August 4, 2012, Palace of Golden Horses, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Respected Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew, headmasters and teachers from Chinese schools in Malaysia, teachers from the Chung Hua Cultural Education Centre, and distinguished guests:
Thanks to Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew’s kind invitation, I am grateful to be able to participate in this gathering with Chinese headmasters in Malaysia. On another note, I am also delighted to see that the construction of the Malaysian Academy of Han Studies has already begun. The project is expected to be completed in two years’ time, after which the academy will start recruiting students. This is indeed an extremely important event of the 21st century! Last year, during the groundbreaking ceremony of the academy, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, said in his speech, “The establishment of the Malaysian Academy of Han Studies (MAHS) will help impart an education concept that not only promotes academic excellence but also positive values that are greatly needed by mankind.”
I congratulate the Chinese people of Malaysia.because you, the Chinese headmasters and teachers here, will assume (undertake) the mission of reviving Han Studies to save the world and humankind. Here, I’d like to to share with you my experiences in my sixty years’ journey in studying traditional Chinese culture, the teachings of the saints and sages, and Mahayana Buddhism.
1. The Way to Resolve Human Crises
The society we live in today is plagued by numerous crises—climate change, energy and food crises, environmental pollution, wars, and acts of terrorism. And the crises are becoming increasingly serious day by day. The root cause of all these is that “the human mind has turned bad,” that we have overlooked the important teachings on moral relations, and that the innate nature is good,
According to Chronicles by Zuo Qiuming, “If humans abandon moral relations, evil will prevail. ” Guan Zhong, [Qi politician, 723 BCE–645 BCE] said, “Dispensing with the four principles (propriety, righteousness, honesty, and shamefulness) will lead to the downfall of a nation.” Mencius, when explaining the principle of management, said to King Hui of Liang, “If the ruler of every country only cares about benefitting his own country, if senior government officials only care about benefitting their own territories, and scholars and the people only care about their personal gains, then, everyone is fighting for his or her own interest and the country will perish.” This means that when all the people in a country are competing with one another for their own benefits, the country will be in peril! Nowadays, “self gains” is of interest to all people, so much so that people seek it at the expense of others. They act in whatever way they like in order to fulfill their desires. This will definitely result in crises throughout the world and invoke global disasters because according to the chapter “The Instructions of Yi” from Book of Shan, “Do good and a hundred good fortunes will manifest. Do evil and a hundred misfortunes will ensue.”
The only way to save the world is to return to the traditional teachings of the saints and sages, and to humbly study and implement our ancestors’ teachings in our daily lives. The chapter called “Record on the Subject of Education” [from Book of Rites] states that “Education is essential in building a country and in guiding its people.” Furthermore, education is of primary importance for self-cultivation to change one’s destiny, for managing a business and a family, for creating a society that is courteous and righteous, for bringing forth social stability and harmony, for creating wealth and peace for the people, for establishing a glorious era marked by lasting peace, and even for establishing the lands of Buddhas, for the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.
As early as 5,000 years ago, Emperor Shun appointed Qi as Minister in Charge of Education. Subsequent leaders in various dynasties also attached great importance to education. One could say that nearly all administrative units were at the service of education, evident by the fact that the Ministry of Propriety was prioritized among all the ministries under the prime minister. This was especially true during the early times and height of the Qing dynasty, when the emphasis on education was most evident, with proprieties being practiced, and experts on Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism invited to lecture in the imperial court. At that time, the emperor and his civil officials and military attaché would study the ancient classics together. Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature contains “Daily Explanation of the Four Books” and other classics, clearly demonstrating the lecture contents conducted during the reigns of Emperor Qianlong and Emperor Kangxi.
Some say “the 21st century is a century that belongs to the Chinese.” Some Western countries fear that the rise of China will lead to China ruling the world, posing a threat to other countries. Hence, they are anxious and concerned, and they try to prevent this from happening. In my opinion, the rise of China will definitely not be one that triumphs because of military power, politics, science, technology, or the economics. Instead, what will triumph is a revival and spreading of traditional Chinese culture!
