Most honored religious and spiritual leaders of the world, dear brothers and sisters:
Thanks to the joint efforts of humankind on earth, the movement toward world peace has been promoted extensively. Today, however, in the year 2000, we are still gathering here at the United Nations for a meeting to discuss how to achieve world peace. This signifies that there are still conflicts in the world waiting for us to find solutions.
I believe no one could doubt that we, the religious and spiritual leaders, are all peace-loving people. However, there still exists the fact that different religions clash or even provoke wars against each other. When people maintain what they believe in is the best religion in the world, they should not forget that others also have the right to say that their faith is the best. When people strive to survive and develop, they should not forget that others also have the right to survive and develop.
Therefore, I would like to make a sincere proposal: If you find that the doctrines of your faith contain something that is intolerant of other groups, or in contradiction with the promotion of world peace, then you should make new interpretations of these relevant doctrines. Why? Because every wholesome religion should get along peacefully with other groups so that it can, step by step, influence humankind on earth to stay far away from the causes of war.
When speaking of the problem of humankind’s poverty on earth, everyone will think of the regions that are ravaged by natural disasters and wars. So, we should offer assistance to those regions and appeal for peace. But as you may also know, even the United States is not free from the problem of poverty. So, I wish to point out a fact: poverty of material things threatens the lives of people, whereas poverty of the spirit and heart deprives people’s living environment of security and happiness. Therefore, our organization, Dharma Drum Mountain, is promoting a movement called “spiritual environmentalism”, where individuals start by purifying their mind, filling it with gratitude, kindness and compassion for life. In this way, they will devote the fruit of their efforts to others. As long as one continuously works hard to improve one’s living conditions, one will be able to overcome material poverty; as long as one feels grateful and compassionate, one will be able to enrich oneself spiritually and mentally.
Enrichment of the spirit is a more precious wealth than material possessions. Chinese Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism is characterized by a simple way of life. Ch’an practitioners can gain freedom and peace of mind because they have little desire for material things in their lives. When one’s spirit is calm and stable, one will not be stimulated or tempted by the external material environment, neither will one harm others and damage the natural environment. Therefore, the Awakening of Faith in Mahayana says, “when the mind arises, all things arise; when the mind perishes, all things perish.” Peace and war reflect the harmony or conflict contained in the human mind; likewise, paradise and hell are not separate from the human mind’s inclination toward virtue or evil.
Poverty or wealth is mostly determined by the ignorance or wisdom of the human mind. If people are greedy and insatiable because of their ignorance, they will cause destruction and conflicts and end up poor. Even though some people possess enormous material wealth, they might lose all of it overnight if they are ignorant and unable to put it to good use. Indeed, the Buddha said: “One’s material property is commonly owned by the five enemies, namely, flood, fire, bandits, tyranny, and prodigal sons.” If you possess wisdom, you can transform the corruptible into something wonderful, turn discarded junk into treasure; you can also change few into many, make ugly things beautiful, turn disappointment into hopefulness, and transform hell into paradise.
Humankind’s ignorance is caused by its deluded views. The Complete Enlightenment Sutra says, “Since time without beginning, all sentient beings have had all sorts of delusions, like a disoriented person who has lost his sense of direction. They mistake the gathering and dispersing of the four elements, (namely, earth, water, fire, and air) for their physiological selves, and the six conditioned impressions of the six sense objects, (namely, forms, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, mental objects) for their psychological selves. They are like a man with an illness of the eyes who sees an illusory flower in the sky, or a second moon.” Therefore, sentient beings vex themselves and others. If the concepts of the Buddhist scriptures can be used to guide humankind’s life, and its methods of meditation can be applied to help people become aware of their weaknesses, then humankind can hope to achieve everlasting peace.
On the basis of “spiritual environmentalism,” our organization is also advocating and carrying out social etiquette environmentalism, lifestyle environmentalism, and natural and ecological environmentalism. Together they are called the “Four Kinds of Environmentalism.” This is because we believe that, if we wish to pursue world peace, if we wish to solve the problems of humankind’s poverty and the environment, then we should review and examine the thinking of humankind, and start by purifying the mind and uplifting the spirit. I would like to offer everyone two sentences: “With true wisdom one will not have any vexations. With true kindness and compassion, one will not encounter any enemies.”
Moreover, I believe that every religion cherishes an ever-lasting hope that God’s paradise or the Buddha’s pure land will be established for the sake of humankind. Although Buddhism maintains that all sentient beings are equal, only human beings on earth can put the Buddha’s teachings into practice. Therefore, our organization is also promoting a movement: initially, to build God’s paradise and the Buddha’s pure land on earth. If we could endeavor to carry out the construction of the earthly paradise or earthly pure land, then no matter when we die, we would surely be blessed by the grace of God and be taken by the Buddha into his embrace.
Whatever name it may be given, be it paradise or pure land, we are good neighbors in the global village. Indeed, we are all sons and daughters born of the same Mother Universe. We are not just good friends to one another, but basically brothers and sisters in a great cosmic family.
Therefore, we have no other choice but to employ all kinds of methods to protect the living environment of this earth. We have no other choice but to remove all the mental barriers between people and to love one another. Thank you!
(Keynote Speech Presented on August 29, 2000 at the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at World Peace Summit, United Nations, New York)