Speaker: Venerable Master Chin Kung AM
Date: 28 September 2017
Venue: Headquarters of UNESCO, Paris
Respected Director-General Madame Bokova, President Mr. Wannamethee, Ambassadors and Delegates, religious leaders and representatives, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, my warmest greetings to you all.
This year’s UNESCO peace conference has been extraordinary. We have paid tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in remembrance of his remarkable contribution to the sustainable development of humankind. We have listened to the presentation on concepts of The Governing Principles of Ancient China and the experience of practising the teachings in the canon that transcend time and space. We have discussed the close relationship between multi-faith education and harmony. We have studied how to resolve conflicts and promote peace through multi-faith education, as well as the relationship between different faiths and that between faith and the environment. We have performed together a Global Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony to pay tribute to the ancestors of all ethnic groups – the first of its kind at UNESCO. We have listened to the report on traditional culture and water crystals, and to the World Fellowship of Buddhists’ practical experience in propagating Buddhist education and promoting world peace. Such a rich and diverse agenda reflects that this year’s International Peace Conference has made considerable progress in examining theories and practical experience of promoting world peace. This Conference has been particularly fruitful.
Towards the end of the Conference, I would like once again to stress the importance of ‘loving all as one entity’ in religious education. Moreover, when implementing religious education, we must ‘place righteousness before self-interests’. At the same time, with an understanding of the law of cause and effect, we will be able to ‘fulfil our duties contently without competing with others’. Then, I would like to give a few examples of applying religious education so as to prove its feasibility.
Loving All as One Entity
As I said previously, religion is the principal education, important teaching, and revered transformation for humankind. It is therefore an indispensable universal education for humanity. At the core of all faiths in the world is found benevolence, compassion and universal love for all. The root of benevolence, compassion and universal love is that we are one entity, just like the organs, limbs and bones of one’s body. When our teeth accidentally bite our tongue, the tongue will not take revenge on the teeth because they belong to one entity. When our left hand is injured, our right hand will naturally caress the left hand without any reason other than they are one entity. Similarly, when we understand that all other beings and we are one entity, our love and compassion is, as a consequence, unconditional and we will love all beings equally. This is the true mind. When we uncover our true minds, what is embedded in our self-nature such as purity, equality, enlightenment and compassion will manifest naturally.
The sacred texts of all religions and faiths share similar records of people who would naturally give a helping hand at the sight of others suffering. As the Chinese saying goes, ‘We feel the same suffering when we see others suffering from hunger; we feel as if we are ourselves drowning when we see others drowning.’ This sense of compassion is innate in human nature. It is what we call ‘conscience’ (true mind) and it is also referred to as ‘loving all as one entity’ or ‘divine nature’. If we can bring forth this ‘conscience’, each one of us will become a sage, a person of virtues or noble character. However, our conscience can be easily overwhelmed by materialistic desires. Consequently, we become selfish and can do things that benefit ourselves while harming others. This is why we need religious education to guide people to goodness, to transform their mindset. Religious education consists of the teachings of ethics, morality, causality and sages. The ultimate goal of religious education is to bring people back to their innate good conscience, to loving all equally as one entity and to return to the divine nature. At that point, we and the divinity will be as one, we will become a sage, and will live in a heaven of utmost purity and goodness.
Placing Righteousness before Self-Interests
In practice, to return to loving all as one entity, we must place righteousness before self-interests. The Chinese character ‘義’ or ‘righteousness’ means proper behaviour that abides by the teachings of ethics, morality, causality and sages.
Selfishness is the root cause of all problems in the world today. Mencius, an ancient Chinese philosopher, clearly saw this problem 2,300 years ago. Mencius once visited King Hui of the Liang state. When the King saw Mencius, the first thing he asked was, ‘Sir, you have traveled from far to reach here. What benefits and advantages can you bring to our country?’ Mencius gave him a very good reply. He said, ‘Your majesty, why must you only talk about benefits while there is benevolence and righteousness?’ Mencius was unwilling to talk about benefits and advantages. He said, ‘If the whole nation, from the king to the ordinary people, is pursuing benefits and advantages, the country will be in jeopardy.’
