The 2nd Tzu Chi Forum was taking place on November 3-4 at the Yifu Conference Centre of Renmin (People’s) University in Beijing. It was hosted by Tzu Chi University, Renmin University, Peking University and the foundation and attended by leading members of the foundation and scholars and religious leaders from the mainland.
The theme was “Buddhism and Charity”, with a study of its secular practice. The foundation invited religious scholars and leaders of religious groups in society to talk on four subjects -- tradition and modernization of Buddhist charity, organization and management of Buddhist charitable practice, the influence of this practice on individuals and society and charity development of other religions and regions.
Representing the foundation were Ge Ji-se, deputy chief executive of its U.S. branch: He Guo-qing, chief executive of the Canada branch: Guo Zhai-yuan, deputy chief executive of the Indonesia Branch and Hsieh Jing-kuei, director of its religion department. They gave presentations on the global charity operations of the foundation, to give the participants an in-depth understanding of Tzu Chi’s concept of Buddhist charity and how it is put into practice.
The opening speech was given by Zhuang Jian-yun, Deputy Director of China’s National Religion Bureau. “The Tzu Chi Foundation in China was established in 2008, the first one to be founded by a non-resident. According to the requirements of Chinese law, Tzu Chi should share its 40 years of precious experiences and well-developed methods with mainland China. With help from those in the religious fields, academics and entrepreneurs, it can further promote cultural interaction between China and Taiwan,” he said.
One of the hosts of the forum, Wang Ben-rong, Principal of Tzu Chi University said that religion is the mental crutch of human beings. “People need religion. The mental contradictions of human nature need the moderation and regulation of religion. We should explore the value of life through saving living beings and cleansing the world. Master Cheng Yen defines ‘religion’ as the goal of life and the education of living. By bringing together the power of the whole world and the core values of religion with love and kindness, we can minimize the misfortunes and catastrophes of the world,” he said.
In his speech, Professor Lee Xi-long, Deputy Dean of the Department of Philosophy at Peking University, recalled how he first heard of Tzu Chi in 1995. He was in Beijing, listening to a research report of Mr. Liang Qi-chao. He and one of the doctors-to-be thoroughly discussed Master Cheng Yen’s compelling vision of compassion; their discussion lasted the whole night. To his great surprise, when he was in San Francisco in 2009, he was deeply impressed by the selfless dedication and devotion of a volunteer over 80 years old. “How could a Buddhist num do so much to influence and inspire volunteers and lead her foundation to become such an organization serving the public nearly 50 years after its establishment?” he said.
Professor Lee said that, during the current transformation of mainland China, it was crucial to assimilate and adapt Tzu Chi’s useful experiences. “Doing so will give hope and confidence to many more people. It is not merely the giving of material things to survivors during disaster relief but a comprehensive care of their body, heart and soul,” he said.
Two mainland experts in Buddhist philosophy spoke during the opening ceremony. Both talked about the practice of Mahayana Buddhism through giving and fulfilling and explained that “the fundamental nature of all Buddha is the greatest mercy (the Nirvana Sutra)”. One was Professor Fong Li-tien of Renmin University.
The subject of his lecture was “strengthening the concepts of charity and strengthening the trustworthiness of Buddhism”. He emphasized that “giving” is to spread well-being to other people with a heart of mercy. This is a very important concept of Buddhist charity, especially in Mahayana Buddhism. He urged people to do their utmost to assist those living beings who need help. “The essence of Buddhist giving is to relieve the mental anguish of living beings, raise their consciousness and improve their quality of life. It emphasizes mental loving kindness. Modern charity requires the involvement of government, society and civil organizations working together to promote the development of charity. The Tzu Chi Foundation creates new value through its concept, practice and management of charity. In so doing, it not only popularizes the Buddhist work of modern charity but also helps to achieve harmony in society,” he said.
Professor Lo Yu-lieh of Peking University gave several examples to demonstrate the importance of a heart of benevolence. He said that a heart of benevolence and a heart of Bodhi are both essential. “A heart of Bodhi can be stimulated through a heart of benevolence. Consecration can be attained through consciousness and consciousness can also be achieved through consecration. One can sublimate through altruism to others. One should give at all time and at every opportunity,” he said. “I believe that what society needs today is fearless benefactors and to let kindness and love reach all the people.”
Through its action and the practicing the ideal of “sublimating oneself through altruism to others” and “the modern Buddhist spirit of making the world better”, the foundation has greatly influenced more than 70 countries around the world and deeply touched different races and religions. The practice of Buddhism should be implemented in this earthly life.