Learning from Sakyamuni:
Reconciling Conflict and Promoting Social Stability and
World Peace through Teaching
Venerable Master Chin Kung AM
Celebration of the 2550th Birth Anniversary of the Buddha
Discover the Buddhist Contribution to Humanity
October 7, 2006, General Conference Hall
UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
Respected delegates, leaders, guests, venerable masters from various countries, ladies and gentlemen:
“Infinitely profound and wondrous is the Dharma, which is extremely difficult to encounter in a myriad of eons. Today I get to see, hear, receive, and practice it; I wish to perceive the unfathomable meaning from the Thus Come One.” [Opening verse to the sutras]
On this rare and wonderful occasion, the delegates from 191 countries around the world and I gather together to celebrate the 2550th birthday of the Buddha and to explore and learn from Buddhist contributions to humanity. Buddhist contributions to humanity refer to the Buddha’s devoting the rest of his life after his enlightenment to teaching all beings how to eliminate delusion and attain enlightenment, and to end suffering and attain happiness. He did this by lecturing on the Dharma at more than three hundred assemblies for forty-nine years.
I have studied Buddhism for fifty-five years and have taught it for forty-eight years. Today, I would like to offer my humble opinions to everybody. The topic is “Celebrating Vesak. Learning from Sakyamuni: Reconciling Conflict and Promoting Social Stability and World Peace Through Teaching.” Your comments are most respectfully welcome.
Desire for Material Gain Is the Origin of All Conflicts
In the past few years, after the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia, invited me to participate in a symposium at the university attended by professors from the centre. From the centre’s report, I learned that eight universities around the world have such centers for peace.
The Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies was established eight years ago and has made considerable contributions to research on resolving conflict and promoting peace. After the September 11th tragedy, however, those at the centre underwent deep soul-searching and realized that the usual methods used in the past such as suppression, retaliation, cold war, and warfare, and so on, could not resolve conflict. They wondered about the feasibility of using only peaceful means to reconcile conflict and promote peace and stability. Thus, the chancellor of the university invited me to take part in this symposium.
After I listened to the centre’s report on their research of the past few years, the chairman of the symposium asked me to make some recommendations. From the report, I realized that attempting to reconcile conflict is like a physician trying to cure an illness: it is essential to determine the cause of the illness to effectively cure the illness. Where is the root cause of conflict?
I proposed that the root cause lay in the family. A high divorce rate is a common social phenomenon in today’s world. This phenomenon denotes conflict between husband and wife. Within the family, there is also conflict between parents and children, and among siblings. In China, there are three generations of family members living together. In this kind of family, there is conflict between mothers- and daughters-in-law. Various family problems are all causes of conflict. When the family members leave home and interact with others, conflict will naturally occur.
Actually, the root cause of all conflicts does not lie in the family. Where is the real root cause of conflict? It lies in oneself. The Buddha said “Delusion is the root cause of suffering, while enlightenment is the source of happiness.” The conflict between one’s delusion from one’s habits and the awakened state of one’s true nature is really the root cause. Confucianism also holds that there is conflict between one’s nature and one’s acquired habits.
Why does conflict arise? Because one’s thoughts, speech, and behavior do not accord with the innate virtuousness of one’s nature. When one’s thoughts and behavior do not accord with one’s nature, conflict will arise. Why can’t one’s thoughts and behavior accord with one’s nature? If we look carefully, we will find that the origin of conflict is greed. Therefore, in the teaching of Sakyamuni, greed, anger, and ignorance are considered the root causes of conflict and are called the Three Poisons. The most fundamental among the Three Poisons is greed—one’s greed for material gain.
In today’s society, is there anyone who does not seek material gain? Mencius lived in the Warring States Period [372-289 BCE]. When he had an audience with King Lianghui, the first thing the king said to him was, “Old man, you came to our state from afar. I think you must have recommendations that will yield material gain to my state.” Mencius replied, “Your Majesty, why do you speak of material gain? What I have for you is benevolence and justice, and that is all.” The meaning of Mencius’ words is very profound. People compete for and are greedy for material gain. Therefore, desire for material gain is really the origin of all conflicts.
