One: Chinese Buddhism: Past and Present
Today, I’d like to share with everyone present here the current situation and achievements about the development and exploration of Chinese Buddhism since the beginning of the 21st century. I hope to help more people have a true and full understanding of vigorous Chinese Buddhism.
First of all, I want to put the 21st-Century Chinese Buddhism in a broader historical time and space, because its present situation is actually a part of the long progress. It comes from the past and lays a foundation for the future, rather than acts as an isolated fragment.
To those who are not very familiar with Chinese Buddhism, they tend to treat contemporary Chinese Buddhism with two views. First, some remain in the impression and perception of ancient Chinese society and look on Chinese Buddhism as a kind of old and even obsolete existence; second, some others focus completely on the conditions in modern time and space, and treat Chinese Buddhism from a practical point of view, but they ignore its deep historical roots and profound systems of theory and practice. Both of these perspectives are partial and limited, and might cause two misconceptions of Chinese Buddhism. First, they separate Buddhism from its times, holding that it is an outdated and even anti-modern religion; second, they separate Buddhism from its history, making it superficial and secularized.
As a matter of fact, Chinese Buddhism we are talking about today is both historical and modern.
Since its transmission into China in the first century, with about 600 years of localization, Buddhism had reached a state in the Tang Dynasty that typified so-called “Han Chinese Buddhism.“, This state included Buddhist doctrines and ways of practice and realization represented by the eight sects such as Tiantai, Huayan, and Chan; the organizational system of the Sangha characterized by monastic codes; the dissemination of Buddhism based on Buddhist monasteries; the socialized living state founded on farm work and Buddhist practice.
After the localization was completed, for more than 1,000 years Chinese Buddhism has not only become an important source of thought in Chinese culture, but also engaged in social functions that traditional Confucian and Daoist cultures lack: keeping unity and balance between the transcendental world and the secular world. As a result, Mahayana Buddhism, which integrates the ultimate meaning of life and the mundane life, won universal recognition and belief from emperors, scholars and officials in the elite class, and ordinary people, and it became a vital spiritual support to all levels of Chinese society.
However, by the end of the 19th century, Buddhism, which had once highly integrated and harmoniously coexisted with ancient Chinese society and mainstream Chinese thought and culture, encountered “upheavals unprecedented in the past millennia.” Under the strong impact of Western modern civilization, China had to start a comprehensive process of modernization, which involved the social system, thought, culture, ways of life, etc. This modernization aimed at the mode of industrial civilization based on science and technology, which caused a widespread doubt and criticism of the traditional Chinese culture that was rooted in agricultural civilization. Buddhist values were also despised and rejected.
At that critical moment of life and death, Chinese Buddhism, like Chinese society, was faced with the exploration and choice of transformation into modernity. At that time, some pioneers of Buddhist reform sprang up, among whom one of the outstanding representatives was Venerated Master Taixu who put forward three revolutionary watchwords: Buddhist doctrines, Buddhist rules, and Buddhist possessions. Although his revolutionary ideals were not fully realized, the modernization of Chinese Buddhism formally started from then on.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Buddhism has been endeavoring to fit into the socialist society. In the 21st century, globalization becomes the primary trend of world development, so the proposition of the modernization of Chinese Buddhism is in a situation of grand integration between Eastern and Western cultures in the world. This is an era when different cultures and values frequently interact and interpenetrate with each other, and a moment when new concepts and modes of modern civilization reconstruct history. Modern transformation of Chinese Buddhism is characterized by initiative, creativity, and openness that are unprecedented in their self-orientating effect.
Therefore, that Chinese Buddhism devotes itself to modernization in the 21st century is not only an adaptation to reality, but a kind of transcendence and innovation. When it is adapting to modern society and culture, it must activate the transcendental dimension of insight into and enlightenment for the world in a brand-new way, rather than confuse itself with worldly matters and become a part of modern elite culture or popular culture. In other words, contemporary Buddhism should not merely be molded by modern civilization, but should play the role of an active cultural force to remold and lead modern civilization. Chinese Buddhism is willing to take the responsibility to shoulder that mission.
For this reason, in the past dozen years of the 21st century, Chinese Buddhism was committed to exploring and practicing in all aspects, in the hope of making due efforts and contributions to social stability, cultural revival, world peace, and the bright future of human civilization.
Now, I am going to make a brief introduction to these aspects.
