International Conference on Buddhism and Social Science: New interpretations and perspectives from the Buddhist point of view

On June 29 and 30, the International Conference on Buddhism and Social Science took place on the campus of Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts at DDM World Center for Buddhist Education, following the Development of Chan Buddhism in Contemporary Era forum held on June 28. Nearly 100 scholars and Buddhist monastics from home and from abroad attended the conference, sharing their views on social science with new interpretations and perspectives from the Buddhist point of view.

The conference started off with a short film entitled “Protecting the Spiritual Environment, Propagating the Dharma beyond Borders,” a reminder of late Master Sheng Yen’s teaching: building a pure land on earth is not about converting suffering people in the world to become Buddhists, but about wishing them to benefit from the power of compassion and wisdom as taught by the Buddha.

Taken wisdom and compassion as the dual principles, participants together explored possible approaches to incorporating the Buddhist teachings into the social sciences, including economics, public governance and management, finance, accountancy, business administration, and sociology. Venerable Guo Huei, abbot president of Dharma Drum Mountain, talked about how the late Master endeavored to introduce the Buddhist teaching to modern society, in an effort to help people from all walks of life approach the Buddha’s teaching and apply it in their daily life, bringing significant influence on the Chinese communities, as well as global devotees.

The late Master Sheng Yen urged DDM’s followers to develop the spirit of “giving of ourselves for the benefit of all”, as an effort to better relate to and engage in society. This is in line with the Buddhist idea of “harmony in views, harmony in common wealth, and harmony in the precepts to keep”, based on the “Six Harmonies”. Finally, the abbot president stressed that valuing humanities, adaptability, and pragmatism does not mean downgrading ourselves to become a secular social movement, but should still affirm the teaching regarding the Buddha’s Pure Land and the pure land of self-nature, with the ultimate goal to attain liberation from the samsara (the circle of life and death), so that we don’t compromise the transcending nature of the Buddhist teachings.

Four keynote speeches were arranged based on various sub-themes in different fields of study, including the “Embracing 2030 with Mindful Economics” by Prof. Joel Magnuson; “Applying Buddhist Principles to Managing People in the Public, Private and Nonprofit Sectors” by Prof. Frances Berry; “Business Ethics: Inspired by Buddhism” by Prof. Simon Shun-Man Ho; as well as “Sociology and the Cultivation of Buddhist Wisdom” by Prof. Richard Madsen. Nearly 1000 participants attended the four lectures. Ven. Guo Dong, former DDM abbot president, along with other scholars, was also invited as hosts to give responses in these sessions, to help all speakers and participants better know and communicate with each other.

Chih Hsiang-Lin (池祥麟), director of the College of Business at National Taipei University, pointed out that the ideal of “building a pure land on earth” could inspire scholars of the social sciences to further reflect how our conventional pursuit of self-interests and stockholders’ benefit would negatively impact society. By drawing on the Buddhist teachings, the studies of social sciences could certainly open up a wider perspective.

Texts: Chang, Yao-Chung (張曜鐘)
Photos: Li, Cheng-Feng (李澄鋒); Chen, Le-Rong (陳樂榕);
Tseng, Li-Xia (曾麗霞); Chang, Tian-Pei (張田沛)
Video: Chang, Tian-Pei (張田沛)
Translation: Elenda Huang
Editing: DDM Editorial Team; Chang, Chia-Cheng (張家誠)

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