To reconcile conflict, it is imperative to decrease and eventually let go of the desire for material gain. The opposite of material gain is benevolence and justice, which is compassion (cibei) as taught in Buddhism. Benevolence is ci—helping all beings attain happiness and sacrificing oneself for others. Justice refers to helping all beings end suffering. It is equivalent to bei. Therefore, Buddhism advocates “Compassion is the essence, and expediency is the means,” while Confucianism teaches benevolence and justice. Although the words used are different, they convey the same meaning. Mencius’ method of solving a problem is exactly the same as that of the Buddha: they both start from the root causes.
From this, we realize that to resolve conflict and promote social stability and world peace, we have to stop competing for recognition and material gain, and actively promote the teaching of benevolence, justice, and compassion, a teaching that will help all beings attain enlightenment. This teaching is the same as the teaching of love taught in religion: God loves all people. Through careful observation, we will really appreciate that all the great sages in every country throughout time and the founders of the major religions, who were all sages, had completely renounced material gain and greed, and had a pure mind. Therefore, they practiced what they taught and were able to teach others to practice. They exerted far-reaching influence during their times and on future generations.
Education Can Help Reconcile All Conflicts
Love is a virtue innate in our true nature. When we are loving, benevolent, just, and compassionate, we accord with our innate virtues. To accord with our innate virtues will bring good consequences. Think about this carefully. One who accords with one’s innate virtues will surely love others and treat them benevolently, justly, and compassionately. How could such a person harm other people? On the contrary, competing for material gain will certainly lead to behavior that benefits oneself at the expense of others. If everyone has such a mentality, conflict among people will naturally arise. Therefore, suppression by force and retaliation cannot truly reconcile conflict or promote social stability and world peace. Neither can conferences.
What method can achieve reconciling conflict and promoting social stability and world peace? Sages in the East and Sakyamuni, all reached this goal through teaching. Confucius taught. Sakyamuni also taught most of his life. According to the sutras, he lectured on the Dharma at more than three hundred assemblies. In other words, he held more than three hundred courses in his entire life. As the students were different in each course, the objectives, methods, and course duration were also different. Long sutras, such as the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra (Wisdom Sutra), are rich in content and are divided into many medium and small sections. They required several years of teaching.
Another example is the Avatamsaka Sutra. The Chinese version we have today comprises thirty-nine chapters, each of which is a big section that further comprises smaller sections. It also took a long time to teach it. This is just like running a school. The learning period of some of the students lasted four years, five, six, or even ten years. For other students, their learning period lasted three days, five days, one week, or one month. There were also many instances in which the teaching of the smallest section lasted two to three hours in a day, which occurred when the Buddha directed his answers to particular students.
During his lifetime, Sakyamuni held more than three hundred courses teaching big sections. His teaching was very rich in content. He began teaching at the age of thirty and passed away at seventy-nine. He spent forty-nine years teaching without interruption. We know that Confucius taught for only five years, and Jesus taught for three years before he was killed. Mohammad taught for twenty-seven years. Among the ancient and contemporary sages of all ethnic groups, Sakyamuni indeed was the one who taught for the longest period of time, and the content of his teaching was the richest. Therefore, the results of his teaching are outstanding. His life provides a good example for us. Only through education can we really reconcile all conflicts that are complicated and complex.
After I attended the symposium at the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, the university invited me to become an honorary professor at the centre and encouraged me to attend international peace conferences on behalf of the university and even Australia. This is how I began participating in international peace conferences, and I have participated in eight so far. This peace conference that allows me to meet with you today is the ninth. Of the previous eight conferences, five were hosted by UNESCO. After participating in so many conferences, I deeply feel that it is really hard to solve problems through conferences.
Looking back at the 5,000 years of history, we see that China never launched a war against its neighbors or occupied one inch of their land. There were changes in regimes and dynasties, but those were events within the country. China did not take the initiative in invading other countries. Therefore, many experts and scholars in the world agree that the Chinese are a peace-loving people.
Six hundred years ago, Zheng He led several fleets to explore overseas. They visited many countries, but wherever they went they did not colonize the land. Instead, they whole-heartedly helped the local people develop agriculture, handicrafts, and culture. That is the reason why Zheng He was held in high esteem by the local people and called Eunuch Sanbao.