Two: Construction of the Contemporary Chinese Buddhist Conception
I. Philosophical Development
The biggest problem confronted by the transformation of modern Chinese Buddhism is how to combine ancient Buddhist teachings and traditions with modern society and culture, and how to once again transform the essence of Buddhist knowledge so as to inform and lead the development of modern society’s current advanced culture. Confronted with this problem, modern interpretations of Buddhist teachings seem extremely important. Therefore, the development of modern Chinese Buddhist philosophy focuses on modern interpretations of fundamental Buddhist teachings.
(1) Suggestion of Central Concepts
The spirit of constructing Buddhist thought is to once again refine and explain Buddhism’s message and core essence given the new context of globalization and modern society.
(a) The Ideology of “Humanistic Buddhism”
The “Humanistic Buddhism” ideology has been confirmed as the fundamental guiding notion of Chinese Buddhism since the 1980s. For people who do not have a deep understanding of Chinese Buddhism and social history, this concept might be puzzling. In truth, the first person to suggest the concept of “Humanistic Buddhism” is the modern era Buddhist reformer, venerated master Taixu (1890-1947.)
Because of the impact of modern culture, which placed scientific knowledge and rationality above everything else, Buddhism’s notions that secular withdrawal and transcendence are the true meaning of life became subject to severe doubt. The legitimacy of Buddhism itself was brought into question. Given this background, venerated master Taixu proposed the concept of “Humanistic Buddhism” precisely to display the value and significance of Buddhism throughout our actual life. From this he proved the legitimacy of Buddhism’s existence. Consequently, by proposing this idea he created a mixture of Buddhist teachings and modern culture.
During that period in time, Humanistic Buddhism emphasized Buddhism’s compatibility with modern society and culture, but in no way diminished Mahayana Buddhism’s ultimate objective nor transcendent spirit. Contemporary Chinese Buddhism has taken this a step further and considers “Humanistic Buddhism” an essential concept of the age. It has organically combined Humanistic Buddhism’s sequential order, ultimate objective, societal responsibilities, and value of transcendence together. Buddhism has smoothly merged into society through positively guiding the era forward, and helping each of us to understand our own self-worth. It has thus provided society with an appropriate theoretical starting point for growth.
(b) The Concept of “Mental Culture”
If one says that “Humanistic Buddhist” thought symbolizes the socialization of Chinese Buddhism, then the concept of “Mental Culture” represents Chinese Buddhism’s globalized stance.
As modern civilization has evolved into the age of globalization, the modes and concepts of modern civilization have been challenged and deconstructed by the international crisis of globalization. This constitutes the “modernity crisis.” When modern culture had difficulty solving its self-inflicting crisis of modernity, the value of Buddhism’s notions of inner transcendence was given an extraordinary opportunity to shine. Chinese Buddhism engaged in a profound reflection over modern culture and discovered Buddhism’s “mental culture” provides a path to alleviate problems derived from the corrupt “material culture.”
Moreover, it is able to utilize the International Buddhism Forum, the friendly exchanges of China, Korea, and Japan, as well as all manner of international religious peace conferences as channels through which to constantly send out the voice of Buddhism and positively respond to modern societal problems that have arisen in this age of science and technology.
(c) Notions of Peace and Harmony
During the rapidly changing age of globalization, different groups, cultures, and value systems have a tendency to mutually oppose and mix with one-another. Thus, communication and harmony appear to be of extreme importance. Contemporary Chinese Buddhism has elected and promoted Buddhism’s theoretical concepts of “dependent origination, karma, equality, compassion, the middle way, and consummate integration” as means of strengthening societal harmony and world peace. From the “Belt and Road Initiative” vision of cooperation between global civilizations, to discussion between world religions, Buddhism’s notions of peace and harmony have constantly provided these times with a source of wisdom.
(2) Interpretation of Scripture and Buddhist Research
The combination of clarifying interpretations of Buddhist scripture and the research of Buddhist doctrine constitutes the foundation of Buddhist thought.
During ancient times in China, interpretation of scripture and research of Buddhist doctrine was collectively known as “yixue.” From the Jin Dynasties, to the Northern and Southern Dynasties, and all through seven hundred years of the Tang Dynasty, Chinese Buddhism yixue research was particularly brilliant and fertile, creating the ideological peak of the Eight Major Buddhist Schools of China. After the Ming and Qing dynasties, yixue lacked its former splendor and Chinese Buddhism subsequently declined. It can be said that the vitality and vigor of Chinese Buddhism is obtained by the creative interpretations of Buddhist yixue. Consequently, in the future, Chinese Buddhism’s vigor can be extended and strengthened via interpretation of scripture and yixue research.
