27 November 2009

Thanksgiving Prayer By Lama Surya Das

May the lamp of love
which eternally burns above
kindle divine fire in our hearts,
and fan that innate spark of divinity into flame-
illumining all, opening our eyes
and consuming our differences,
driving the shadows from our faces.
As love dawns on the horizon,
may our community awaken
in the kingdom of true communion,
which is at hand always.

May we learn to love one another better
even than we love ourselves.

God is great-
may His grace be made manifest.

Love is stronger than death,


26 November 2009

The Third Eye

The third eye (also known as the inner eye) is a mystical and esoteric concept referring in part to the ajna (brow) chakra in certain Eastern and Western spiritual traditions. It is also spoken of as the gate that leads within to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness. In New Age spirituality, the third eye may alternately symbolize a state of enlightenment or the evocation of mental images having deeply-personal spiritual or psychological significance. The third eye is often associated with visions, clairvoyance (which includes the ability to observe chakras and auras), precognition, and out-of-body experiences, and people who have allegedly developed the capacity to utilize their third eyes are sometimes known as seers.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, the third eye is a symbol of enlightenment. In the Indian tradition, it is referred to as the gyananakashu, the eye of knowledge, which is the seat of the 'teacher inside' or antar-guru. The third eye is the ajna chakra (sixth chakra) also known as brow chakra or brow centre. This is commonly denoted in Indian and East Asian iconography with a dot, eye or mark on the forehead of deities or enlightened beings, such as Shiva, the Buddha, or any number of yogis, sages and bodhisattvas. This symbol is called the "Third Eye" or "Eye of Wisdom", or, in Buddhism, the urna. In Hinduism, it is believed that the opening of Shiva's third eye causes the eventual destruction of the physical universe.

Many Hindus wear a tilak between the eyebrows to represent the third eye.

In the Upanishads, a human being is likened to a city with ten gates. Nine gates (eyes, nostrils, ears, mouth, urethra, anus) lead outside to the sensory world. The third eye is the tenth gate and leads to inner realms housing myriad spaces of consciousness.

According to Max Heindel's Rosicrucian writings, called Western Wisdom Teachings, the third eye is localized in the pituitary body and the pineal gland. It was said that in the far past, when man was in touch with the inner worlds, these organs were his means of ingress thereto, and they will again serve that purpose at a later stage. According to this view, they were connected with the involuntary or sympathetic nervous system and to regain contact with the inner worlds (to reawaken the pituitary body and the pineal gland) it is necessary to establish the connection of the pineal gland and the pituitary body with the cerebrospinal nervous system. It was said that when that is accomplished, man will again possess the faculty of perception in the higher worlds (i.e. clairvoyance), but on a grander scale than it was in the distant past, because it will be in connection with the voluntary nervous system and therefore under the control of his will.

According to the gnostic teachings of Samael Aun Weor, the third eye is referenced symbolically and functionally several times in the Christian Bible's Book of Revelation, which as a whole is seen as a work describing Kundalini and its progression upwards through three and a half turns and seven chakras. This interpretation equates the third eye with the sixth of the seven churches of Asia detailed therein, the Church of Philadelphia.

The third eye is used in many meditation schools and arts, such as in yoga, qigong, many Chinese martial arts, and in Japanese martial arts such as Karate and Aikido.

In terms of Jewish Kabbalah, the Ajna chakra is attributed to the sphere of Chokmah, or Wisdom, although others regard the third eye as corresponding to the non-emanated sephirah of da'ath (knowledge).

In Taoism and many traditional Chinese religious sects such as "chan", "third eye training" involves focusing attention on the point between the eyebrows with the eyes closed in various qigong postures. The goal of this training is to allow students to have the ability in tuning into right vibration of the universe and gain solid foundation into more advanced meditation levels.

In theory, the third eye, also called the mind's eye, is situated right between the two eyes, and expands up to the middle of the forehead when opened. It is one of the main energy centres of the body located at the sixth chakra (the third eye is in fact a part of the main meridian, the line separating left and right hemispheres of the body). In Taoist alchemy the third eye is correlated with the upper dantian.

Some writers and researchers, including H. P. Blavatsky and Rick Strassman, have suggested that the third eye is in fact the partially dormant pineal gland, which resides between the two hemispheres of the brain. The pineal gland is said to secrete dimethyltryptamine (DMT) which induces dreams, near-death experiences, meditation, or hallucinations. Various types of lower vertebrates, such as reptiles and amphibians, can actually sense light via a third parietal eye—a structure associated with the pineal gland—which serves to regulate their circadian rhythms, and for navigation, as it can sense the polarization of light.

