Members of the monastic sangha, lay supporters, virtuous and distinguished friends. In the new year 2012, I hope that one and all will "abide in sincerity, forever at ease. Good fortune abounds!"
We are grateful that over the past year, with the steadfast contributions of our monastic and lay members, support from all walks of life and the practice of “Blessings lie in knowing our good fortune,” we have understand better the meaning of “Happiness lies in counting blessings and knowing contentment, and joy lies in gratitude and giving.” This year, 2012, the annual theme that Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM) has selected as a blessing and encouragement is “Great Auspiciousness.” DDM Founder Master Sheng Yen, ever-concerned about the vital wisdom of sentient beings, rendered this blessing in calligraphy while he was still with us.
Abiding in Sincerity, Forever at Ease. Good Fortune Abounds!
What is "great" is also "true" and therein lies the key to "Great Auspiciousness." To be "true" means to be sincere, earnest, and truthful. We hope that each one of us, whether facing ourselves, interacting with other people, or dealing with the natural environment, can embrace sincerity, earnestness, and truthfulness, beginning with ourselves, our own minds as the starting point.
In teaching Chan, Master Sheng Yen has said, "A true mind is free from any concern of gain or loss, advantage or disadvantage. A true mind is actually no mind, wisdom." So the "true" that lies at the heart of "Great Auspiciousness" encourages everyone to learn and practice the Buddhadharma and thus experience the ordinary mind unconcerned with gain or loss, the pure mind free from afflictions, the wisdom mind that lets go of attachment, and the compassionate mind that reaches out to all equally. This, in fact, is "Protecting the Spiritual Environment."
"Protecting the Spiritual Environment" takes compassion and wisdom as its highest principles, humility as its fundamental attitude, and sincerity as its starting point, all of which are in accord with the "true.” Starting from the "true,” never deviating from sincerity, earnestness, and truthfulness in everything we do, we can enjoy auspiciousness everywhere, at every moment, everyday, and every year.
Methods for actualizing "Great Auspiciousness" begin with the “Four Fields for Cultivating Peace”: cultivating a peaceful mind, a peaceful body, a peaceful family, and peaceful activity. A peaceful mind lies in reducing desires and knowing contentment, a peaceful body in diligence and simplicity. A peaceful family lies in mutual respect and help, and peaceful activity in respecting work and enjoying camaraderie. The next step is purification of our deeds, words, and thoughts. Of the “Four Fields for Cultivating Peace” the most important is cultivating a peaceful mind, which is used to cultivate a peaceful body. If our body and mind can be stable and at ease, we will naturally be able to cultivate peace in the family and activity. A peaceful mind and body increases our wisdom, while cultivating a peaceful family and activity extends our compassion. These are the aims and blessings of “Great Auspiciousness.”
Education Takes Root, Development Ensues
The DDM organization has shown growth in many areas over the past year. Three-fold Education, comprising Extensive Academic Education, Extensive Public Buddhist Education, and Extensive Social Care Education, also showed new developments.
In the Extensive Academic Education area, it has been ten years since DDM Sangha University started enrollment in 2001. Over the past decade we have fostered over 150 monastics of the generation of “Chang” [whose Dharma names begins with “Chang”] that have graduated from the Sangha University and served in the sangha, with over 60 monastics now at school. Together with the senior “Guo” generation, our monastic sangha has now grown to almost 300 members.
Last year Dharma Drum Buddhist College and the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies cohosted the XVIth Congress of IABS (International Association of Buddhist Studies), with over 600 scholars from around the world gathering at the DDM World Center for Buddhist Education and the presentation of 500 theses, making it the largest IABS Congress since the organization was founded. The success of this symposium was made possible by the hosts meticulous planning, the assistance and collaboration of other units, and the enthusiastic reception provided by the volunteers.The congress not only allowed us to grow but also delighted the participating scholars, winning their acclaim.
Last year Dharma Drum Buddhist College also received the good news that, in addition to its previously approved bachelor and masters programs, the Ministry of Education approved its establishment of a doctoral program that will begin to enroll new students this year. The Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies, fulfilling its role as a center for research in Chinese Buddhism, continued to publish journals, promote research projects, and actively encourage young scholars to join the research field of Chinese Buddhism.
By the end of last year a few buildings, including the student dormitory, gymnasium, and administration center, were gradually taking shape at Dharma Drum University, a further step toward realizing the Master’s vow to establish the University.
Public Buddhist Education and Social Care to Realize Our Vision
DDM Extensive Public Buddhist Education program, as well as our branch monasteries and centers at home and abroad, also showed significant growth. The Field of Merit classes, classes in Buddhist teachings and Chan studies, and various spiritual practice courses and activities were well received by a broad audience. We also stressed Internet broadcasts such as the online Buddhist studies series on “Protecting the Spiritual Environment” and the Great Compassion Water and Land Dharma Service group practice, finding a large and responsive audience through live Internet broadcasts with programming that gets better with each passing year.
