Buddhist Examination to encourage people to study Buddhism throughout the year. The BLIA is also involved in disaster relief and charity work. In these ways, we try to send our message to every part of the world.
The character of an organization determines its effectiveness. If an automobile is well-tuned and well-maintained, it will travel far and fast. If a missile is well-made, it will be able to fly very far and strike with great accuracy. We have based the BLIA’s fundamental character on belief, on universalism, on adaptability and on internationalism. If we really want to accomplish our highest ideals, it is essential that all members of the BLIA work together harmoniously and positively to bring these ideals to fruition. If we all cooperate with each other, I am sure the BLIA will continue to bring the aid and comfort of Buddhism to even more of the world’s people.