It was claimed by C.W. Leadbeater that, by extending an "etheric tube" from the third eye, it is possible for one to develop microscopic vision and telescopic vision. It has been asserted by Stephen Phillips that the third eye's microscopic vision is capable of observing objects as small as quarks.

Three Eyed characters commonly appear in fictions and folklores of Asian cultures. Some of these characters, belong to the so-called "Three Eyed Race", and possess supernatural powers:
  • Erlang Shen (二郎神) - Chinese God with a third true-seeing eye in the middle of his forehead that exists in Taoist and other folklores, who also appears in Chinese fictions, Journey to the West and Fengshen Yanyi.
  • Hiei (飛影) - three-eyed demon from the graphic novel Yu Yu Hakusho.
  • Hosuke Sharaku (写楽保介) - three-eyed boy from the graphic novel The Three-Eyed One.
  • Pai Ayanokoji (綾小路 パイ) - three-eyed girl from the graphic novel 3×3 Eyes.
  • Tenshinhan (天津飯) - three-eyed man from the graphic novel Dragon Ball.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's short story From Beyond (later made into a film of the same name) featured a character who used technology to trigger "dormant organs", including the pineal gland. This activation of the gland gave its owner a form of "augmented sight", allowing them to perceive ultra-violet light, and to see previously invisible creatures.
  • In the The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, wizards such as Harry Dresden are able to open their third eye to perceive objects and people as they truly are.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang and the gang are chased by a man, hired by Prince Zuko, that uses his third eye to shoot beams of energy.

12 November 2009

Buddhism fastest growing religion in West

Buddhism is being recognized as the fastest growing religion in Western societies both in terms of new converts and more so in terms of friends of Buddhism, who seek to study and practice various aspects of Buddhism.

Dr. Ananda Guruge, leading Buddhist Scholar and former Sri Lankan Diplomat made this observation during a public lecture at the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress Hall Colombo on Friday, April 4. The lecture titled, "Role of the Sri Lankan Leadership in the Protection of Buddhism" was delivered under the auspices of the Buddhist and Pali University, All-Ceylon Buddhist Congress and the Buddhist Times Trust. The Chief Guest was Speaker of the House W.J.M. Lokubandara. Among the others present were Buddhist Congress President Jagath Sumathipala, Venerable Wegama Piyaratana, Venerable Professor Dhammavihari, Major-General (Rtd.) Jaliya Nammuni (Centre for Buddhist Action) and former Archaeological Commissioner Dr. Roland Silva.

Dr. Hema Goonatilake of the Buddhist Times Trust was the Convener who said, "Both on account of a series of Diaspora from China, Taiwan, Korea and Vietnam, adherents to Northern Schools of Buddhism are numerically preponderant. Interestingly, the intellectual interactions between these ethnic Buddhists and those devoted to Buddhism in the West have created a new demand for a deep understanding of early Buddhism as preserved in Pali sources in Southern Buddhism. A similar tendency is evident in the traditionally Northern Buddhist countries also. This demand has been further increased by the popularization of Vipassana Meditation by Mahopasaka S. N. Goenka. What the world needs today is not confined to what is in Pali. The Sinhala works on Buddhism have as much relevance and the translation of Sinhala classics into world languages is also a contribution to Buddhist Studies."

Noting that both Myanmar and Thailand have begun to respond to this demand, he pointed out that opportunities exist for Sri Lankan scholars to initiate cooperative activities with the growing institutions in Southeast Asia such as the World Buddhist University, established by the World Fellowship of Buddhists, and International Association of Buddhist Universities, initiated by Venerable Thepsaphong (now known as Dhammkosajahn).

"I am gratified to note that Dr. Sumanapala Galmangoda is scheduled to lead a team of scholars from Kelaniya University to conduct a panel discussion on Buddhist Ethics in a Conference organized by this Association to be held in Bangkok in September this year. Another opportunity - which is available for Sri Lankans to cooperate in a significant international venture - is to participate in contributing to the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI) led by Professor Lewis R. Lancaster of University of California Berkeley. Such involvement will also enable our scholars to be trained in using high-tech tools of research, which are increasingly becoming indispensable."

