The first 10 years: Growing Up (Age 1 to 10)
1. Born in a rural village, the poverty of his family and influence of his maternal grandmother helped him nurture a compassionate and hardworking nature.
2. Being Hardworking: He would tidy up the house while his family was out to work, hoping to give his parents a pleasant surprise when they got home. His experiences in boiling water, cooking meals,chopping woods, herding cattles, ploughing fields and so on, enabled him to focus on being practical rather than theoretical.
3. Being Compassionate: Venerable Master’s maternal grandmother was a pious and devoted Buddhist who had a compassionate heart. Being influenced by her, he never dared to kill a mosquito, a fly, or an ant, and was very loving towards small animals. He once took care of an injured chick until it was able to lay eggs. Injured pigeons and squirrels could often be found inside the Founding Master’s House up at Fo Guang Shan. The number of animals that have been taken care by him over the past thirty years is hard to keep count of. Fo Guang Shan went from a place where no birds laid their eggs to today’s home to hundreds of birds.
1. Having became a monastic at twelve, he began to live a disciplined and regulated life within the monastery. The Buddhist College’s tough punishment and teaching methods that gave no chance for reasoning allowed him to readily admit his mistakes and even accept heartless punishments without making any complaints.
2. Being penniless at this stage of life had fostered his habit of “not buying.” A letter written by him would sit there for a year; it was never mailed out because he could not afford postage stamps. When his socks were worn-out, he would glue them with paper. When his shoes were damaged, he would use thick paper and plank pads as substitutes. Poverty stimulates one’s wisdom. Therefore, no matter how adverse the circumstance is, there is always a way to overcome problems and obstacles.
3. Treating nothing as everything in his life, he is able to take on any hardship and pain. His three meals often were as simple as just rice with tea. “One bowl of rice with one dish and one soup.” He has stuck to this principle throughout his life. He never went on vacations and always seized every minute by taking care of affairs on the road. Therefore, his idea of living a 300-year-old life was developed during this period.
1. Despite a lack of formal education, he has received a succession of complete Buddhist education. He left the Buddhist College at the age of twenty, and served as the principal of an elementary school, where he learned about administration and interpersonal coordination skills.
2. He attended talks given by Venerable Master Tai Hsu, became acquainted with Venerable Tai Tsang, the abbot of Jin Shan Temple, and acted as an interpreter for Master Miao Guo after his arrival in Taiwan. He also discussed with Venerable Tzu Hang the future of Buddhism, shared opinions with Venerable Da Shing on the modernization and systemisation of Buddhism, and talked to Venerable Tung Chu on issues such as “Benefiting oneself and others,” “Between the Traditional and the Modern Age,” and so on.
3. Between the age of 23 and 30, he visited various Buddhist temples throughout Taiwan. He has taken many kinds of transportation vehicles and received military invitation to give Dharma talks to the armed forces of the land, sea, and air, where he was escorted by military aircrafts and battleships
1. When he began to propagate the Dharma in Ilan at the age of twenty-six, he realized that it would be difficult to stand on one’s own feet in society without a special skill, therefore he began writing as a means to spread the Dharma.
2. Becoming acquainted with literary faces is a way to promote the Buddhist culture. Writers such as Kuo Si-fen, Gong Sun Yan, Chu Chiao, He Fan, Gao Yang, Si-ma Zong-yuang and so on, all became very good literary friends with him.
3. Besides writing, he also edited articles for magazines, wrote for newspapers and composed scripts for radio broadcast stations. He has written commentary articles to protect the Buddhist religion. Master believes that it is every Buddhist’s responsibility to protect their religion, and a person should have the morals and courage in letting the voices of Buddhism be heard.
1. Venerable Master was named “the Literary Star of Buddhism” during his earlier days for the works he had done, but he knew very well that this acclaim could not grant him validation in Buddhism. Just like how Venerable Master Man Shu was never called Master Man Shu by the Buddhist Circles. Therefore Venerable Master deems the need for a philosophical life.