Today in Southeast Asia, there are still many places that have Zheng He temples, and many people still visit the temples and pay respect to him. This is a clear example. At that time, China was the most powerful country in the world, and the fleets led by Zheng He were the most powerful ones in the world. Why then didn’t they establish colonies? Why didn’t China have the thought of expanding its territory? What is the reason? Frankly, this is because of the teaching of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.
The Chinese Educational Ideas Are Developed from Love
Since ancient times, the Chinese way of thinking has been to accord with one’s nature and innate virtues. The Chinese call it the teaching of daode lunli and the law of cause and effect. What is daode? In today’s language, dao is the rules of nature, the order in which nature functions, and “nature is harmonious—supreme harmony.” De is following the rules of nature. For example, a year is divided into the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. This is a phenomenon of the rules of nature. This is dao. If one’s life and thinking (thinking belongs to the mental world, and body to the physical world) accord with the seasonal rules of planting in spring, growing in summer, harvesting in autumn, and storing in winter, one will enjoy good physical and mental health. Therefore, following the rules of nature and according with harmony are de. If one violates the rules of nature and breaches harmony, one will certainly suffer from bad health and be prone to illness. So we have the definition of daode.
Lunli is dao. It is following the rules of nature and according with harmony. The Five Cardinal Human Relationships, between husband and wife, between parents and children, among siblings, between rulers and subjects, and among friends all are natural phenomena and the natural harmony of the universe. The nature of these relationships is not created or invented by any particular individual. Therefore, the relationships among people are just the same as the rules of nature. The Five Cardinal Human Relationships are dao, and to accord with the Five Cardinal Human Relationships is de.
To accord with these relationships, parents should love their children, and children should be filial to their parents; elder siblings should be friendly to younger siblings, and younger siblings should respect elder siblings; rulers should be benevolent to their subjects, and the subjects should be loyal to their rulers; husbands are responsible, and wives are attentive; elders are giving, and young ones are dutiful. These are called the Ten Obligations. These ten kinds of harmony are de. These are the standards for harmony that the Chinese ancestors taught for their descendents to follow.
The starting point and the noumenon of daode is love. Therefore, the starting point of Chinese moral concept is the affection between parents and children in the cardinal relationships. Affection refers to benevolence and justice in Confucianism, compassion in Buddhism, and “God loves all people” in Western religions. The starting point is the natural affection between parents and children. This affection is the supreme harmony of nature with no conditions attached. Careful observation will tell us that when a baby is three or four months old, the love between it and its parents is apparent. The Chinese educational ideas come from this starting point.
Therefore, all these years we have been spreading love to the whole world. We agree that human nature is innately good and that everyone has Buddha-nature. We hope that everyone will learn to love him- or herself, love others, love his or her family, love the country, love the world, and love all beings. Love starts from the heart and is received by heart. To feel love with the true mind is justice. The feeling of a sincere heart is love. Sincerity embraces all space, and benevolence pervades the universe. To achieve this, non-Buddhists should practice the teachings in Guidelines for Being a Good Person and Buddhists should practice the Ten Virtuous Deeds.
When compassion pervades the universe and goodwill fills the world, it means that practitioners of the Ten Virtuous Deeds and Guidelines for Being a Good Person are everywhere in the world.
Love is the perfect practice of the Ten Virtuous Deeds and of the teachings in
Guidelines for Being a Good Person.
Love is the true mind, the true nature, the ultimate reality, and Dharma-nature.
Love is one’s nature, innate goodness, purity, and pure virtuousness.
Love is the truth, true essence, life, and eternity.
Love is sacredness, God, Allah, and the Holy Spirit.
Love nurtures everything in the universe.
Everything originates and grows from love.
Love is the source of all virtues, all powers, and all happiness.
What Buddhas and sages realized and gained is love for self. What they taught is love for others. The teaching of all sages is the teaching of sincerity, love, and the standards of behavior in life as enunciated in Guidelines for Being a Good Person and in the Ten Virtuous Deeds. The teaching of all sages is the inheritance of human wisdom and experience as well as the heritage of world civilizations.
