Buddhism for the Needs of Society: The 6th International Conference on Contemporary Chinese Buddhism and the Thought of Master Sheng Yen in 2016

The 6th International Conference on Contemporary English Buddhism and the Thought of Master Sheng Yen was held at the GIS National Taiwan University Convention Center, Taipei, Taiwan R.O.C. on July 1, 2016. Organized by the Sangha assembly and Sheng Yen Education Foundation, the opening ceremony started at 9:00 am with 74 articles presented in this three-day conference. Ven. Guo-Dong, the Abbot President of Dharma Drum Mountain, indicated that this conference is a follow-up to the teaching and thought of Master Sheng Yen; Dharma Drum Mountain hopes to open dialogues and discussion on Buddhism’s further contribution to the society as well as its role in purifying the heart and society through Buddhist practices in our daily lives.

About thirty articles on Master Sheng Yen and Dharma Drum Mountain were presented in this conference. In addition, the Abbot President, on behalf of DDM’s Sangha assembly and lay-practitioner, commended Master Sheng Yen on his influence on Chinese Buddhism as well as his religious viewpoint of this world from an academic perspective. The Abbot President also expressed his gratitude to the legacy left behind by Master Sheng Yen: calligraphy, travel writing, DDM’s hardware and software construction as well as Dharma lineage. Moreover, he hopes that the two newly released publications (Ven. Sheng Yen’s chronological biography and digital books) in February 2016 would be beneficial to the society, particularly scholars and researchers interested in the thought of Master Sheng Yen.

Master Sheng Yen devoted his life to transform conventional Buddhism into the modern Buddhism practiced currently, with practical concepts and methods that meet the needs of current society. Although the conference was named after Master Sheng Yen, the scope of research covered the entire Chinese Buddhism as well as the advantages of Theravada, Tibetan and Indian Buddhism. Master Sheng Yen’s philosophy in Buddhism, “inheriting the past and taking on the future” and “practicality as the first priority”, in addition to his belief of the inclusiveness, universality and adaptability spirit of Buddhism to the current environment was also discussed in this conference.

Mr. Ching-Yen Tsai, President of Sheng Yen Education Foundation, expressed his gratitude to scholars from USA, Canada, Belgium, Scotland, Britain, Netherlands, Japan and Mainland China for attending this conference and opening a channel of communication as the foundation hopes to create a networking platform for scholars in Chinese Buddhism. In addition, Professor Pei Yang, Executive Chief of Sheng Yen Education Foundation, explained that the connection formed from conferences held all these years discussing a wide range of research from Master Sheng Yen’s thought to Chinese Buddhism and world Buddhist philosophy, together with volunteers and scholars who are enthusiastic in Buddhist philosophy, Buddhism and the contemporary society will gradually establish an extensive network for academic dialogues.

Professor Yang also indicated that the theme “Historical Imagination and Modern Context of Chinese Buddhism and the Thought of Master Sheng Yen” is the spotlight of the year, not only as the main topic of this conference. This is a drastic change from previous years, where the main topics were centered around the meaning and teaching of the Dharma. This change is an attempt by DDM to make a connection between Buddhist philosophy and contemporary society in an academic setting as the change in society was a great concern of Master Sheng Yen; hence, scholars in the field of medicine and economics as well as those in interdisciplinary research were invited to this conference in order to broaden the topics of discussion. In line with this change, Sheng Yen Education Foundation will continue to present keynote speeches and lectures along this current theme for more focused discussion and research in the thought of Master Sheng Yen.

It has been a decade since the International Conference of the Thought of Master Sheng Yen was first held in 2006; APP for the agenda and conference brochures elicited overwhelming response. In order to promote Chinese Buddhism, Sheng Yen Education Foundation advocates integration of the practical and academic aspects of Buddhism; those interested in studying and researching “the Thought of Master Sheng Yen” or “Chinese Buddhism” could apply for various research fund granted by the Sheng Yen Education Foundation. For more details, please visit the website or call at +886-2-23979300.

Text contributor: Chang, Yao-chung (張曜鐘)
Photography: Wu, Chia-feng (吳嘉峯)
Translator: Huang, Kate Wan-chi (黃婉琪)
English editor: Leefah Thong

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