Commencement of the Year 2017 – Global Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony
Speech By Venerable Master Chin Kung
18 March 2017, Westbrook Queensland Australia
Good morning respected Mayor Antonio,
religious representatives, community leaders,
distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen!
A very warm welcome to everyone meaningful Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony!
This is the first time that such an event has been hosted in Australia. All participants are memorializing their ancestors in gratitude for their contributions to society. At the same time, we also memorialize the ancestors of all ethnic groups around the world, and express our deepest respect for them.
In August 2015, Vice-Chancellor Hughes of the University of Wales visited Hong Kong to participate in an Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony. He was very moved by the solemnity of the ceremony and the sincerity and respect shown by the participants. He asked if it was possible to hold a Ceremony in the UK. I agreed. So in June and July of the last year, we hosted three ceremonies in London and Wales, commemorating the ancestors of all ethnic groups around the world. In two of the ceremonies, Vice-Chancellor Hughes assumed the role of the Principal Officer. Vice-Chancellor Hughes is thus the first Westerner to assume this leading role in a Chinese Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony symbolizing a new climate for mutual learning due to eastern and western cultural dialogues. This is a positive start to bringing the world together as “one family” and deserves celebration.
In today’s Ceremony, Mayor Antonio will be assuming the role of the Principal Officer, and several distinguished guests will act as assistant officers. This will also turn a new page in the history of world cultural dialogue. Let all see that people from different cultures and different faiths can come together in unity. This will also bring a ray of positive energy to world peace.
Why are we holding the Ceremony? To commemorate the virtues of our ancestors and promote filial piety. We need to commemorate the contributions of our ancestors, learn from and follow their virtuous conduct, and repay the kindness they have shown us. If we can think of and not forget our ancestors who lived thousands of years before us, how could we possibly not love and respect our parents of this lifetime? That is why The Analects, which can be said to be the “Chinese Bible’, states: “They are few who, being filial and fraternal, are fond of offending their superiors. There have been none who, not intending to offend their superiors, have liked stirring up acrimony. The virtuous person focuses on the foundation. When the foundation has been established, the Way will arise. Filial piety and fraternal love are the root of all benevolent actions.”
Filial piety is paying respect to and serving one’s parents, which includes commemorating one’s ancestors. Fraternity is the extension of filial piety. It means respecting one’s elders and teachers, and loving one’s brothers and sister. Filial piety and fraternity, or filial respect, are the root of being a good person. Also they are the foundation of a peaceful society. The Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony is the embodiment of filial respect. As the Analects states: “Show reverence for one’s parents by carefully arranging the funeral rites and by sincerely remembering ancestors. Having done so, the virtue of the people will resume.’ As such, the meaning behind the Ceremony is profound, relating to whether the human will is pure or impure and whether society is good or bad. Such events are worthy of enthusiastic promotion.
Moreover, the Ceremonies are a form of rites and music education. Rites represent the natural order and regulate human behaviour; they tell us how humans should interact with other humans, with nature and with the universe. Music represents harmony between heaven and earth. Elegant music can temper humans’ Seven Emotions and Five Desires. The Five Desires are greed for wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. The Seven Emotions of pleasure, anger, sorrow, joy, love, hate, and desire all arise from the Five Desires. The purpose of music is to control the Seven Emotions and Five Desires so that they ‘do not exceed propriety, and do not become excessive’. Music allows people to understand how to discipline and limit their words and actions. Through improving oneself, one attains the ideal state of virtue.
Rites and music education not only help improve each person’s moral character, they also create a good social environment. They emphasize that ‘peace is most precious’, in the hope that each person will be comfortable with their duties and with their proper place, and will therefore attain cultural self-awakening. Rites and music education is a key component of Chinese culture, having enabled the ancient Chinese civilization to survive several thousand years, giving China the enviable reputation of ‘The Nation of Rites and Music’.
‘The Nation of Rites and Music’ is the ideal nation conceived by the sages and virtuous people. Regardless of one’s gender, age, status, or wealth, everyone yields to others and avoids contention. Contention means striving to gain, to keep everything for oneself, and to not give way to others. This will definitely amount to no good! The Zuo Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals states: ‘All who have blood and breath have a disposition to quarrel with one another’. This illustrates that competition and fighting are the causes of humankind’s bad habits. In order to prevent these evil causes from generating effects, the ancient saints and sages promoted graciously yielding to remedy contention. This is not contending. It is always putting others ahead of oneself.