The first goal of ancient Chinese education was to ensure that the affection between parents and children would remain unchanged during their lifetimes. The second goal was to enhance this sincere love and to expand its scope to include the family, brothers and sisters, the community, society, the country, humankind, and even all beings. One should love not only humankind but also animals, trees, flowers, and grass. This was the concept, and it was the desired goal of Chinese education to expand the scope of this love.
Chinese education is a teaching of benevolence and justice, love, and supreme harmony. It does not teach one to compete for material gain. Therefore, children should be taught to give precedence to others at a young age. In addition to learning to refrain from competing with others, they should also learn to sacrifice themselves. It is different from today’s education, which starts teaching competition in kindergarten. Competition denotes selfishness. When children are taught to compete for recognition and material gain at a young age and are instilled with the concept of benefiting oneself at the expense of others, as grownups they will not realize that benefiting oneself at the expense of others is wrong. Therefore, the teaching of love teaches people to love others as they love themselves, always thinking about making sacrifices and about serving others—society, the country, and all beings. When doing so, they never consider their own interests. The teaching of the sages starts from here.
The most famous example of education in China is the prenatal education advocated by three queen consorts, Taijiang, Tairen, and Taisi, of the Zhou dynasty. Tairen, mother of King Wen, knew that her thoughts, speech, and behavior would have an impact on the fetus. According to historical records, Tairen would not look at anything that was not virtuous or listen to anything that conveyed evil thoughts. She spoke softly, and her speech and behavior were never arrogant or angry. She was deeply aware that her thoughts, speech, and behavior would have an impact on the fetus.
Education of children should start from pregnancy. Although many parents may not try to exert good influence on their children before birth, they know that after a baby is born it will be influenced by what it sees and hears. Regardless of whether a baby is able to understand, as soon as it opens its eyes it will see and hear, and it starts learning and imitating. Doing so is its nature, and nature is dao. At this time, the parents should exert positive influence on the baby, and this is teaching of de.
Fully aware of the importance of childhood education, the mother of Mencius moved three times in order to provide a good learning environment for her son. Originally, they lived close to a graveyard. At a young age, Mencius amused himself by learning how to bury the dead. Feeling that her son was not learning something good, she moved near a market. However, her son began to learn from the butchers at the market how to butcher a pig and sell pork. Seeing this, the mother moved again. This time she moved near a school. Mencius started to learn how to properly greet people, how to bow, and how to study. Seeing that her son was learning something good, she finally settled down there. The mother of Mencius moved three times to provide a good learning environment for her son, and she truly did a good job on childhood education because Mencius became a sage whose greatness was considered second only to that of Confucius in China’s academia.
Mencius learned from Confucius. At that time, Confucius had already passed away, but he left behind his writings. Mencius was the first person in China to learn from the teachings of a deceased person. Therefore, if one cannot find a good teacher, one can study a deceased person’s works. Confucius’ third-generation students were still alive. Having an inquisitive mind, Mencius would go to ask them anything he did not understand in his study. He succeeded in his learning and cultivation of virtues, and he made outstanding contributions to Chinese culture.
In his lifetime, Mencius upheld Confucian ethics and teachings, opposed selfishness, and advocated benevolence, justice, and morality. However, the rulers or kings of his time did not adopt his propositions. What was the reason? It was because Mencius lived in the Warring States period (Confucius lived in the Spring and Autumn period), a time when people gradually attached importance to competition for recognition and material gain, and were used to turmoil and wars. The situation then was similar to today’s world. Mencius felt very distressed when he saw all this. As no ruler would adopt his propositions, he dedicated himself to teaching, imparting his wisdom, experience, morals, and viewpoints to future sages.
An objective analysis will reveal that Sakyamuni surpassed Confucius in wisdom and insight. Sakyamuni was a prince, and if he had wanted to implement his ideas through political means he was in a position to do so. But he renounced his throne, power, and wealth, content to live an ascetic life. For the rest of his life, he engaged in multicultural social education. This is the conduct of a sage. If we observe carefully, what he did in his life is perfectly correct. He set the best example for us to follow. This is his greatest contribution to humanity.
