Welcoming Remarks by the Abbot President to Dr. Jane Goodall
---International Conference Hall on 28 October 2006
Honorable Dr. Jane Goodall, Chairman Chiang, Director General Lin, good friends of the International Jane Goodall Institute, Rector Ven. Huimin, Provost Ven. Guogoang, vice-CEO Ven. Guoguang, Venerable masters, and distinguished guests, Welcome, Amitabha!
Today, we feel very grateful for such a precious occasion to have Dr. Jane, an internationally renowned educator of environmental protection and scholar of wildlife conservation, with us here at Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education. Dr. Jane has graciously accepted our invitation to share with us her efforts and experiences with the "Roots and Shoots" program.
Dr. Jane has impressed us the most deeply with her endless, tired-less efforts in conserving the natural environment and preserving wildlife of all kinds. Her zealous passion, her gentle, yet persistent spirit and dedication have inspired many people to join her, to share the same spirit, and to start taking actions to make changes as individuals so that we can "make the world a better place for the environment, animals, and the human community."
This reminds me of a favorite story of mine. One day at dusk, on a beach in Australia, an old man was taking a walk on the seashore with his walking stick. He saw a little girl keep picking up something from the beach and throwing it into the sea. Out of curiosity, he asked, "Little girl, are you throwing pebbles onto the sea surface for fun?" "No," replied the girl, "I see that there are lots of starfish on the beach. And I fear that they will all be dried up and die when the sun comes out tomorrow morning. I'll feel pitiful for them if that happens.
Therefore, I want to send them back into the ocean." Having seen all the ups and downs of life, the old man smiled and said, "Don't be foolish, little girl. Look at the coastline! It's about 4 to 5 kilometers long! You see how long it is and how many starfish there are! With your single effort alone, how can you save all the starfish?" Silently, the little girl picked up another starfish, threw it into the ocean, and then said, "Old grandpa, I know it's impossible for me to save all the starfish, but I do know whenever I pick up a starfish and send it back to the ocean, I have made a difference in "this very starfish's" destiny."
Buddhism is a religion that places great emphasis on protecting the natural environment.
The Buddha told us in the sutras and precepts that we should take loving care of animals, and that we should not harm the grass and trees, but regard them as the home where sentient beings lead their lives. Therefore, Buddhists regard our living environment as their own bodies. The Buddhists' life of spiritual practice is by all means very simple, frugal, and pure.
As the founder of Dharma Drum Mountain, the most venerable Master Sheng Yen, said, "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, the essential spirit of Dharma Drum Mountain is "spiritual environmentalism," which encourages individuals to start by purifying their mind, and fill it with gratitude, kindness and compassion for life. In this way, they will be able to dedicate the fruit of their efforts to others.
In their educational projects and essential spirit, the "Roots and Shoots" educational program promoted by the Jane Goodall Institute and the "Spiritual Environmentalism" that Dharma Drum Mountain has been promoting echo each other: both start with the individuals, both emphasize the education of the human mind, both advocate the protection of the stability and purity of the mind, both encourage individuals to lead environmentally sound and healthy lives.
We both care for the growth of our individual selves, and feel delighted to serve others. We both start by changing ourselves and thus affect others in positive ways. We both weave and expand the network of goodness and beauty and spread it around; together, we accumulate the "little goodness" of the individuals into the "great goodness" of all.
We all know that "the progress of human life is without an end." Within the limited lifetime of ours, we can still create limitless values with it by transforming our mind and ourselves. When individual seeds of goodness and kindness are planted, they start to grow roots and shoots begin to emerge. And they will reach out and connect with the same roots and shoots of goodness and kindness around them. This power of growth to breakthrough and move upward is without limitation.
When we begin to take compassionate care of all sentient beings, to take actions with wisdom, the people, the things, and the environment around us will react with the same kind of wisdom and compassion. Hence we will not only bring peace, health, and happiness for ourselves, but will also bring peace, health, and happiness for others. And eventually, we can realize our shared vision to create a pure land on earth.
On behalf of Dharma Drum Mountain, I would like to dedicate our sincere welcome and appreciation for Dr. Jane's visit. Let us thank her for coming here to demonstrate in person how hope, care, and compassionate vision can be realized and transformed into immeasurable power to make this world a better place.
I would also like to dedicate our best wishes and prayers: with the informed attitude that we share the same universal body of life with everything, let us establish such faith, such compassionate vows and take actions to respect life, care for life, cherish life, treat life well, use life well, and work together to devote ourselves to building a pure land on earth and turning such a beautiful vision into reality.
Again, let us thank Dr. Jane for honoring us with her visit, her valuable time and her sharing. Thank you very much!