Professor Arnold Toynbee, a British historian, asserted that “in order to resolve the social problems of the twenty-first century, we must rely on the teachings of Confucius and Mencius, and on Mahayana Buddhism.” The teachings of Confucius and Mencius propound “benevolence, righteousness, loyalty, and forgiveness,” and Mahayana Buddhism promotes “sincerity and compassion.” Both emphasize a culture of love and sincerity. When we calmly look at the chaos and uncertainties we face today, we will understand that if we truly want to save the world, we can only do so by reviving the values of “earnestness, sincerity, and love,” which are the core values in traditional Chinese culture.
Traditional Chinese culture is a culture of love and harmony. The five moral relationships, the five principal virtues, the four moral standards, and the eight virtues are the core values of a culture that promotes the innate goodness of all human beings. In his speech during the groundbreaking ceremony of the Malaysian Academy of the Han Studies, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, pointed out that “when Admiral Cheng Ho came to Melaka in the 15th century . . . having the greatest power, he could have easily destroyed or conquered the sultanate of Melaka. But he chose to come with the hand of friendship. . . . Why did he do that? Admiral Cheng Ho and the people of China had the wisdom, the values, and the characters, which they believed, their action would be a testimony to China being a civilized nation. They came to make friends and not to conquer.” This illustrates fully the peaceful nature of the Chinese culture and its stand on “loving all beings.”
2. The Significance of the Reappearance of Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles
The Tang dynasty in China was a golden era, a period where diversified cultures lived together harmoniously. Emperor Taizong, Li Shimin [599-649] was magnanimous and very broad-minded. He humbly learned from scriptures of all religions and philosophical schools, and promoted the study of traditional Chinese culture throughout the country. Not only was Emperor Taizong a patron of Buddhism, he was also a supporter of all religions. He respected and protected religions, and he was sufficiently open-minded to accept all religions and to treat them equally. All the virtuous and knowledgeable religious leaders were esteemed as the king’s advisors, and he often sought their counsel.
In the ninth year of the Reign of Zhenguan , Christian missionary Alopen brought Christianity, then known as zongjiao, to China. Emperor Taizong sent Fang Xuanling, the prime minister, to receive and welcome Alopen. In the 12th year of the Reign of Zhenguan, Emperor Taizong decreed the building of a church at Yining Lane in Chang’an, the capital. This church was called the Persian Temple by Imperial Decree, and it was built for the Christians to propagate their faith.
Another religion that had arrived in Tang dynasty China before Christianity was Islam. It was said that during the Reign of Wude of Emperor Gaozong, Taizong’s father, that the founder of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, who was alive at the time, asked four of his disciples to go to China with the teachings of Islam. One of his disciples, Saad ibn Abī Waqqās, came via the Persian Gulf and arrived at Guangzhou in the early years of the Reign of Zhenguan . He established the Commemorate the Saint Mosque in memory of the Prophet.
Emperor Taizong showed how a country can treat all religions equally. All religions are, in fact, excellent educations containing the wise experiences of the saints and prophets, and can help a country to teach its people to achieve harmony and stability.
The biggest contribution that Emperor Taizong made was the compilation of a book, Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles— a compilation of books and writings on the important governing principles of ancient China.
At the tender age of sixteen, Emperor Taizong joined the army in his father’s forces to stop the turmoil that was going on in the country. For more than ten years, he dwelt on military matters. After he ascended to the throne at the age of twenty-seven, he laid down his armor and began to promote culture and education, paying particular attention to the principles of governing and bringing peace to the country. He sought to rejuvenate the nation from the aftermath of civil strife by restoring order to life.
Although Taizong was an intelligent, brave, and eloquent man, he regretted that his military expeditions had prevented him from much formal education. He also learned from the mistakes made by the fallen Sui dynasty and realized that to start a new dynasty was no easy task and to sustain it was even harder. Hence, during his reign, he encouraged his ministers to point out his mistakes and to candidly criticize his policies. To make up for lost time, Emperor Taizong ordered two of his advisors, Wei Zheng and Yu Shinan, to comb through all the historical records on governing principles from the Six Classics, the Four Collections of History and the Hundreds of Schools and to extract the wise lessons, ideas, methods, and experiences related to the cultivation of oneself, family management, governance, and ways to bring about world peace.