The Chinese Buddhist Tripitaka is an anthology of Indian and Chinese Buddhist teachings. It provides succinct representations of both ancient Indian and Chinese culture. A systematic study of the Tripitaka not only helps us to grasp a comprehensive understanding of Buddhist theory and notions but also demonstrates the essence of Eastern inheritance and innovation. For the past decade, a few monasteries and organizations have progressively engaged in organization, hermeneutics, and research on the Tripitaka, which has already achieved significant results. In the future, the Chinese Buddhist world hopes to pass on the true Eastern cultural treasure of the many translations and comparative research of Chinese Buddhist scriptures and treatises to the rest of the world.
From 2008, the Buddhist Association of China has held an annual Han Chinese Buddhism Scripture Discussion Conference, organized a nationwide lecture tour, and promoted the practice of using modern language to study, explain, and pass on Buddhist scriptures. In 2015, the Scripture Discussion Conference changed its name to the Chinese Buddhism Scripture Discussion Conference. That year it amply represented each of the three major language families of Chinese Buddhism, thus successfully presenting an intact appearance of Buddhism across the mainland of China, Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong to those present.
The Chinese Buddhist world has also united itself with the academic sphere and developed many angles and much interdisciplinary Buddhist research. By holding academic conferences and compiling academic periodicals it has taken on various forms to promote a more in-depth and developed study of Buddhism. It has also engaged in exchanges with Asian and European countries to advance the international level of Buddhist studies. For example, in 2016 Xi’an held a “Han Chinese Buddhism Ancestral Culture International Academic Research Conference.” Scholars and specialists from 17 countries and regions participated in the event.
Chinese Buddhist yixue research is founded upon scriptures, but it is more focused upon unearthing explanations of Buddhist doctrine and content as well as providing answers to modern questions. Therefore, Buddhist Studies are not a simple academic discipline, nor is it limited to the narrow confines of linguistic or philological studies.
II. Development of Talented Individuals
Buddhism wants to better integrate itself deeper into society and disseminate its teachings to a broader community. To achieve this requires lay Buddhists in addition to the monastic order to preserve and pass on teachings. Beside talented individuals who research scriptures and engage in cultivation, there is also a need for persons who can spread Buddhist culture, provide public service projects, and perform international promotion. In the decades to come, as the concept of Chinese Buddhist education evolves and its model expands, the need for individuals of a wider array of talents will grow.
(1) The Changing Face of the Traditional Monastery
In terms of educating monastics, the traditional monastery’s model for cultivation and permeation must gradually develop a new form that integrates both internal cultivation practices with external propagation methods. The modern day monastic community will not only continue the study of precepts, concentration, and wisdom, but will also use new multi-media and technology to promote Buddhist Dharma and traditional culture, proactively engage in philanthropic undertakings, and establish international communication networks. The monastery will become an open spiritual and cultural center dedicated to spreading positive energy throughout society.
The new monastic community will combine the advantages of the traditional monastery with a modern Buddhist education. It considers communication between religious and academic circles to be of the utmost importance, and will expand ancient agricultural Chan lifestyle projects with the intent of spreading Dharma and improving people’s lives. A true and living Dharma will be realized through this interaction and exchange with society.
(1) Development of Modern Buddhist Schools
Buddhist school education systems are being further standardized and aligned with the societal education system. In 2015, Buddhist schools in China awarded the first batch of bachelor’s degrees in the history of Chinese Buddhism education. This is a great milestone. At that time, teachers at the Buddhist Academy of China had already become certified. They are now able to grant bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees – this training system represents a breakthrough development for fostering Buddhist talent.
Currently, there are a total of 38 such establishments that have been officially sanctioned by China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs. 30 of these establishments teach Han Chinese Buddhism, 7 teach Tibetan Buddhism, and 1 Theravada Buddhism. In 2016, on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Buddhist Academy of China, a founding ceremony was held on its new campus. The future Buddhist Academy of China will become a Buddhist university open to the whole society and the rest of the world. With such actions, Chinese Buddhist education has taken a great stride forward signalling a new stage in its history.
(3) Promoting the Education of Adherents
A great deal has been done by the Chinese Buddhist community to increase the effort and focus put into the education of lay practitioners. Many different methods have been applied to develop the training and guidance that leads home practitioners toward a true faith and proper practice. The organization and systematization of modern lay Buddhist education is improving with each day. Lay practitioners look to the monastic community and Dharma centers for guidance on sequenced cultivation and participation in public charity events and cultural dissemination projects. At the same time, the use of internet technologies has extended the scope of our education systems, allowing them to reach overseas nations as well.