This is the case not only for a country but for a family as well. If the husband, the wife and the children of a family all fight for their own interest, this family will no longer be a family. In a society where people only care for their own interests but not righteousness; where people go against ethics, morality, the law of causality and the teachings of sages for the sake of self-interest; then they will only be friends when there is benefit to be gained, but they will be bitter enemies when their interests are conflicting. They are allies when their interests are aligned; they destroy one another when their interests are in conflict. In this kind of society, everyone lives in anxiety and misery regardless of being rich or poor. Such social ethos will lead to endless disasters.
To reverse such a decline, we must restore religious education, cultivate righteous minds and foster the mentality of placing righteousness before self-interests. Only by placing righteousness first and putting self-interests second can we awaken our conscience. Then, we will deeply appreciate that only by abiding by ethics and morality can we live with peace of mind, that only by abiding by the law of cause and effect can we change our destinies, and that only by learning from the teachings of the sages can we elevate ourselves spiritually and obtain eternal happiness. Only by doing this, can we restore our conscience, our love for all as one entity and our innate divine nature.
Fulfilling Our Duties Contently without Competing with Others
Among the four types of universal education mentioned above, the education of causality is of particular importance but it is also an aspect that is most neglected. An old Chinese saying goes, ‘Good deeds bring about good fortune and bad deeds result in misfortunes.’ The law of causality was widely accepted by people in ancient times. However, many people in the modern days are short-sighted and are blinded by profit and desires. They often expect instant results and do not believe in the law of cause and effect. However, the law of cause and effect is the law of nature that governs the working of all things in the universe. It still takes effect even if people do not believe in it. ‘It is not that there is no consequence, but it is just a matter of time for the cause to take effect.’ Over a sufficient period of time, those who do good deeds and those who do bad deeds will inevitably experience good and bad consequences respectively without exception.
For example, everyone wants to have wealth, intelligence and wisdom, good health and long life. However, we must know the reasons for and methods to gaining all these. A ‘cause’ requires appropriate conditions to produce the associated result. It is certainly not something that we can obtain by force. The giving of wealth results in gaining wealth. The giving of teachings brings us intelligence and wisdom. The giving of fearlessness rewards us with good health and long life. These constitute the relationship between cause and effect. If we can continue giving and abiding by the teachings, then we are bound to obtain these three kinds of good fortune.
In regard to wealth, the amount of wealth a person can obtain in this lifetime is closely correlated with the amount of wealth he or she had given away in the current and previous lives. Therefore, destiny does exist. As the Chinese put it, ‘Every sip of a drink and every bite of food that you take are all predetermined.’ What is meant to be yours will eventually be yours. What is not meant to be yours will never be yours no matter how hard you fight for it. Good fortune is obtained by cultivating oneself and not by winning in competing with others. Competition not only brings us no benefit but also harms ourselves. Once we understand this principle, our minds will be at peace and we will fulfil our duties contently without wishful thinking. We certainly will not put ourselves in danger and break the laws for the sake of gaining wealth.
Although each one of us has our own destiny, it is not fixed. Destiny can be changed. If a person never does good deeds but always does bad deeds, his or her good fortune will soon be exhausted, followed by endless disasters and misfortunes. On the contrary, if a person does his or her best to end all wrongdoings and cultivate good deeds, his or her destiny will improve progressively. He or she will overcome disasters and misfortunes quickly and enjoy long-lasting good fortune.
With a clear understanding in the relationship between cause and effect, people will naturally place righteousness before self-interests. It is because they know that being righteous is the cause of good fortune and will naturally attract good fortune, whereas competition and fights are the cause of misery and they are bound to attract miserable results.
