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"I Am Not a Dependent of the Buddha" — Book Sharing Forum #2

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

On Sunday September 29th, SFYAD invited Venerable Miao Zhong - SFYAD Advising Venerable, Benson Kwek - SFYAD Committee Member, and Vicky - SFYAD Active Member for the second English Book Sharing Forum on Chapter 2 of the book “I Am Not a Dependent of the Buddha” by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, moderated by Lillian Tao - SFYAD Member. There were around 20 people in the audience including English Buddhism Class attendees, SFYAD, and temple devotees. The forum was held in English and made available online for more young adults and local people to participate.

Venerable Master recalled when he founded Fo Guang Shan in Taiwan, he turned down a generous donation for construction from a benefactor in New York because of his insistence on “Localization.” Venerable Master is always thinking about others before taking each action, such as how his actions would impact others, what people want and truly need in order to be better served, and how to involve and benefit more local people. He is aware of his shortcomings and doubles his efforts to improve, always finding a way to overcome his problems. While cultivating himself, he also benefits all others with endless opportunities to learn about Buddhism.

Vicky, as an active SFYAD member and native English speaker, shared her understanding of localization from a multiracial perspective as getting the local people involved and presenting Buddhism in a way that the local people can understand and relate to it. To improve localization, Vicky suggested to invite more local people to our events, which includes people of all different backgrounds and ethnicities. Diversifying our group could make us more appealing to the American people and make them want to get involved more. Another way of increasing localization is to get more involved in the greater community by attending more volunteering opportunities, especially outreach events to benefit people in need, where we can interact more with local people, who may be drawn to our kindness and altruism.

As an SFYAD Committee member, Benson talked about how we constantly strive to improve localization through offering events and classes in English as well as organizing and participating in community service events such as Coastal Clean-up, Winter Clothing Drive, and volunteering at the Food Bank. Localization is to make Buddhism more relatable and acceptable for the local community. He mentioned that language is just the very first step to approach locals. More importantly, we should think about what they want, what they really need and how our messages could be better received in the local culture so that we can better serve them.

From a monastic perspective, Venerable Miao Zhong explained that practicing Humanistic Buddhism, the core value of Fo Guang Shan, means bringing the Buddha’s teachings into every corner that has human beings and into everything that we do. Hence, localization is to expand the involvement of the local community in every perspective. Venerable also shared some interactions between San Bao Temple devotees and our beloved neighbors as an example to encourage young adults to really go out there, engage more into the community and spread kindness starting from the people around us. Venerable Miao Zhong also explained more about Venerable Master’s intention on localization -- taking small donations from local people and gradually building the temple with them so that they will be part of FGS and feel a sense of belonging.

Inspired by Venerable Master’s clear understanding and application of his intentions, the young adults talked about how a change of intentions in the workplace to understand causes and conditions in their daily lives led them to develop more compassion for their coworkers and customers and to do a better job at work, as well. On the other hand, for the topic of "shortcomings," our speakers encouraged the audience to use wisdom to help themselves and others recognize and transform so-called "weaknesses" into “strengths.” There is no real "shortcoming” but only "personality" that is not used correctly yet. As we keep learning and cultivating ourselves, we will continue to expand our capability to benefit others and let the Buddha rely on us as well.

At the end of the session, the audience raised many great questions, hoping to learn more about right effort and results like how to control one’s emotions and transform a shortcoming such as a “bad temper” into a positive direction. The audience also asked questions to gain more insight as to Venerable Master’s intentions and goals when he first founded Fo Guang Shan. Through our guest speakers’ sincere conversation and wise words, our audience all gained infinite benefits and filled up with the joy of the Dharma!

Watch the whole event video here:

The next book forum will be held on Sunday 10/26 2.30pm, where we invite SFYAD's friend - Kee Heng Tiow, and SFYAD’s Benson Kwek and Yuchen Qian as our panelist.

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