Necessary Activities for BLIA Members
In previous chapters, we have discussed the BLIA’s guiding princi- ples, its beliefs, its responsibilities, its goals and its major aims. In this chapter, I would like to delve in greater detail into the kinds of things each member should try to do to ensure that the BLIA is successful in accomplishing everything it has set out to do.
How to accomplish internationalization
The societies of the world, for the most part, have evolved from autocracy toward democracy. They have evolved from monolithic structures into dynamic organizations characterized by multiplicity and variety.
This evolution has led to massive changes in the kinds of lives people now live as compared to the kinds of lives lived by people in the past.
Agricultural societies were quite stable, and change was usually very slow. Nowadays, change happens quickly, and people are forced to be active and creative in nearly everything they do.
People prize privacy and freedom today. They are better educated than ever before, and much better able to express themselves and find the will to get what they want.
These individualistic tendencies have had enormous impact on all the people of the world. Not only have societies become more dynamic than ever before, but the relationship between the individ- ual and society also has become much more active and much more important.
Those of us who recognize these changes in the world must also recognize that our responsibilities toward the world have only increased because of them. No longer can we sit back and dream that what we do has no effect on others, or that our lives cannot possibly be of use to society.
The world now is a complex matrix of peoples, languages, governments and organizations that constantly interact and constantly influence one another.
What we do in the BLIA, or as members of the BLIA, will have ramifications beyond anything we can imagine right now. As Buddhists, we should always bear in mind that “all phenomena arise from conditions.” Through our efforts and our abilities to cooperate with other members of the BLIA, we will succeed in affecting the very conditions of the world in which we live.
The Flower Adornment Sutra describes a realm wherein all lights blend and there are no more obstructions. That is where the world is headed. If we in the BLIA are active in our dedication, our influence will surely be of the highest sort. So that each one of us can make the greatest contribution possible to the world, I want to present the following four suggestions:
- Communicate with someone abroad at least once a month.
- During the year, spend time with at least ten people from another culture or nation so that all of you can broaden your views of life.
- At least five times during the year, give some kind of help to people from another culture or nation.
- Take at least one trip abroad every three years to broaden your understanding to the world.
How to humanize Buddhism
In Buddhism, the human realm is the most important realm of all. The human realm is the realm where great transformations can occur, and it stands between the higher and lower realms. Not only have all the Buddhas in the universe achieved enlightenment in this realm, but this also is where great sages and great bodhisattvas appear to preach the Dharma. Bodhidharma, Faxian, Xuanzang, and many others underwent great hardships solely for the good of sentient beings living in the human realm.
It is a real pity that so many Buddhists, especially when they first begin to practice, place so much emphasis on long retreats and on liberating themselves from the cycle of birth and death. These are important concerns, but remember, no one is going to achieve liber- ation from the cycle of birth and death if he has not first figured out how to live as a human being in the human realm. Amitabha Buddha has promised to carry sentient beings to his Pure Land after death, but remember, he also said that if a person’s “merits and goodness were not sufficient, he would not be able to take rebirth in the Pure Land.” If you do not work to improve yourself in this realm, how can you really expect to liberate yourself from the cycle of birth and death?
The very Dharma the Buddha established was established in this world. And it was established only after the Buddha “practiced virtue for three asamkyas and morality for one hundred kalpas.”
All of us must first live fully, virtuously and compassionately in this world before we can ever expect to transcend anything. If you really think you are going to become enlightened all by yourself without other people, you are mistaken. You are like someone who is trying to find a fish living in a tree.
All members of the BLIA should be very clear about this. The great wisdom of the sages and the fullness of the bodhi mind only can be attained in this world among people, and they cannot be attained somewhere else. The following suggestions are specific means by which members of the BLIA can improve their commitment and understanding of Humanistic Buddhism.
- We should think about Humanistic Buddhism, we should speak about it, and we should practice We should speak positively about life in this world and exult in the joy and beauty of it. We should seek to help others without being asked. We should treat our friends and loved ones with kindness and consideration. We should develop a strong sense of gratitude for everything we have, and we should always act on what we know is right.
- We should make vows that establish the primacy of human beings. As Buddhists, we must make vows that establish the depths of our own characters, but we can only really succeed in doing this if we vow to be compas- sionate toward others first. We must vow to help others, and we must vow to take on new responsibilities for the good of others. This is the bodhi Way. It may seem, at first, like a sacrifice to dedicate yourself to helping others, but in the end you will see that same dedication is the only means by which the highest human potential is released.
