Master of Ceremonies: Amitabha Buddha to all of you forerunners of Buddhism and the academic world who have come together to attend this seminar in such hot weather. First of all, on behalf of the organizers, Dharma Realm Buddhist University and Dharma Realm Cultural and Educational Foundation, I extend to you our utmost welcome and gratitude. We all know that Buddhism originated in India and was later transmitted to China and other Asian countries. In the most recent half century, Buddhism has been propagated to the West. This seminar on the "The Propagation of Buddhism in the West and Its Prospects" has been organized to inform this country's citizens about the development of Buddhism in the West. The organizer is an American, Dharma Master Heng Sure.
Dharma Master Heng Sure is a disciple of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, who resided in the United States. Dharma Master Heng Sure has a Master's degree from the University of California at Berkeley, USA. He is presently a Ph.D. candidate at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He is also an instructor at the Institute of World Religions in Berkeley, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association. In May 1977, to pray for world peace and an end to war, Dharma Master Heng Sure and the former Dharma Master Heng Chau embarked on a pilgrimage of bowing down once every three steps from Gold Wheel Sagely Monastery in Los Angeles to the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage, California. The pilgrimage took two years and five months. Now I will let the organizer speak.
Dharma Master Heng Sure:
Dharma Masters, guests, ladies and gentlemen from the Academia Sinica, fellow cultivators, and friends from the media:
Amitabha Buddha! This time we have supposedly come to Taiwan to propagate the Dharma, but actually, we are here to seek instruction. If there are any oversights during this visit, please let us know.
It is indeed a rare opportunity to discuss "The Propagation of Buddhism in the West and Its Prospects" with everyone here today. We feel extremely honored. First, I would like to report to you that all those who are on the stage are the left home and lay disciples of the Venerable Master, including those who have followed the Master for 28 or 29 years.
Today, we would like to share with you our experiences and insights in following the Venerable Master all these years in America. As to the propagation of Buddhism in the West, we begin with 1962
when the Venerable Master first came to America. The prospects would cover future development from 1998 onwards, into the twenty-first century. I hope all of you will share your advice and suggestions with us. Hopefully we can survey the opinions and benefit from a detailed discussion of today's topic.
The media refers to the Venerable Master as "The High Master Residing in the United States." In general, let us discuss a few major points concerning the way the Venerable Master taught and transformed Westerners during his years in the United States. Since the time of the Buddha until the present, there has been a separation between the Northern and Southern Transmissions. If we wish to foster unity among religions in the present Global Village era, yet discord and disunity continue within Buddhism itself, not to mention differences with Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam, how can we speak of unity with other religions? In light of this, the Venerable Master brought the Northern and Southern Transmissions together at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in America. The Venerable Master said, "The Northern Transmission should not run to the north. The Southern Transmission should turn back from the south. Both should meet in the center." Hence, the Dharma Masters from both Northern and Southern Transmissions presided over every ordination held at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in northern California. Eight ordinations have been held so far. For a valid ordination, the preceptees require three masters and seven certifiers. I remember when the Venerable Master led a delegation to England, we went to a traditional Thai Buddhist monastery and learned to do our ceremonies in Pali. After we returned to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we chanted our morning recitation in Pali. This is a new style. In the West, Buddhism is united. Hopefully the split between the Northern and Southern Transmissions that lasted for thousands of years can be mended.
Secondly, I would like to mention that at the time the Venerable Master brought Buddhism to the United States, eighty-nine percent of our population was Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish, and there was no recorded history of Buddhism. Buddhism was first brought to America from Kyoto, Japan. Later, traditional Chinese Buddhism, the Orthodox Buddhism, arrived. Buddhism is also called "the gate of emptiness." However, if we talk to American Protestants and Catholics about emptiness, they would not understand. How does one achieve emptiness?
Therefore, the Venerable Master suggested that one has to learn to be a person before he studies Buddhism. He said, "When one's humanity is perfected, the way of the Buddha will be accomplished." If we do not know how to be a person, there is no point in talking about becoming a Buddha. The Venerable Master established a real foundation for Buddhism in America. He started with the ethical concepts and philosophy of traditional Confucianism. During the day, he would lecture on the
Analects, the Three-Character Classic, and the
Standards for Students. In the evening, he lectured the
Avatamsaka Sutra, the Nirvana Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, and the gate of emptiness. "Learning how to be a person" is the foundation of Buddhism in the West.
To be continued