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by Reverend Heng Sure, January 21, 2000
I invite you to envision a great tree, growing in a desert wilderness. Its roots connect to the springs of ground water deep beneath the sand, so its leaves, flowers and fruits all flourish.
In the heat of the day the many families of beings, the birds of the air, the two-footed and four footed creatures find shelter, shade and nourishment as neighbors beneath the tree's generous limbs. The tree of learning is the same in that its roots connect to the wisdom of the founders of all great religions; its roots are the cultures of the earth's peoples, their faiths, their truths, their blessings. The trunk of the tree and its branches are the churches, temples, mosques, monasteries and synagogues, the religious neighbors and the institutions of learning, both sacred and secular, that we celebrate and serve.
The fruits and flowers of the tree are the Sages, the Worthies, the moral, just, righteous, the kind and compassionate men and women born of those religious neighborhoods, and those academies. May our deliberations today evoke a spirit of harmony, may the sap of deeper knowledge nurture and nourish our dialogue and discussions, so that the fruits and flowers of wisdom and compassion ripen from our sharing; may the tree that we grow give cool shade to those who seek knowledge, may it give courage and stability to those who seek enduring institutions, and comfort and shelter to those who suffer. We cultivate these fruits with gratitude, in the inclusive, expansive spirit of Jesus of Nazareth, of the prophet Mohammed, of the Sage Confucius, of the Buddha Shakyamuni. May they bless this gathering with their light and dedicate its good works to the enrichment, satisfaction and happiness of all creatures.
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On January 20 and 21, member schools and affiliates of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) gathered for a two-day meeting at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB).
Through the arrangements of the Institute of World Religions (IWR), an arm of the Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU), this consortium of mostly Christian theological graduate universities and institutions came to this Buddhist community. Representatives present at this high-level meeting included presidents, deans and faculty members of graduate theological programs. As they discussed the proposal for and action steps to an Asian Studies Center at the GTU, the DRBU's voice broadened their scope and interests. Dharma Master Heng Sure's morning prayer encapsulated the intent and aspirations of this group.
On a neutral ground and apparently a surprisingly hospitable environment, this group considered integrating a wide range of views on Asian Studies and Asian religions. Participants couldn't help but inquire more about the CTTB, the DRBU and the Buddhist perspective for example, when they watched the lines of monks, nuns and children proceeded gracefully to lunch.
This influential theological consortium's favorable impression of the CTTB and DRBU will likely have a ripple effect on the faculty and congregation leaders that they train. Their outlooks on religions in the U.S. and Asia will expand. The gifts of Tripitaka in print and on C.D. will also help to introduce Buddhism into an unprecedented circle. More concretely, just as the Abbot of CTTB had welcomed their return, the group and its members are already speaking of returning to the CTTB for an upcoming retreat and other meetings.