Multicultural Harmony as Described
In the Avatamsaka Sutra
Many people often wonder why a Buddhist elder proactively engages in communication and cooperation with other religious groups and helps various schools establish scholarships. These do not seem to have any connection with the propagation of Buddhism. The master has an incisive explanation:
The Buddha’s teaching, the teaching of all the sages throughout history and around the world, and religious teaching all are multicultural education. In particular, the Avatamsaka Sutra, which is a summary of Buddhism, truly contains profound wisdom from the perfect fusion of different religions and cultures. For example, all the organs of a body, such as the eyes, the ears, the nose, tongue, hands, and feet, must do their duties and cooperate with other organs. This way, the body will be healthy. All of the ethnic groups, cultures, religions, schools of thought were originally a single life community. Therefore, they should seek common ground and put aside differences, exist and flourish side by side, respect and help one another, get along harmoniously, and treat one another equally. The universe was originally harmonious. The world was originally one family.
Being compassionate and sincerely wanting to help all beings leave suffering and attain enlightenment, the master has pointed out many times during his keynote talks at international peace conferences or during his conversation with government leaders, religious leaders, and experts:
The core of the teachings of all sages, in this world and beyond, is sincere loving-kindness. Through the teaching of morality, the law of cause and effect, wisdom, and science, the sages aim to uncover the virtue of the utmost purity and virtuousness innate in all sentient beings. These virtues will manifest when interacting with others and engaging in daily tasks.
Hinduism states ‘Resolve anger with compassion, and counter evil with virtuousness.’ The Qu’ran emphasizes ‘Allah is indeed merciful.’ The Bible proclaims ‘God loves all people.’ Confucius promotes loving-kindness, and Mencius advocates righteousness. Judaism says ‘The most wonderful thing one can do is to forgive others’ faults.’ Buddhism teaches ‘Compassion is the essence, and expediency is the means.’ All of the sages teach us to maintain a good heart, do good deeds, say good words, and be a good person.
Furthermore, we expand our sincere loving-kindness to encompass everything in the universe so that we can get along in harmony, and with mutual respect and love, with all sentient beings in different dimensional spaces. In doing this, we can truly achieve the ideal of human happiness and a harmonious society.
The founders of all religions were manifestations of Allah and God. In Buddhism, it is called true nature. Because of traveling difficulties and unavailability of information, the sages accommodated people with different cultural backgrounds and customs by formulating different religious rituals and teaching different ways of life. If we look at the essence of their teaching, all religious groups were originally united. All the religions, cultures, and schools of thought in the world are as Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing dynasty said, “Their theories originate from the same source, and their teachings run parallel without contradiction.”
In October 2005, the master met with Elder Mahathir, chairman of the Muslim World League. During the thirty-minute conversation, the master emphasized:
Religious unification is the foundation for global harmony. To achieve world peace, there must be harmony and equal treatment among countries, among political parties or political factions, among ethnic groups, and among religious groups. It is difficult to achieve this, but it is easier to start with achieving harmony among religious groups. Religious unification must be based on learning from each other in order for their religions to stay vital. If every follower of a religion is able to practice the teachings of the sages—compassion, loving-kindness, sincerity, respectfulness, humility, and harmony—and get along harmoniously with others and treat them equally, then perfect harmony and social harmony are near.
Elder Mahathir deeply agreed with the master’s view and invited him the next day to attend the Perdana Global Peace Forum held in Kuala Lumpur under his sponsorship in December 2005.
The master has proposed practical methods to initiate cooperation among religious groups and promote multi-faith education at international conferences many times:
We start by training teachers with the establishment of an institute of religions. After that, we establish a university of religions or a multicultural university where these teachers can go on to teach students. To train outstanding propagators, courses in morality, virtues, religious texts, the law of cause and effect, science, philosophy, and so on, should be conducted. Each religion should establish its own college. Each college has both compulsory courses and specialized courses. In addition to focusing in the texts of his or her religion, a student can also study the teachings of other religions. After being assessed and endorsed by the government as being truly beneficial to social harmony and stability, lectures can be broadcasted to religious followers throughout the entire country and even around the world via the Internet and satellite television.
