The 7th Chinese Buddhism & Sheng Yen International Conference – “Narrative, Transmission, and the Modern Society"

June 28 – 30, 2018: the DDM Sheng Yen Education Foundation (聖嚴教育基金會) held the 7th Chinese Buddhism and Sheng Yen International Conference at the GIS NTU Convention Center. In his opening speech, Venerable Guo Dong (果東法師), Former Abbot President of DDM, stated that the initial aspiration of Master Sheng Yen was to introduce the Buddha Dharma to the modern society so that the general public could benefit from the Dharma; which is also the aim of this conference.

According to Mr. Tsai, Chairman of the Sheng Yen Education Foundation, the theme for this conference is “Narrative, Communication and the the Modern society”. It is hoped that by studying the writing of Buddhist literature such as Records of the Transmission of the Lamp, cultural exchange between monastics, Buddhist sutras, rituals, as well as in-depth studies of Pure Land Buddhism and its historical paths, to advance the modernization of Buddhism.

After the opening ceremony on the 28th, Professor Chen-Kuo Lin (林鎮國教授) from the National Chengchi University, Chun-Fang Yu (于君方教授), Academician of Academia Sinica, and Wan Chun-Chuan (萬金川教授), Dean of Fo Guang University explained the establishment process of “Master Sheng Yen Chinese Buddhism Studies Center” and gave their blessings to its inauguration.

Mr. Tsai recalled that only 10 papers were presented at the first Chinese Buddhism and Sheng Yen International Conference in 2006; in contrast, there are about 70 papers this year, presented by 126 scholars from America, German, French, Poland, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, China, and Taiwan.

Master Sheng Yen once stated his aspiration: “only the combination of various other disciplines and the ideal of “Protecting the Spiritual Environment” can bring many different benefits to the common interests of all mankind.”

In accordance with Master Sheng Yen’s aspiration above, discussions included thematic forums such as “Tiantai Studies (天臺研究)”, “Ming Dynasty Buddhism (明代佛教)”, and “Chanmen Xiuzheng Zhiyao” (禪門修證指要), in addition to keynote speeches such as “The Body-Mind and Family-Country Elements in Mahayana Buddhist Autobiographic Writings”, “Master Sheng Yen’s Meditation Approach and His Interpretation and Direction of the Pure Land Practice and Chan Meditation”, as well as “Buddhism’s Integration into Chinese Culture”.

Additionally, dialogues with academics from different fields were also established; such as Buddhism and Economy, Buddhism and Psychology, as well as Buddhism and Regenerative Medicine and Organ Transplants. Professor Yang Pei (楊蓓教授), CEO of Sheng Yen’s Education Foundation, indicated that since the first conference in 2006, a new model for academic discussion that is more in line with Master Sheng Yen’s aspiration has been developed. This new model is inclusive and encompasses the compatibility between monastics and lay practitioners, cross-generations, classical and modern, as well as academic and applied.

In regards to the study of Buddhist Doctrines, spiritual environmental protection and modern applications, Professor Wei-jen, Teng (鄧偉仁教授), from the Department of Buddhist Studies, Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, presented his interpretation of Master Sheng Yen’s analysis of Tiantai Studies, placed under the context of contemporary “Buddhist Modernism”. He argued that the inclusion of Tiantai thoughts could mitigate globalization crisis brought about by modernity. Yang Yang, (楊洋講師) a lecturer at Marxism School, Southeast University in China, looked at the modern narrative and communication path of Chinese Buddhism from the perspective of spiritual environment protection; the concept of spiritual environment protection could break through the traditional narrative and becomes a bridge between historical paths and the needs of modern society. Associate Professor Chou Jou-Han (周柔含副教授) from the Institute of Religion and Humanity, Tzu Chi University discussed the process and contributions of Master Sheng Yen to the movement of funeral and burial reform; the combination of Buddhist funeral ritual and eco-friendly burial practices points towards the deeply ingrained ideal of “protecting the spiritual environment”.

Grace Ting, an audience who has participated in this conference for the fifth time shared that she is very impressed with Venerable Guo Guang’s auto-ethnographic style of research; from the retrospective of the life process and family interaction, to her encounter with Master Sheng Yen, as well as using contemplations in dealing with problems; which felt like a life education. The study of the thoughts of Master Sheng Yen that extends to all level of Buddhism and goes deeper into the realm of life enabled her and her friends to encounter and experience the beauty of Dharma.

Texts: Chang, Yao-Chung (張曜鐘)
Photos: Lee Fan (李東陽); Chang, Yao-Chung; Chang, Tian-Pei (張田沛)
Translation: Elenda Huang (頤嵐達)
Editing: Leefah Thong; DDM Editorial Team

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“Narrative, Transmission, and the Modern Society"