World Conference on Sinology 2007, Renmin University of China
26 March 2007
Respected Chancellor, Secretary, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, leaders and representatives,
Greetings to everyone!
Many thanks to the School of Liberal Arts of Renmin University of China, the Centre for Sinology Studies Abroad of Beijing Foreign Studies University, the World Sinology Journal of the Chinese Academy of Art, and the Beijing Centre for Chinese Studies. Without your strong support for this World Conference on Sinology 2007, it would not be possible for us to have the platform to conduct this advanced research on Sinology. It is with great gratitude that I come today. I hope to use this opportunity to learn from everyone. Thank you. We sincerely hope that today’s conference will bring positive results facilitating the development of Chinese culture and peace in society.
I. The Objectives of Traditional Chinese Culture and Education
In the 1970s, the well-known English historian, Professor Arnold Toynbee said that in order to resolve the social problems of the twenty-first century, we must rely on the teachings of Confucius, Mencius, and Mahayana Buddhism. The five thousand year-old Chinese culture is very broad and profound. It encompasses the teachings of Confucianism and Buddhism as well as Taoism. They are not just perfectly compatible; they bring out the best in each other. What is so valuable about the teachings of Confucius, Mencius, and Mahayana Buddhism?
Having studied and learned the sacred teachings for the past fifty-six years and having taught for forty-nine years, from personal experience, I realise that the Way of Confucius and Mencius, and the essence of Mahayana Buddhism are centred on the fact that our intrinsic self-nature is good, kind, and all-knowing. The teachings of Confucius, Mencius, and Mahayana Buddhism are based on the principle of “loving-kindness.” Confucius, Mencius, and Mahayana Buddhism teach us that we should respect one another. We need to love and care for, and cooperate with one another. Loving and caring are the intrinsic qualities of our self-nature and are thus able to transform evil to good, foes to friends, delusion to awakening, and ordinary people into saints and sages. These objectives are the nuclei of traditional Chinese culture and education. They are also the common objectives of all the sacred teachings in this world. Today, they are what we call the “teaching of love.”
In reality, since ancient times, Chinese people have always been nourished with this kind of education based on true, sincere love. Therefore, throughout the five thousand years of Chinese history, as long as the sovereign rights were in the hands of the Han people, China has never invaded other countries or taken an inch of other’s territory. The Han people are peace-loving because from the time they were very young they have been given an education based on peace and love. They willingly sacrifice themselves for others and would never invade others’ territory or take from others by force.
II. The Origin of True and Sincere Love
Five thousand years ago in China, great scholars taught people the following five principles in relationships:
1.Parents and children are naturally loving towards each other
2.Leaders and their followers are mutually obligated
3.The responsibilities of husbands and wives are distinct
4.A natural order exists between the old and the young
5.There is trust between friends
Of the five relationships, the relationship between parents and children takes precedence as it is from the intrinsic self-nature that is good and all-knowing. This true and sincere loving relationship is then expanded to our family, our country, humanity, and to all beings. We need to put these relationships into practice in our daily lives.
The ancient saints taught us the Eight Virtues. The Eight Virtues can be explained in two ways. One way includes filial piety, fraternal love, loyalty, trustworthiness, courtesy, duty, integrity, and honour. Another way includes loyalty, filial piety, kind-heartedness, love, trustworthiness, duty, harmony, and equality. In essence, we need to treat people with filial piety, fraternal love, loyalty, trustworthiness, kind-heartedness, and love. We coexist with people with courtesy, integrity, honour, harmony, equality, and by fulfilling our duties.
These are the objectives of moral and virtuous teachings of the ancient Chinese emperors who were saints and sages. They used these virtues to guide their own thoughts and actions, pave the way for a harmonious relationship among clans, stabilize society, and offer the underlying basis of education for all people. Those objectives and standards were derived from the intrinsic perfect self-nature that is good and all-knowing.
When we stray from our intrinsic self-nature, we become unkind and deluded, and filled with selfishness, greed, hatred, ignorance, and arrogance. We act merely out of habits and not according to our true self-nature. Even though our self-nature can never be altered, our habits can. Our habits are conditioned by the change of our environment. Only through education can people return to their intrinsic self-nature. According to Mencius, the path to knowledge is to find one’s intrinsic self-nature.
III. The Practice of Sacred Teachings Can Restore Peace and Stability
Loving-kindness, sincerity, respect, modesty, and harmony are the essence of Chinese traditional education. They are also the virtues of our intrinsic self-nature that is pure and good. Therefore, many scholars in both the East and the West such as Professor Toynbee realised that traditional Chinese culture based on loving-kindness is indeed the root of universal harmony, a treasure full of wisdom shared by all civilisations.