Originally, Confucius and Mencius wished to have legitimate authority, as did the Duke of Zhou, so that they could fulfill their aspirations and benefit people. This was a manifestation, or taking on a role. Sakyamuni likewise took on a role to teach people to refrain from competing for recognition, material gain, wealth, power, and social position. It is because the best way to serve people is to teach them. This would benefit individuals, families, society, countries, and the world. What Sakyamuni did required great insight and wisdom, not something an ordinary man could have done. Sakyamuni was thorough in what he did.
All sages have their way of doing things and they are correct in doing things that way. We should clearly observe and consider all viewpoints. Then we will be able to uncover our wisdom and to truly learn the virtues and abilities that we should learn. It is inappropriate to say that Confucius was wrong to seek a position at the imperial court and that Sakyamuni was correct to renounce worldly attachments. Both of them were correct; they simply had different ways of doing things. We must learn from different people to make our learning complete. If one has position or power, one should work conscientiously while maintaining a pure mind as Sakyamuni did. This way, one will achieve perfection in his undertakings.
The teachings of Mahayana Buddhism emphasize perfect harmony, perfect wisdom, perfect undertakings, and perfect merits. People today should try to appreciate this point and learn from the teachings. Only the sages’ teaching of wisdom can help us improve ourselves. Buddhism, teaches us to eliminate our afflictions and bad habits. In other words, we are to correct our wrong thoughts, wrong mindsets, wandering thoughts, discrimination, and attachments, and accord with the rules of nature and the order in which nature functions. We should understand the relationship between the entire universe and the rules of nature: the ultimate truth is that everything is indeed one entity and is harmonious. The universe and we are one entity.
God Teaches People by Means of Different Forms
For the purpose of facilitating teaching, Buddhism divides the entire universe into three parts: noumenon, mind, and matter. These three parts are actually one entity. Noumenon is the essence, which is considered by Buddhism to be able to manifest and alter phenomena. In the statement “[phenomena are] manifested by the mind and altered by the consciousness,” the mind is the noumenon, and the consciousness refers to discrimination and attachments, both of which manifest everything in the universe.
That which can be manifested and the manifested are one, not two. From here, we try to understand that the entire universe is oneself. Our minds merge with Dharma-nature, and our bodies merge with Dharma-body. Dharma-body refers to the physical phenomena in the universe, and seeing, smelling, cognition, and knowing refer to the mental phenomena in the universe. These two kinds of phenomena come from the same origin. This origin is called Dharma-nature in Buddhism and is called God or deities in other religions.
Today, many religious scholars believe that God or a deity has no physical body; He is omnipresent. This statement also applies to Dharma-nature in Buddhism. Therefore, we know that although different terms are used, all religions speak of the same thing. I have discussed this basic concept with many religious leaders, and we all agree that the gods worshipped in all religions are the one and only True God in the universe. I asked them, “Do you agree that the True God has perfect wisdom?” They agreed. “The True God has miraculous powers, which are inconceivable, and can transform into anything.” They believed this. And then I said, “He has turned into Sakyamuni of Buddhism, Confucius of China, Jesus Christ of Christianity, and Mohammad of Islam. All these people were in fact the True God. Therefore, we are all family.” It is admirable of these religious leaders to accept this idea with open hearts. I thought that a lot of discussion might be required before they would accept this idea, but it has been warmly received by my religious friends. This is quite rare and commendable.
Founders of all religions were actually the different forms and identities that the True God took for the purpose of teaching diverse ethnic groups at different times, and with their varied cultural and historical backgrounds. Though the teaching methods are different, when we look at them carefully, we will see that their directions, goals, and purposes are the same. The starting point of all religions is love. That the starting point is the same means that they share the same goal and direction. Therefore, religious groups can work together. There were nine religious groups in Singapore while I was there. They really worked together as one and got along harmoniously like brothers and sisters. This helped to bring stability and peace to the country. While in Indonesia, I also worked to promote religious harmony and cooperation and attained very good results.
Before becoming the president of Indonesia, Elder Wahid had already been engaged in promoting religious cooperation and harmony and had laid a good foundation. On my visit to this country, I was fortunate to get along well with religious friends there. I accompanied their delegations to visit Egypt, the Vatican, and, later on, China. I was invited to join both trips as consultant to the aforesaid delegations. A trip provides a good learning opportunity. These religious leaders do not often get together, and so when a traveling group was formed, they talked about everything and exchanged ideas every day for more than ten days. This way, they got to understand and learn from one another, and they thus truly became friends.
