I am privileged to accept Madam Jenny Wang’s invitation to attend this special event in celebration of the 30th year of diplomatic relationship between China and Australia. The leaders and people of these two countries have great passion for peace, stability and prosperity. Their commitment will benefit the whole world and sets the standard for others to follow. (I am deeply touched by that.) Madam Wong has asked me to share with you tonight my humble thoughts on encouraging world peace and resolving conflicts.
The famous British historian, Professor Arnold Toynbee said that “…to solve the social problem of 21st century, we have to rely on the teaching of Confucius, Mencius (student of Confucian) and Mahayana Buddhism…” What could Confucianism and Buddhism teach us? How can they resolve the social problems of the 21st century?
The basic teaching of Buddha and Confucius are very similar. They both teach how best to relate to others and to better understand our place in the universe. If we follow their teachings carefully, we can summarize them into three areas:
1) firstly, the relationship among humans,
2) secondly, the relationship between humans and natural environment
3) lastly, the relationship among humans, heaven and earth, and spirits;
In ancient times, people respected heaven, earth, and spirits. But from the view of today’s science, we would say that they exist in the same space, but in different dimensions. Once we fully understand these three relationships, we will be able to recover our true virtuous self, to love all people, and to diligently and perfectly practice these teaching, then we will have the wisdom to know how to cohesively exit with all beings in our universe. Therefore, it is the great learning “to illuminate our original virtue and wisdom, to love and care for all people and all beings and to reach unsurpassed perfection.”
Confucius taught peace. The word for Peace in Chinese is “Ho Ping”. “Ho” means “to get along harmoniously” and “Ping” means “to treat all equally”. In the Japanese language, peace is said as “Ping Ho”, a different orientation, but both have the same meaning with equality being the cause and harmony being the result.
Our society today is undergoing the most tumultuous time in history. It truly is a “World of Chaos.” Consequently, there are many people with high ideals around the world are trying to find the best way to stop the turmoil and unrest. I have heard that several universities are offering courses that teach conflict resolution and promote world peace. This is indeed a good sign.
We can see from various sources, that there are many conflicts in our world. What is the best way to resolve them? Chancellor of University of Queensland has told me that this particular topic is the most important one on their current agenda. I have also attended their research discussion. During one conference with the various professors, I raised the question of the root cause of the conflict. If we cannot find its origin and uproot it, then conflict will never cease and peace can only be a vision.
peace? People have wished for it throughout eternity. between husbands and wives, between parents and children, brothers and sisters, teachers and students. This is where conflict begins. If we focus on these small conflicts, we can then resolve major conflicts in our world. If we go back further, family is still not the origin of these problems. Then Where is the root of all these conflicts?
How many today wish for peace? We have wished it for thousands, even hundred of thousands of years. But peace never comes. On the contrary, there are more conflicts, more chaos. Why? We have yet to find the root cause of the problem. Where is it? It lies in the family, in the conflicts that arise between husbands and wives, between parents and children, among brothers and sisters (among siblings); and in schools, between teachers and students. This is where all conflicts begin. If we focus on these conflicts, we can then resolve major conflicts in our world. If we go back further, family is still not the origin of these problems. Then where is it?
The true cause lies within each one of us. It is a conflict between our true self and our habitual self. Confucius said that all human beings are born with good nature. The true self of all beings is the same. Buddha told us in the sutras that all beings have the nature of Buddha (the ability to become Buddha). The nature of Buddha is ultimate purity and goodness. There is no difference in the teaching of Confucius and Buddhism. The nature of all beings is kind. However, it has now become unkind, and this unkindness is a result of our habitual nature. Our true nature has been contaminated by our habitual nature. There is constant conflict between our true nature and our habitual nature. To love our parents and respect our teacher is an exhibition of our true nature, or sometime called our virtuous nature. However, many people today despises their parents, disrespect their teachers, and has no love for their brothers and sisters. These are a result of our habitual nature.
