Methods Adapt to the Passage of Time
Relinquishing Copyrights: Printing Books and Making DVDs
in Great Quantities to Give as Gifts
In the past few decades, Venerable Master Chin Kung has adhered to the principles of “giving all beings true benefit” and “valuing the teachings beyond anything” by relinquishing copyrights and allowing public access to his works. He promoted the idea to “print the sutras and books of virtues and to circulate DVDs and CDs, all for free distribution” and set an example by extensively doing so himself. He encourages fellow practitioners to follow the guideline of “not arbitrarily changing any word or distorting the meaning of the contents” and to unconditionally give copies of the sutras, books of virtues, and Dharma-related materials to those who need them.
Because of his advocacy, the Hwa Dzan Dharma Giving Association was founded in 1962 and the Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation was officially established in Taipei in January, 1985. Over the years, more than one hundred Pure Land learning centers have been established globally. All these are attributable to the master’s teaching. With the goal of “expounding on morality and virtues, promoting the Buddha’s teaching, and propagating the Pure Land method,” these centers publish the sutras and the writings of the past patriarchs and accomplished practitioners, and the Confucian Four Books and the Five Classics. They also produce and circulate CDs and DVDs on the lectures of the sutras.
No exact data has been compiled regarding the quantity and the places these books and Dharma-related materials have been distributed to, but from the following we can have some idea. Since 1998, there have been more than two hundred organizations around the world that have received free Dharma-related materials from the Corporate Body. The number of the copies of the sutras given out filled more than 2800 shipping containers (more than 1,700,000 books). Also, from 1989 to 1995, the master gave China more than eight hundred sets (one hundred volumes in a set) of the [Taisho] Buddhist Canon.
In 1993, he gave libraries in Beijing and Shanghai and major high schools in China sets of Selections from the Four Branches of Literature (five hundred volumes in a set) or the Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature (fifteen hundred volumes in a set). In 1999, he donated five hundred sets of the Qianlong Buddhist Canon to Buddhist communities in China and another five hundred sets to the Buddhist communities in Southeast Asia.
Until now, he has unconditionally given 10,000 sets of the Buddhist canon, forty-nine sets of Selections from the Four Branches of Literature, and one hundred sets of the Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature to national libraries, universities, religious groups, and Buddhist monasteries around the world. This was to facilitate inter-faith and inter-cultural communication and the study of those who wished to learn them.
The master often says:
Every time I am presented with a book, I first check the copyright page to see if it says ‘All Rights Reserved.’ If it does, I will not read it. ‘All Rights Reserved’ indicates that the writer does not have a broad mind. No matter how well this person writes, the contents will not exceed the breadth of the writer’s mind. If the copyright page says ‘Reproduction Welcome,’ then I would gladly read the book from beginning to end. We Buddhist practitioners should emulate Buddhas and bodhisattvas in our every thought. We should learn their great compassion—‘unconditional compassion for others like that for oneself for we are all one.’ We should wholeheartedly help all beings and benefit them.
The path of propagating the true Dharma is filled with both criticism and praise. For the past few decades, the master has never changed his attitude of these principles: “starting a social practice but not taking any credit for it” and “according with conditions and fulfilling one’s duties; absolutely no seeking of conditions to ask for donations.” He firmly adheres to the teaching of “do not betray one’s country or slander the ruler” from the Brahma Net Sutra and the teaching of “do not evade taxes or break the law” from the Yingluo Jing. He takes “maintaining the five [human] relationships, faithfully fulfilling one's responsibilities, avoiding being polluted by all that is bad, keeping a respectful and sincere mindset, believing in and vowing to practice the Buddha-name chanting method, and aspiring to attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land” to encourage and inspire himself.
Extracting Important Maxims and Encouraging People
to Study the Books of the Sages
To help the Chinese people of today improve their classical Chinese and to relieve their stress from their busy schedules, the master advocates that important maxims from various books be complied and that audiobooks on the sutras and books of virtues be produced. The distribution of such material will heighten the learning interest of the public.