When we put these virtues into practice, problems as small as those of an individual to problems as big as those of our world and even the universe can be resolved completely. Books such as The Standards for Being a Good Student and Child based on the Confucian teachings, the Ten Virtuous Conducts Sutra based on the Buddhist teachings, and the Accounts of Request and Response based on the Taoist teachings are truly the paragon of Chinese traditional culture. Even today we still find them very useful. They reveal truths that transcend time and space. They not only fulfil President Hu Jintao’s noble ambition to create a society and a world of harmony; they help resolve all the social conflicts of the twenty-first century thus bringing harmony, stability, prosperity, and happiness to humanity. Therefore, all the past Chinese emperors who were also saints and sages put great emphasis on education as their number one priority in building their nation and leading their people. This type of education comprised of moral and virtuous principles, the principle of cause and effect, and philosophies complemented by scientific studies and other means were able to maintain permanent stability, which facilitated a harmonious world based on universal loving-kindness.
Consequently we know that the Sinology we talk about today is entirely different from the knowledge and skills currently taught in universities. The traditional education in Sinology included teachings on moral and virtuous principles, the principle of cause and effect, philosophy, and science. This education can be divided into four parts: first, family education based on the loving relationship between parents and children; second, teaching of children in traditional private schools (the extension of a family education); third, social education (the expansion of a family education); and fourth, religious education. These four made Sinology perfect. The objectives had always been to restore the intrinsic self-nature that is all-knowing, good and kind, and filled with true and sincere love; and to facilitate these teachings until they permeate throughout all space and realms.
In September 2005 in Australia, I met with the Vice Chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland and several of the universities’ professors. One topic in our conversation was a study that was conducted before World War II. Several European scholars searched for the reasons why Chinese civilization still flourished while the other three ancient civilizations had virtually disappeared. The research concluded that the most likely explanation was the strong emphasis the Chinese placed on family education.
I could not agree more with this conclusion. Chinese traditional education has always focused on family education, especially prenatal education. When the infant was born, the parents lived as role models for the child, firmly believing that their every gesture and word would leave an imprint on their infant’s mind and later affect his or her life. Chinese education began no later than three or four days after the infant was born. This gave rise to the Chinese saying that “At the age of three, one sees how the person will be at eighty years of age. At the age of seven, one foresees the rest of the person’s life.”
Recent studies in modern psychology have given us positive findings on the importance of in utero education. Brian Weiss MD, the well-known American psychiatrist, wrote in his book Messages from the Masters that he found out from his many patients, while treating them with “regression therapy,” that even before the baby is born, its senses are already alert and that it has the ability to comprehend. The baby in its in utero stage already has the ability to learn!
Dr. Weiss said the memories attained by the baby at this stage prove that not only is the baby conscious, it can also be quite active. What the baby senses and knows before and after birth is more than what we sense or know. Through their senses and their ability to understand, they are gathering a large quantity of information from us. Thus, we must adjust our way of thinking as to how to interact with the young. Their senses are very keen. They respond to the love that we express through our speech, thoughts, and feelings. What Dr. Weiss learned from his patients proves that the ancient Chinese were absolutely correct in putting great emphasis on in utero education. Thus, we need to raise the public awareness of this fact so more saints and sages can be born.
IV. To Practice or to Study Confucian Teachings
Last year I was invited by the ambassador of Thailand and UNESCO Headquarters to hold a conference at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris to celebrate the 2550th anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni’s Birthday. I joined this conference for two reasons. First, I wanted to report to UNESCO that different religions can unite and cooperate with one another; and that second, the way to resolve conflict and to restore stability and peace is through education. This was the method used by both Confucius and Buddha Shakyamuni as people can be taught.
I have attended ten international conferences, seven of which were hosted by UNESCO. I was the keynote speaker in eight of the conferences. After each conference, all the participants praised the concept that moral education can resolve conflict and facilitate social stability and world peace. They said it is a good concept but cannot be fulfilled. After serious consideration, I decided to select a place to do an experiment that would prove that resolving conflict and facilitating social stability and world peace was possible because I wanted the conference members to have faith in this concept.
It happened that a very kind fellow practitioner from Malaysia was willing to finance this project. In addition, I received support from people back home. So I picked a very small town in China called Tangchi as the place for my experiment. First, I established a cultural education centre for the purpose of nurturing quality teachers while putting this public education into motion. I was hoping to see some results after three years. Surprisingly, we were able to see some very good results after only six months! We were able to raise people’s consciousness and change their behaviours on how to be a good person. Their improvements were evident. The results were much better than we had expected.
Having proved this, I invited the teachers and my colleagues from the Lujiang Cultural Educational Centre to attend the UNESCO conference in Paris. They reported what they had accomplished by simply introducing the practice of The Standards for Being a Good Student and Child to the residents of Tangchi. All the religious representatives and participants at the conference listened attentively. They reacted positively to the reports. We have honestly proved to our international friends that different religions can be united and that people can be taught. We also sincerely and respectfully invited all the international peace workers to come and visit Tangchi and to give us their feedback.