III. Establish a Religious Educational Culture and System
Achieving a rapid transformation of thought and broad collection of talented individuals constitute the two forces driving forward Chinese Buddhism into a new, historic stage. Establishing teaching norms, educational system, and guiding path that guarantee this transformative journey moves along smoothly has been paramount.
(1) Establishing Teaching Norms
The Buddhist education style is organized into three sections in accordance with precepts, concentration, and wisdom. The corresponding sections are style of discipline, style of doctrine, and style of study, respectively. The dialectical relationship between the three studies and three styles is one of internal content and external application. Chinese Buddhism maintains the foundation that “the precepts are the masters.” The precepts and laws are regarded as the core around which the teaching norms and system are constructed. Further work is being conducted to standardize the process of initiating practitioners into monkhood and ensuring a degree of quality for all members of the teaching staff from the very start of the training sequence.
Between 2002 and 2015, Chinese Buddhism organized 132 meetings nationally to initiate practitioners into the monastic community. 49348 persons were initiated in total. This subsequently established a base for the healthy progression of Buddhist undertakings. In order to improve the course of Buddhist study, the Buddhist Association of China enthusiastically launched its joint monastery founding activity with the slogan “The Year of Teaching Norms.” Great efforts were made to establish a cultural monastery that advocates “civilized incense offerings, rationally liberating animals, and ecological construction.” With ten consecutive years of Chinese Buddhist events including conferences over sutras and national lectures, we look forward to Chinese Buddhism’s gradual formation of an effective study style that involves reading and chanting, research, lecturing, and practice of scriptures and treatises.
(1) Establishing an Educational System
Throughout its work to establish an education system, the Buddhist Association of China is continuously improving its management and standardization. In recent years, the Buddhist Association of China has formulated a system of qualifications for new and current Buddhist teachers from all of the three main language backgrounds (Chinese, Tibetan, and Pali). In 2015, work was carried out for step-by-step development of a system of files and certification for Buddhist teachers and employees nationwide. On January 18, 2016, the Tibetan Buddhist Living Buddha inquiries system was officially opened online. Moreover, with regards to monastery management, a gradual attempt to integrate religious disciplines and monastic rules into a modern management system is under way.
The Chinese Buddhist domain’s awareness and engagement over rule through law and protection of rights has become progressively more clear and intense in response to the current trend of commercialization. Via promotion by Chinese Buddhism itself as well as members of other social sectors, the state is currently amending the Religious Affairs Regulations and formulating a General Principles of Civil Law document. It is applying legal restrictions to many kinds of market capital infiltration and clearly defining the status of legal persons within active Buddhist centers. This constitutes a great development in the establishment of a system of legal governance within the Chinese Buddhist domain.
Three: The Social Effects of Contemporary Chinese Buddhism
After more than 10 years of unremitting efforts, Chinese Buddhism will channel the strong positive energy it has collected through self-building, into service of society, the preservation of cultural heritage, and the promotion of world peace, built on a strong sense of responsibility and active initiative. It has has made new contributions to social progress, cultural prosperity, national stability and unity, and human peace and happiness
I. Committed to Cultural Heritage, Innovation and Communication
In this era of globalization and multiculturalism, it is very important to inherit and innovate the cultural traditions of our people. Only by preserving the roots of traditional culture, will we be able to ensure a stable center within the great melding of cultures, and avoid a confusion of values. Only by the Middle Way of Buddhism, of “the immutable as conditioned, and the conditioned as immutable,” can we hold fast to our original state, stay open and tolerant, and rise above the dilemma of cultural conflict.
Chinese Buddhism in this new century has fully realized its historical mission to help traditional culture to spread gloriously, to “convey flame from ashes.” Its responsibility is to take the initiative and act as guardian, developer, disseminator of traditional Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism. In the creative transformation and innovative growth of traditional culture, awaits a wealth of beneficial exploration.
In the protection of intangible cultural heritage, the Museum of Buddhist Books and Cultural Heritage, the 金陵刻经处, and temples around the country, are all paying more attention to the protection and restoration of Buddhist cultural relics, as well as the perfection of protection systems for cultural relics. In 2016, the 150th anniversary of the establishment 金陵刻经处, the Chinese Buddhist community held a series of commemorative activities and academic seminars.