Elder Mahathir, the former prime minister of Malaysia, had already retired from the political arena when I called on him in 2005, but he was still deeply compassionate and was often concerned about how to resolve conflict and avert disasters in the world, and how to restore social stability and peace. I was touched by his deep compassion and greatly admired him for it. When he asked me how to achieve these goals, I told him that four conditions had to be fulfilled before the goals of reconciling conflict and restoring stability and peace could be achieved.
He asked me what the four conditions were. I said that the first was that all countries had to treat one another equally and get along harmoniously. The second was that different ethnic groups also had to do the same. The third was that political parties or political factions that could exert influence on global stability had to broaden their minds and vision. They should think of the wellbeing of all the people in the world instead of thinking only of themselves. Political factions should work together for the common goal of promoting what is beneficial, getting rid of what is harmful, and seeking wellbeing for all humankind. The fourth was that all religious groups had to get along harmoniously and treat one another equally. I said that it was hard to fulfill these four conditions, but it was relatively easy to start with the fourth condition. If religious groups could get along harmoniously and treat one another equally, they would surely influence politics, political parties, and ethnic groups.
Elder Mahathir agreed with my view, and the next day he decided to invite me to attend the Perdana Global Peace Forum held in Kuala Lumpur under his sponsorship in December 2005. I attended this activity with pleasure and appreciated the courtesy he accorded me during the forum. Seeing that he was in good health, I urged him in his old age to continue promoting world peace and wellbeing of humankind for at least another ten years to make the greatest possible contribution to reconciling conflict and restoring world peace and stability.
Practice of Guidelines for Being a Good Person
Lays the Foundation for Moral Conduct
Over the past several decades, many deeply compassionate people of vision and foresight around the world tried to reconcile conflict and promote stability and peace via conferences but to no avail. When I remembered what Laozi had said about a small country with a small population, I wanted to conduct an experiment and to find a small community for this pilot project. I wanted to do this experiment in the United States but the conditions were not ripe. Later on, when I tried to do it in Singapore and in Australia, the conditions were still not ripe.
A few years ago, I had a rare opportunity to return to my hometown. When I was chatting with my kinfolk, I told them about this idea of mine. To my surprise, they responded enthusiastically, “We would like to do it!” Delighted, I chose Tangchi, a small township in the same county as my hometown, to be the location for my experiment. This township is situated in a rural area. There are twelve villages with a total population of 48,000 under the administration of the township of Tangchi. The people there had neglected the teachings of Chinese sages for eighty years. We set up a multicultural center, The Lujiang Centre of Cultural Education, in the hope of implementing the teaching concepts, teaching methods, and the spirit of Confucius and Sakyamuni in this small township.
The top priority was to train teachers. Without them, it is impossible to teach. We used the Internet to broadcast our ideas and recruit teachers. We wanted to recruit teachers from kindergartens and from primary and junior middle schools. Very soon, more than three hundred teachers responded to our recruitment. We carefully selected more than thirty teachers for interviews, and after that we chose thirty who truly shared our aspirations and desired to join this undertaking. They quit their jobs and took part in the teaching activities of our center. For the first two months, we used Guidelines for Being a Good Person, the basic textbook of Confucianism, as teaching material and asked these teachers to truly practice the teachings in the book to the full.
In teaching this book, the most important thing is that parents and elders must set an example for the children. Babies see and hear upon birth. They start to imitate others even before they can speak or walk. The speech and conduct of their elders must conform to moral principles and ethics so that what the babies see, hear, and come in contact with will positively influence them. The Chinese proverb “The behavior of a child three years old will reveal what this person will be like at the age of eighty. The behavior of a child of seven will reveal what this person will be like throughout his or her whole life” makes a lot of sense.
What children see and hear during their first three years will leave a deep impression on them and they will be able to tell right from wrong and good from evil at the age of three. These children will be immune to many harmful pollutants in the contemporary world. This immunity will have been instilled in them since birth.