- We must not reject life’s There is nothing wrong with material abundance, and we should work to produce it, and use what we produce to help others. At the same time, we must realize that material abundance always is limited. Our real joy should spring from joy and wisdom of the Dharma. With this joy firmly established in our hearts, we will have the means necessary to function efficiently on the material plane without becoming so involved in things what we lose our concentration.
We must consider humanism to be an essential part of our practice of Buddhism. The Five Precepts, the ten wholesome acts, the four means of embracing , the four vows and the six perfections are the essence of Buddhist practice. At the same time, they are the essence of human- istic Buddhism, too. If all of us really practice Buddhism in this way, we will succeed in making this world into a Pure Land.
We must have a vision with which to face the future
In the past, Buddhism too often was characterized by passivity and inactivity. Buddhists too often were content to “follow conditions,” and not create them themselves. Without a vision of its own future, Buddhism will continue to languish in its cocoon, and by doing that, fundamentally contradict some of its most basic principles. I believe it is essential that we create a vibrant vision of the future of Buddhism in this world. To this end, I will mention the following four points:
- We must pay close attention to the real circumstances that will characterize the future.
The world is changing very quickly. To grasp these changes and use them for the good of Buddhism, we must fully comprehend the inter-workings of societies, science, economics, governments and the environment. As these massive factors move and change, so the world will change. We must not ignore the importance of these very real conditions. We must actively seek to understand them in all of their depth and complexity.
- We must think about the future of Buddhism.
If Buddhism is to develop as a viable religion in this world, it must adapt itself to the conditions present in the world. Each one of us should think deeply about where Buddhism is going, and how we can be of service to this great tradition as it moves into the future. Every choice we make about the future of Buddhism should be founded on clear reasoning and good intentions.
- The BLIA itself should make specific and detailed plans for its future.
In addition to its short-term plans, each BLIA chapter should make separate five-year plans, ten-year plans, twenty-year plans, fifty-year plans and even one-hundred-year plans.
- Each BLIA member should also be concerned with the future of his or her own life.
The path of the arhant has its four levels of going toward the fruits of sramana and its four fruits of sramana, while the bodhisattva Way of Mahayana Buddhism is divided into fifty-two detailed stages. These details and divisions show the importance that Buddhism places on clarity of vision and good planning.
Each member of the BLIA should borrow on some of this vision and apply it to his or her own life. Analyze yourself. Where do you want to be one year or five years or twenty years from now? Those of you who are good at speaking should consider studying for one of the BLIA’s lay teaching positions. Others of you may consider writing. Those of you who are good at planning and organization may want to lend your talents to the administration of your local chapters or to the development of your local communities.
We must base our unity on clear guidelines
In China, Mahayana Buddhism allowed itself to divide into eight different schools. There was Tiantai, Chan, Pure Land, Mind-Only and several other schools, not to mention further internal divisions within each of these. Looking back on the past now, it really seems to be a pity that so many people so often worked at cross-purposes. Their inability to unite made them weak when they needed to stand up to the government, and it enervated Buddhism as a whole by scattering its believers and leaving them to work too often alone.
As the BLIA looks to its future, we should be sure that we do not repeat those mistakes within our own organization or in our dealings with other Buddhists and other Buddhist organizations. Unity and cooperation are absolutely fundamental to the health of a large organization like the BLIA. These qualities are also essential for the promotion of all Buddhism.
Without unity in our own organization, we surely will not succeed in achieving any of our larger goals. Unity is fundamentally based on a willingness to cooperate. I hope all members of the BLIA will look deeply into themselves to find this very important emotional founda- tion. As outward signs of or commitments to each other, I hope all BLIA members will also accept the following four suggestions:
- Use the BLIA lotus gesture. This gesture is a physical representation of our willingness to cooperate with other members of the BLIA. When we greet each other with this gesture, we signal our friendliness as well as the joy we find in Buddhism.
- Wear the BLIA vest at large gatherings. This vest identi- fies who we are. It helps other BLIA members recognize us, and it signifies that all of us are working toward the same end.
- Be united in your practice. Speak to each other and help each Wherever you go, you should feel that you are among people with whom you can share yourself. When BLIA members visit your temple, make them feel at home. When you visit their temples, don’t feel that you are an outsider. We all belong to the same group.
- Chant and sing together. These practices help unite our spirits as they lead to purity of thought.
Beyond these four items, all of us should try to seek unity of thought, activity, and community. When we unite under one master and travel together on one path, we succeed in helping each other as we create the conditions to bring Buddhism successfully into the next century.