Venerables, fellow students, my warmest greetings to you all. Today, we will continue to talk about ‘God loves all Beings’. We did not finish the report last time. So we will continue from there.
The British historian Arnold Toynbee once said that the founders of all religions were great social educators of their times. Up until now, we are all still deeply influenced by these religious teachings. It is hence clear that religious education is widely welcomed and supported by many. If we neglect it and totally lose our faith in religion, it is perhaps the beginning for human civilisations to collapse.
We have been in close contact with different religions and studying their sacred texts. During the process, we feel deeply that God, the true divinity, and sages of all religions are one. The core of all religious teachings is ‘love’. Religious education is the education of love. Its core is to guide us to promote ‘love’ and to truly understand how sincerely and unconditionally to love other people, love all living beings and love the whole universe. ‘Love’ is the first virtue of our self-nature, our true mind.
We study religions and we are steadily learning the sacred texts. ‘God loves all beings’ is the core of all religions. I have met many people who asked me what religion is. I told them, ‘Religion is love. Religion is education. Religion is the education of love.’ So how do we keep God’s selfless love in our hearts? When we love all human beings on behalf of God, ‘God loves all beings’ is then put into practice. Otherwise, ‘God loves all beings’ is only empty words.
We can then ask further, ‘How does God love all beings?’ In this regard, we need to be clear about the rationale and practice. God’s love is selfless and unconditional. Why is it? Almost every religion tells us that all divinities are one entity. When we study each religion in the future, we will find in sacred texts that ‘all divinities are one entity, and all religions are one family’. When we can attain this understanding and state of mind, we are not far from reaching a great religious cohesion among all faiths. Religious cohesion will bring real happiness to humanity, and all divinities will be pleased.
This selfless, genuine and universal love is God’s love and the Buddha’s compassion. They are one, not two. In fact, the love mentioned in the sacred texts of all religions is the same. When religious followers, especially clergies, can love all human beings on behalf of God, God’s Heaven will come to Earth. All of us have indeed the responsibility of bringing God’s Heaven to this suffering world.
We have engaged in bringing religions together for many years. I attempted this effort in Singapore between 1998 and 1999 and it was successful. It took us one year. In 2000 I immigrated to Australia and tested there. It was also a success, but took us a little longer. It took us one year in Singapore to reach where we were. In Australia it took us longer, I think it took about 13 years. In today’s society it is hard for people to believe things without seeing good examples. So the best approach is to witness and experience religious cohesion personally How do we approach it? The most important thing between human beings is getting in touch with each other. Without closer contact, unity and cohesion is difficult to achieve.
How did we make friends with the local people in Toowoomba? When I first arrived at Australia, I purchased a church and renovated it into a Buddhist hall. Except for replacing the cross with a statue of Amitabha Buddha, everything else in the church remained unchanged. Unexpectedly, the local people were very pleased with what we did because they could see that we wanted to preserve their culture. They were able to see what we have done. On the first day of opening the Buddhist hall, we invited neighbours on both sides of the street to join us and celebrate the happy day of opening the hall and our immigration to Toowoomba. In the evening we served them all a vegetarian dinner and reported to them why we immigrated to Toowoomba. We wanted to test on our ideal of ‘all religions are one family, and all divinities are one entity’.
Towards the end of the dinner, over ten neighbours came to see me and asked me a question, ‘Venerable, we really like the activity you organised. Could you please do it more often?’ I was very pleased with their suggestion and decided to hold the dinner once a week. They were all very happy. Therefore we organised friendship dinner to bring people together. Every Saturday evening we held a friendship dinner. People gathered together around the table and communicated with one another with ease and joy. They did not know what Buddhism was and they were curious. They liked asking us questions and we answered all questions. Year after year, we have not changed this arrangement. Up until today, Friendship Dinner is still running on every Saturday.
To us, things like friendship dinner are the expressions of the Buddha’s compassion and God’s love. It transcends religious boundaries and consequently harmony is present amongst different religious groups. Thirteen years later, leaders and representatives of over ten religious groups in Toowoomba visited me. They told me that they were very grateful to the contribution that we made in Toowoomba, and that they were willing to join us in unity and set a good example for the rest of the community, a message that says religions can work together and different religious groups can become a family, loving and caring for one another and cooperating with each other. We have done it and I am very pleased.
Last March, we invited nine UNESCO ambassadors to visit and inspect Toowoomba. They witnessed us frequently communicating and exchange ideas with different religious groups as well as our hope for religious cohesion and restoring religion as education. After their visit to Toowoomba, the ambassadors gained confidence. Upon their return to UNESCO, they delivered a detailed report and also applied for an office for me, which is where we are now. I named it ‘The Association of Chin Kung’s Friends’. We are here to take on the responsibility for helping UNESCO engage in long-term activities in terms of realizing religious cohesion and religious education. This is what we wish to contribute and it is now part of what UNESCO does.
The Association is now formally established and we use this recording studio as our tool and classroom. This is the second day of using it. My general health is worse off than last year. Just like said the old saying: ‘Time spares no man.’ Last year I could feel it to some degree. But this year I feel that age is truly catching up with me.
I have delivered Dharma lectures for over 60 years. Some thoughtful students have helped collect and compile various lecture materials and notes of Dharma talks given in these 60 years. The collection is fairly complete. I am very surprised at seeing them. When I was younger, in good health and energetic, I could regularly give four hours of lectures every day. When I delivered talks on ‘The Avatamsaka Sutra’, I never felt tired and my voice was loud and clear. Majority of my lectures and talks were recorded in audio and visual formats and they can still be used. I have requested fellow students to select the parts of talks that people needs and would want to listen to. These readily available recordings can be broadcasted via satellite or the Internet as a reference for beginners. Many people have listened to these recordings. Many of them also put what they have learned into practice. The recordings indeed help us believe, understand, practise and attain our goal.
To believe is to gain confidence, to gain the confidence in Buddhism. To understand is to comprehend classical texts. To practise is to apply what we have learned and conduct our lives accordingly. What the scriptures stated, we turn these teachings into our thoughts, speech and actions. It will greatly benefit our daily lives and help us in different lines of work. Subsequently, it proves that Buddhism is education. When we expand it further, all religions are education.
So what does this education teach? It teaches us ethics, morality, causality and sages’ wisdom. The four subjects are neglected in the education system today. School education, even some religious teachings, hardly mentions these four subjects. But they are very important and we must bring them back. We will take the lead and do it first. Our ultimate goal is to bring all religions on board and act as one. We do recognise that divinities of all religions are different manifestations of one true God. In other words, the divinities and sages of all religions are one and ‘all divinities are one entity, and all religions are one family’. Religion can be revived, social order in the West can be restored, and society will gain stability and harmony. The East must revive the teachings of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism as well as China’s traditional education.
In the world today whether it is in China or any other country, when we observe carefully, there are teachings of ethics, morality and causality everywhere. These teachings can be found in every country in the world. We have seen them in the sacred texts of all religions. The problem today is that no one talks about them, no one advocates them, and no one practises them. It is why it is difficult to pass them on to more people. Today, we have gained a clear understanding that we should start from ‘God loves all beings’. We should start from ourselves and practise what is written in the sacred texts, ‘God loves all beings’, ‘all divinities are one entity’, ‘all religions are one family’. We should use this approach to restore religious education in the West and traditional education in China, and subsequently help resolve conflicts on Earth and facilitate social stability and harmony. This is what we need to do at the Association here in UNESCO.
Well, time is up. This is it for today. May you all enjoy healthy mind and body, and be filled with Dharma happiness!