After the Paris conference, we were invited by the deputy ambassador of Thailand to a luncheon. She told us that she was very pleased with the outcome of this conference. She thought the conference materials were well presented and the conference was conducted in a very orderly manner. She commented that it was the most peaceful and harmonious conference that UNESCO Headquarter had ever had.
In December 200_, a well-respected elder in the Buddhist community in Australia, Mr Graeme Lyall AM, past president of the New South Wales Buddhist Council, visited the Lujiang Cultural Educational Centre. After the visit, he kept telling people that his visit to Lujiang was the most valuable study tour he had ever undertaken. He said that if we can use traditional values education, with a modified version of The Standards for Being a Good Student and Child for Western culture, our society will definitely benefit. We have succeeded with our experiment! This proves that ancient traditional education can still benefit people today.
After the Paris conference, we were invited to visit the University of London and Cambridge University. I gave an hour lecture at the East Asia Institute of Cambridge University. I was very happy to have this opportunity to converse with the institute’s professors and their graduate students. But I could not help but feel that even though European scholars today express great interest in Sinology, their enthusiasm is still limited to scholarly discussions. They do not benefit personally from their study. Thus, during my lecture, I emphasised the difference between studying Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism and learning to be a Confucianist, a Taoist, or a Buddhist.
Only when we—body and mind—truly want to learn the sacred teachings, model ourselves after saints like Confucius and Mencius, make fewer errors, and acknowledge our mistakes with a sound mind and true sincerity will we be able to reduce the amount of our afflictions and increase our wisdom. Only then will we be as happy as if we have “friends visiting us from afar.” But if our scope is only limited to scholarly discussions, we will never be able to experience this true happiness, which only comes when we put the teachings into practice. It would not be possible for us to attain the perfect wisdom we need to resolve conflict and restore peace and stability in our world.
After the lecture, Professor David McMullen of the East Asia Institute invited us to lunch. He hopes that one day I will be able to lecture for two to three weeks at the institute. From this visit, I felt strongly that our world’s destiny is indeed very closely related to traditional culture. Therefore, it is most urgent that we nurture more qualified teachers to teach traditional culture.
Today we have this rare opportunity to gather together to exchange ideas. We hope this conference will be able to put “peace in our society and world” into motion. People with lofty ideals must recognise that the most important agenda for our world today is to nurture more qualified teachers who, now in seriously diminishing numbers, are talented and capable of carrying on the sacred teachings pave the way to peace for generations to come.
In the past, the Chinese emperors who were also saints and sages selected talented and capable people based on their filial piety and integrity. They felt that a person who was dutiful and loving at home would certainly be loyal to his country. A person with integrity would not be easily corrupted. People with those two qualities would certainly dedicate themselves completely to the services of their country and its people.
Today we sincerely hope that the Chinese government will take the initiative to establish a research institute of Sinology or a centre of traditional culture for the purpose of training and nurturing qualified teachers to facilitate this traditional sacred, moral education. The terms and conditions for selecting qualified teachers should be based on sincerity, respect, loving-kindness, filial piety, integrity, and their diligence in studying. The centre should provide the teachers with all their daily necessities so they have no worries. They will then be able to concentrate on their study.
Those selected should first put moral teachings based on The Standards for Being a Good Student and Child, the Ten Virtuous Conducts Sutra, and Accounts of Request and Response into practice. Then they should concentrate on just one subject, study it for ten years, and practice lecturing on their subject daily. They will then certainly be able to gain insight into its teachings.
The contents of their lectures should be examined under the supervision of the Department of Education. Anyone who can help stabilise society and the country, and bring peace to the world should be introduced to all. Different programs through distance education by using satellite television and the Internet can be broadcasted around the clock so the teachings can reach all corners of the world. In such a way, the practitioners will not only be able to continue conducting him or herself in a virtuous way, he or she will be able to spread the virtuous teachings to other people as well. At the same time, the country will be able to put this “moral education for all” into motion.
I truly believe that the results would be most impressive after three years. There would be peace and stability in our society. People would be happy and content with their lives. Therefore, we know that only when we practice what we teach can our teachings influence those far and wide. If each of us learns to be a teacher for all, acts as role model for the world, and makes this our responsibility; we will inherit this timeless task passed down from saints and sages. It is certain that the revival of traditional Chinese culture will bring true peace and harmony to humanity.
What I have just said are only some of my humble opinions derived from years of learning and practice. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Here I wish everyone a healthy body and mind, happiness, wisdom, and good luck always. Thank you
Ven. Prof. Shi Chin Kung AM, Hon. PhD
Renmin University of China
Griffith University, Australia
University of Queensland, Australia
Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University,
Griffith University, Australia
University of Queensland, Australia
University of Southern Queensland, Australia