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World Interfaith Harmony Week Skype Online Forum
Xinying Liu, Haiying Ni
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World Interfaith Harmony Week Skype Online Forum

Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s "Five Harmonies"

The World Interfaith Harmony Week Skype Online Forum was held at 7:00 pm GMT on February 28, 2020. The Buddhism Research Support Group of Fo Guang Shan London hosted this online forum. A total of 24 participated, and the representatives spanning across from Britain, the United States and France, from Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism were invited. In particular, Venerable Master You Wang and Venerable Master Man Kuang, who represent the Buddha’s Light International Association as one of the NGOs at the United Nations were asked to make the opening speech. Besides, five scholars from the fields of Buddhist studies and anthropology, as well as ten members of the Buddhism Research Support Group of Fo Guang Shan London were invited to attend. This forum is based on Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s Humanistic Buddhism and “Five Harmonies”. The two-hour brainstorming session is made up by two stages, which are scholars and experts’ discussions on "Five Harmonies" and talks on multi-religion on "Harmony" respectively. Faced the frontiers of contemporary human society, the session analyzed the harmonious connotation of Humanistic Buddhism and thoughts of multiple religions from multiple perspectives, contributing to world peace, purification of human hearts, and sustainable development of human society.


At the first stage, in the form of dialogues between young scholars and experts, the forum focused on the relationship between the "Five Harmonies" and human spiritual life and world peace. First of all, Venerable Master You Wang, representative of the UN NGO, Fo Guang Shan New York, was invited to make an opening speech. Venerable Master You Wang began with Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s "Five Harmonies", "coexistence", the power of faith, and other Buddhist spirits. He started from the concept of equality and compassion in the primary Buddhist doctrine, and extend it to the harmonious future development of the society.


The first dialogue was conducted between Prof. Bee Scherer from Canterbury Christ Church University UK, and a young scholar, Zivile Adulcikaite. Professor Bee believes that Venerable Master Hsing Yun's "Five Harmonies" embodies the Dharma's "smart and skilful" reactions towards current society, which is to combine the Confucianism of traditional Chinese culture with the core of ancient Indian philosophy and Buddhist compassion. This ingenious fusion is different from the confusion of religious practice, and it is not a sign of neo-Confucianism, but an effort to make Buddhism complete and more systematic.


The second dialogue was conducted between Dr Jonathan Mair, a professor of social anthropology at Kent University, and Haiying Ni, a PhD student. Based on fruitful experiences on short-term monastic seminars at Fo Guang Shan, Professor Jonathan explored the "Five Harmonies" manifestation in a daily dimension. The daily ethical practice of Buddhism has cultivated personal compassion and tolerance, and the spirit of cooperation among people, which forms the basis of the "Five Harmonies" system. Haiying, based on his short-term monk experience, asked about how this session could be adjusted to attract more non-Chinese people to attend. Professor Jonathan argued that, from a universal perspective, the Chinese culture of this event is in line with the needs of some participants. Also, in the future, it should focus on people’s diversity, attracting more people in need and promoting more harmony.


The following dialogue was held by Ricky Wong, a young scholar, who was in conversation with Dr Will Tuladhar-Douglas. Based on Professor Will’s field experience in ethnic medicine and ecology in the Asian Buddhist communities for more than 20 years, he talked about the "Five Harmonies". He proposed that although they are rooted in traditional Chinese culture, their intension is compatible with other concepts in different cultures and societies. For example, the idea of “family harmony" in the "Five Harmonies" is in keeping with the Confucian ethics in Chinese culture. In other traditional Asian societies, the concept of "family" includes the natural landscape, and "family harmony" is also compatible with the local awe of nature and ecological protection. This extension can provide a good solution for the environmental crisis in current society.


