“Left-home people should not get involved in politics.
But neither should they sit idly by and watch the nation decline.”
Venerable Master Hua
Many years have passed since the Venerable Master brought Buddhism to the United States. Although he has not become a naturalized American citizen, his care and concern for the United States and the American people have never diminished in the least. The Master thinks that the words and deeds of a country’s political leaders exert a far-reaching influence. There is a Chinese saying,
“Whatever those in superior position practice, their subordinates will emulate even more.” This is why the Master expects and exhorts the political leaders to have a noble and outstanding character, and to truly take the lead in being models for the people. In this way, the indulgent and decadent trends of a country can be changed and the people can once again enjoy blessings.
When former President George Bush was running for re-election in 1992, the Venerable Master told a White House public relations officer, who came to see him at the International Translation Institute in Burlingame,
“If President Bush can give up his salary, I can guarantee that he will be reelected.”
Later, the Master also wrote a letter to President Bush, repeating his advice.
25 September, 1992
President George H. W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsyvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, D. C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I. I write to you at a turning point in the history of this country, a time when natural disasters─such as hurricanes, floods, and human disasters─such as the AIDS epidemic and civil lawlessness─appear on all sides, testifying to the troubled spirit of the land. I speak to you from my heart and offer you my advice for reelection at a crucial juncture in this campaign year. I hope that once again, as you have done in the past, you will spare no effort or sacrifice in service of the American people.
Mr. President, only a virtuous person is qualified and fit to lead this nation. Given the unfortunate, time-honored habit of our electorate to blame its incumbent leaders for any and all problems in the land, for you to be re-elected at this hour will require extraordinary courage, great self-sacrifice, and a thoroughly innovative method. I will recommend such a method to you, a principle that will renew the people’s appreciation of your leadership qualities. I don’t fear that you will reprimand me for speaking frankly. I urge you to do what a President with less vision would find difficult to do, and volunteer your work as Chief Executive to the nation for no monetary or in kind reward.
If you let the people of the United States know that you will return your salary and that you plan to serve America purely, in the name of virtuous leadership, you will certainly be elected for the next four-year term. I guarantee your victory. What’s more, by refusing a salary, you will recapture in the hearts of Americans the virtuous spirit of Thomas Jefferson and the Fathers of Democracy, who led us through troubled times to nationhood, without concern for personal reward. The wind of your selfless example will blow throughout the world; heads of state across the globe will be moved from greed and imitate your courage.
A President who offers his candidacy only because it is his job, his responsibility to serve at this hour in our national history, will be revered by the American people, and re-elected as an unselfish, public-spirited leader whose sole concern is the well-being of his country. A president who guides the nation while refusing a salary will set a bold and clear example for every member of Congress and for public servants at all levels of government, a worthy model of unassailable, fiscal accountability. The world can only benefit from such a courageous leader. Thus I urge you to fear no personal hardship during your next four years as President. The wealth of virtue you will gain and the admiration in the hearts of the people who will be moved by your truly righteous example, will put you in office. The peace of mind that you will gain from leading the country purely, for the sake of righteousness and a job well done, will reward you for a lifetime.
II. I wish also with this letter to emphasize the vital role of education in a democratic nation and to urge you to make it first in your priority of concerns. Our schoolchildren and their schools are the true wealth and talent of a nation. Providing richly for their education and training must rank among the first investments of a nation’s strength. A country that invests in the knowledge and wisdom of its people prepares its citizens to make reasoned, skillful,and humane decisions. The government’s investment in education will be repaid daily as the citizens respond to its policies with a love of democracy, peace,and order. Without need for sophisticated weapons and force of arms an educated citizenry with mature, discerning judgment and proper knowledge and values will insure a peaceful and well-defended nation.
By contrast, if young people are uneducated and rebellious, if they oppose the values and ignore the kindness of their country’s leaders, they will not cherish democratic freedom nor defend Constitutional law. The damage they will do in their ignorance by lawlessness and by turning their backs on the values and kindness of their leaders threatens to destroy the country domestically more seriously than any foreign army could do. In this case, money spent on national defense and the stockpiling of weapons is money wasted; the biggest missiles and fastest fighter planes become ultimately of no use, for the most dangerous enemy will be the lack of knowledge and wisdom in the hearts of our children.
Mr. President, I write to you in this decisive phase of the campaign, on behalf of all Americans, from a wish to help you secure your rightful place at the tiller of the ship of state. I do not fear that you will find my suggestions too impractical, or my words too forthright. If you believe in my method you will certainly be reelected. I seek no recompense nor favors for my advice. I only want to elect the best President for this nation. If you accept my advice, then it will have benefited all Americans. If you do not, then I will have done my duty.
All living beings in the world, lost in confusion
Over money, sex, fame, food, and sleep, cannot get free;
A Wise One who casts off these Five Desires,
A sage-like Ruler will become.
With best wishes for peace in the Dharma,
Chairperson, Dharma Realm Buddhist Association
In this letter the Master reiterated his remarkable suggestion that
“the president should not accept a salary”, and encouraged President Bush to lead the United States with his own exemplary conduct.
