Light at the Edge of the World : A Spiritual Dialogue between Dr. Wade Davis and Master Sheng Yen

Warmly invited by National Geographic Society in Taipei, Venerable Master Sheng Yen unveiled a wealth of spiritual dialogue with an internationally renowned explorer, Dr. Wade Davis, on the afternoon of 28 April 2007.

Wade Davis has been described as "a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life's diversity," an ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, he holds degrees in anthropology and biology, and received his Ph.D. in ethno botany - all from Harvard University.

In recent years his research efforts have taken him to East Africa, Tibet, Polynesia, Mali, Equatorial West Africa, New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Canadian Arctic Nunavut and Greenland. He is the author of ten books, including The Serpent and the Rainbow, One River and Light at the Edge of the World.

Specially hosted by National Geograpgic in Taiwan at the Eslite Bookstore's flagstore in downtown Taipei, the three-hour dialogue took place in the videoconference room.

Issues such as global warming, culture loss, conflict prevention and religious practice in Buddhism were touched on, under the lead of nationwide famous journalist, Ms. Sisy Chen. Many honorable guests also attended, including Venerable Guo Dong, the Abbot President of Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM), Chen Jianan, the President of DDM’s General Association of Dharma Upholders as well as DDM’s Venerables.

The doctor surprised the audience by admitting he was a Buddhist and said although he had traveled the world so extensively over the years, this was his first time visiting Taiwan. He also said he was greatly delighted at having the wonderful opportunity to meet with the internationally recognized Chan master, Venerable Master Sheng Yen, known for spiritual enlightenment on critical issues facing the human race.

Dr. Davis pointed out that models for economic progress promoted by Western society are not only problematic and ravage the eco-environment with no regard for Mother Earth but also leaves a sense of sadness in people’s minds.

Over the three years Dr. Davis spent researching the culture of the indigenous Indians living in Peru, he discovered how they truly lived in harmony with nature which is an inseparable part of their lives. Their philosophy for living inspired Dr. Davis to reflect on the relationship between the environment and so-called economic development, as well as the meaning of happiness.

Venerable Master Sheng Yen voiced that, for global warming, which already poses a great threat to the earth’s precious eco-environment; the effects are associated closely with the lifestyle of human beings and human minds as well.

For instance, most people forge a consensus on the importance of environmental protection and appreciate that the earth is unique, bringing up the realization that human beings have responsibility to protect the earth. But the problem is: what would most people choose if the protection of the environment went against personal interests? “I am afraid that personal interests would take priority for most people. Environmental protection is a concept, a living style, an attitude for treating others as well as an action”, the Master further elaborated.

Therefore, Dharma Drum Mountain, which strives to promote the protection of the Spiritual Environment, the Social Environment, the Living Environment and the Natural Environment, encourages people to first adjust their views, then develop their minds by living an economical life and treat others and the earth with compassion and gratitude.

Questions such as “What can we do?” and “Do we have the power to make a change?” were asked by the audience during the Q & A session. Dr. Davis answered that “change” always starts from a small place, therefore, if everyone makes a small change, a “real” change will appear in the end. “The decision is on you,” he encouraged.

The three-hour dialogue played to a packed hall and ended successfully with thankfulness and appreciation. Just like Venerable Master said, we will discover “the light at the edge of the world” from the peace and stabilization of the human mind.

(reported and photos taken by Jin Yang/edited by DDM Australia Editing Team)

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