His Excellency, the President of Singapore, Mr. S.R. Nathan and First Lady Mrs. Nathan, distinguished guests, honored Ambassadors, the Deputy Director General of States Administration for Religious Affairs of China, Mr. Tong-Xiang Yang, representatives of the Inter-Religious Organization, religious representatives from Singapore and abroad, guests and friends. Everyone is a great Bodhisattva, a messenger of God, and an utmost virtuous person.
Tonight, the nine religions of Singapore are united here for the Inter-Faith Prayer for the Millennium and Charity Dinner to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium. We wish to welcome our guests, over five thousand senior citizens, and children of different religions and races from Homes for the Aged and from Children’s Homes. It is our deep-felt wish that this event would help to foster harmonious relationships and unity among different races and religions. In this way, we hope to achieve happy families, a stable society, prosperous nations, and a peaceful world.
In recent years, we have witnessed disasters that are increasing in severity and frequency. Many people think that these disasters are unavoidable while others believe that these can be resolved. Most of us are worried. How are we going to face the coming 21st century?
We have studied the past and present teachings of the great sages and virtuous people of various religions on the origin of life and the universe. The Buddha said it is the True Mind; that the universe is manifested from the mind. The Hindus say it is the Identity of Ego and Brahman. This ego or self does not refer to the minor self, but the eternal true self that always exists. Many religions say God created the world and life. Other religions say that God is the manifestation of wisdom. This is spoken from the aspect of essence. Those who understand this are called sages and virtuous people.
From our experience, the world can be divided into two aspects – spiritual and material. They are infinite. There is a creator and the created. The creator is the truth, the true god, the true mind. The created is everything that is manifested, generated, and transformed. How do we understand this?
In Buddhism, understanding of the true reality of life and the universe is achieved through a high level of moral self-discipline, deep concentration, and wisdom. Deep concentration gives rise to the wisdom needed to understand the truth of the universe. This is why the great sages and virtuous people of this world diligently practice deep concentration and meditation to witness the true existence of spiritual planes and infinite dimensions. This confirms the eternal presence of the Identity of Ego and Brahman, God, True Mind, the Holy Spirit. This is the creator. From here, we know that all sentient beings in the universe are one entity.
We often hear national leaders address people as “Fellow citizens.” Great sages would say, “Fellow sentient beings of the universe.” Although all living beings are of different ethic groups, cultures, appearances and religions, we all share the same origin, are all one. Those who understand are called God, the Holy Spirit, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, prophets, or angels. We sincerely respect them equally. Those who do not understand are called ordinary beings.
Sages and virtuous people teach us that the key in understanding the truth lies in changing our viewpoints. To do this we change from bad to good, from deluded to enlightened, and from being ordinary to a sage. We often say that by planting good causes, we will harvest good results, but although many people cultivate good deeds, they seem unable to change their karmic retribution. Why? Because while their speech and behavior may be virtuous, their thoughts are not. Thus, the ancients taught us to cultivate from the basics.
As long as our minds are virtuous and we have the minds of sincerity, purity, equality, proper under-standing and compassion; as long as our thoughts are virtuous and we cultivate good fortune for all beings, let go of differentiation and attachments, accord with all beings and are joyous in the merits of others; we will be able to change karmic retributions and resolve all disasters.
I often use a tree as an example. The mind is the root, our thoughts are the trunk, our behavior is the branches, and our speech is the leaves. If we try to correct the problem of an unhealthy tree by plucking off each leaf while forgetting to treat the root, our efforts will be futile. But if we were to begin from the root, to understand from the basics, our problems would be easily solved.
Today, the goals of our prayers are very practical: peace and equality. The Buddha described this in the Flower Adornment Sutra as multiculturalism and inter-faith. In this sutra, we see an infinite number of groups that are able to live together in harmony and equality, to respect, help, and cooperate with one another regardless of race, religion, or nationality. Creation without destruction: peace without chaos. Their lives are happy and complete, filled with truth, goodness, beauty, and wisdom. This is what we strive to learn and accomplish.
Today, I am encouraging religious leaders around the world to educate their followers, wishing that everyone who is involved in multicultural education will be the messengers of Buddha and God, nurturing the sincere, pure, equal, selfless lovingkindness, and awakening the proper understanding in all beings. In this way, we will live in harmony and equality, and gradually understand that “we are all one entity. ”While our lives are eternal and our future lives are infinite, this lifetime is short. In striving for eternal happiness, we must eradicate all that is bad and embrace all that is good to transform delusion into enlightenment. It is important to be virtuous in our thoughts and conduct, and to live in harmony with people of all races, religions, and nationalities, and with all beings. If we regard all seniors as our parents and all children as our own as we care for, protect and guide them, we will be setting good examples. Thus, we will attain peace and happiness for all.
The Buddha said: “Refrain from all that is bad and there will be peace and harmony. Do all that is good and dreams will come true year after year.” Lastly, on this rare occasion of the new millennium where all virtuous people have gathered, I wish everyone a Happy New Millennium.