One day, as I was strolling along the river in our Jiangsu hometown with my father, we came upon a herd of ducks going into the river, causing a pattern of ripples on the surface, which I found very interesting. The ducks continued to swim across the river and my father said, “Son, did you notice the ducks? Each of them swam a path of their own on the river.” I answered, “Yah, that’s right!” My father fondled my head and smiled to me, “You see, the big ducks cut big wakes while the small ducks cut small wakes. But each duck, no matter its size, created its own path. Just like their larger brethren, the small ducks are also able to get to the other side of the river.”
“The Complete Dharma Drum Compendium,” Vol 8, No. 1, “Master Sheng Yen and Protection of the Spiritual Environment,” “Large ducks created big paths, small ducks created small paths,” p. 160.
The “pure land on earth” is an idea based on major Mahayana sutras such as the Prajna Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, and the Vimalakirti Sutra. It entails generating the Bodhi mind to help sentient beings in their fulfillments and to purify Buddha lands. It starts from the purification of the minds and actions of individuals in order to achieve purification of the environment. By observing the precepts and vinaya, we attain a life of purity; with meditation, we stabilize our body and mind, which are normally scattered; with the guiding light of wisdom, we find direction in our lives. According to the doctrine that “the Buddha land is pure for a pure mind,” if our thoughts are pure for one moment, we will see a pure land in that moment; if our thoughts are pure in every moment, we will see a pure land in every moment. Likewise, if an individual has a pure mind, he or she will see a pure land, and if every person has a pure mind, every person will see a pure land. Therefore, through the purification of the minds and actions of the individuals, the human world will become pure. This doctrine teaches that in order to be born into heaven or a Buddha’s pure land, we must strive, in this very world of ours, to purify our minds, our lives, and our environment.
“The Complete Dharma Drum Compendium,” Vol 3, No. 3, “Education, Culture and Literature,” “Closing Remarks in the 3rd Chung Hwa International Conference of Buddhist Studies,” p. 101-102.
Trying to carry out one’s beliefs is the hallmark of religious practice. Without that, it will only be a doctrine of ethics. But religious beliefs and realizations have to be guided by profound philosophies so that they do not become merely a local, folk, or irrational worship of deities and spirits. If we do not conduct academic studies, we do not know how best to make use of existing resources to provide service and make acts of devotion for the society of our time.
“The Complete Dharma Drum Compendium,” Vol 3, No. 3, “Education, Culture and Literature,” “Opening Remarks in the 2nd Chung Hwa International Conference of Buddhist Studies,” p. 93.
Although academic studies are carried out by only a very small number of people, they serve as the central axis that sets directions and provides guidance to the majority. While most people do not know what the experts study, the experts nevertheless shoulder the responsibilities of moving, guiding, designing, and influencing the social development of each era.
“The Complete Dharma Drum Compendium,” Vol 3, No. 3, “Education, Culture and Literature,” “Inheriting the Past and Inspiring the Future – Origin of the Chung Hwa International Conference of Buddhist Studies,” p. 91.