Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the First China-Canada-US Buddhist Forum

From:Voice of Longquan     Author:Ven. Master Xuecheng     Time:2017-08-12 11:11:05
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The theme of this forum is, ‘the Middle Path through well-rounded interfusion, with sustainable peace’. This is one of the core concepts of Mahayana Buddhism, especially of Han Chinese Buddhism.

Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the First China-Canada-US Buddhist Forum

 (June 17, 2017, Toronto, Canada)

By Venerable Master Xuecheng

President, The Buddhist Association of China

Mr. Jiang Jianyong, Deputy Minister of State Administration of Religious Affairs

Venerable Dayi, President of Buddhist Association of Canada

Venerable Pindao, President of American Buddhist Confederation

Mr. Ho Wei, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Toronto

Mr. Victor Oh, Senator of Canada

Mr. Ali Ehsassi, member of Parliament of Canada

Prof. Bill Gough, President of University of Toronto at Scarborough

Dear friends and guests:

The mild and moist month of June in Canada has brought rich shades of green to the grass and trees. In this vibrant season – flourishing with sweet drizzle and sparkling life force – Buddhist communities and academic representatives from China, Canada and United States come together, gathering at this grand event of the first ever Tripartite Buddhist Forum to be held between China, Canada and the United States. We exchange friendship, share thoughts and experiences, and seek common development. The auspicious event is a milestone of Buddhist exchange between the historical friendship of China, Canada and the United States. Its auspiciousness marks the international exchange of Chinese Buddhism, which is shared by Canadian and American Buddhist communities alike. On behalf of The Buddhist Association of China and the Buddhist delegation of China, I would like to extend my heartfelt wishes to all honorable delegates and guests attending the forum. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the host – The Buddhist Association of Canada Cham Shan Temple – as well as the organizers and to all of you who helped and supported the Forum.

Following the opening up of new sea routes, the frequency, extent and depth of cultural and religious exchange between the East and West grew. When karmic affinities met with good timing, the Buddha's compassionate wisdom began to enlighten new lands in North America. Facing the Western Hemisphere, the Buddhist cause of ‘teaching the Dharma and benefiting sentient beings’ started a new era…

Buddhism first arrived in Canada with Chinese laborers in the nineteen twenties. When Canadian immigration policy gradually relaxed and the number of Chinese immigrants increased rapidly, it ushered in a thriving new era of growth for Chinese Buddhism. In the nineteen sixties, under the grand aspiration of ‘bringing Dharma to the West’, Venerable Elder Ledu, Xingkong and Chengxiang carefully cherished the Elder Abbot Master Tanxu's instruction, telling them that, ‘teaching Dharma overseas is not easy; in situations when facing losses, one should practice restraint to exercise patience; do not forget the original aspirations of becoming a monk.’

Following one another’s steps, they came over and taught Dharma in North America, settling in Canada. Under the protection and help of local overseas Chinese lay Buddhists, they established Buddhist organizations, building new places to cultivate Dharma teachings. They also organized Sangha to promote practice, taught Sutra and explained Dharma. They assimilated with faith communities, enlightening a great mass of those who have karmic affinities. For fifty years, they quietly labored. With half a century of diligent perseverance towards excellence and two generations of heritage, they have created a prosperous new perspective for Chinese Buddhism.

Nowadays, Buddhism is like a blossoming lotus in Canadian's multicultural, multi-religious garden – shining with pure, tranquil light that purifies the minds of Asian immigrants, and providing a spiritual home that leads to their awakening. At the same time, it opens a new gate for Canadians, giving a fresh outlook into the world of spiritual wisdom – one which results in an indelible contribution to Canadian ethnic and social harmony, as well as peaceful coexistence between multiculturalism and religions.

The earliest Buddhism in the United States was also introduced by Chinese laborers. At the end of the nineteenth century, the US government abolished the ‘Chinese Exclusion Act’, ushering in a new dawn for the development of Chinese Buddhism there. In 1929, Grand Master Taixu arrived to give speeches and promote Dharma teachings, propagating Han Chinese Buddhism in the United States. After World War II, especially in the nineteen fifties and sixties, Buddhism and Chan (Zen) provided an important spiritual reference and ideological resource for generations of young Americans rebelling against social norms. It reflected the culture of the time, helping people contemplate the value of life as they explored their inner minds. Under such karmic affinity, eminent and virtuous monks of Han Chinese Buddhism from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan came to the US one after another, to establish organizations and places for Dharma practice. They actively engaged in the cause of promoting Dharma, which resulted in great achievements in the development of Chinese Buddhism in the USA. At the same time, Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism also spread fast in America. The Buddhist Association of the United States made a positive contribution in promoting Han Chinese Buddhism. Today, over one percent of US citizens are Buddhists. With more and more Americans converting to Buddhism, its Americanization increases – forming its own distinctive characteristics in valuing meditation, social participation and religious dialogue. Buddhism has played an important role in shaping the spiritual world of modern Americans, and has made a significant contribution to harmonious coexistence between American multiculturalism and religious pluralism.

