A Young Voice for Compassion
My first impression of the 12 youngsters from Taiwan on their two-week visit to DDM Malaysia was that they looked like any youngsters one might meet in Malaysia- dynamic, talkative and full of life.
However, upon talking with them further, there was something special about them. They were all torch-bearers of DDM's message of Compassion, of understanding and of commitment to make the world a better place.
Their politeness, their willingness to accommodate with our tiring (and often changing!) schedule of meetings with local Buddhist youth groups, their ability to assimilate vast amounts of information being hurled at them on a daily basis- all this gave me the sense that these youths will truly make a difference to the world. Indeed, there is a very important role for these young people to play in the coming years.
Buddhism is going through a period of immense growth in the West, and a similar revival is being experienced in the East. However, in the East, many people, and well-educated youths in particular, still think that Buddhism is a ritualistic religion which is, at best, a devotional practice more suited to retirees with many hours to spare for chanting, and at worst, a superstitious form of idol-worshipping.
That the Buddha's teachings is relevant to modern day society is undoubted, and all the more so because his teachings of Compassion and Wisdom is the perfect antidotes to a global culture of excessive exploitation and consumerism.
I take my hat off to Master Sheng Yen for having the vision to form a youth society within the DDM family so that youths in Taiwan and in all of DDM's branches around the world can come together and present a YOUNG VOICE for COMPASSION.
Traditional "faces" of Buddhism seem unable to reach out and touch the hearts of youths of today, especially at the entry level– pujas (fa hui) involving the chanting of sutras/reciting of buddha's name appear meaningless to them; sitting in meditation seems so painfully boring; dharma talks are lengthy and rarely relevant to issues close to their hearts.
From the 12 youths I met, I learnt that DDYBS aims to address this issue by presenting the buddha's teachings in a fun, dynamic, and relevant manner. We had the opportunity to experience first hand the impact of this new approach when the 12 youngsters performed a Buddhist rap for an audience of thousands of people at the Guan Yin Puja for World Peace and Harmony held in Kuala Lumpur, at which they were invited to show-case DDM's Eight Form Moving Meditation. Their rap was meant to wake people up from their long day of sitting at the vast stadium! Not only was the audience totally engaged in their performance (it is the first time Malaysians hear a Buddhist rap!), they cheered "encore" after the performance amidst rapturous applause.
Shi Fu has mentioned before that we are not in the business of converting people of other religious beliefs to Buddhism. We do, however, want to present the buddha's teachings in a language and a manner with minimal religious connotations, so that people of all faiths can readily accept and practice them, whether they call themselves a Buddhist or not. The Buddha didn't intend to recruit disciples to call them "Buddhists". He only wanted to share with them the path to liberation that he had discovered. Similarly, we can see Shi Fu's open-heartedness best expressed in his formulations of the "Four Types of Environmentalism" and the "Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign".
Many a times I have shared Shi Fu's "Face it, Accept it, Deal with it, and Let it Go" with friends of all faiths, and they had no idea that it was Buddhist. And it didn't matter so long as they found it useful.
People, especially youngters, are very averse to having religious doctrines shoved down their throats. When Buddhism is presented in a way that is pure wisdom with no religious undertones, perhaps we can truly encourage the Rising of Great Compassion- the original purpose of the setting up of DDM.
Herein lies an interesting challenge for DDYBS. How can they create a new "face" for Buddhism when many Buddhists have expectations and needs which are better fulfilled by the more traditional 'faces' of Buddhism?
Remembering that we are in no way discounting the importance and efficacies of traditional Buddhist practices such as chanting and meditation, how can we allow the younger generation do the necessary work to attract more young people into DDM? On a wider scale, how can we help these young people spread the message of Compassion to their peers all around the world, regardless of race, faith and geographical location?
I always thought this would be a rather daunting task. However, having personally experienced the energy and dedication shown by the 12 youths from Taiwan, and others like them at DDYBS, the future is bright indeed! Keep up the good work, guys and gals!
(By Lin Zhong Biao. Coordinator, DDM Malaysia)