Dr. Guruge recalled that Lanka has many firsts in the history of Buddhism -developing commentaries on the Buddha's teachings in the national language (3rd century BC), reducing to writing the Buddhist canon and its commentaries (1st century BC), sending bhikkhunis to China to establish the bhikkhunisasana (5th century), enabling the dissemination of the commentaries to a wider readership through translations into Pali (5th century), unification of Southern and Northern traditions of Buddhism and evolving a form of ecumenical Buddhism (12th century), spreading that form of Buddhism to Southeast Asia along with Pali literature and traditions of Buddhist architecture and art (12th-15th century), being the foremost centre of Buddhist scholarship from the nineteenth century, taking Buddhism back to India, its land of origin (19th-20th century), serving as the focal point from which Buddhist missionaries took Buddhism to all continents in modern times, and restoring the bhikkhunisasana in Southern Buddhism (20th century).

He stressed the need for maintaining this record said that and no efforts should be spared.

"May the Sangha of Sri Lanka rise up to the challenges of the time and may the powers that be, namely and most importantly the educators and scholars take upon themselves the task of maintaining Sri Lanka's leadership in Buddhist Studies. This can easily be a major objective of the preparations for the next major event in the history of Buddhism – the 2600th anniversary of the attainment of Buddhahood in 2011-2012."

He emphasized that any strategy Sri Lanka develops to maintain her leadership in Buddhist activities has to be based on these advantages that the current internationally recognized scholars enjoy. He recommended the following are the actions for the immediate consideration of all concerned:
  1. It is my conviction that the atmosphere required for the promotion of Buddhist studies has to be developed by a resurgence of dedication to scholarship in the Sangha. The higher education of the Sangha with due emphasis on original scriptural sources in Pali, Sanskrit and other Canonical languages is indispensable. One is no doubt appalled by the falling standard of Pali learning in the country. It is hardly taught in schools and one cannot be altogether satisfied with the standard of Pali teaching in the Pirivenas.

    Sanskrit has gone down even further. Without a very high level of proficiency in these languages, few monastics are in a position to produce the kind of scholarly work that those of a previous generation could. It is the Sangha that had preserved the study of Pali and Sanskrit not only through the Pirivenas but also through schools. Serious attention has to be given to the promotion of these languages if Sri Lanka has to retain its leadership in Buddhist Studies.

  2. A critical mass of research scholars should acquire an excellent command of the spoken and written English because the fruits of their labors would never be known outside the Island unless they are presented in impeccable standard of English. At the same time, our scholars should be able to access the research that is being done in the world. Without such access at least through the medium of English, the greatest danger in our institutions of higher education is that students are not introduced to new knowledge.

  3. Some at least among them should proceed to gain some degree of proficiency in research languages useful for Buddhist Studies such as Chinese, Tibetan, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese as well as French, German and Italian.

  4. Scholars with ability to speak and write in foreign languages should be given every opportunity (with financial provisions for membership fees, travel and subsidies for publications) to -

    • Become members of international professional associations and organizations such as the Royal Asiatic Societies, International Association of Buddhist Studies, Indian Association of Buddhist Studies, International Association of Sanskrit Studies, etc.;

    • Contribute well-researched learned articles to recognized peer-reviewed foreign journals and also to have their books published abroad. (Equally important is to get articles and books of high quality in national languages translated into foreign languages. It must be stated here that Sri Lankan scholars do publish annually a substantial number of learned articles in English in Felicitation and Commemorative Volumes, the Sri Lankan Journal of Buddhist Studies and University Journals but their outreach to the world is very limited.. The efforts of Professors Y. Karunadasa, Asanga Tilakaratna and Venerable Kuala Lumpur Dhammajoti in this regard are very creditable. The speedy completion of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism has also to receive the highest priority.)

    • Review in national journals important works by foreign scholars both for the purpose of apprising local scholars and students of the availability of new research findings and also to let the international scholars know that their work is under scrutiny by our scholars;

    • Participate in international seminars and conferences, presenting papers and interacting with worldwide scholars to have an international peer review of research done by them in Sri Lanka;

    • Organize periodically international conferences inviting recognized scholars of the world and conducting them with the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness.

04 November 2009

Asian social engagement and the future of Buddhism

What has come to be known as "socially engaged Buddhism," or simply "engaged Buddhism," is a vast array of Asian movements with millions of adherents dedicated to addressing the economic, social, political, and environmental as well as the spiritual needs of modern humankind.