2. Venerable Master invited scholars to give classes on the philosophical thoughts of Chinese Masters such as “Lao-zi” and “Chuang-zi” at the Buddhist College as a means to inspire students with philosophical thoughts.
3. Venerable Master built the Fo Guang Shan Meditation Hall in 1993 so that one can contemplate on issues about the universe, life, birth and death and so forth while practicing meditation. Academic Conferences are also held every year to unravel, develop and sublimate thoughts through discussions and explanations on the principles of Buddhist doctrines. While diligently working on these himself, he also encourages his disciples and devotees to participate.
1. He established Shou Shan Buddhist College in 1963, founded Fo Guang Shan Monastery in 1967, and began sending his disciples to study abroad one after the other, hoping that the development of Fo Guang Shan would subsequently create history for Buddhism and leave marks of achievements and merits in the world.
2. The Tripitaka Editorial Committee was established in 1977 which published the Fo Guang Tripitaka with new annotations, punctuation and paragraphs.It was also translated and published in easy-to-read language known as Selected Buddhist Texts in Modern Writing.
3. He was invited to serve as Director of the Institute of Indian Cultural Studies at the Chinese Culture University, and also to teach at the Catholic Tung Hai University for six years, putting a stop to the restrictions placed on monastics to teach in schools. Almost every university in Taiwan today has invited Master to give classes at one stage or the other. He is now the founder of three universities and sixteen Buddhist Colleges worldwide.
4. He established Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA) in 1992 for the globalization and localization of Buddhism. Master travels around the five continents to propagate the Dharma so often that he would circle the globe several times within a year’s time. The BLIA Lay Dharma Lecturers’ System is a demonstration of equality between monastic and laity, thereby uniting the strength of both categories of Buddhists in the hope of fulfilling the goal to let Buddha’s light shine universally, and Dharma stream flow across the five continents.
1. Humanistic Buddhism requires humanistic characteristic, humanistic ethics, humanistic order, and a start from the human beings. All things should start from ourselves instead of placing high expectations in others.
2. He held the Fo Guang Family’s Gathering for the parents of his monastic disciples. Master sees them as the “in-laws” of Buddhism, because they have dedicated their children to Master to serve Buddhism. Hence, Venerable Master treats all parents as his own parents.
3. He established the Benefactors’ Association and regarded the devotees as the “bosses” of Buddhism. He set up regulations on welfare for the benefactors as a means to repay a debt of gratitude for Buddhism on one hand, and on the other, allow the devotees to be able to see Fo Guang Shan as their home for life.
4. At the age of sixty, Master invited thirteen thousand sixty-year-old devotees to celebrate his birthday with him. He believed that this world does not belong to him alone but everyone.Thus, everyone should possess the concept of Oneness and Coexistence and be a global citizen.
1. Buddhism plays a key role to the achievement of world peace. The biggest problems in today’s world is war and terrorism, which have caused panic and fear in everyone. In order for world peace to be achieved, the practices of compassion, selflessness, dependent origination, the Six Paramitas, Four Ways to Bring Harmony, and cause and effect must be realized. All of these are the invisible strengths to enhance peace in the world.
2. “Where there is Dharma, there is a way.” What is the Dharma? Humanistic Buddhism is the Dharma, and a compassionate guide that leads one away from suffering. Humanistic Buddhism is also a ray of hope to the world’s future. In order to advocate Humanistic Buddhism, promote modernization of Buddhist teachings, encourage the study of Buddhist principles, and establish thoughts on Humanistic Buddhism, Universal Gate Buddhist Journal was published in the year 2001 to provide scholars a place to publish their works on Humanistic Buddhism.
3. We all exist as one, and live a life that is eternal. What we cannot complete in our present life can still be done in our future lives. Life after life, Venerable Master has vowed to serve all sentient beings and strive to achieve world peace. He prays that all sentient beings will live a carefree and peaceful life. The void and this world may have their limits, but the strength of Master’s vows is boundless.