The Chinese forefathers in Discourses of the States told us: ‘To not yield is to abandon virtue’. In other words, without altruism in our yielding, our virtue will decline. This will lead to fights, plundering, and invasion. Such animal-like actions will end in mutual annihilation. Therefore, we need to remove the world contention from our dictionaries: no competition, no conflicts, no war. We ought to yield: to exercise forbearance and self-restraint, to modestly decline, to give precedence to others out of courtesy, to yield from beginning to end. These are the astute teachings of China’s forefathers.
The Zuo Commentary states, ‘Yielding is the core of rites’ and ‘Humble concession is the foundation of virtue.’ That is to say, yielding is the aim of rule by rites. Humility and giving precedence to others out of courtesy are the basis of virtue. People know the importance of virtue but often overlook the key role that yielding plays into moral development. A Chinese proverb says it best, ‘Enduring for a moment [you will find] the winds and waves become calm. Take one step back, [and you will see that] the sea is boundless and the sky is vast.’
Yielding is an effective method of resolving competition, conflict and war. Not only can it reconcile relations between humans, it can also improve relations between countries, thus bringing about a world of universal harmony, where everyone is treated equally and gets along in peace and unity. The Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony allows people to always bear in mind their ancestors’ teachings, yielding in all thoughts, not contending, and thinking of the happiness and benefit of all beings. We are all inhabitants of one Earth, we are one family, we are one entity. Today’s Ceremony is an outstanding example of this.
The Earth’s inhabitants ought to care for each other, bringing each other’s lives to new heights of happiness and fulfillment. We hope that the world’s powerful countries will safeguard world peace. If powerful countries can co-exist in peace, there will be peace on earth, If they cannot, disasters will besiege our world. If powerful countries use their militaries to safeguard world peace, less powerful countries would not need to have their own militaries, nor do they need to spend money on weapons. They could, instead, use the money saved to benefit their people in three ways. 1) Free education: Education, food, and lodging ought to be provided free-of-charge from kindergarten through graduate school. 2) Free healthcare: Medical care, food, and lodging ought to be free during hospitalization. 3) Free aged care: Instead of being called old age homes, we would call these facilities ‘elders’ paradises’. Not only would seniors have no concerns about their material lives, their mental well-being would also be ensured, and they would enjoy entertainment and leisure activities in their later years.
So that is why we hope for powerful countries to foster the happiness of those that are less powerful so all can live in harmony as one family. The Earth’s resources belong to everyone. When minerals are discovered, countries should not dispatch armed forces to claim them. Claiming them is barbaric conduct and should be avoided at all costs. After the minerals are extracted, the profits should be divided according to the size of populations. It is fair that all the world’s resources be divided up in this way. There is nothing more to say on this.
We hope that religions can come together in harmony, return to education, and learn from each other. Let all ethical, moral, causality and sages’ teachings in religious texts be carried into the future. At the same time, we ought to put into practice the core values of all religions: compassion and universal love. This means every religious leader and every religious adherent needs to represent God and Allah to love all beings, putting into practice unbiased and unconditional love. Let everyone know that religion is indispensable to humankind’s spiritual education. Religion will not harm people – it will save them. We want to help foster lasting world peace, bringing happiness to each individual, creating family harmony, career success, societal stability and harmony, national prosperity and strength, and world peace. There will thus be only mutual aid and cooperation. No conflicts. No war.
The Annals of Master Yan states: ‘Those who dispute cannot overcome misfortune; those who are humble and yielding will not lose their good fortune.’ This tells us if we choose conflict and war, humans will suffer from never-ending disasters. If we choose to be humble and yield to others, abandoning war, humans will enjoy boundless good fortune and joy. Good fortune or misfortune the choice is ours! We need to have a model in order to attain the ideal world of universal harmony. Toowoomba is becoming such a model. We need to continue to strive, starting with ourselves. We need to yield to others and avoid contention, establishing Toowoomba as heaven on earth. We welcome all peace-loving people to migrate to Toowoomba. Lastly l hope everyone can give rise to loving-kindness, become sages, relieve pain and suffering, be healthy in body and mind, and experience constant auspiciousness.
Thank you everyone!