When they start attending primary schools at the age of six or seven, if teachers make sure that the children adhere to moral principles and ethics every day, this will enhance and extend the moral education that the children have been receiving since birth. This will help them lay a foundation for good character, which will ensure virtuous thoughts, speech, and conduct for the rest of their lives. The children will give others priority, treat others with respect and humility, engage in tasks with caution, and get along harmoniously with others. Therefore, no disputes will arise. After they have laid the foundation for moral conduct, they should be taught the writings of the sages to receive the teaching of ethics, morality, the law of cause and effect, and wisdom.
Childhood is the phase in one’s life when one’s memory is at its best. Children under the age of twelve should therefore concentrate on memorization. They should read and memorize all the texts that they need to study so that they will always remember these texts for the rest of their lives. At this stage, children should pay attention to reading and memorizing, rather than understanding. They should also pay attention to developing good virtues and learning how to properly interact with people and engage in tasks. When they have learned how to respect and attend to teachers at school, on returning home they will know how to be filial to and serve their parents. Therefore, teachers in primary schools should only teach children to read and memorize texts, not explain.
Children have different learning capacities. It is reasonable for a child to be able to memorize a piece of writing after ten readings. This child should be asked to recite it from memory one hundred to two hundred times. What is the reason for this? This is to ensure that the child will remember this piece of writing for the rest of his or her life. The next day, he or she should be asked to recite from memory the piece of writing learned the previous day before learning something new. Importance is attached to reviewing. One should review what one has learned and acquire new knowledge.
There were only two stages in ancient Chinese education. After completion of primary school education, students at thirteen went on to a taixue, which was equivalent to a university. Teaching in a taixue focused on explanation, analysis, and discussion. Having learned the text by heart there was no need for textbooks, so studying in a taixue was very enjoyable for both teachers and students.
When someone quoted from ancient or contemporary writings, everybody could tell exactly where the quotation came from and even exactly where it was in the book. This is because the layout of ancient Chinese books was uniform. There were ten lines on a page, twenty characters in a line, and no punctuation. All printers followed this rule. Therefore, regardless of the printer, all editions of a book had the same number of characters on each page. This rule is more systematic than those in publishing today. In publishing today, a word will be in a different line and on a different page in different editions. As a result, it is difficult to do research.
Thanks to this uniform layout of ancient Chinese printing, all scholars throughout China could tell exactly where a passage was in a book. This is why there was no need for books in a taixue class. Teachers would generally travel around with their students. Importance was attached to actual research at historical sites and to the use of virtual teaching materials so as to deepen the students’ understanding and learning interest. Therefore, when talking about a geographical area mentioned in an ancient scholar’s writing, a teacher would take his students there to see, study, and discuss the historical relics left by the ancients. It became a virtual classroom. As a result, study was quite enjoyable, very different from today when study is considered painful by many students. During study and discussion, students could freely express their ideas and views to seek thorough comprehension and attain true wisdom so that their academic studies would suit the needs of society.
It is worthwhile to integrate the teaching concepts of the East and the West, such as the above-mentioned educational ideas, so as to draw on each other’s strong points to make up for one’s own weak points. We hope that all people will receive the teaching of ethics, morality, the law of cause and effect, wisdom, and science, and reach a consensus. This concerns not only our lifelong happiness but also the infinite happiness of all humankind living and flourishing side by side. The teachings will help everybody resolve from his or her heart the conflict with others and the external environment, and the misunderstandings, doubts, and misgivings about other people and the external environment. This will then help him or her attain inner harmony, good health, and happiness.
Nature is in harmony. The universe is in harmony. Everything is in harmony. People should also be in harmony and be in collaboration with the universe, other people, and all things on earth. This way, we can truly reconcile all conflicts in the world, achieve social stability and world peace, and achieve the goal of Sakyamuni’s teaching of “ending delusion and attaining enlightenment, and ending suffering and attaining happiness.”
Education Can Preserve Social Values
We conducted an experiment in the ancient oriental teaching method in Tangchi. Our center required every teacher to practice the 113 rules in Guidelines for Being a Good Person to the full. The essence of these rules is the same as that of the fifty-five rules proposed by Ron Clark, an American educator, but the 113 rules are richer and more extensive in content.
Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism also have their own basic principles. The Accounts of Request and Response serves as a basic Taoist teaching, and the Ten Virtuous Deeds Sutra serves as a basic Buddhist teaching. The Ten Virtuous Deeds are guiding principles, which can be developed into over one hundred rules. A beginning student of Confucianism, Taoism, or Buddhism must conscientiously practice the respective basic teachings to the full and then progress from this basis to the next stage.
After successfully applying the 113 Confucian rules within just two months, teachers from The Lujiang Centre of Cultural Education started to teach the local people and encouraged them, male or female, young or old, and of any occupation, to learn together. These teachers were students themselves at the center, but they became teachers when they left the center to teach. As there are twelve villages under the administration of the township, the teachers were assigned to these twelve villages and took turns in teaching.
To our surprise, there were good results after two months. In this township, there is no conflict, and therefore no quarrelling between husband and wife. As mothers- and daughters-in-law now live in harmony, no conflict exists. People who used to quarrel over trivial things with their neighbors now live in harmony with them, giving precedence to them. Children know that they should be filial to their parents. The ethical standards and behavior of the people in the township improved, and good social values were restored. Storeowners told us that there used to be many shoplifters, and if the owners failed to keep a close watch, they would often suffer thefts. After the local people received the center’s teaching for two months, shoplifting stopped even when the owners were not watchful.
A taxi driver said, “We taxi drivers used to have very bad thoughts. If the passengers were visitors from somewhere else, we tried to cheat them by overcharging them or taking the long way or even driving in circles. We realized that what we did was wrong and changed our attitude. Now we treat the passengers with sincerity and warmth. Once, a passenger from another place left his briefcase in my taxi. In it was tens of thousands RMB in cash. In the past, I would have kept the briefcase and money for myself—I would not have returned the money. Now that I have received moral education from the center, I know that I should take care of the passengers, so I returned the briefcase intact to its owner.”
The passenger was a business-owner. He was very impressed by the taxi driver, “What an honest person you are to return my lost briefcase!” The driver replied, “Thanks to the teaching by the center, not only I but also any other taxi driver here will return anything left in our cars to its owner.” This is the good result from our teaching. Ms. Yang Shufeng, the dean of studies of the center, will make a detailed report to you.
The experience we gained from these past six months of teaching in Tangchi has strengthened our confidence in reconciling conflict and promoting social stability and world peace. We firmly believe that it is possible to teach people to be good, that all people are innately good [as taught in Confucianism], and that all beings have Buddha-nature as taught in Buddhism. Everybody is originally a good person because human nature is innately good.
Why then does a person turn bad? Because he or she follows bad examples, and nobody taught him or her otherwise. This is the case of “One who mixes with vermilion will turn red; one who touches a black ink stick will be stained black.” Everybody would like to receive teaching that exerts good and positive influence and that teaches him or her to accord with innate virtues. Everybody wants to be a good person; nobody wants to be a bad person. This is the truth we see from the six months of teaching in Tangchi.
There are many such examples. Today I have this rare and wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas with you and to learn from you here at UNESCO headquarters. I hope to share with you the results from our teaching in Tangchi and to offer our experience to all the peace-loving people of the world. Let us work together to implement the teaching of ethnics, morality, the law of cause and effect, wisdom, and science, and to help suffering beings around the world end delusion and attain enlightenment, and end suffering and attain happiness.
These teaching concepts, methods, and results are inspired by Sakyamuni and Confucius and may serve as reference for the U.N. in reconciling conflict and promoting social stability and world peace.
I hope that our modest achievement will help strengthen the confidence and determination of those who work to reconcile conflict and promote social stability and world peace. As long as religious groups work together and teach people, all conflicts will naturally be reconciled, and harmony in society and in the world will not be mere words but will be achieved.
I wish that those who have the same aspirations would work together to make the greatest possible contributions, as Sakyamuni and Confucius did, to all humankind. Finally, on behalf of our center, I sincerely invite all of you to visit The Lujiang Centre of Cultural Education in Lujiang County, Anhui Province, China, and to give us your comments. Thank you.
I wish all the delegates and distinguished guests good health and happiness!
Shi Chin Kung
President, Pure Land Learning College, Australia
Honorary Professor, Queensland University, Australia
Honorary Professor, Griffith University, Australia
Director, Lujiang Cultural Education Center, China