For example, in Southeast Asia, thousands of Buddhist monks work with hundreds of thousands of lay volunteers to rejuvenate village life. In South Asia, millions of Indian Untouchables have converted to form a Buddhist movement for social change and an end to the misery of the caste system. In East Asia, Buddhist lay movements have drawn millions of members by caring for their daily needs. And throughout Asia, Buddhist nuns are founding orders that work for institutional changes in the Buddhist monastic communities and organize social, educational, and health services for the poor.

Western awareness of this historic reformation and reorientation of modern Asian Buddhism was been facilitated by two modern events. First was an international conference on "Socially Engaged Buddhism and Christianity" hosted by DePaul University in Chicago from July 27 to August 3, 1996. This fifth international conference of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies included such noted Asian Buddhist leaders as the Dalai Lama, the Ven. Maha Ghosananda from Cambodia, Sulak Sivaraksa from Thailand, and A. T. Ariyaratne from Sri Lanka, as well as leaders from the Japanese Rissho Kosei-kai and Soka Gakkai movements, and the Korean Chogye Buddhist Order.

The second recent event that has helped introduce the West to the new world of socially engaged Buddhism is the publication of Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. The editors of this important volume, Christopher S. Queen and Sallie B. King, have collected an informative set of interpretive essays in what is the first comprehensive study of socially engaged Buddhism in the lands of its origin. The movements they describe in this book are not just developing new forms of Buddhist social engagement, but are doing something much more historically significant: redefining the nature and role of Buddhism in our modern pluralistic world, and thereby the very future of Buddhism. I will try to show how this is true by reflecting on the (1) origin, (2) nature, and (3) scope of socially engaged Buddhism as presented in Engaged Buddhism.

In their introduction and conclusion the editors speculate about the theoretical origins of modern socially engaged Buddhism. Based on my own conversations with people like Sulak Sivaraksa and A. T. Ariyaratne over the past twelve years, I think that Queen correctly perceives the essential change in Buddhist social awareness that has been formative to engaged Buddhism. In traditional Buddhism, the origins of suffering and evil are sought in the mind and heart of the individual person. Social structures have always been seen as reinforcing human bondage to such causes of suffering as hate, greed and delusion. But the traditional responses to this situation have most often emphasized the monastic life where adequate spiritual practice could be provided for personal liberation from these negative and unwholesome factors of human social existence.

In contrast, engaged Buddhism sets its analytical focus on the institutional origins of evil and suffering. Then it shifts its practical focus to addressing directly those aspects of these political, economic, and social institutions that are what Queen calls "manifestations of greed, hatred and delusion." For example, engaged Buddhism recognizes that the root evil of greed in the hearts of the rich and powerful in a particular society is given institutional form in a certain economic system that contributes to the marginalization and oppression of the weaker members of that society. Their response to this situation is not only to help people practice spirituality for the sake of personal liberation, but also to change the economic system for the sake of social liberation.

Is this something new in Buddhism? Both Sallie King and Christopher Queen examine various answers--pro and con--to this question. My own answer is that it is not something new. The Buddha taught, for example, that a king has to eradicate evil not by punishment, but by rooting out the cause of evil through providing such things as facilities to farmers, capital to traders, proper wages to workers, and tax-exemptions to the poor (Kutanada Suttana). The great King Asoka, who ruled much of India from 268-233 B.C.E., represents a model Buddhist ruler who always had his subjects' economic and social well-being as his main concerns. Later in Theravada countries, village elders consulted with local monastics; Buddhist patriarchs had substantial court influence; and monks, when upset about public issues, would turn over their begging bowls thus cutting the flow of merit to the laity. At the beginning of Mahayana Buddhism, the saintly Vimalakirti was presented as a layperson with substantial social engagement. The great Indian philosopher Nagarjuna advised a king to govern with a compassionate socialism that included education for the people, fixed charges for doctors, socially supported health care, and low taxes.

How did Buddhism become disengaged? Christopher Queen gives some reasons from the Southeast-Asian experience. For example, until the nineteenth century Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka held influential advisory and bureaucratic roles in the government as well as high positions in education and the court system. These roles were curtailed by the European colonialists under whom the governmental, legal, and educational systems were changed, and any social and welfare roles were given to the Christian missionaries. East Asian scholars have also shown how a budding Buddhist social service in China was destroyed during the imperial persecution of Buddhism beginning in 845 C.E. Other scholars have described how Buddhism lost its political influence because of the removal of Buddhist monasteries from population centers in Korea, and the depoliticalization of Buddhism in Tokugawa, Japan. My own conclusion is that given more recent political changes in the Asian world, what we are seeing today is the development of socially re-engaged Buddhism.

