Humanistic Buddhism: a vision for the future.Humanistic Buddhism Humanistic Buddhism (Chinese: 人間佛教; Pinyin: Rénjiān Fójiào) is a popular modern philosophy practiced mainly in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism. for Social Well-being: An Overview of Grand Mater Hsing Yun's Interpretation in Theory and Practice by Ananda Ananda
(flourished 6th century BC, India) First cousin and disciple of the Buddha. A monk who served as the Buddha's personal attendant, he became known as the “beloved disciple.” It was Ananda who persuaded the Buddha to allow women to become nuns. W.P. Guruge, Buddha's Light Publishing, Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. , USA. (pp.123).
Colombo -- In describing Buddhism we use such terms as 'hinayana' and 'mahayana' to refer to its main traditions or 'early' and 'later' to refer to its chronological developments. Often we do talk about Thai or Sri Lankan Buddhism referring to particular characteristics of Buddhism as practised in different localities in the Buddhist world.
The term 'humanistic Buddhism', however, does hot seem to connote con·note
tr.v. con·not·ed, con·not·ing, con·notes
1. To suggest or imply in addition to literal meaning: "The term 'liberal arts' connotes a certain elevation above utilitarian concerns" any of this. It is neither a historical tradition of Buddhism; nor is it a chronological or a geographical development of it. The term sounds more like one referring to a particular orientation or an emphasis in understanding and practising the teachings of the Buddha. In this sense the term seems new in Buddhist studies and the work being reviewed is meant to provide an overview of it as it is understood and practised by one of its most prominent advocates of our times, Grand Master Hsing Yun Venerable Master Hsing Yun (TC: 星雲大師; Hanyu Pinyin: Xīngyún Dàshī) (July 22, 1927-) is a Chinese Buddhist monk. He is an important figure in modern Mahayana Buddhism. of Taiwan.
The Grand Master is the founder of Fo Guang Shan Fo Guang Shan (佛光山) (pinyin: Fóguāngshān; literally Buddha's Light Mountain) is a Chinese Mahayana Buddhist monastic order that has gained a worldwide presence, and has chapters around the world. Buddhist Order and the 48th Patriarch of the Linji Chan tradition. In the author's own words, he is 'the foremost Chinese scholar Chinese Scholar is a free online project created to help English-speakers learn Mandarin Chinese. It contains interactive games, videos, and Flash animations in the Chinese language. English translations are included. Link
A landmark in the services of the Organization is the Hsi Lai University, Los Angeles, California where the author of the work under review serves as the Dean of academic affairs. The author, Dr.Guruge is also the Director of the International Academy of Buddhism belonging to the University. In addition to being formerly an International Civil Servant at UNESCO UNESCO: see United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
in full United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and diplomat representing Sri Lanka Sri Lanka (srē läng`kə) [Sinhalese,=resplendent land], formerly Ceylon, ancient Taprobane, officially Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, island republic (2005 est. pop. Dr.Guruge is a Buddhist scholar of recognition who has 45 full length books and 150 research papers on various aspects of Buddhism, Buddhist and Indian history and education, for his credit.
In his latest book, Guruge sets himself upon the task of defining 'humanistic Buddhism' as practised by the Grand Master. In doing this Guruge makes use of his deep knowledge in early Buddhism The term Early Buddhism can refer to:
In Grand Master's way of thinking there are two trends in Buddhism which incidentally are not unfamiliar to Buddhism in Sri Lanka General
Buddhism in Sri Lanka is primarily of the Theravada school, and constitutes the religious faith of about 70% of the population According to traditional Sri Lankan chronicles (such as the Dipavamsa), Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 2nd century , namely, (a) the need to arrive at what can be called core Buddhism by laying stress on similarities rather than on differences and (b) developing a deeper social consciousness among the Buddhists. One of the early people to lay emphasis on the first aspect was G.P. Malalasekera, Founder President of World Fellowship of Buddhists The World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) is arguably the largest and most influential international Buddhist organization. It was founded in 1950 in Colombo, Sri Lanka by representatives from 27 nations. (WFB WFB Warhammer: Fantasy Battle (game)
WFB World Fellowship of Buddhists
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WFB William Frank Buckley (founder and editor of National Review Magazine)
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In establishing this world body he was motivated by the conviction that there are more reasons for the Buddhists all over the world to unite than there are reasons for division. Associated with this move was the recognition of the need for Buddhists to work for the welfare of their fellow Buddhists in particular and the entire humanity in general. It is therefore nothing but appropriate that WFB has appointed the Grand Master its Honourary President for Life. It is also interesting to note that the author Dr.Guruge is one of the prominent members and the Vice President of this Organization.