The master also has suggested to the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong:
The population of Singapore is comprised of four major ethnic groups. Based on the existing infrastructure, certain streets can be used to exhibit the distinct features of the four ethnic groups: Chinese, Eurasian, Indian, and Malay. Street decoration and the clothes worn should reflect the distinct features of their respective traditional cultures. Traditional objects and food can be sold. This way, Singapore will naturally become a global recognized multicultural center and attract people from all over the world to visit, learn, and tour. As a result, increased tourism and tourist services will bring economic development.
Since 1998, the master has been engaged in uniting religious groups in Singapore. He took the initiative and lead young monastics and fellow Buddhist practitioners to visit the nine major religious groups there. All these years, the master has had communication with and visited religious leaders and organizations in Singapore, Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. He has maintained a sincere friendship with them. In 2006, at the invitation of Dr. Preeyanuch Jariyavidyanont, Deputy Permanent Delegate of Thailand to UNESCO, the Pure Land Learning College co-hosted the “Celebration of the 2550th Birth Anniversary of the Buddha” with UNESCO at its Paris headquarters. The master emphasized that he had two purposes for participating in the organization of this activity:
(1) To present to the delegates from the 192 countries in UNESCO and participants from all over the world the results of the experiment conducted at The Lujiang Centre of Cultural Education in Anhui, China, where the teachings of Guidelines for Being a Good Person had been promoted for about one year. The experiment has proven that traditional Chinese culture can be applied in modern times and that one can indeed be taught to be a better person.
(2) To invite representatives of the ten religions from Singapore and Australia to pray together for world peace on stage. This was to show the world that religious groups can indeed work together.
The master sincerely suggested during the conference:
This is the result of the greatest possible effort made by people in the last few decades. I deeply believe that if UNESCO or the leader of a country promotes moral values, the law of cause and effect, and education to all people and helps religious groups work together, the influence on social harmony and global harmony will definitely surpass all that we have done in the past by more than ten or even one hundred times.
In conclusion, I would like to quote a passage from Mr. Guan Dongming of the Ming Dynasty Urging People to Accumulate Unseen Merit to humbly share with you my sincerest respect for the master’s lifelong teaching of “compassion, loving-kindness, sincerity, respectfulness, humility, and harmony.” The passage reads:
One should repay the kindness from others, not exact revenge.
One should share others’ blame, not their credit.
One should help others accomplish meritorious undertakings, not help them accomplish evil undertakings.
One should only reveal others’ virtues, not their bad deeds.
One should not take advantage of others nor be disheartened when others take advantage of oneself.
One should not slander others nor be disheartened when others slander oneself.
One should sincerely help others transcend the ocean of transmigration and should not give up on them or feel anxious when they do not care.
One should earnestly help others in times of trouble and should not get angry with them or blame them when they show indifference and keep one at a distance.
One should take precautions to prevent possible major disputes, and should not take any credit for having done so.
One need not defend oneself when falsely charged or wrongly accused.
One should help reverse the deteriorating social order and legal system of the nation and should not have misgivings when disliked by others nor consider oneself noble and feel self-righteous.
When one propagates the sages’ teachings and teaches the truth, one should not worry when questioned or shouted at by people nor should one declare that one’s teaching is the only correct one.
One’s cultivation should not violate the Doctrine of the Mean [Middle Way], and one need not ask people to understand one’s intentions, as long as heaven understands. One does not need to be concerned about being unknown as long as there are people who understand one. In seeking people who understand one, one should seek to be understood by those who are ardent and cautious in their decisions, rather than by short-sighted, timid, and incompetent hypocrites. If one does not seek to be understood by those who are ardent and cautious in their decisions, one should seek to be understood by those who follow the Doctrine of the Mean. If one does not seek to be understood by the people of virtue in only one town or one country, one should seek to be understood by the people of virtue in the rest of the world. If one does not seek to be understood by the people of virtue in the world, one should seek to be understood by the people of virtue of all generations to come. One does not need to seek to be understood by the people of virtue of all generations to come, but should seek to emulate the recluses who cultivate in accordance with the Doctrine of the Mean and who do not regret even though they remain unknown.
But heaven watches silently with its eye and listens from afar with its ear. Heaven knows.
A Brief introduction of
Venerable Master Chin Kung’s