In 1988, when Bush first ran for office, the Venerable Master had already urged him to be a president who
“would not contend, be greedy, seek for anything, be selfish, pursue self-benefit, or lie.” In 1992, when President Bush was running for a second term, the United States was in the middle of an economic recession, and the president’s popularity took a nose dive. In this situation, following the Master’s suggestion of not accepting a salary would have demonstrated President Bush’s sincerity and his determination in serving the people.
During that time, the Master also instructed the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and all the other branch temples of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association to pray on behalf of the nation by reciting Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s Great Compassion Spiritual Mantra, bowing to the Buddhas, and repenting. This was done in order to restore security within the country and peace in the world. The Master’s disciples followed his instructions and recited the mantra every morning from September 30 to November 4, 1992, until the end of the presidential election.
On October 23, 1992, Mr. Edwin Derwinsky, the Vice-Chairman of President Bush’s Campaign Committee, accompanied by Professor Tsu, Chairman of the Asian-American Campaign Committee for President Bush, visited the Master and held a press conference at the International Translation Institute. At the conference the Master pointed out that if President Bush would not receive a salary, his re-election would be certain. But since up to that time he had not made such a decision, getting reelected would definitely be problematic. The Master also said that in any case Buddhists must still try their best to pray for the well-being of the world and its people. Unfortunately, in the end, President Bush and his staff decided to ignore the Master’s advice, and thereby lost the election, just as the Master had predicted.
The United States is beset by many problems. In addition to natural disasters, problems like drug abuse are widespread. Robbery and violent crime increase, and the unemployment rate runs high. All these signs indicate that the blessings enjoyed by this superpower are decreasing.
Mr. A.C. “Bud” Harrison, the former mayor of Burlingame, has visited the Venerable Master many times. As a mayor he observed with regret how some Chinese and Japanese people who are good citizens in their own countries changed after their arrival in the United States. The Master pointed out that the welfare is not distributed appropriately; it ends up encouraging people to be shiftless and lazy. Also, in the United States every citizen has easy access to guns, which adds to the insecurity of this society. Further, sex education is taught to students who are only in elementary school; in secondary school students deal in drugs and even engage in murder and arson; and in college students sleep and bathe together. In this way, how can they grow up to be good citizens? Moreover, some of the laws in this country are too liberal. Such is the bankruptcy of education in the United States.
According to the Venerable Master, all these accumulated problems stem from the crisis in education. He said,
“Nowadays even very young students don’t follow the rules,
and in the future they certainly won’t be law-abiding
citizens. This is very dangerous. Children who kill and
break rules aren’t born bad. This only happens when
education is not good. The fault lies with the adults.”
In January 1992, when the Master was invited to the White House for a banquet, he talked with the Deputy Secretary of Education about the crisis of American education and emphasized the importance of moral education. While the Master propagates Buddhism, he also devotes himself to education. His aim is to train a new generation of educated people, who aren’t selfish and who don’t pursue self-benefit, but instead work hard to save American culture and the future of mankind.
In his instructional talks the Venerable Master often urges his disciples to put forth their best effort to solve the current problems of American society. For example, drug abuse is one of the most serious problems in this country. Not only is an enormous amount of money wasted on drugs, but drugs waste the lives of people as well, and are a major cause of crime. So when the Master lectures to large Dharma assemblies, he often asks the audience to tell all their relatives who have children not to let the children use or deal drugs. Instead, children should be encouraged to contribute to the society and to bring peace and blessings to the nation. This is our responsibility.
Another problem in American society is homosexuality, which is getting increasingly overt. The annual gay parades have a considerable influence in courting support and recognition to the homosexuals from all walks of life. The Master cannot bear to watch the proliferation of this behavior that goes against nature. In his instructional talks he reminds his disciples and all Buddhists to clearly recognize the seriousness of this problem. Whenever American politicians ask his advice, the Master emphasizes,
“The female alone cannot reproduce, nor can the male. Homosexuality is a mode of behavior that will bring extinction to the human race. We must exhort homosexuals to change their ways, and not tolerate and encourage this kind of behavior.”
Leaving the home life is a noble act wherein one pursues the Buddha Way and teaches living beings, bringing clean and proper energy to humankind. The practice of homosexuality is not the pursuit of the purification of our efficacious nature; rather, it is indulging in the pursuit of emotional desire, which will only make us fall, thus causing more serious problems. The Master clearly knows that the influence of homosexuals in this society is increasing. Still, he speaks according to his conscience, hoping that homosexuals will wake up and change, cherish their inherent Buddha nature, and stop creating bad karma and having to receive the retribution later.
All these years, whenever the Venerable Master teaches the Buddhadharma, he always advocates the six great principles. Some people think that even though these principles are valuable, in a country like the United States where materialism prevails, it might be difficult to practice them. The Master always answers such people in his characteristic style of practicing what is difficult to practice and enduring what is difficult to endure:
We want to do what is difficult to do. We want to be a candle that can withstand the wind, and be like pure gold that can withstand smelting in a blazing furnace.