There is a story in Chinese history about ‘fulfilling one’s duties contently without fighting with others’. It later became a famous opera. The Six Feet Lane was produced based on this story to encourage people to practise the virtue of yielding or forbearance. It took place during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty, China. The main character was Zhang Ying, a high-ranking mandarin in Beijing at the time. He was always respectful and cautious when interacting with others and handling matters. One day, his family back in his hometown had a dispute with his neighbour, the Wu family, over the boundary of their houses. Neither side wanted to give in. Even the local official could not solve it. So, the head butler of the Zhang family wrote a letter to Zhang Ying to report the matter. However, Zhang Ying only replied with a poem which goes, ‘Sending a letter over a thousand miles merely for a wall. Giving away three feet, what harm is there? Standing there tall and steady is still the Great Wall, but the First Emperor of the Qin is no longer there.’ As a result, the Zhang family willingly gave away three feet. The Wu family were deeply touched by what the Zhangs had done and also gave away three feet. Therefore, there was a six feet lane between the houses of the two families. This is how the opera ‘The Six Feet Lane’ came about.
After Zhang Ying had passed away, the Zhang family continued to enjoy blessings and produced many talents for generations. Across the Ming and the Qing dynasties of almost twenty generations of the Zhangs, about 1,000 descendants of the Zhangs had achieved academic levels of xiucai (who gained an rough equivalence of an undergraduate degree) and above, of which 26 were jinshi (who gained a doctorate degree), 89 juren (who gained a master’s degree) and over 700 gongsheng (who gained a bachelor’s degree) and guozijian (students of the Imperial Academy). The Zhang family enjoyed great prosperity. Both Zhang Ying and his son served as prime ministers in the same period and were conferred with special titles by three emperors of the Qing dynasty after their death. Descendants of six generations were appointed as hanlin (the elite of scholars directly serving emperors). All these achievements were closely related to the Zhang family’s traditional practices of fulfilling one’s duties contently without competing with others and of cultivating virtues and accumulating merits.
This story provides very important morals which resonate well with the theme of this Conference: If we choose rivalry, conflict, and war, the human race will suffer from never-ending disasters. If we abandon rivalry, conflict, and war, the human race will enjoy boundless good fortune and joy. This theme is entirely in line with the doctrines of religious education and the law of cause and effect. It is worthwhile to propagate this message widely for the purpose of guiding people to goodness.
Success Stories in Implementing Religious Education
1. The Education Centre of Traditional Culture
I established an education centre of traditional culture in my hometown in 2005 to promote ethical and moral education, the education of the law of causality, and the teachings of the sages to its 48,000 citizens. Within three months, we achieved remarkable results. Disputes between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law were less common and the families enjoyed greater harmony. Disputes between neighbours virtually disappeared and the neighbourhood restored harmony. The residents no longer left rubbish strewn everywhere and the whole community became clean and tidy. There was less shop-lifting reported and the shops enjoyed peace. Divorce rates and crime rates significantly decreased and the whole town was in harmony and enjoyed an auspicious atmosphere. There was a tourist who visited the town and left his wallet in a taxi. The taxi driver was very honest and handed in the wallet to the local police. After the owner of the wallet retrieved his wallet, he was very delighted and wanted to give the taxi driver a significant amount of money as a gesture of gratitude. But the driver declined the offer and said, ‘You don’t need to give me money. I just did what I should do. If it had occurred previously, I would have taken the money and would not return it. But ever since I learned the teachings of the sages, I understand the principles of being a proper person. I must not take any money that I am not entitled to. So I returned the money to you. I am not the only one who would do so, for every taxi driver in our town would do the same.’ Through this example, we can see that people who have received the universal education will indeed be able to restore their innate good consciences, to place righteousness before self-interests and to fulfil their duties contently without an urge to compete with others. And this is the most auspicious and joyful way of life.
2. Moral Lecture Seminars
A ‘Moral Lecture Seminar’ takes place over seven days in a quiet environment so that attendees can put down all their tasks, calm their minds, and concentrate on receiving traditional cultural education in ethics, morality, cause and effect, and the sages’ teachings. Such intense study brings about a significant result. In a span of seven days, the wicked stop committing bad deeds and restore the goodness in them; the violent re-discover their gentle nature; the greedy discard their greed; those who treat their parents badly learn to love and respect their parents; those who are on the verge of divorce restore good relationships. Many people achieve a significant positive change to their life values. All of these fully demonstrate that human nature is innately good and that people can be taught to retrieve the goodness in them, as long as they have been given the right direction. The importance of religious education is once again affirmed.