The result was a collection, titled Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles, which excerpted main points from 14,000 books and 89,000 scrolls of ancient writings—500,000 words in all and covering sixty-five book categories—dating from the era of the Five Legendary Emperors to the Jin dynasty.
This truly is a treasured compilation on governing principles that can bring about peace and order. In his foreword, Wei Zheng wrote, “When used in the present, it will allow us to examine and learn from our ancient history. When passed down, it will benefit our descendants.” Emperor Taizong admired the broad, yet concise compilation, and read it every day, saying, “It is you, my ministers, whose efforts enabled me to learn from the ancients and made me clear when faced with issues. ”
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, in his speech on the Three Principles of the People (Principle of Nationalism 4th lecture) said, “The advancements in science and material civilization in Europe happened mostly in the last 200 years. When it comes to the essence of political philosophy, Europeans still need to look to China for answers. You all know that the best scholars come from Germany. But today, German scholars are studying Chinese philosophies as well as Buddhism from India to correct the bias in science.”
Our ancestors have great wisdom, ideologies, methods, experiences, and have achieved great results. They all come from thousands of years of experience in self-discipline and studies, self-cultivation, managing the family, and governing the country. Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles is indeed most precious! It is a treasured compilation that can inspire the global revival of traditional Chinese culture and moral education. If we can fully comprehend and apply these principles, world peace can be achieved in the near future. If we do not follow these principles of governance, we will be inviting endless catastrophes and tragedies.
Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles had disappeared from circulation for close to 1,000 years, since the beginning of the Song dynasty. Fortunately, there is a complete manuscript in the Japanese Kanazawa Bunko Museum, hand-copied by Japanese monks. The Japanese returned the books to China in the 60th year of the Reign of Emperor Qianlong, and in the second decade of the twentieth century, the books became the master copy for the Four Series Books published by the Commercial Press [Shanghai] as well as publications used by Taiwan. At the end of 2010, I was fortunate to obtain a copy of Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles. I read the work repeatedly and am filled with immense joy. Eternal stability and world peace can be brought about by the cultural teachings of our ancient saints and sages. Realizing that the reappearance of Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles carries a sacred mission, I ordered 10,000 copies to be printed by the World Book Company, to be presented to political parties and various leaders in China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and around the world, for them to share the essence of governance. This would be immensely helpful for creating a harmonious society and a peaceful world!
Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles is now included in the main curriculum of the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China. I have also recommended this book to many world leaders and religious leaders, and it was extremely well-received. For example, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, heard me introducing the book and expressed his wish to see the English translation as soon as possible. Hence, I entrusted the teachers at the Chung Hua Cultural Education Centre with the task of extracting 360 quotes from Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles, adding commentaries, translating them into modern Chinese, and then into English. This edition, known as the Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles 360 Book I, enables readers to read a quote a day and finish the book in one year.
After the English translation of Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles 360 was completed, I immediately presented a copy to Tun Mahathir, and he was extremely delighted. After reading this book, the current Malaysian Prime Minister, YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib, said, “The values in Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles should be embraced by leaders, ministers, and officials because the values can help us implement well-rounded policies for the benefit of the people.”
I strongly believe that Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles can help the world resolve conflicts and bring forth world peace and stability. I hope that the world will be forever free of war, forever free of conflict, and human beings of all races can live happy and fulfilling lives. Carrying out the teachings in Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles can certainly make these dreams a reality. Thus, the 21st century will be a century of the Chinese culture and a century in which Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles will exude its radiance!