If this is the case, what is new about these re-engaged Buddhist movements? Sallie King discusses the new influence of social and political theory from the West and from Mahatma Gandhi in the East. She also mentions the fact that these movements have been greatly affected in their outlook by the many human crises in Asia during this century. Seeing these crises as linked to certain economic, political, and social forces that interconnect on a global scale, engaged Buddhists realize that the fate of Asia depends on the fate of the entire world. We are all part of an interconnected web of transnational economic and political relationships. This realization has led engaged Buddhism to what Christopher Queen calls "their vision of a new world."

Given this vision, many engaged Buddhists see themselves as contributing not only to the transformation of the lives of individual Buddhists in Asia, but to the renewal of humankind as a whole. Traditional Buddhism emphasized its insight into the nature of the human person--either in its analysis of our human condition, or of our awakened nature, our Buddha-nature. In the renewal movements, there is a new emphasis on the insight that all humankind makes up one interrelated whole. Socially engaged Buddhists have come to realize the importance of Buddhist ecumenism and interfaith collaboration in working for this ideal of a more united and peaceful world community. It is, I believe, in the ecumenical and interfaith quest for this ideal that engaged Buddhists are redefining the future of Buddhism.

This global vision of a peaceful, united, and pluralistic world not only distinguishes engaged Buddhism from the past, it also distinguishes it from new forms of Buddhist nationalism, sectarianism, conservatism, and fundamentalism that are now present in some parts of the Buddhist world. King and Queen are careful to distinguish socially engaged Buddhist groups from the new fundamentalist Buddhist movements. I applaud their effort. In 1987, two months after I was with Michael Rodrigo in California, he was shot by Buddhist fundamentalists while he was saying Mass in Sri Lanka. Early the next year I was with A. T. Ariyaratne for a week. He helped me understand how those Buddhists who murdered Rodrigo did so thinking that they were protecting their people from non-Buddhist encroachment. While Ariyaratne and other engaged Buddhists are concerned about the erosion of the social values and cohesion of their people, they reject any ideology that leads to such violent action.

For example, Ariyaratne told me that for his village reform movement, there are certain basic human values that take priority over sectarian ideological values. Although he is a Buddhist, when he goes into a village to promote his renewal program, he proposes a moral and social program based on values and ideals that are also shared by the Christian, Hindu, and Muslim members of the village. Here we see the value of interfaith collaboration for unity that celebrates diversity clearly lived out in nonviolent Buddhist social engagement guided by the vision of a more united and peaceful world community.

What are the particular characteristics of engaged Buddhism that enable it to pursue its goals of social change, moral reform, and contributing to a "new world?" Reflecting on the essays in Engaged Buddhism as well as Christopher Queen's and Sallie King's phenomenological description of these movements, I would emphasize three points: the first supports the goal of social change; the second moral reform; and the third global transformation.

First, the leaders of these movements have been personally affected by the great human tragedies of the twentieth century in Asia. This has fostered in them a deep sensitivity to the suffering condition of their peoples and a deeper sense of its social causes. This social awareness has led them in turn to reread their scriptures and to discover therein a concept of liberation that includes this-worldly freedom from social, economic, political, sexual, racial, and environmental oppression. As with Christian liberation theology, their social critique and practical forms of social engagement are guided by new readings of scripture.

Second, these new practices of engaged Buddhism are not monastic-centered, as in the past, but are adapted for the laity. Engaged Buddhist movements are presenting their members with nonmonastic models for moral living--morality that is not pursued in monastic withdrawal, but in the daily life of the factory, office, school room, or home. Hence, there is a new emphasis in Theravada Buddhism on the relational virtues of compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. And in Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva moral ideal of altruistic care for others has been given new social and political expressions suited for the laity.

Third, given this relational and lay emphasis, the practice of engaged Buddhism often takes place in a broad community context. Since the focus of praxis shifts from the monastery to the modern pluralistic world of the laity, new forms of lay Buddhist communal life are evolving that involve positive relationships with members of other religious communities. This has led engaged Buddhists to seek ways of developing Buddhist ecumenism and interfaith collaboration that contribute to the constitution of a new family of humankind. This work is inspired by the engaged Buddhists' global vision of what the Dalai Lama calls "the realization of the oneness of all humankind."