Major efforts by DDM Extensive Social Care Education program last year included Buddhist group weddings, birthday celebrations for the elderly, and year-end social care activities, as well as continuing post-disaster reconstruction work in areas affected by Typhoon Morakot, establishing Peace of Mind Relief Stations sharing the vision of “Protecting the Spiritual Environment” through various activities, and awarding student aid and grants.
On March 11 of last year a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster struck northeastern Japan, and in August and September Thailand and Cambodia suffered a succession of serious floods. In timely fashion, the DDM Social Welfare and Charity Foundation began relief work. By providing essential material aid and charitable donations, as well as holding prayer rituals, DDM expressed sincere concern of our monastic and lay members and Taiwanese society as a whole, emulating the spirit of Guanyin Bodhisattva, hearing the cries of sentient beings and coming to their aid, making contribution and rendering care. This was also a learning and growing process for our organization.
DDM’s domestic and overseas Dharma centers also blossomed last year. Ground was broken for the Baoyun Monastery in Taichung, Zhaiming Monastery in Taoyuan held a Chan hall inauguration ceremony, and the steel skeleton of the Water Moon Dharma Center at Nung Chan Monastery was completed. Overseas, a new Dharma center was purchased in Los Angeles, and plans were set in motion to set up permanent practice centers both in San Francisco and New Jersey, USA. These projects all reflect the growth of our organization. I visited many places last year both at home and abroad, encouraging our lay devotees, and reminding them that Dharma Drum Mountain’s most important edifice lies in our vision - the concepts and methods advocated by our teacher Master Sheng Yen. We take “Protecting the Spiritual Environment” as our core principle, and strive to realize the vision of “Uplifting the character of humanity and building a pure land on earth” by promoting the Three-fold Education program, applying the methods of the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign, carrying out the Six Ethics of the Mind, and implementing “Protecting the Four Environments.” In other words, in constructing Dharma centers, our purpose is to acknowledge, practice, and promote the Dharma Drum Mountain vision, and this is the special character of DDM centers.
Cultivating Merit and Wisdom; a Mind at Peace, a Life at Peace
With the coming of the new year the world situation looks increasingly grim due to the influence of the global economical recession and disasters in many parts of the world. These factors, combined with predictions about the “end of the world,” seemed to cast a shadow of instability over society. But does 2012 really have to be marked by insecurity?
Actually, Buddhist teachings do not talk about the end of the world. Buddhism explains the realities of the universe and life, teaching about impermanence, no self, and emptiness based on the principle of dependent origination, telling us that all phenomena arise and perish due to causes and conditions. Impermanence is not a negative sense of loss, but a positive sign of significance in that everything is renewed each and every day, full of hope and bright prospects. If we take all conditions, favorable or adverse, as the raw materials with which to cultivate merit and wisdom and give of ourselves in a concrete manner, those conditions allow us to attain peace amidst turmoil, or “A Mind at Peace, a Life at Peace” as Master Sheng Yen encouraged for all of us.
For most people, however, it is not easy to be completely unaffected when encountering problems. But even if it is not easy, we should still practice. How do we practice? The best methods are the “Four Steps for Handling a Problem:” face it, accept it, dealt with it, and let it go. Or we can settle our body and mind by reciting the holy name of a buddha or a bodhisattva, or engage in the mindfulness of breath method of Chan cultivation. Our thoughts change all the time, constantly arising, abiding, changing, and perishing. As long as we take up a practice method, we can gradually progress from a scattered mind to a concentrated mind. When we become more and more skillful in using the method, integrating our body and mind with the overall environment in a community of life, we will not be troubled by afflictions or worries. We will even be able to face all situations, good or bad, with a relaxed body and mind, calm and at ease.
i Relay: Protecting the Spiritual Environment
The year 2012 holds great significance for DDM’s monastic and lay followers. In 1992 our founder, Master Sheng Yen, proposed “Protecting the Spiritual Environment,” making 2012 the movement’s twentieth year. We have thus designated the year 2012 as The Year of Protecting the Spiritual Environment.
February 3 of this year will be the third anniversary of the Master’s passing, so on February 5 (Sunday) at the DDM World Center for Buddhist Education we will be holding "Third Anniversary of the Master’s Passing and 20th Anniversary of Protecting the Spiritual Environment” activities as an expression of gratitude. We will also be holding a launch ceremony for our “i Relay: Protecting the Spiritual Environment” campaign, inviting virtuous and distinguished friends from all walks of life to participate. On that same day we will also be holding the Transmitting the Light of Dharma activity, symbolizing our inheritance of Master Sheng Yen’s compassionate vows and their continuity over time, and transmitting the light of Buddhist compassion and wisdom, from generation to generation.
Protecting the Spiritual Environment is Master Sheng Yen’s most precious gift to the human race. We hope that everyone will work together to relay this gift to an even wider audience.
Again, I wish everyone Great Auspiciousness. May you abide in sincerity, forever at ease. Good fortune abounds! Amituofo
(translated by DDM Translation Office)