The master said during his talk at a seven-day Buddha-name chanting retreat held in Texas:
Today, the world is in great turmoil and people yearn for wise leadership. In order to universally benefit the world, avert imminent disasters, and resolve immorality and the ensuing anger and conflicts, everyone must maintain a good heart, do good deeds, say good words, and be a good person. The only way to achieve this is to make every effort to promote the teaching of great awakening and to rely on the golden maxims and teachings of the sages throughout the history and around the world. It is hoped that accord can thus be reached.
The Buddha taught the harmony of having the same viewpoints and harmony in observing the same precepts. This is why I had the idea of compiling important maxims from various books. For example, the important parts of the Buddhist canon, the Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature, Selections from the Four Branches of Literature, and historical annals can be extracted and made into a book. We try to help all the beings be able to read, understand, and practice these books. This way, we will have met to meet the aspirations of the ancient sages. The guidelines for compiling the important maxims are:
(1) Select short sentences that are clear and easy to understand. Do not select long passages.
(2) Select the teachings that meet urgent needs and that are practical. Do not select profound teachings that are not practical.
(3) The teachings must be beneficial to one’s cultivation, family happiness, and work. They must promote social harmony, national prosperity, world peace, co-existence, and the flourishing of all peoples, schools of thought, and religions.
(4) The compilation should be organized by categories. This book should be translated into various languages so that they can be circulated throughout the world. It is our aspiration to introduce the essence of Chinese culture and to promote world harmony.
(5) If the essence of other works, such as those from the Qu’ran, the Old Testament, and the New Testament, and valuable sayings, can be circulated throughout the world, then we will have a wonderful world where common understanding is reached, people live and flourish side by side and help one another. Then there will be world harmony.”
Long-distance Learning through Advanced Media Technology
“A cultivation center of the twenty-first century should be the Internet and the satellite television.” The master had this idea some twenty years ago.
For our teaching purposes, we need only a small recording studio. Every day, we record our lectures in the studio, and we can immediately broadcast the lectures all over the world via the Internet and satellite television. Through these we make the Dharma available to everyone. Who will receive the Dharma? Those who have an affinity with the Dharma. A Buddha helps those who have an affinity with him.”
In 1995, as a result of the master’s open and advanced thinking, the Collected Talks of Venerable Master Chin Kung website was set up. After that, the Pure Land learning centers and cultivation centers around the world started setting up their own websites. In addition, they provided the tapes of the master’s lectures on the sutras to radio and television stations around the world for them to broadcast. Starting in 1998, the master stayed in Singapore and started the live broadcast of his lectures. On New Year’s Day of 2003, Hwazan Satellite TV was established. It focuses on broadcasting the master’s lectures. A rough estimate indicates that there are more than ten million Buddhist practitioners who can receive the teachings of the Buddha and the sages via the Internet and satellite television.
An official of the Ministry of Education once asked Professor Fang Dongmei how to revive Chinese culture. After deliberating for five minutes, Professor Fang gave a succinct answer: “All the television and radio stations must shut down. The publication of all the newspapers and magazines must also stop. They destroy Chinese culture every day. If those things that destroy Chinese culture are not eliminated, it will be impossible to revive Chinese culture. The technology used by the media is good and is not to blame. The technology is a very good tool. It is the contents the media broadcasts that are to blame. The contents completely go against traditional Chinese culture.”
Inspired by Professor Fang, the master has made a special appeal many times at UNESCO’s international peace conferences, with the hope that the United Nations and the government leaders of every country can pay more attention to the importance and urgency of using the Internet and satellite television to promote moral education to all people.
Today, whether the world is saved or destroyed depends on two kinds of people: national leaders and those in charge of the media. The policies of the national leaders and the direction that those in charge of the media take exert great influence on the happiness of all people. The technology used by the media is a very good tool. It itself is not to blame. It is its contents that are to blame.
