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Venerable Chang Wu Invited and Attended a Workshop Held at University of British Columbia

On May 9, 2014 the University of British Columbia (UBC) held a workshop at the Institute of Asian Research, C.K. Choi Building regarding "Buddhism and community care" (Buddhist Perspectives on the Work of Care). The topics discussed during this workshop were the ways in which Buddhist cultures, groups, and individuals, both monastic and lay practitioners, shape the provision of social care in East Asian settings. Apart from the scholars Professor Anne Bruce (UVic), Professor Jessica Main (UBC), Professor Andre Laliberte (UOttawa), Director of Dharma Drum Vancouver Center (DDVC), Venerable Chang Wu was also invited as a presenter to give a speech and took part in this important workshop that was full of insightful information and in-depth discussions.

Venerable Chang Wu began by introducing the topic of her speech, “Dharma Drum Mountain’s Social Welfare Charitable Foundation and Social Care Department.” Venerable Chang Wu then went on to acquaint the audience and fellow speakers about Dharma Drum Mountain being a Buddhist education organization and explained the type of social care and charitable relief work that is done. One big difference that was noted between Dharma Drum Mountain and other charitable organizations is that their vision is distinct which is “to uplift the character of humanity and build a pure land on earth.” Venerable Chang Wu said, “as long as we are at peace and have a calm mind, then without going anywhere, we have obtained a pure land at that moment.” If each and every one of us can practice sustaining a healthy and peaceful mind, then we can all live in peace and harmony.

In order to learn to have and sustain a calm mind, education becomes key and that is what Dharma Drum Mountain focuses on. The three big academic areas that is covered at Dharma Drum Mountain is “Extensive Academic Education, Extensive Public Buddhist Education and Extensive Social Care Education.” This is also known as the three-fold education at DDM. In 1956 Venerable Donchu started the annual “Winter Aid and Relief Drive" and it was continued by the founder of Dharma Drum Mountain, Master Sheng Yen and is still ongoing at the present moment. In March 2001 in order to further the disaster relief, extend caring work, a “Peace of Mind Relief Center” was established by Master Sheng Yen and Dharma Drum Mountain’s Social Welfare and Charity Foundation was officially established.

Due to the frequent natural disasters that happened globally around the world, Dharma Drum Mountain transcended national boundaries, religions, ethnics and physical barriers, and joined in the large-scale international relief aid of the South Asia Tsunami, Myanmar Typhoon, Sichuan Earthquake, 88 Flood and the Haiti Earthquake. The ongoing “Peace of Mind” Relief Center established in Sichuan is guided by the “Four Cultivations of Peace.” 1) Cultivating a peaceful body, restore and recover physical health 2) Cultivating a peaceful family 3) Cultivating peace in daily activities 4) Cultivating a peaceful mind. Organized into three stages, an in-depth of services to help the victims rebuild their soul is provided.

Apart from aiding in the reconstruction of schools, libraries, hospitals and health clinics, a “Life Education” course was offered in primary and secondary schools during the summer time at the Relieve Centers in Sichuan. The Venerables from DDM that led the various spiritual environmental courses and camps explained that material resources will one day be used up; however, our spiritual mind can sustain an everlasting state of wellbeing if we learn how to cultivate a peaceful mind.

The listeners praised the amount of social care activities that Dharma Drum Mountain took part in and discussed about how the successful experiences can be expanded in Canada. A westerner in the audience mentioned the “Think 2 more minutes, you do not need to commit suicide” campaign by Master Sheng Yen and referred to the high suicide rate in Vancouver and hopes that Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver Center can contribute locally in this regard.

The other scholars all presented very insightful information. From Ottawa University, Political Science Professor Andre Laliberte talked about “Buddhism and contemporary social research.” With over 10 years of in-depth research of Buddhist community care in mainland China, Professor Laliberte talked about his research results, and from the public policy perspective how the Buddhist groups adapt to contemporary trends in social care services, and the challenges they face. From the University of Victoria, Professor Anne Bruce shared about her volunteer work journey in Bangladesh when she was young. She witnessed war, poverty and social injustice, and through Buddhism, Professor Bruce finally found the meaning of life and became a Tibetan Buddhist. Buddhists concept of death led her to find a new direction beyond the horizon of traditional western medicine in terms of the care for the terminally ill, thus became the basis of her research and teaching. UBC Professor Jessica Main’s research is geared towards modern Buddhist ethics, social action, and institutional life in Japan. She completed her dissertation on the modern history of human rights and descent-based discrimination in Japanese True Pure Land, or Shin Buddhism.

Through this workshop, Dharma Drum Vancouver Center opened the doors to constructive exchange with local scholars about how Buddhism can play more of an active role in the western society. We are pleased that Professor Andre Laliberte accepted our invitation to give a speech at our Vancouver Center on June 15. We look forward to exploring new opportunities and offering new services can be created and provided for to our local community.

(Reported by Nancy Tseng, Dharma Drum Vancouver Center )

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