Looking back into history, it isn’t difficult to see that the expansion of Buddhism in North America has not relied on powerful ships and cannons to clear its way, nor has there been support from powerful capitals. It has depended solely upon Buddhism’s spirit of compassionate wisdom, as well as the selfless sacrifice of generations of Buddhist disciples for Dharma. It has also relied on their grand aspirations and extensive practices during their courageous advancement towards excellence, under the sincere faith and careful support of lay Buddhists. This has proved that all living beings have within them the nature of Buddha, and shown that the eternal value of Buddhism can overcome boundaries of space and time, race, ethnicity, nationhood and culture. It shows how Buddhism plays a positive and valuable role in healing rifts between minds, bringing different civilizations together in harmonious coexistence, and maintaining world peace.

The theme of this forum is, ‘the Middle Path through well-rounded interfusion, with sustainable peace’. This is one of the core concepts of Mahayana Buddhism, especially of Han Chinese Buddhism. Based upon Dharma's inherent nature of void, ‘well-rounded interfusion’ means the mutual contrast between oneself and others; that ‘one aspect’ and ‘the rest’ are bonded through mutual contrast, resulting in ‘one is in all and all is in one’. This is not an attempt to obliterate differences nor varieties, nor to force conformity, but to integrate the thriving multiple aspects and the interfusion of oneness. The Middle Path is not only defined by the appropriate degree of equilibrium when dealing with worldly affairs while practicing cultivation – it represents one body of integrity between ‘affinity arising’ and ‘the void of nature’; it’s a balance that simultaneously explains mundane and transcendental worlds. ‘The Middle Path through well-rounded interfusion’ represents an advanced spiritual level for those perceiving truth in its entirety – the goal for Buddhist cultivation. It is also a guidance of aspiration during Dharma teaching practice that benefits sentient beings.

One important reason that Han Chinese Buddhism has been able to take root and prosper in Canada and the United States, is because generations of Dharma teachers practiced and fulfilled the spirit of ‘the Middle Path through well-rounded interfusion’. Today we promote this spiritual heritage – not only to benefit the development of Han Chinese Buddhism in diverse religious and cultural environments, but also due to its important practical significance in promoting mutual respect among different religions, cultures and civilizations. Achieving harmonious coexistence through reflection and exchange, brings forth the sustainable peace and commonwealth of humankind. This forum will carry out further discussion of the following three aspects:

1. Bodhisattva faith and worldly life

2. Bodhisattva spirit and world peace

3. The civilization of Buddhism and the dialogue between civilizations

I believe that under the aspiration of promoting Buddhist spirit shown in the Middle Path through well-rounded interfusion, and under the will of achieving sustainable world peace, the delegates will contribute many enlightening insights – an extraordinary Dharma ‘feast’ with brimming Buddhist wisdom!

I would like to take this opportunity to express four hopes regarding the future direction of our friendly exchange between China, Canada and United States…

Firstly, the Chinese Buddhist community is happy to work with the Buddhist community of Canada and the United States to cultivate Dharma teachers with international backgrounds. These two countries' Buddhist communities have rich experience of teaching Buddhism to their locals, and we wish to combine this organically with the talent of – and resources from – mainland Chinese Buddhist communities. We hope to cultivate international Dharma teachers who are both highly proficient in Buddhism and who have real foreign language communication skills and cross-cultural Dharma teaching ability. This will promote the development of Han Chinese Buddhism in Canada and United States, and push Chinese Buddhism forward into the world.

Secondly, the Chinese Buddhist community is willing to unite with the Buddhist community of Canada and the United States, to make Buddhism the spiritual bond that connects Chinese people overseas. We hope that the Buddhist communities in our three countries will make best use of the fact that Buddhism is the overseas Chinese people’s main traditional belief. We wish to build a spiritual home for them, to enhance their sense of cultural belonging and help them better integrate and actively serve the local society.

Thirdly, the Chinese Buddhist community is willing to work with Canadian and American Buddhist communities to advance the localisation of Han Chinese Buddhism. We are willing to collaborate with the two countries' Buddhist communities to reflect the experiences of Dharma teaching to non-Chinese communities, and explore and develop suitable methods that can assist local Canadians and Americans to accurately understand Han Chinese Buddhism in a deeper and more comprehensive way. We would like to share the unique fascination of Han Chinese Buddhism's deep wisdom, to establish roots of affinity that don’t just appeal to local communities with local characteristics, but also represent quintessential Han Chinese Buddhism in furtherance of Buddhist teaching all around the world.

Fourthly, the Chinese Buddhist community is willing to join forces with Canadian and American Buddhist communities to partake in religious dialogue. We are very much looking forward to learning from Canadian and American Han Chinese Buddhist communities, especially their precious experience of harmonious coexistence and communicative exchanges with other cultures and religions. We wish to place the melody of Han Chinese Buddhism into the symphony of worldwide cultural religious dialogue! We wish to promote the harmonious coexistence of different religions; to advance exchange and mutual reflection in multiculturalism; to participate in building a common destiny for humankind; to contribute the unique wisdom and strength of Buddhism.

Finally, may this forum accomplish all its expectations smoothly under the benevolent light of the Triple Gem.

May the Buddha enlighten brightly, and the Dharma Wheel turns perpetually.

May the Buddhist Association of Canada Cham Shan Temple and the Buddhist Association of the United States grow and blossom, and may each day your organizations become ever more prosperous.

Thank you all.

Editor:Bella Liu
Tags:Master Xuecheng, first China-Canada-US Buddhist Forum

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