If we use the Internet and satellite television well and make them tools to promote the teaching of morality, virtues, and the law of cause and effect, then the media can indeed lead people around the world to happiness and goodness. When we think carefully, we will find that there is a close causal relationship between the Internet and the media broadcasting a lot of sex and violence and today’s turbulence and disasters, whether natural or man-made. Such broadcasting increases the evil thoughts and bad deeds of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, and lying.”
Harmony and Stability Achieved through the Propagation
of Three Kinds of Social Education
The master integrated the essence of the virtues and knowledge of Professor Fang, Zhangjia Living Buddha, and Mr. Li. Altogether, the master has been practicing Buddhism for fifty-seven years. He has a profound and comprehensive understanding not only of the teaching of the Buddha and the sages but also of traditional Chinese culture and history. In addition, he is very good at summarizing them. He also emphasizes practice.
He proposes and advocates many measures appropriate for today’s society. A good example is his advocating the establishment of Ancestral Memorial Halls of Ten Thousand Surnames. The master said:
The Book of Rites says: ‘In building a country and in guiding its people, teaching is the first priority.’ Ancient wise Chinese emperors based their regimes on education. The purpose of all kinds of development was to assist education. In this educational system, in addition to academic education taught in the traditional Chinese-styled private classes and national institutes for highest education, ancestral shrines, Confucian temples, and Taoist temples of city gods have important significance in social education.
The purpose of ancestral shrines is teaching filial piety. The purpose of Confucian temples is teaching respect for teachers. The purpose of Taoist temples of city gods is teaching the law of cause and effect. The most important part of a Taoist temple is [the painting of] the Ten Halls of Yama Kings. Wise emperors extensively established ancestral shrines, Confucian temples, and Taoist temples of city gods in every town, city, and prefecture. Unobtrusively and subtly, these shrines and temples instilled the teaching of morality, virtues, and the law of cause and effect in people and thus laid the foundation for a country’s everlasting peace and stability. We should know that when people learn the teaching of the law of cause and effect, they will not dare to commit evil deeds. When they receive moral education, they will feel ashamed to commit evil deeds. These kinds of teaching are in fact the great foundation that enabled the Chinese culture to be able to continue to exist in the world.
In 2003, because of the master’s advocacy, the Hong Kong Buddhist Education Foundation established the first Ancestral Memorial Hall of Ten Thousand Surnames in the world. According to the latest statistics, the Chinese people consists of fifty-six ethnic groups, and there are more than twenty-three thousand surnames altogether. Therefore, the master advocated the establishment of Ancestral Memorial Hall of Ten Thousand Surnames. It is to enhance the virtue of “when people carefully conduct their parents’ funerals and continue to hold memorial services for them, the virtues of the people will increase.” It is also an embodiment of the great unity of the Chinese people.
The master said in the preface of the book on the establishment of this memorial hall:
Buddhism is a teaching based on the principle of honoring teachers and revering their teachings, and this teaching must be based on filial piety. Without filial piety, there is neither the principle of honoring teachers and revering their teachings nor Buddhism. If filial piety, respecting teachers, and Buddhism are no longer in the world, then all disasters will ensue. This is called Armageddon in religion. Therefore, we Buddhist practitioners must make every effort to promote filial piety and wish that memorial halls for ancestors will exist everywhere in the world where there are Chinese people.
We start with commemorating the ancestors of one people and one country and advance to commemorating the ancestors of all the beings in the Nine Dharma Realms. When we practice filial piety to such an extensive degree, there will definitely be sages manifesting to teach us to transform evil to goodness, delusion to awakening, and ordinary people to sages. This is the greatest good fortune for all people.
The purpose of establishing the Ancestral Memorial Hall of Ten Thousand Surnames in Hong Kong is to provide a physical presence to remind the Chinese people to hold filial thoughts for our ancestors and to remember that no matter where we live, we are all one people. For the more than one billion Chinese people in China, it will be the magnet for filial piety. It benefits everyone from the ancestors of ten thousand surnames to all their descendents.
