Today I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on ways to carry out the Venerable Master’s vision of propagating the Proper Dharma to the West. We all know that recently, there have been increasing occurrences of disasters, both natural and man-made. The tolls of these disasters are mounting higher and higher. The price of gasoline has skyrocketed, with the national high reaching $6.00 per gallon at one point. Although the recent hike on gasoline price was caused by Hurricane Katrina, it also is the Universe’s way of warning us that we should think about the scenario when we have depleted all our gasoline supplies. When gasoline prices skyrocket, prices for everything else go up too. Very soon, we will not be able to afford our current lifestyle, in which we hop in our car and go somewhere without worrying about the gas money; waste all kinds of resources such as water, gas, electricity, and paper; are not satisfied by any amount of material enjoyment, etc. Most people in this society have lost their inner center due to their endless outward pursuits. Not being mindful of the impermanence of life, most people are not mentally prepared to face the unpredictable future. It is not surprising that when disasters hit, they became worried, scared, and totally devastated.
Our lifestyle here at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) is very different from the outside world. First of all, we are a lot more conscientious about conserving precious material resources as well as not wasting our blessings. In addition, we do a lot of work ourselves, such as growing organic fruits and vegetables, repairing and maintaining our buildings and grounds as well as many other types of construction. Therefore, the increases in prices have a lot less impact on us. Furthermore, the residents at CTTB are cultivators who focus diligently on practicing precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, rather than pursuing external things. Consequently, our ability to deal with unexpected changes in the outside world is a lot stronger. Such ability is very important to everyone in the world regardless of their race or nationality. However, most people are not as fortunate as we are here at CTTB because they live as if nothing bad will ever happen to them, and they do not have the environment to transform their lifestyle.
The Venerable Master’s vision is to propagate the Proper Dharma to the West. He did his best to establish many places for spiritual practice around the world, especially on the west coast of both the US and Canada. In the last 20-30 years, he moved forward to accomplish his vision by offering Dharma events, translating sutras, setting up schools to give future generations the right kind of education, promoting vegetarianism, etc. In the ten-year period after Shr Fu’s Nirvana, both the Sangha and the laity have done their best to uphold Shr Fu’s teachings, although the progress in furthering Shr Fu’s vision is not as prominent.
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts:
Large-scale Dharma Events: If the participants who come to these big Dharma events feel that our Buddha Hall is very adorned, not crowded, also not affected by the weather; and our dorms are clean and tidy, and not crowded, they will very likely want to bring their family and friends here for these events in the future. Therefore, I firmly believe that upgrading our very old facilities is very important for attracting more visitors.
Sutra Translation: For many years, many Sangha members as well as laypeople have been devoted to translating the sutras. They’ve done wonderful translations, and the print quality has improved a lot in the last ten years. However, the distribution of such wonderful books does not match up. Perhaps some professional publishing expertise will help get these books in the hands of people who are interested in Buddhism. Over time, we may even want to consider using radio or television programs to spread Shr Fu’s teachings.
Education: Educating our young is the most worthwhile investment. In recent years, both Instilling Goodness Elementary School and Developing Virtue Secondary School have experienced steady growth. The elementary school has attracted quite a group of local Western families, and this is an excellent way of planting the seeds of Proper Dharma in the West. As for Dharma Realm Buddhist University, if we could first focus on our strengths, such as Buddhism, translation and Chinese, we may attract all those who are interested in studying Buddhism, Chinese or translation to enroll at DRBU. This way, we will see steady growth at DRBU too.
The Village of Living Buddhism: Shr Fu once talked about the vision of a Village of Living Buddhism. As mentioned earlier, the residents of CTTB and all of Shr Fu’s followers are practicing living Buddhism. The more people there are practicing living Buddhism, the more harmonious and peaceful the world will be. Of course, even at CTTB, there are still improvements that can be made. What are they?
Improved Communication: Highly effective communication is the most important factor in building harmonious communities. There are three key ingredients in highly effective communication:
* Clear and readily accessible communication channels.
* Communication skills focusing on producing win-win solutions.
* Willingness to give up one’s own opinion for the
Effective Management: Employing project planning and management and installing processes in all facets of operation will improve effectiveness and efficiency, conserve resources, improve quality, reduce stress, and achieve twice the result with half the effort.
Step-by-step Enterprising: Many functional areas such as school, publishing, vegetarian restaurant, natural organic farming, and even housing and dining hall can eventually become self-sufficient, independently operated units through empowerment with accountability.
Mutual Support and Caring: We treat each other as if we are all members of a very large family. Contribute what you have, and take what you need when you need it. Since giving is receiving, instead of paying back, let’s pay it forward, so that no member will ever feel alone and helpless. A family of such a size will never be dragged down by anything that might happen.
Improved Infrastructure and Systems: With good infrastructure and systems in place, many people, regardless of race, nationality, age or financial condition, desiring to practice living Buddhism can come and contribute their talents, and be a member of this big harmonious family.
Enjoy the Benefit of Economy of Scale: When the number of the people reaches a critical mass, there will be the benefit of economy of scale. For example, there could be a daycare for the elderly as well as youngsters, after school activities, a community dining hall, seminars, health classes, etc. such that every member can cultivate while contributing on what he/she is enthusiastic about, and everything else will be taken care of. To me, this sounds very much like the Pure Land on earth.