Given this third goal of engaged Buddhism, the spiritual unity of humankind, let us look at the scope of Buddhist ecumenical and interfaith work for this ideal in Asia today. Here I must offer a modest critique of Engaged Buddhism. It seems to me that King and Queen present South- and SoutheastAsian forms of engaged Buddhism as paradigmatic of the whole movement. The essays in their book cover this geographical area well, including discussions of B. R. Ambedkar's Buddhist movement among the Untouchables in India, A. T. Ariyaratne's village reform program in Sri Lanka, Buddhadasa's reform philosophy and Sulak Sivaraksa's renewal activities in Thailand, the Tibetan movement in India, and Thich Nhat Hanh's activist form of Vietnamese Zen. However, there is only one essay on East Asia--on the Soka Gakkai and its impressive social and political activities in Japan.

If a more complete picture of engaged Buddhism had been painted by including other material on East Asia, an interesting comparison could have been made between the more grassroots Buddhist liberation movements in South and Southeast Asia and the more internationally engaged Buddhist reform movements in East Asia. In that comparison, the ecumenical and interfaith dimensions of engaged Buddhism working for a united and peaceful world could have been more clearly seen. Since I believe that it will be precisely these dimensions that will define Buddhism in the future, let me mention four examples of East-Asian engaged Buddhist movements that have developed these dimensions in their global work for world peace.

The Fo Kuang Shan Buddhist Order in Taiwan is a thriving East-Asian example of such a movement. While they are committed to reforming the nun's order and to social action in Taiwan, they are also stimulating world-wide Buddhist ecumenism--often hosting meetings for Buddhist leaders from around the world. They are also active in global interfaith activities. At their Los Angeles temple in 1988, they hosted the International Theological Encounter Group founded by Masao Abe and John B. Cobb, Jr. At their Taiwan Center in 1995, they were the host to the first Vatican sponsored international theological dialogue with world Buddhism.

The Won Buddhist movement in Korea rejects shamanistic practice and religious exclusivism in favor of compassionate moral practice in daily life and engagement in activities of interreligious cooperation contributing to a more united humankind based on shared human values. Like other forms of engaged Buddhism, it seeks to help create a world of happiness rather than to escape to a transcendent Nirvana. To aid in this project, Won Buddhists have established centers around the world and have been active in such organizations as the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP).

The Japanese Rissho Kosei-kai movement was organized by Nikkyo Niwano, winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Devoted to lay Buddhist practice in Japan, it is also concerned with working for world peace. Members have founded the Niwano Peace Prize at the United Nations, and Niwano himself played a key role in creating the most effective interfaith organization today, the WCRP. His movement is involved in many forms of interfaith social engagement, such as working together with Christian relief organizations in East Africa.

Another example from Japan is the F.A.S. Society, founded by Shin'ichi Hisamatsu, who seems to embody the Dalai Lama's ideal of all religions fostering "the genuine realization of the oneness of humankind." In his F.A.S. acronym, "F" stands for "Formless Self" as the Ground of all existence; "A" for the breadth of "all humankind" in that Ground; and "S" for creating history "superhistorically," that is, history realizing in social form the original oneness of all humankind based on the Formless Self. This oneness overcomes the modern evils of social injustice, religious sectarianism, racism, sexism, etc. While the F.A.S. Society practices Zen meditation, it welcomes persons of other Buddhist sects and other religions. The Society has been mainly active in Japan, but in 1995 it established a branch in Europe, partly as a way to contribute to the reconciliation of Western and Eastern Europe.

With these additions to the picture of engaged Buddhism, we can see even more clearly how this phenomenon represents an important turning point in the history of Buddhism. To repeat, socially engaged Buddhism is not only about local social engagement--it represents something even more historically significant. This development in world Buddhism indicates a major shift in Buddhist self-definition that, on the one hand, recognizes the challenges of the modern world, and, on the other, grasps the promise of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation in addressing these challenges on a worldwide scale. This attempt to define Buddhism's new role in a global context of ecumenical and interfaith cooperation challenges other religions to redefine their roles as fellow co-participants in the shared task of humankind's realization of a more united, just, and peaceful pluralistic world community in the future.