Frankly, China’s five-thousand-year history is an amalgamation of precious wisdom and the experiences of various cultures and ethnic groups. Maybe this was why the English historian and philosopher Dr. Arnold Toynbee pointed out that for thousands of years, China has successfully united billions of people through politics and culture. They have shown that they are capable of doing this and have achieved incomparable success.
Teaching People to Have No Evil thoughts through the Use of Art
In traditional Chinese society, there was a Taoist temple of the city god in every city and prefecture. The most important part of the temple was [the painting of] the Ten Halls of Yama Kings, which teaches people that good causes will result in good effects, and bad causes will result in bad effects.
To accord with the social situation today, the master invited the painter Mr. Jiang Yiji to paint The Painting of the Scenes of Hells in order to use art to promote the teaching of the law of cause and effect.
In 2005, the master visited the late Catholic Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan of China. When they met, they talked freely and happily, like old friends. At that time, the master presented a reproduction of The Painting of the Scenes of Hells, one fourth the size of the original, as a gift. He said,
During the rule of the emperors, these emperors truly had a way to run the country well. For example, the Ten Halls of Yama Kings in Taoist temples of city gods reminded the public to do all that is good and warned them against doing anything that is bad. When we think about this carefully, we will see that the function of a Taoist temple of city gods is far greater than that of ten thousand policemen in today’s society. Theses temples truly had a tremendously positive effect on social stability.
Upon hearing this, Bishop Fu said unhurriedly, “Not just ten thousand policemen. Probably more than one hundred thousand.” The two wise elders shared knowing laughter.
In fact, all ancient Chinese arts were created to teach people to get along harmoniously with others, to become better people, and to elevate their spiritual states. Music, fine arts, plays, sculpture, story telling, and all kinds of folk art were all important means used by wise ancient emperors to promote social education. Plays, in particular, made an impression on people most easily. The master often relates how:
When Confucius traveled among the various states, he collected many folk songs from the various areas. He rejected all those that had a negative influence on society and kept three hundred songs, which later were compiled into the Book of Songs. The Book of Songs actually contains popular songs of that time. What was Confucius’ standard for these songs? “No evil thoughts,” which is the same as right contemplation taught in Buddhism. It is the standard for the creation of the arts throughout Chinese history. Ranging from Tang poetry, ciof the Song dynasty, qu of the Yuan dynasty to dramas, Kunqu, Beijing operas, and local dramas and folk arts, their contents all focused on four concepts: loyalty, filial piety, moral integrity, and justice.
The arts were used to teach people. The reason is that there were few schools in the past, so people learned the concepts of loyalty, filial piety, benevolence, and justice from songs, dances, and dramas. From these arts, they understood that good causes will result in good effects, and bad causes will result in bad effects. This became their standard for interacting with others and engaging in tasks in their lifetime. Chinese people in traditional society enjoyed these forms of entertainments, in which education was embedded.
I do not know if you have ever listened to storytelling accompanied by a big drum. When I was a child, after school I would go to a tea house to listen to the storytelling. The audience would order tea and listen to the stories. It was very enjoyable. In addition, they were receiving social education. Moral education in China propagated in this way fulfilled the purpose of teaching the public.
We find a play Guiyuanjing, which is an ancient script of kunqu, in the Buddhist canon. The teachings taught in the sutras were integrated into the storyline of this play. Through the stage performance, the objective of teaching was achieved. This is a very good method.
Therefore, we may integrate the teachings in the sutras into the storylines of dramas and broadcast these dramas on television. If the teachings are integrated into the storyline of a dramatic series, I believe there will be more viewers, and the audience will accept the teachings more easily. The effect will be greater and more wondrous than that of lectures.
A Brief introduction of
Venerable Master Chin Kung’s