In the Grand Master's interpretation of Buddhism one can see these two trends, establishing a core Buddhism and social activism being harmonized har·mo·nize
v. har·mo·nized, har·mo·niz·ing, har·mo·niz·es
1. To bring or come into agreement or harmony. See Synonyms at agree.
2. Music To provide harmony for (a melody). . In discussing early influences to Grand Master, Guruge discusses the Master Taixu who lived in the early decades of the last Century. This Chinese master identified the following to be some unwholesome characteristics in Chinese Buddhism Chinese Buddhism refers collectively to the various schools of Buddhism that have flourished in China since ancient times. These schools integrated the ideas of Confucianism, Taoism and other indigenous philosophical systems so that what was initially a foreign religion (the as it was practised during his time:
(i) The overriding focus on the theory of self-cultivation and its consequent isolation of Buddhists from society;
(ii) "Empty talk of Mahayana theories and the neglect of practice"; and
(iii) the failure to be inspired by the great spirit of compassionate love in Buddhism, In addition to these characteristics the Master also saw 'the need to orient Buddhists to serve nation, the state and the world' (p.3).
It is also interesting to see that Master Taixu was inspired by the Buddhist practice in Southern Buddhism practised by Theravada Buddhist countries such as Myanmar (then Burma), Sri Lanka and Thailand. In particular he noted how in these countries theory and practice in Buddhism go hand in hand among both monks and laity, and how studies in Buddhism are thriving.
In particular he noted "that Buddhists are engaged in many causes such as social welfare, culture, education and so forth and thus benefit the state, society" and "even broad masses in the world" (p.3). This is somewhat of a revealing perception by a Mahayanist of Theravada which is the only extant example of so-called Hinayana Buddhism Hinayana Buddhism: see Buddhism. , largely believed to be other-worldly and anti-social.
However, When we see the evolution of Buddhism through the last century or so we know that Mahayana Buddhism Mahayana Buddhism: see Buddhism. has been in the forefront in activities related to human welfare, in addition to the relative economic prosperity of the societies where Mahayana is practiced, there is no doubt that its emphasis on Bodhisatva practice has played a crucial role in this. The Bodhisatva ideal, on the other hand, is common to all Buddhist traditions and there is more than one way to be a Bodhisattva bodhisattva (bō'dĭsät`wə) [Sanskrit,=enlightenment-being], in early Buddhism the term used to refer to the Buddha before he attained supreme enlightenment; more generally, any being destined for enlightenment or intent on in the present-day society. What this means is that the Buddhists all over the world can more profitably explore ways and means WAYS AND MEANS. In legislative assemblies there is usually appointed a committee whose duties are to inquire into, and propose to the house, the ways and means to be adopted to raise funds for the use of the government. This body is called the committee of ways and means. to be a community of Bodhisattvas In Buddhist thought, a Bodhisattva (Ch.: 菩薩 pú sà, Jp.: bosatsu) is a being who is dedicated to achieving complete Buddhahood. That is their reason for "being" or raison d'être. which strikes a balance between one's own spiritual and material welfare and those of others, As Guruge has amply demonstrated, humanistic Buddhism requires us to look at our fellow pilgrims as we would look at ourselves.
A key insight in the Grand Master's message is that we Buddhists must come out from out passivity and inactivity which make us be satisfied with merely 'following conditions rather than creating them by themselves'. The following words of Grand Master serve as the road map for the future: The world is changing quickly. To grasp these changes and use them for our good, we must fully comprehend the inter-workings of societies, science, economics, governments and the environment. If Buddhism is to develop as a viable religion in the world, it must adapt itself to the conditions, which are present in the world. Every choice we make of the future of Buddhism should be founded on clear reasoning and good intentions (pp. 9-10). As these words make clear humanistic Buddhism is not the mere service factor in Buddhism; it is the future of Buddhism as a religion in contemporary world.
In this book, the illustrious author has demonstrated how humanistic Buddhism or socially engaged Buddhism, as its known in the West, is not incompatible with the early teachings of the Buddha, An ardent Theravadin might wonder whether this emphasis leaves the aspect of achieving Nirvana behind or whether its value has been underplayed. My personal answer for this query is that it is not so. What we need to understand is that Nirvana as understood to be one's personal emancipation without reference to any Social context is not what the Buddha really meant. It seems that both Hinayana and Mahayana have subscribed to the same misunderstanding that it is purely personal. An examination of the way of the Buddhist monastic life amply shows that Nirvana has to be achieved within a community in which mutual advice and mutual support (annan'anna vacana, annam'anna vutthapana) are the key pillars.
The broader message of the book is that the time has come for Buddhists all over the world to learn from each other and support each other to work for the 'happiness and welfare of the multitude' (bahujana-hitaya bahujana-sukhaya) as the Buddha's own words exemplify. In this sense, I see Guruge's book as a timely contribution towards growing social consciousness among Buddhists. It challenges Buddhists to come out from their safe cocoons and assess the world anew and to be active. It invites Buddhists all over the world to assess their own situation and role in the global Context and respond to its implications. My wish is that this book gets the attention it deserves and be an eye-opener to the Buddhists beyond boundaries.
Prof.Asanga Tilakaratne, Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne is the Head of the Department of Buddhist Philosophy, Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.