With respect to innovation and modern spreading of traditional culture, the Buddhist community has made full use of new media over the past ten years, using broadcasting techniques that modern people enjoy and find easy to accept, such as websites, blogs, microblogging, WeChat, video, and animation. Modifying the form and medium of traditional culture, gives it new meaning for the times and modern modes of expression, so that traditional culture can infuse everyday life, and be reborn in the present moment. In recent years, Beijing’s Longquan Monastery partnered with artificial intelligence experts, to develop the “Xian’er Robot Monk,” who is endowed with an appearance and significance richly informed by Buddhist culture. Xian’er will guide the upcoming era of artificial intelligence onto a healthy road that leads to spiritual insight.
Buddhists also actively use the internet platforms, such as foreign language websites and multi-lingual microblogging, to spread the voices of Chinese Buddhism and traditional culture to the world. Further building overseas monasteries is a powerful way for Chinese Buddhism to promote world cultural exchanges. In December 2015, the Longquan Monastery of Great Compassion was built in the Netherlands; this is a good start. At present, the Chinese Buddhist community in Europe, the United States, Africa and other places have established overseas religious sites, engaging in worthwhile experimentation by holding Buddhist activities and traditional Chinese festivals and Dharma assemblies, which build cohesion for local Chinese and promote friendly exchanges between different countries.
II. Philanthropic Work
Since the late 1990s, Buddhism in China has set up many charitable Buddhist foundations, charity merit organizations and other public charities, and actively organized philanthropic activities. The scale of Buddhist philanthropy has been expanding, growing increasingly rich in content and form, becoming an important force in national philanthropic efforts.
For more than a decade, the Buddhist community has contributed huge amounts of financial, material and human resources into charity efforts. According to partial statistics, only between 2007 and 2012, the Chinese Buddhist community contributed nearly 1.86 billion yuan in charitable donations, accounting for 62% of the entire country’s total religious contribution. Buddhist charity services span a wide range of areas, involving disaster relief, poverty alleviation, education aid, orphan assistance, retirement and medical fees, releasing captive animals into the wild, environmental protection, spiritual care and so on. In the face of major natural disasters inside and outside of China, such as SARS, the Wenchuan and Yushu earthquakes, the Taiwanese earthquake, the Indonesian tsunami, and the Nepal earthquake, the Chinese Buddhism community actively gave full support, including great amounts of human, financial and material resources.
In recent years, the Buddhist community has keenly observed the characteristics of the times and social needs, and constantly embraced new methods to fit the times, so that young people can be schooled, older people can be taken care of, the sick can be healed, and the departed can rest in peace. For example, the “Happy Village Libraries” in service of the left-behind children in the countryside, the “Qiming College” to help people from disadvantaged educational backgrounds, and monastery nursing homes that ensure that the elderly can live out their days in peace and happiness. In view of the urban people’s emotional downheartedness and social alienation, the Beijing Ren Ai Charity Foundation has engaged in projects like the “Loving Porridge Rest-stop” and a “Lending-Ear Hotline”, so that people’s loving hearts can revive.
In the future, Buddhist philanthrophic efforts should evolve from their current state of decentralized, personal, and solitary, to become large-scale, distributed, and diverse, ensuring that Buddhist charity becomes regular, deep, and long-term activity. At the same time, the culture of charity should be spread activity, so that Buddhist philanthropic efforts enter the hearts of the people, attracting Buddhist believers and the community at large to join the work of charity. By combining energies to guide society towards the good, charity not only gives succor to the world and benefits the people, it will reform and guide the secular world.
III. Promoting Friendly Exchange
Buddhism is the spiritual link between the people of Greater China, including Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, as well overseas Chinese around the world. It is a cultural bridge that undergirds China’s friendly exchanges with people from East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia. It is also a peaceful messenger of friendly exchanges with Buddhists from all over the world. For more than a decade, Chinese Buddhism has actively engaged in friendly exchanges and made epoch-making achievements that affect the world.
(1) The Two Coasts and Four Lands: Same Root, Same Source
The Two Coasts and Four Lands – Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau – continue to carry out multi-level, multi-faceted communication and interaction, on topics as various as construction of monasteries, doctrinal research, methods of spreading the Dharma, cultural exchanges, talent building, academic research, philanthropy, among many others.