3. The Happy Enterprise
A ‘happy enterprise’ puts into practice the four types of universal education. Its staff members receive education in groups at fixed schedules. A ‘happy enterprise’ is a company that puts staff happiness and customer satisfaction first, not profit making. The whole company is like a big loving family in which the boss is the parent and the staff constitutes the family members. They care for, look after, and cooperate with each other and love all as family. As such, the profit of the company is automatically on the increase even though no one stresses on profit; many problems pertinent to running the company automatically vanish, even though no one stresses on solving the problems.
4. Unifying the Religious Groups in Singapore
In 1999 we brought together the nine major faiths in Singapore by using Buddhism’s Four All-embracing Methods which in effect are four types of methods for handling public relations: 1) Give unsparingly and foster closer interpersonal relations. 2) Speak kindly, be sincere, and care for and respect each other. 3) Perform good deeds that benefit others. 4) Promote friendship and co-operation, and work together for a common cause. Followers of the nine major faiths learn from one another’s doctrines, attend one another’s major activities, often come together for dialogue, and have truly become one big loving family. The Singapore government was very pleased with the achievement and gave special praise for it. It had a very positive influence on the social stability in Singapore.
5. Fostering Religious Cohesion in Toowoomba
In 2002 I established the Pure Land Learning College Association in Toowoomba, Australia and started to work on bringing true collaboration among religious groups and ethnic groups. Every Saturday evening we hold a ‘Friendship Dinner’ where delicious vegetarian food is provided. Everyone is welcome to attend for free. Cultural shows are performed during the dinner. Using the Friendship Dinner as a platform, diverse religious and ethnic groups communicate and learn from one another, and strengthen their friendship. In Toowoomba there are also activities such as the Youth Learning Camp, mutual visits of one another’s religious sites, regular forums among religious leaders, and the representatives of different faiths giving talks regularly on their religious doctrines for radio and TV programs. . . . Moreover, the representatives of different faiths in Toowoomba have collaborated with religious representatives from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, etc. to select 360 excerpts from the most essential teachings from their respective sacred texts and compile them into a set of books titled Scriptures 360 to facilitate learning for everyone. Between 2013 and 2016, the delegates from Toowoomba consecutively reported their achievements in harmony at UNESCO’s annual peace conferences. In March this year the UNESCO ambassadors representing nine countries visited Toowoomba and were deeply impressed by what they saw in the city. They concluded that Toowoomba has truly put into practice the ideal of harmony and has indeed become a model city of peace and harmony.
The famous British historian, Dr Arnold Toynbee, once said, ‘Historically, religion came first and science grew out of religion. It is my expectation that science never will supersede religion.’ From his words we can tell that religious education is indispensable to humankind.
I have engaged in bringing together religious groups and promoting religious education for almost twenty years. My experience tells me that religious education can truly resolve conflicts and promote stability and peace. The key is that there must be frequent communication among different faiths to gain better understanding of each other and strengthen friendship. Only by doing so can we truly achieve the desired effect. Hence, for many years I have hoped that someone will establish a religious university to train talents for religious education of different faiths, and to provide an opportunity for practitioners of various faiths to study together, to interact and learn from one another.
Now, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David is prepared to offer a new doctorate degree in Harmony, which is a programme inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales. I would like to invite the leaders of all faiths to recommend a total of 25 PhD students. In addition to delving deeply in the studies of their own faith, they will also learn from the teachings offered by other faiths. In a few years’ time, we hope to establish a religious college and later even expand it to a religious university to train preachers of different faiths. Then, the graduates will give talks on classic religious texts via the Internet and television networks to reach people all over the world. This is a great mission! I hope that the younger generation will be able to carry on and propagate the ideals contained in religious education, furthering the unity of true friendship among religious groups to benefit the whole of humanity. This will be the most outstanding contribution that religious education can bring to the world.
Lastly, I sincerely wish that religious education would spread across the globe and bring about social stability, happiness and world peace! May peace, good health, auspiciousness be with you always, with the blessings of infinite wisdom and long life. Thank you very much.