Buddhism originated in India and later spread to many other countries, each of which adopted the Buddhadharma in its own fashion. Burma has Burmese Buddhism, Laos has Laotian Buddhism, Vietnam has Vietnamese Buddhism, Thailand has Thai Buddhism, China has Chinese Buddhism, Japan has Japanese Buddhism, and Korea has Korean Buddhism. When the Buddha spoke the Dharma, was he speaking only to one country? No, the Buddha bestowed teachings that accord with people's needs and with the situation at hand. He regarded people of all countries equally. The Buddhadharma itself has none of these national divisions. Different nations took Buddhism as their national possession and did not want Buddhism to spread and flourish. They said that Buddhism belonged to their own country.
For these reasons, when I visited a Buddhist monastery in Burma several decades ago [in 1953] and was asked to write a few words in their guestbook, I wrote that in the years to come, we have to have a global vision; we have to expand the measure of our minds to encompass the entire Dharma Realm. My meaning was this: If we want Buddhism to spread and flourish, we have to look far into the future. We have to bring Buddhism to every nation, every corner of the globe, and even to every mote of dust. Everywhere we go we have to turn the great Dharma wheel and teach living beings how to leave suffering, attain bliss, and end birth and death.
And so I boldly declared that Buddhism is not something that belongs just to our own country. Buddhism belongs to all of humanity, to all living beings. We should not consider Buddhism a private treasure. Instead, we should do everything we can to let the Buddhadharma shine in the world.
When I met the Catholic Cardinal Yubin during my first trip to Taiwan, I said to him, "You should be a Buddhist among the Catholics. You shouldn't hold sectarian views." At that time he was a Cardinal, which is only one level below the Pope. He was quite taken aback by my suggestion that he be a Buddhist Catholic. It sounded almost like an insult. I said, "Don't worry--I will be a Catholic among the Buddhists. If the two of us can see eye-to-eye and cast out all sectarian views, conflicts, and boundaries, then there will be no more wars in the world. Religions will no longer exclude one another. I won't say that you are wrong, and you won't say that I'm no good. Even after we have eaten our fill and have nothing better to do, we won't go around creating controversies in the world. Do you believe this?" He thought about it for while, then slapped his thigh and said, "Let's do it!" And he began to bow to the Buddhas and study the Buddhadharma. But he still hadn't given up his hopes for greater fame, and so he became a candidate for the papacy. Perhaps he didn't have the blessings, as he wasn't chosen to be the Pope. Moreover, Heaven did not favor him with long life. We don't know whether he went to Heaven or to the Land of Ultimate Bliss; whichever place had the strongest pull, that's where he went.
Soon after I came to the United States, a Christian scholar--I forget whether he was a Catholic or a Protestant--came to see me. It wasn't clear whether he just wanted to ask a question or to argue with me, but he asked, "Which of the world's religions do you think is the best?" Most people, if they had been in my place, probably would have said Buddhism is the best. But if I had said that, he wouldn't have been satisfied; he would have argued with me and tried to find my weak spot. I wasn't surrendering or trying to be clever, but I didn't want to argue with him. As it's said, "The good do not argue; those who argue are not good. The wise do not talk back; those who talk back are not wise." Since I wasn't going to argue with him, how could I stop the verbal battle? I said, "The religion you believe in is the best."
"Why?" he asked.
To be contiued