Confucius taught about the Five Proper Relationships:
1. The love and cooperation between husband and wife;
2. The love of parents and the respect of the children;
3. The love between brothers and sisters;
4. The compassion of an employer and the loyalty of an employee;
5. The love and trust between friends.
These Five Proper Relationships is part of our true nature. Chinese people speak of the Way.
With the foundation of wisdom, morality, and truth, harmonize the relationships among humans and then among all beings; faithfully fulfill one’s responsibilities; be disciplined and keep evil away; have only sincere thoughts;…..” is the Great Way.
The Great Way (essence) of Confucianism is written in the “Standards for Being a Good Student and Child. ” In the past, this book is used as an elementary teaching for all children in China. I told my students that this book is the foundation for being a saint and a sage. To be able to read and recite the book is of no use (meaningless); but to practice the teaching in our daily life is our real goal. A true learner will learn and practice every word, every sentence, and abide by the teaching from the first day of learning to the last moment of our life. Only then can we regard we have truly succeeded in this study. Just as a building requires a sound foundation and strong framework, we do as well. “Standards for Being a Good Student and Child” is our foundation and the steel framework of the building. All the classics and commentaries of Confucianism are decorations and furnishings inside the building. It is very important to truly believe, thoroughly understand, and be willing to practice the teaching wholeheartedly and instinctively, not just practice on the surface.
What is the foundation and steel framework of the multi-story building of Buddha’s teaching? They are the “Five Precepts”, the “Ten Wholesome Conducts” and “The Rules for Novice Monks and Nuns. ” Five Precepts and the Ten Wholesome Conducts are Buddhist standards for being a good student and child. If a Buddhist cannot follow above guidance, then this person is practicing Buddhism under false pretenses. The “Five Precepts” and the “Ten Wholesome Conducts” is like the framework of a construction in the commence stage. “The Rules for Novice Monks and Nuns ” is the painting after the building has been constructed, while great sutras and the treatises on Buddhism are like the final decoration and the furnishing of the building.
Without these Five Precepts and the Ten Kind Precepts, conflict will arise. The Ten Kind Precept is in conflict with the ten evil deeds, abide the precept is in conflict with breaking the precept. In the Six Paramita (Six Perfections), Almsgiving conflicts with greed, abiding precept conflicts with evil actions, enduring patience conflicts with hatred and anger, diligent conflicts with laziness, meditative concentration conflicts with wandering thoughts, wisdom conflicts with ignorance, selfishness conflicts with helping others, desires conflicts with purity of mind.
If we can’t resolve our own conflicts from within, how can we hope to solve those of others? It would be impossible.
If we carefully think and observe what the teachings of the saint and sages means for us, we would know that it is to remove inner conflicts so that we can seek peace throughout the worlds. Once we can gain peace of mind from within, our body will be healthy. Illness is indeed a reflection of a trouble mind polluted by conflict. There is a Chinese old saying: ” A person with great learning will come with a peaceful mind.” How could we tell that a person has moral, virtue and great learning? This good nature can be reflected from a person’s daily work, from his manner, behaviors towards others and if he is always at peace with everything. Our moral, virtue and true knowledge will reflect clearly in our daily lives.
Today we have talked about the way of the saints and sages. Everyone praises and compliment their ways. Thus, we can definitely assure that their teachings are still meaningful and valuable.
Saints and wise emperors governed their people properly accord with the Absolute Truth, and taught their people with virtue and moral education. They understand that Education is essential to build a nation and govern its people. In the past, emperors and governors followed the teaching of saints and sages, wishing that one day they themselves could become a saint or sage. Thus, they worked hard to learn from the proper teachings of the wise. This is the where moral and virtue education comes from. Therefore, to solve the escalating conflicts and resultant tragedies of the 21st century, we have to first end the conflicts within each of us. Then our world will truly have lasting peace.
Finally, I wish that both Australia and China will forever be good friends, that each nation will know measureless prosperity, that the leaders of both nations and that all government officials will enjoy great success. I sincerely wish that all of you would always be healthy and happy!
Thank you very much.