The University of California is a renowned educational institution whose graduates can be found the world over. The University is engaged in advanced scientific research and development, and it also provides a broad forum for the humanities. Talented students from around the world are attracted to its campuses to receive an education.
Unfortunately, today’s education tends to concentrate on superficial aspects while neglecting the essentials. What do I mean by this? An excellent and wholesome education requires good teachers who can be good models for students. Since I came to this country, I have been asking the students I meet, “What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to do after you graduate?” On all the different occasions that I have asked young students this question, they invariably say, “I want to be a doctor.” “Why do you want to be doctor?” I ask them. “Because I can make a lot of money.” Some students say they want to be scientists, so they can make a lot of money and also become famous.
No one ever says that he’d like to do something to truly help the people. No one says, “I’d like to serve the public and work for the government. I wish to set a good example for the people and do my job without taking a salary. I give up all personal comforts in order to work for the people.” I’ve been searching for a young person with such aspirations for several decades, but without success. Such a young person must exist somewhere, but unfortunately I haven’t met him or her. Then again, maybe it’s because I haven’t met that many students. I think there must be such a person at this University— someone who devotes himself to public service and has no thought of personal gain, someone who works in the government without taking a salary, someone who would never be corrupted by bribes or selfish interests. If such a person could lead the nation, then, as the saying goes,
What the ruler cherishes
Will be cherished even more by the people.
The relation between superiors and inferiors
is like that between the wind and the grass.
[The grass must bend, when the wind blows across it.]
If every nation had such a leader, then it would be a case of:
When the ruler practices wholesome deeds,
All the people will benefit from it.
If this becomes a reality, then the essentials will be realized.
If government officials are not corrupted by greed and selfishness, then the nation will prosper. Nations decline simply because everyone wants to benefit himself and no one wants to help others. They neglect the essentials to pursue what is superficial. As wise and intelligent citizens of a nation, our spirit should be to help out those who are not as intelligent. This is the key to good government. During the several decades that I have been in this country, I had never been involved in the presidential election until last year, when I had the chance to meet President Bush on his campaign tour. On that occasion I said:
The leader of the nation must be clean and incorruptible; he should love the people as if they were his own children. He should avoid fighting, avoid greed, avoid seeking for advantages, avoid selfishness, avoid pursuing personal gain, and avoid cheating the people. One who follows these guidelines is the best candidate for President. In a fair election, money should not be spent on publicity campaigns. The person in whom everyone places their trust and respect should win the election. If the one who spends the most money always wins, then the election is not based on virtue and integrity, but on wealth, with the poor having no chance at all. People should cast their vote for the candidate with the most virtue, rather than for the one who spends the most on publicity. That would be more fair.
This is my opinion as a monk, and every country may consider it rather dumb and impractical. However, I still want to share my idea with everyone.
Now, if a poor person has a rich sponsor who helps him to get elected, then he will be a puppet president—a president who listens to orders and is controlled by that rich sponsor. If he doesn’t do what the rich sponsor says, he won’t be able to stay in office. That’s not a fair situation either.
The leader of a nation should put less emphasis on money and more emphasis on the well-being of the people. Education should be his first priority. If our education instills an appreciation of basic human values in young people and encourages them to strive for moral and scholastic excellence, then we will have promising leaders in the future. Young people should be taught to love their country, cherish their families, and take care of their own bodies, minds, and souls. That way, they will find true peace and happiness and won’t be all stressed out, engaged in a crazy pursuit for profit all day long. We should encourage our young people to work for the good of society. Education should be the first item in the national budget. In my opinion, the best way to set a country in order is to turn young people into good citizens through education. If we stress national defense, but allow our youth to go astray, there won’t be any capable people to oversee the national defense forces in the future. That would be a great pity. I just wanted to explain these principles to you today.
To be continued