In this golden autumn, we are here for the opening ceremony of "Buddhist English Training Course 2021" at Putuo Temple in Zhuhai. What a great opportunity. On behalf of the Guangdong Buddhist Association, the English Base for Buddhist Exchange, and Putuo Temple, I would like to extend my sincere and warm welcome to all officials who grace this opening ceremony with their presence, as well as to our trainees from every corner of China.
My special thanks go to Mr. Zhang Ke, Deputy Head of the United Front Work Department of Guangdong Provincial Party Committee; Ms. Zeng Xiaohui, Vice Director of Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Guangdong Province; Ven. Minghai, Standing Vice President of Buddhist Association of China; Mr. Huang Hao, Deputy Head of the United Front Work Department of Zhuhai Municipal Committee of the CPC, Director of Municipal Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs; and Ms. Chen Xiangrui, Head of the United Front Work Department of Xiangzhou District Committee of the CPC, who made their time to come and join us.
In 2017, the National Religious Affairs Administration, the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Guangdong Province, the Buddhist Association of China approved the establishment of the "English Base for Buddhist Exchange" at Putuo Temple in Zhuhai. With the support of the United Front Work Department of Guangdong Provincial Party Committee, Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Guangdong Province, the Zhuhai municipal government, the United Front Work Department and Religious Departments and the Chinese Buddhist Association, the base has decided how to nourish talents and how our work should be carried out. Our policy for training talents is "politically reliable, religiously accomplished, morally convincing, and useful at critical times"; our work should be carried out with the following principles "following the rules of the base, working in teams, focusing on the projects".
In the past five years, the base has organized three training sessions, creating a talent pool of more than 200 bilingual or multilingual elites for the World Buddhist Forum. Among them, ten people are awarded PhD degrees; twenty people are awarded master’s degrees. Working languages at the base include English, Japanese, German, Korean, Russian, Thai, Pali, Sanskrit, etc.
The base has organized the "Exhibition of the Achievement of Multilingual Translation in Chinese Buddhism” in the Fifth World Buddhist Forum. Also, we took part in preparing English texts for “Cultural Exchange Exhibition for the 22nd China-Korea-Japan Buddhist Friendship Exchange Conference”. The base has translated many Buddhist classics and books, such as the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch and The Life of Bodhi.
We have also set up an official website for the base and an WeChat account, on which we have published contents created by our staff. Now we have columns such as An Introduction to Guangxiao Temple, the Platform Sutra (audiobook) and Wisdom in Chan Poetry. We have also participated in making the English version of Voice of Dharma. Our efforts have been deeply appreciated by officials and the Buddhist community. In December 2020, the base was officially approved by the National Religious Affairs Administration, and a plaque with the name of our base was awarded by the Buddhist Association of China.
With full confidence in Chinese culture, we are making Chinese Buddhism global and actively organizing Buddhist exchanges with various countries and regions. In these exchanges, we take independence, equality, friendship, and mutual respect as the guidelines; we insist on the adaptation of Buddhism to socialist society; we swear loyalty to the Party, the country and the socialism; and we will explore the possibility of humanistic Buddhism against the backdrop of Sinicization of Buddhism. This training course is a response to such a historical mission in the new era. I would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts, and criticism and correction are welcomed.
First, as our policy, we will stick to the path of Sinicization of Buddhism and train talented monastics to promote the Dharma. The trainees are young and educated, and they are the generation that can respond to the call of time. We hope that the base and the trainees here will take the initiative to live up to the core socialist values, infuse our religions with the excellent Chinese culture, modernize Buddhist doctrines and precepts, further integrate Buddhism with our policies, integrate Buddhism with our cultures, adapt Buddhism to our social context, and constantly promote our “confidence in the path, theory, system and culture.”
The base as a platform also has other functions. For example, we can send monastics abroad for study, train personnel for foreign exchanges, promote cultural exchanges with Buddhist communities in other countries, and further exhibit the soft power of Chinese culture. At the same time, the base will attract young monastics from Hong Kong and Macao to the mainland for studying Buddhist doctrine and precepts. As a result of their educational journey, they can fully appreciate the prosperity of China and the freedom of religions here, thus strengthening their sense of identity as Chinese.
Second, we want to introduce Chinese Buddhism to the world and share with the world message from China. The base should serve as a platform for the World Buddhist Forum, the China-Korea-Japan Buddhist Friendship Exchange Conference, and the China-Canada-US Buddhist Forum, so Buddhist communities in these countries can build a friendship with us, and non-official communication can increase.
The bilingual monastics trained by the base have the responsibility and obligation to present the world the achievements of China's reform and opening up, the well-arranged religious activities in China, the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of religious communities, the harmony between followers and non-followers, between followers of one religion and other religions; we will get the positive message across to our audience.
Also, we should let our audience know the history of Chinese Buddhism and how Buddhism has truly become a "Chinese religion" in its dissemination; the doctrines, systems and history of the eight major sects in China; the well-known stories of Master Xuanzang's debates in India, Master Jianzhen's preaching on precepts in Japan, Master Fa Xian's preaching in Sri Lanka, Master Yi Jing's propagation of the Dharma in Nanhai, and Master Huineng's "Dharma is in the mundane realm" as an embodiment of Bodhisattva spirit.
We need to let our audience know how China builds a moderately prosperous society, how China wins the battle against poverty, how China fights the COVID-19; how the Buddhist community in China contributes to the charitable causes around the world; how "the Belt and Road Initiative" of China, a far-sighted move and our responsibility, contributes to mankind as a community with shared future; how such an initiative contributes to global governance. We need to make sure all these achievements are put into Buddhist contexts and find a wider audience.
Third, we will build a platform for exchanges and a community of a shared future for mankind. The base will promote friendly exchanges with foreign countries by "building exchange platform, initiating exchange program and training foreign affairs talents".
First, we will organize educational activities with other institutions and organizations. A wide range of activities will be held to enhance mutual understanding and to spread Chinese Buddhist culture, such as summer camps, meditation programs, educational camps, academic forums, cultural exhibitions, Buddhist monastery tours, Buddhist relic tours, the event celebrating the birth of Buddha, chanting ceremony, exchange of rituals and rules, and so on.
Secondly, we will learn our history and pass it on to the next generation, build relations with other monasteries, organize social activities to further the cause of charity, culture and education. By doing so, we can demonstrate how important Chinese Buddhism is in modern times.
Third, we will establish a Buddhist ideological system and culture unique to Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, build a mechanism for training Buddhist talents, take the high ground of research in Buddhism, build a mechanism for cooperation on charity.
Fourth, we will establish an English database through academic seminars and learning; cooperate with the editing of English version of Voice of Dharma, organize annual English training courses; provide translation service for the World Buddhist Forum and similar events, speed up translating Chinese Mahayana literature into English, further consolidate the foundation of Buddhist cultural exchange, and enhance the bond of different Buddhist communities around the world.
Peace and development are the shared vision of our time, and the Buddhist exchange at a non-official level plays an indispensable role in cementing mutual friendship and realizing that shared vision.
The Chinese Buddhist community should undertake the mission to introduce Chinese Buddhism to the world so that people can get close to each other, and their hearts can be connected. In this way, the Chinese Buddhist community can make its contribution to the national diplomatic strategy and to social harmony and world peace. At last, the ultimate goal—"remove barriers in different civilizations through exchanges, resolve conflicts through mutual appreciation, and achieve coexistence by overcoming superiority"—will be achieved.