The last conversation was performed by a Sino-French cultural critic, Lin Zuqiang. In the video, Mr Lin analyzed the high compatibility among the idea of “oneness and coexistence” by Venerable Master Hsing Yun and the concept of “community with a shared future for mankind” by the Chinese government. He shed light on current global primary concerns, especially social equity and justice, systematic, sustainable development and ability to solve natural disasters and global epidemic. Then, he presented examples to demonstrate the belief support provided by Venerable Master Hsing Yun's "Five Harmonies" in a cross-religious concerted effort to the world's everyday concerns. This include, Fo Guang Shan's education and poverty alleviation in Brazil and India; assistance after the Notre Dame Cathedral fire; conciliation after the terrorist attack in France; pray work in collaboration with the Catholic Pope Francis during COVID-19 epidemic. Later, Tracy Liu, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, analyzed the "coexistence" from an academic perspective of "ethical anthropology" and "anthropology of the good". In Philippines context, a Catholic country, that Fo Guang Shan Buddhism has intensively cultivated for 30 years, Tracy Liu explained that through the local “Three Goods Movement” (“doing good deeds, speaking good words, and thinking good thoughts”) and “Life Education”, Buddhist ethics education provides a chance in cross-religious dialogue, which promotes “value pluralism” and make life meaningful.


The theme of the second stage of the forum was "Religious Dialogues Promoting Harmony". Venerable Master Man Kuang, who is the abbess of Fo Guang Shan Dallas Temple in Texas, United States, and was the representative of UN NGO Fo Guang Shan, gave a keynote speech. It was followed by discussions among Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish clergy members. At the end of this session, seven researchers from Buddhism Research Support Group of Fo Guang Shan London reported the research on Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s concept of “Five Harmonies” and Buddhism on Earth.


Venerable Master Man Kuang's Phonics crosses the Atlantic Ocean and shares the thoughts and practices of "Five Harmonious and Humanistic Buddhism". He explained that gradual progress of Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s concept of “Five Harmonies”, which promotes the humanistic care of others, and pointed out that the "sharing" and "coexistence" of this harmonious relationship are not limited to Buddhism, but all human beings share and practice together. With Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s announcement of "I am a man of the world", people are encouraged to live with an open mind and warm tolerance. Blooming themselves like beautiful flowers in the garden of thousands of red is the way of achieving harmonious. Venerable Master Man Kuang's kind smile and infectious voice made everyone listen carefully, and every participant was greatly encouraged.


The next dialogue was conducted between Kyra Li, a young scholar, and Rajnish Kashyap, the General Secretary Hindu Council UK. Questions about the concept of harmony in Hinduism have been asked. In response, Rajinish united concepts such as cause and effect, in the fundamental doctrine of Hinduism and Buddhism. He found out the textual evidence of "harmony" from the classics and explained them in detail. Another Hindu youth, Dhruv Chhatralia, is a London lawyer who is active in religious communication and promotion. He was awarded the British Empire Medal in February this year. He described the practice of pluralistic exchanges among religions as the ultimate blessings to human well-being. Looking at the current social issues around environmental protection, poverty, war and interpersonal tensions, he hopes that the final "love" that runs through Hindu doctrines will be the critical strength to resolve these issues.


Sarit Gafan, born with a Jewish background, expressed the same ideas. A believer in religion must be a believer in "love” who can learn love and wisdom extensively among various other faiths. It is also suggested that classics of multiple religions should be placed in hospitals and public places to facilitate people's extensive exposure and learning.


Imam Mansoor Ahmad Clarke is a senior cleric of the Baitul Futuh Mosque. The focus of his statement is that in the current multicultural global environment, conflicts and difficulties in communications will always exist, but all people expect the same, which is a global community that embraces divinity and humanity. Having compassion and concern for others is the way to make this desire come true, and it is the determination and actions of believers who genuinely practice religious doctrines.


A researcher at Buddhism Research Support Group of Fo Guang Shan London introduced the theoretical and field research on Venerable Master Hsing Yun's Humanistic Buddhism, especially on understandings and practices of “Five Harmonies". To find out how to promote Humanistic Buddhism, Wang Zhe, who based on modern research, explained how to establish an online Buddhist education platform in Europe for promoting Buddhism and social harmony. Yu Yaqing also used her own experience to show that the power of studying words is worse than seeing Venerable Master Hsing Yun herself. The moment she met the Master, she felt a compelling force with the self-heartedness and joy that came into being. On Friday evening, the participants exchanged ideas and encouraged each other. Everyone was honoured and inspired.

Xinying Liu, Haiying NiHanpeng Wang

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