3. The Methods Used in Studying and Promoting Traditional Chinese Culture
The teachings of the saints and sages—an embodiment of the true self-nature of all beings—transcend time and space. Even now, they still hold true. The key learning method hinges on two words: sincerity and respect. Qu Li says, “Reverence to all at all time.” Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty said, “When interacting with his people, the ruler should fundamentally be respectful.” He also said, “Sincerity and respect are the essence of all the teachings that have been passed down through thousands of years.” The prominent ong scholar Chengzi said, “Respect triumphs over all evils.” Great Buddhist Master Yinguang said, “One percent sincerity and respect allows one to reap one percent benefit. One hundred percent sincerity and respect allows one to reap 100 percent benefit.”
These sayings manifest the fact that in order to cultivate ourselves, advance our virtues, help people, and benefit the world, only sincerity and respect is of utmost importance. If we lack respect and sincerity toward the teachings of ancient sages and virtuous emperors and kings, little benefit will be gained even if we had read the ancient texts extensively.
The words “sincerity” and “respect” also correspond with the teachings of Great Learning, which explains, “If a scholar undertakes the path of the saints and sages (to dwell on the ultimate kindness), he should first have his mind set, and then he would be able to concentrate without being swayed by wandering thoughts. By doing so, he would be calm and peaceful in both favourable and adverse situations. With more practice, he would acquire wisdom and would have insight into ideologies expounded by the ancient saints and sages. Ultimately he would achieve the status of the saints and sages.”
Currently, Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles has spurred great attention and interest from many, but qualified teachers are needed to continue its propagation. The Malaysian Academy of Han Studies is the ideal place to train such teachers.
The contents of Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles was extracted from sixty-five ancient classics. We would need at least sixty teachers to focus on one classic for a long period of time before they can become the world’s leading scholars in Han Studies, and to teach and practice what they teach. Resources permitting, I hope groups of three teachers can be formed for each classic. This would require a total of about 200 teachers. For instance, an Analects study group, a Book of Changes study group, a Classic of History study group, a Book of Poetry study group, and so forth.
All the teachers would need to be selfless and not pursue personal benefits. They would need to make up their minds to become sages for the sake of eternal world peace and the happiness of humankind. They would need to contribute their love and wisdom by dedicating ten years to study just one classic. It is essential that they combine knowledge with practice. After ten years, they would become the most renowned experts on Han studies.
These experts in the sixty-five subjects would be the living book of Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles, and they would become masters in the principles of governance. The teachers could then explain the essence of the sixty-five classics to the world every day via distance-learning tools and media, providing training for the next generation of teachers. Thus, traditional Chinese culture could be passed down and would be the leading culture in the world! Traditional Chinese culture is the heritage of all human beings. It belongs to everyone. Everyone should learn and practice it for the achievement of eternal peace in the world!
I am eighty-six years old. Although I have this vision, I may not have the energy to make this vision come true. I can only hope that good people will vow to assume the sacred responsibility to accomplish this meritorious project, to continue the magnificent teachings of the saints and sages, and to bring forth world peace and harmony for many generations to come. These people would indeed be the manifestions of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and saviours.
Dear distinguished guests, you are all experts in the field of education. You shoulder the mission to teach and train the brilliant leaders of tomorrow. I sincerely hope that all of you will aspire to learn Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles so that you can gather the great wisdom of our ancestors, not only to widely promote the cultural teachings, but also to train the next generation of educators. That would be truly commendable! I hope a satellite TV station can be established to broadcast lectures of Compilation of Books and Writings on the Important Governing Principles to the world twenty-four hours a day.
If we can propagate the teachings of the saints and sages, I believe that all would be awakened in the near future! All these are dependent on our shared vision and joint effort. I sincerely wish for the successful completion of this meaningful task and an early attainment of the commonwealth state. Today, I share the wish of all sentient beings and pray for this to come true. Thank you!
May I wish good health to the Malaysian government leaders,
May peace and prosperity be with you!
All the best to you!
Chin Kung AM
Chairman of the Pure Land Learning College Association, Australia
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Hong Kong Buddhist Education Foundation, Hong Kong
Hon. Professor, University of Queensland, Australia
Hon. Professor, Griffith University, Australia