for the Millenium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders
By Ven. Sheng-yen
Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association of the United States
08/29/2000, World Peace Summit, United
Most honored religious and spiritual leaders of the
world, dear brothers and sisters:
Thanks to the joint efforts of humankind on earth, the
movement toward world peace has been promoted extensively. Today, however, in
the year 2000, we are still gathering here at the United Nations for a meeting
to discuss how to achieve world peace. This signifies that there are still
conflicts in the world which are waiting for us to find solutions.
I believe no one could doubt that we, the religious and
spiritual leaders, are all peace-loving people. However, there still exists the
fact that different religions clash or even provoke wars against each other.
When people maintain what they believe in is the best religion in the world,
they should not forget that others also have the right to say that their faith
is the best. When people strive to survive and develop, they should not forget
that others also have the right to survive and develop.
Therefore, I would like to make a sincere proposal: If
you find that the doctrines of your faith contain something that is intolerant
of the other groups, or in contradiction with the promotion of world peace, then
you should make new interpretations of these relevant doctrines. Why? Because
every wholesome religion should get along peacefully with other groups so that
it can, step by step, influence humankind on earth to stay far away from the
causes of war.
When speaking of the problem of humankind's poverty on
earth, everyone will think of the regions that are ravaged by natural disasters
and wars. So we should offer assistance to those regions and appeal for peace.
But as you may also know, even the United States is not free from the problem of
poverty. So I wish to point out a fact: poverty of material things threatens the
lives of people, whereas poverty of the spirit and heart deprives people's
living environment of security and happiness. Therefore, our organization,
Dharma Drum Mountain, is promoting a movement called "spiritual
environmentalism", where individuals start by purifying their mind, filling
it with gratitude, kindness and compassion for life. In this way, they will
devote the fruit of their efforts to others. As long as one continuously works
hard to improve one's living conditions, one will be able to overcome material
poverty; as long as one feels grateful and compassionate, one will be able to
enrich oneself spiritually and mentally.
Enrichment of the spirit is a more precious wealth than
material possessions. Chinese Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism is characterized by a simple
way of life. Ch'an practitioners can gain freedom and peace of mind because they
have little desire for material things in their lives. When one's spirit is calm
and stable, one will not be stimulated and tempted by the external material
environment, neither will one harm others and damage the natural environment.
Therefore, the Treatise on the Generation of Faith in Mahayana Buddhism says,
"when the mind arises, all things arise; when the mind perishes, all things
perish." Peace and war reflect the harmony or conflict contained in the
human mind; likewise, paradise and hell are not separate from the human mind's
inclination toward virtue or evil.
Poverty or wealth is mostly determined by the ignorance
or wisdom of the human mind. If people are greedy and insatiable because of
their ignorance, they will cause destruction and conflicts and end up poor. Even
though some people possess enormous material wealth, they might lose all of it
overnight if they are ignorant and unable to put it to good use. Indeed, the
Buddha said: "One's material property is commonly owned by the five
enemies, namely, flood, fire, bandits, tyranny, and prodigal sons." If you
possess wisdom, you can transform the corruptible into something wonderful, turn
discarded junk into treasure; you can also change few into many, make ugly
things beautiful, turn disappointment into hopefulness, and transform hell into
Humankind's ignorance is caused by its deluded views.
The Complete Enlightenment Sutra says, "since beginningless time, all
sentient beings have had all sorts of delusions, like a disoriented person who
has lost his sense of direction. They mistake the gathering and dispersing of
the four elements, (namely, earth, water, fire, and air) for their physiological
selves, and the six conditioned impressions of the six sense objects, (namely,
forms, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, mental objects) for their psychological
selves. They are like a man with an illness of the eyes who sees an illusory
flower in the sky, or a second moon." Therefore, sentient beings vex
themselves and others. If the concepts of the Buddhist scriptures can be used to
guide humankind's life, and its methods of meditation can be applied to help
people become aware of their weaknesses, then humankind can hope to achieve
On the basis of "spiritual environmentalism,"
our organization is also advocating and carrying out social etiquette
environmentalism, lifestyle environmentalism, and natural and ecological
environmentalism. Together they are called the "Four Kinds of
Environmentalism". This is because we believe that, if we wish to pursue
world peace, if we wish to solve the problems of humankind's poverty and the
environment, then we should review and examine the thinking of humankind, and
start by purifying the mind and uplifting the spirit. I would like to offer
everyone two sentences: "With true wisdom one will not have any vexations.
With true kindness and compassion one will not encounter any enemies."
Moreover, I believe that every religion cherishes an
ever-lasting hope that God's paradise or the Buddha's pure land will be
established for the sake of humankind. Although Buddhism maintains that all
sentient beings are equal, only human beings on earth can put the Buddha's
teachings into practice. Therefore, our organization is also promoting a
movement: initially, to build God's paradise and the Buddha's pure land on
earth. If we could endeavor to carry out the construction of the earthly
paradise or earthly pure land, then no matter when we die, we would surely be
blessed by the grace of God and be taken by the Buddha into his embrace.
Whatever name it may be given, whether paradise or pure
land, we are good neighbors in the global village. Indeed, we are all sons and
daughters born of the same Mother Universe. We are not just good friends to one
another, but basically brothers and sisters in a great cosmic family.
Therefore, we have no other choice but to employ all
kinds of methods to protect the living environment of this earth. We have no
other choice but to remove all the mental barriers between people and to love
one another. Thank you!