News at Tipitaka Network
China and Taiwan hosted second Chinese World Buddhist Forum
Compiled by Tipitaka Network newsdesk, Sunday, April 19, 2009
On March 28, more than 1,200 Buddhists, monks and scholars from about 50 countries and regions gathered in Wuxi (无锡) for the second World Buddhist Forum. The five-day forum was held in two parts. The first part of the forum was held from March 28-30 at the Lingshan Fangong Palace (灵山梵宫), which is a vast park housing a 1000-year-old Buddhist pagoda. The venue is in the historical lakeside city of Wuxi, in east China's Jiangsu (江苏) Province.
The forum, with the theme "A harmonious world, a synergy of conditions", was jointly organized by the Buddhist Association of China and the China Religious Culture Communication Association from the mainland, the Taiwan-based Buddha's Light International Association and the Hong Kong Buddhist Association. The theme echoes the "harmonious society" slogans of Chinese President Hu Jintao.
"Conditions are the core and foundation of Buddhist teachings. Everything rises and falls according to the law of conditions and dependent origination, and a harmonious world depends on the synergy of conditions," said Ming Sheng, vice-chairman of the Buddhist Association of China.
"In today's world, having dialogues is crucial to the development of Buddhism," said Master Hsing Yun (星云), founder of the Taiwan-based Fo Guang Shan (佛光山) Monastery, who was present at the forum.
"An effective dialogue is not necessarily about seeking consensus amid differences," said Lou Yulie (楼宇烈), head of the Institution for Religion Studies of Beijing University and also a renowned Buddhism expert. "It is about finding out differences while maintaining the distinctiveness and showing respects to each other."
"Differences may exist between the Buddhism in the west and the Buddhism in the east, " said Frank Ulm, a German Buddhist. "But that's why we are here for -- to find out the difference and have dialogues."
"Buddhism is inclusive, rather than exclusive," said Master Omaple Sobhita Thero, a Sri Lanka monk at the forum. "The inclusiveness, which enables dialogues, is the very advantage of Buddhism."
The 19-year-old Panchen Lama delivered a speech in English on the opening day. The two most senior exiled Tibetan Buddhist monks, the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa Lama, were not invited. They were also absent from the first World Buddhist Forum held in the eastern Chinese cities of Hangzhou and Zhoushan in April 2006.
Tibet expert Professor Robert Barnett, of New York's Columbia University, said this is part of China's efforts to undermine the appeal of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism.
"[Panchen Lama] will never really replace the Dalai Lama, but his role confuses the picture and can gradually be used to weaken the Dalai Lama's standing," he said.
On March 30, China's China Southern Airlines and Taiwan's China Airlines operated charter flights to take the delegates from Nanjing (南京), capital city of Jiangsu Province, to Taiwan. The second part of the forum, from March 31-April 1, was held in Taipei. This is the first time a religious conference is being held across the Taiwan Straits.
The highlight of the Taiwan events was a prayer meeting for world peace held at the Taipei Arena (台北小巨蛋) and attended by the delegates and 20,000 Taiwan Buddhists.
During the five-day event, the participants discussed topics such as the preservation of Buddhist music and the Tripitaka, considered the encyclopedia of Buddhist culture, and the relationship between Buddhism and science, charity and public welfare, and Buddhism and environmental protection.
In one of the discussions, experts called for the protection and inheritance of intangible Buddhist heritage, such Shaolin kung-fu, folk literature, traditional music and folk dance and drama, architecture and traditional medicine.
In a seminar about Buddhism and science, Zhu Qingshi, former president of the University of Science and Technology of China, said, "If you think Buddhism only means burning incense and praying, then you are going far away from its real spirit."
Quite a few monks in Chinese history are scientists or technicians themselves, such as Master Yi Xing (一行, 673-727) during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) who was a notable astronomer, mathematician, and mechanical engineer. He made two astronomical celestial globes along with a government official and was the first to measure the length of meridian in the world.
"In my view, Buddhism is a religion of atheism and it is very rational," said Dr. Jiang Jinsong, associate professor of the Institute for Science, Technology and Society with the prestigious Tsinghua University.
The forum also discussed about the on-going global economic crisis.
"The Buddha once said 'a candle can still burn even after it has ignited 1,000 others. In the same way, happiness will never wane when it is shared by others'." said Gong Xiya, general manager of Beijing Capital Guarantee & Investment Co Ltd.
Three documentaries on Buddhism produced on the Mainland have been officially released in Taipei on the heels of the World Buddhist Forum. One of the documentaries is "Master Xuan Zang," a film recording the Tang Dynasty monk's legendary journey to India, the cradle of Buddhist culture. The second is a six-episode feature on the rise and fall of the Tang royal temple -- the "Famen Temple". The third is a 46-part TV documentary "Thousand-Year Buddhism Path", a vivid account of the inheritance and development of Buddhism in China.