A way for
During the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China President Hu Jintao emphasized the importance of reviving the Chinese culture for future development. President Hu went on to say that the ethical and ideological standards of the people play a crucial role in the development of a harmonious society.
Chinese culture is underpinned by three of Chinese greatest and enduring philosophies which have been embraced worldwide: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. These three philosophies are interwoven in the fabric of the Chinese psyche and reflected in society. I call these the tripod upon which Chinese society is built.
Since the late 1960’s there has been much interest in the West of Eastern philosophies and religions and we are now seeing many components of these philosophies now becoming part of mainstream clinical psychology as in the Mindfulness based therapies and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Since the 1980’s Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have begun to spring forth new buds in the spring of cultural and economic revival in China. Many westerners are coming to China, not just for viewing the many breathtaking scenic places and exciting cities of China but also to come in touch with the heartbeat of an ancient culture which has dynamic relevance and importance to today’s world. Indeed, many Chinese are unaware of their own culture and its vital importance in the face of rapid economic development within China. A society cannot survive purely upon economic prosperity. There must be a cohesive humanistic culture which sustains the prosperity.
Buddhism came to China during the first century when both Taoism and Confucianism were already established. Buddhism has had a remarkable ability to blend within the colours and shapes of a culture and maintain its essence. To this end Buddhism absorbed the essence of both Confucianism and Taoism and took on its own identity as Chinese Buddhism.
During a Buddhist forum with foreign students at Guang Jue Temple, Zaoxi-Lin’an, in 2011, The Venerable Zheng Rong, spoke of the correlation of the three great teachings. Confucianism is about relationships between people and has a clear model in this regard. Taoism is about the relationship between man and nature, namely how to handle the relationship between our environment and ourselves. Buddhism is about ‘man and his heart-mind”. Our minds and a sense of the transcendent, our environment and relationships – these three are significant in our social development.
Buddhism is an education which emphasizes the pursuit of enlightenment. Enlightenment must be attained by our own effort. Only with self-awareness will we find the strength to deal with many worries and illusions, resolve to maintain our integrity and find peace and stability. To this end Chinese Buddhism has the model in which we can promote self-integrity and self-awareness which can change the world and benefit humanity.
In the past people used to think that Buddhism was nothing more than chanting or holding ceremonies for the dead and that monks lived apart from society in mountains. Every phenomenon in this world depends on a set of causes and conditions for its existence. Thus we cannot survive if we move away from people as they are our cause and condition, the heart of our survival.
Buddhahood can only be reached by the interaction of sentient beings. In the Buddhist sutras, it is said that every Dharma gathering or undertaking requires the presence of an assembly of beings to happen. The only way to success is to work side-by-side with other beings. This is an undeniable truth!
The most valuable things in this world are the good conditions between us and others in order to have harmony, success, fulfilment and merits. Therefore there are many good deeds worth doing in this world, for instance, contribute to or serving others, the building of international harmony networks.
China faces many challenges as it develops economically. There is a rapidly aging population with few children to look after families, there is need for education for those who cannot afford formal education, there is the need of medical services catering for increasing psychological problems which are inevitably part of materialistic development. Buddhism has much to offer to serve its local
communities and benefit the nation as well as the world. Its very survival depends upon its humanistic involvement.
It is important for Chinese Buddhism to establishes “bridges” between cultures so that not only the world may be able to access the wealth of teaching of Chinese Buddhism but also be able to cross over the bridge to reach out to humanity and the world in service and fulfil the aim of the Bodhi Mind.
In Chinese Buddhism we know the power of Vows to help us fulfil our spiritual aims. Vows strengthen our resolve. In the Vizualization Sutra Shakyamuni Buddha told Ananda to go and teach to many. Teaching is also by example. We must find resolve to respect the admonition of our Root Teacher and not only resolve but also ways to attain the spreading of the Dharma that are in tune with the needs of our society and in a way that modern society can comprehend.
Chinese Buddhism is one of China’s great cultural heritages. Let us not confine it to the museum of history but revive it to serve both the people of China and the world as well as bring peace, harmony and prosperity to all beings.
Master Zhi Sheng is Retreat Facilitator of Guang Jue Temple and has worked most of his career as a psychotherapist and mental health educator in Australia. His work, at Guang Jue Temple Zaoxi is in bringing foreigners to understand, practice and preserve Chinese Buddhism especially Pure Land Buddhism.