01 November 2009

Tzu Chi

The Tzu Chi Foundation (慈济基金会;Cí Jì) is one of the three largest Buddhist organizations in Taiwan (the others being Fo Guang Shan and Dharma Drum Mountain). Tzu Chi was founded by Master Cheng Yen, a nun, on April 14, 1966 in Hualien, Taiwan, after she was inspired by her master and mentor, the late Venerable Master Yin Shun ((印順導師;Yin Shun Dao Shi) a significant proponent of Humanistic Buddhism) with the great expectation of: "work for Buddhism and for all sentient beings". The society started as a group of thirty housewives who saved a small amount of money each day, and has grown to have approximately 10 million members worldwide today.

Whereas many Buddhist societies focus on personal enlightenment and meditation, Tzu Chi focuses on community service and outreach (especially medical, educational, and disaster relief). Today, Tzu Chi is considered to be one of the most effective aid agencies in the region.

Tzu Chi maintains a small number of nuns, and conducts its mission via an international network of volunteers. The volunteers are easily recognized by their uniforms (navy blue shirt with a ship imposed on a lotus flower as a logo on the left breast; white pants, shoes and socks; and a black belt with the same lotus ship logo as a clasp). There are also differing variations of the uniform, each symbolizing a different aspect of the foundation. Its youngest members known as the Tzu Shao, wear pale blue instead of the above navy blue, while its teenaged and college students wear sky blue. The crest differs slightly between the groups, with the boat symbol in the center of the adult members, and a candle in the center for its younger members. Tzu Chi relief workers have been known therefore as "blue angels" for their distinctive uniform. Occasionally, sometimes Tzu Chi volunteers have been known to refer to their uniforms as 藍天白雲 (Lan Tian Bai Yun), or Blue Sky White Clouds.
Tzu Chi has many suborganizations, of which the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (慈濟大專青年聯誼會) is one of the most prominent. With chapters at universities worldwide, Tzu Chi Youth allows the university student to be involved with Tzu Chi's work on both local and international levels.

Tzu Chi remains a non-profit organization and has built many hospitals and schools worldwide, including a comprehensive education system within Taiwan spanning from kindergarten through university and medical school.

Tzu Chi has many hospitals and universities Tzu Chi help people in need from vistations to nursing homes to brighten up their days, to the needs bone marrow sugery, to the simple things such as a washing machine for the struggling sungle mother. Tzu Chi has its very on television channel "Da Ai" along with its very own news and televisions shows Tzu Chi has chinese schools set up in locations such as Australia, teaching not only chinese, but also the ways on compassion, and sign language.

While the Tzu Chi Foundation has Buddhist origins and beliefs, the organization is also popularly known for its selfless contributions to society in numerous ways in the areas of Charity, Medicine, Education, and Culture. The official motto, or concept behind Tzu Chi Foundation is the (四大志業,八大腳印), which means, "Four endeavors, eight footprints". The eight footprints are charity causes, medical contributions, education development, humanities, international disaster assistance, bone-marrow donation, community volunteerism, and recycling.

Simultaneously bearing the lotus fruit and flower, the Tzu Chi logo symbolizes that we can make the world a better place by planting good seeds. Only with these seeds can the flowers bloom and bear fruit. A better society can be created with good actions and pure thoughts.The petals represent the Noble Eight Fold Path in Buddhism that Tzu Chi members use as their guide.
    The Noble Eight Fold Path:
  1. Right View

  2. Right Thought

  3. Right Speech

  4. Right Behavior

  5. Right Livelihood

  6. Right Effort

  7. Right Mindfulness

  8. Right Concentration
Due to their apolitical stance, Tzu Chi has been allowed by the Chinese government to expand their activities into China. Master Cheng yen has talked about building A Bridge of Love between China and Taiwan. When devastating floods hit southern and central China in 1991, Tzu Chi was involved in relief operations. The group has built schools, nursing homes, and entire villages including infrastructure in poor inland areas, for example, Guizhou province.

In 2008, Tzu Chi has also sent medical aid, volunteers, living utilities and food in response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Tzu Chi does not only come to the aid of close neighbours but also on an international level, from providing food to clothing to poverished nations, to helping to clean up ruins and collected donations from all Tzu Chi locations world wide for distasters such as the Asia's Tsunami in 2002 to Hurricane Katrina in America.

Some syncretic Buddhist and Christian observers have commented on the similarity between Guan Yin and Mary of Christianity, the mother of Jesus Christ. The Tzu-Chi Foundation, also noticing the similarity, commissioned a portrait of Guan Yin and a baby that resembles the typical Roman Catholic Madonna and Child painting.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...