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Inheritance & Innovation, Gratitude & Vows

Amitoufo, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy, healthy, blissful and peaceful 2009.


2009 Chinese New Year Greetings


by Venerable Master Sheng Yen


Amitoufo, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy, healthy, blissful and peaceful 2009. 

Inheritance & Innovation

The word inheritance in and of itself denotes the passing on of experience from one generation to the next. It also means to inherit assets and resources from the predecessor by succession. And as far as Buddhism is concerned, with the cultivation of talents as its software and the erection of temples as its hardware, both form the legacies of our inheritance. 

I came up with the concept of " Spiritual Environmentalism" myself. The Four Fields for Cultivating Peace, the Four Guidelines for Dealing with Desires, and the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign are the social movements we've been promoting for the past few years. We still practice these methods today. Spiritual Environmentalism has become the benchmark at Dharma Drum Mountain; it is also our trademark. The concept of Spiritual Environmentalism is neither new nor old.

It isn't new because it's derived from the core principle of Buddhism. The mind is the central focus in Buddhism. If we can tap into the mind, explore and expand it, eventually we will master it. This is the fundamental spirit and essence of Buddhism.

Though this concept has been given a new term of reference; its underlying spirit and content have always been part of Buddhist teachings.

In Buddhism, whether it's spiritual practice, efforts to purify our society, the living environment, or people's minds, it all comes down to the mind. While people do talk about the mind, in Buddhism, it's used to refer to the mind of compassion and that of wisdom, which are the two components of Spiritual Environmentalism. All in all, we've been very effective at living this ideal. Moreover, the year before last we launched a movement called the Six Ethics of the Mind Campaign which followed the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign.

Spiritual Environmentalism was followed by the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign, and finally, the Six Ethics of the Mind Campaign. What is the Six Ethics of the Mind Campaign? It addresses family ethics, school ethics, living ethics, environmental ethics, ethics between ethnic groups and workplace ethics. These six ethics reinforce the "five ethics" from Confucianism.

The six ethics are meant to complement the conventional five ethics of Chinese culture. The Chinese have made reference to the five ethics for too long a period of time. It’s already quite outdated and old-fashioned, it's the old paradigm. The six ethics we've proposed is the new paradigm, a new social movement. It's something that the whole world can find useful. The five ethics can't permeate into every corner of the world, but six ethics can. It is a global paradigm of the ethics. And we’ll remain committed to carrying on its promotion this year.

Gratitude & Vows

The fact that Dharma Drum Mountain has come this far, I feel nothing but gratitude looking back on the 60 years that have gone by since I began following in the footsteps of my master, Ven. Dongchu. I was not alone making this journey.

I've always been in good company. Those who took the journey with me included my disciples, my pupils, my friends, and the Dharma upholders. They have walked alongside me all this time. And in this journey, people have devoted their time and effort, as well as shared their wisdom and compassion to help Dharma Drum Mountain materialize from scratch, so it could have gradually grown and reached the size it is today. And so I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone and everything.

Take Humanity Magazine, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The Chung Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies is also approaching its 30th anniversary.

Time sure flies. My vow is to spread the Buddhadharma to the rest of the world.

I'll do everything I can to this end. I always let the causes and conditions take their course. And I seize every opportunity I get when the causes and conditions ripen. 

The bit-by-bit gathering of the various causes and conditions has given me the means to bring about the accomplishment, namely the realization of Dharma Drum Mountain. Needless to say, I'm truly grateful. And what am I grateful for? I'm grateful because if it weren't for the various causes and conditions that were present, none of this would have been possible. I'm also grateful for the much freedom we enjoy in Taiwan so that we can fully exert ourselves.

Being grateful alone without making any vows will only keep us stuck. We should always be grateful to the past, and make vows for the future. What should we aspire to do in the future? Now that we have laid the groundwork, what's the direction we should head toward next? We've already made it this far, if we don't take further steps forward and make vows, all the previous efforts will be in vain.

This is why we must make vows to spread Chinese Buddhism, especially the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism to the world. Chinese Buddhism has been on the decline in the past few hundred years to the point that it’s nearly unheard of now. Chinese Buddhism is not as accessible to the world compared with Japanese, Tibetan and Theravada Buddhism, so our job is to make it known to the world. We've founded scholarships, foundations and graduate schools and invested much effort in the hope of popularizing Chinese Buddhism, this is our vow.     

New Hope for the New Year – A Mind at Peace, a Life at Peace

Back in 2008, everyone anticipated a difficult year for 2009. We’re facing challenging times, the global economy is in bad shape. But we have great hopes for the year 2009. We still see hope when there seems to be none. Even under harsh conditions, we can still find happiness. In doomed times, it's up to us to create bliss for ourselves. I proposed that we must have peace of mind in order to have peace in our life. But how? Feelings of unease are merely psychological sentiments. It's the external factors that cause us to feel insecure in the first place. We must feel secure in order for us to have peace in our life.

As long as we have a sense of security, we'll be able to enjoy peace in our life. And how is having a peaceful mind related to a peaceful life? When we have peace of mind, no matter how chaotic our external environment is, we won't be affected at all. It's like when it's pouring rain outside, it's really pointless to fret over the rain. Instead, we should be figuring out how to get the leaks in our house fixed. To find ways in which we can still go about our daily business despite the heavy rain. To think about what we can plant that will bloom in the rain. To find fun things we can do on a rainy day.

This is how we can gain peace, by first having a peaceful mind. Though rain is never welcomed, as long as we're feeling at peace, even if it does rain, we can still feel very happy and blessed. The concept of "A Mind at Peace, A Life at Peace" is based on this rationale. And hence, I proposed that with a peaceful mind, we'd have peace in our life. The launching of the suicide prevention movement was also built on this premise. As long as we have hope, and we don't feel a void in our hearts, but feel free from anxiety, regardless of how materially impoverished or how bad the circumstances are, we can still feel whole inside.

Don't let disappointment get the better of us, let hope live in our hearts for always. And use this opportunity to share with others what our hopes are for the future. People's basic need is to live and to survive. And as long as we’re still breathing, hope will always be around, and our mind can be at peace.

To sum up, we need to learn to face and accept any circumstance. Find ways to deal with it and then just let it go. When we can face our problems, accept our problems, deal with our problems, and then let go of them, we'll have peace of mind. I believe a great deal of people already know what the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign is. The mostly adopted practice is facing the difficulty, accepting it, dealing with it and then letting go of it.

There's also the Four Guidelines to Dealing with Desires which holds we should pursue only what we can acquire, and never pursue what we can’t acquire. Pursue only what we should acquire, and never pursue what we shouldn’t acquire. The truth is we need only very few things, we need only to eat, to keep ourselves warm, and to have a shelter to keep ourselves out of the rain and the scorching sun - that's about it. We can do without a lot of other things. And so, if we learn to have fewer desires, and have big hopes for the future while keeping our desires in check, we will have happiness.

Two years ago we started advocating a campaign for suicide prevention. Suicide really is unnecessary; people don’t need to commit suicide. Fear, a sense of insecurity, disappointment and feelings of hopelessness are the contributing factors of suicide.

I hope everyone can bear in mind that peace in life goes hand in hand with peace of mind. You don't have to commit suicide. Instead of always looking at the downside you should look on the bright side of things. On a rainy day, tell yourself that the rain will stop. On a windy day, remind yourself the wind will turn, and it will stop.

Typhoons and whatnot must all cease one day. In the darkness of the day, say to yourself the sun will still shine tomorrow. With this mindset, our hearts will always be filled with hope. When we have hope, we'll have peace in our mind, and we'll enjoy peace in our life. Last but not least, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

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