Through close cooperation of the Buddhist community from these four areas, a variety of large-scale Buddhist activities and events have been successfully executed. E.g., the largest consecration ceremony of Relics of the Buddha, the World Buddhist Forum, the Dharma Assembly to Pray for World Peace, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese people’s war of resistance against Japan and the world’s anti-fascist war. The interactive exchanges and cooperation among the Buddhist community across these four areas has played a positive role in enhancing the identity of the Chinese culture, enhancing the cohesion of the Chinese people and promoting peaceful reunification across the Taiwan Strait.
(2) China, Korea, and Japan: “Golden Bonds”
Since 1995, the Sino-Korea-Japan Buddhist Friendship Conference has been held 19 times. Over the past 22 years, the meeting of the three countries has become a peaceful and friendly event for the Buddhist community in Asia, and has made positive contributions to the maintenance of peace in Asia and even in the world. It is worthy of its moniker of the “golden bonds” that link the friendship between the three countries.
(3) Global Buddhism – Same Resolve, Same Path
In the 21st century, Chinese Buddhism not only played a role in promoting peace in Asia, but also began to step onto the world stage of Buddhism, such that the voices of Chinese Buddhism and Chinese culture might resound throughout into the forest of global religious culture.
From 2006 to 2015, the World Buddhist Forum was held four times. Forum topics such as “a harmonious world begins in the mind”, and “same resolve, same path: exchanging and learning from each other,” distinctively and concertedly reflected the emotional needs of society’s people, the needs of different religions and cultures to exchange and learn from each other, and the need for human harmony and peaceful development. Each year, the forum hosts more than a thousand people from dozens of countries across the world, which is sufficient to prove that the spiritual and cultural values of Chinese Buddhism are evolving to drive modern civilization and progress, to promote world peace. In October 2014, the 27th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists was also successfully held in China for the first time.
For over a decade, Chinese Buddhism has also continuously strengthened friendly exchanges with Buddhist countries and actively participated in the activities of international Buddhist organizations and religious peace organizations. This participation includes attendance at the World Congress of Buddhism for the United Nations Day of Vesak, the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, and the General Assembly of the World Committee on Religion and Peace, making unremitting efforts for world religious peace.
(4) “One Belt, One Road” – A Cultural Bridge
The ancient Silk Roads across land and sea were not only the route of trade between China and the outside world; they were also the roads along which Buddhism spread, the roads of cultural exchange, the roads of the blending of people. Chinese Buddhism has a unique advantage in the construction of “One Belt, One Road,” for it has always played an active role in cultural bridging. In the future, we will also promote exchanges with Central Asian countries, forming a system for dialogue on religious culture, build a high-level platform for dialogue on “mutual understanding between 21st century civilizations,” initiate the establishment of an international alliance for the protection of Buddhist cultural heritage, and promote regional sharing and joint protection of this cultural heritage of Buddhism. Through these initiatives, we will strengthen the friendly exchanges between Buddhist communities from countries involved in the “One Belt, One Road” framework, and contribute energy to peace in Asia and the world.
Four: Modern Transformation of Chinese Buddhism: Contemplation and Outlook
From the end of the 19th century until the present, the process of modern transformation of Chinese Buddhism has been continuing for more than one hundred years. Only by knowing the tough and long road can we understand it is no easy job to make such achievements in the exploration of Chinese Buddhism.
Just as the modernization of Chinese society, there is no existing pattern for Chinese Buddhism to copy. Only by sufficiently recognizing our own cultural traditions and establishing cultural self-confidence, and by extensively learning from all other cultures in the world, can we find a way of our own with great courage to create, high wisdom for unity, and a down-to-earth attitude.
In the era when the crisis of modernity shrouds the world, we should have self-confidence and self-consciousness in our own culture and actively participate in the communication and mutual learning with all other cultures in the world, which will probably be a good way for us to avoid cultural blindness and value confusion, truly respect humans and cherish our spirituality, and find a way out of the widespread human crisis.
The destiny of Chinese Buddhism in the past two thousand years often corresponded with the vicissitudes of Chinese society and culture. Such correspondence bestows Chinese Buddhism with the awareness of “If I can’t do it, who can?” to take up social responsibility and cultural mission. In the age of globalization, when humans have increasingly become a community of common destiny, Chinese Buddhism is willing to take the initiative to reconstruct world culture and nurture new human civilization.
I hope with the help of Buddhist wisdom for unity, the Middle Way, and Buddhist compassion of no-self and equality, human beings can find their true self, live together peacefully and harmoniously, and build our future into a world of universal harmony and a pure land on earth!
Venerable Master Xuecheng,
President of the Buddhist Association of China