A delegation of more than 100 monks from the United Association of Humanist Buddhism in Taiwan recently met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The conversation at the interfaith gathering, which the Holy See described as an opportunity to “promote interfaith exchange and communication in the post-pandemic era,” served to highlight the role of religions and spiritual traditions in the promotion of fraternity through a culture of encounter.
"Your visit, which you described as an educational pilgrimage, represents a privileged opportunity to promote the culture of encounter, where one takes the risk of opening up to others, of hoping to discover friends, brothers and sisters , and so learn more about ourselves. the pope told the assembled monks. (Youtube)
The head of the Taiwanese delegation, the Venerable Hsin Bau, abbot of the monastic order of Fo Guang Shan, presented two gifts on behalf of the guests: a mosaic painting of the Pope by a young Taiwanese woman with a disability, and a second portrait by the children from Fo Guang Shan Daci Children's Home, which he said represents the pope's love for the world and the blessings of Taiwan.
Fri. Hsin Bau also expressed hope that continued religious exchanges between Taiwan and the Vatican would promote tolerance and harmony among the world's spiritual traditions.
In his address to assembly delegates on March 16, the Pope observed that today's world is characterized by rapid changes, which affect humanity and the planet, and that the pace of life and work intensified.
“This reality also affects religious life and culture and calls for proper training and education of young people in timeless truths and time-tested methods of prayer and peace building,” he said. “Throughout history, believers have created sacred times and spaces as oases of encounter, where men and women can draw inspiration to live wisely and well. Such oases of encounter are even more necessary in our time. (The Catholic Sun)
The pontiff invited the delegation to hold a three-minute prayer of silence for peace in the world and for perseverance in resolving international conflicts and illuminating darkness in the world.
The Catholic leader also expressed his condolences on the death on February 5 of influential Buddhist monk and teacher, Venerable Hsing Yun, founding patriarch of Fo Guang and the International Buddha Light Association, and figure of forefront of the movement of humanist Buddhism.*
“(Ven. Hsing Yun) was also a master of interreligious hospitality,” the pope noted of the revered Buddhist master who led religious exchanges between Taiwan and the Vatican, meeting St. John Paul II in 1997 and the Pope Benedict XVI in 2006. (The Catholic Sun)
“Dear friends, I hope that this educational pilgrimage will lead you, guided by the thoughts of your spiritual master (the) Buddha, to a deeper encounter with yourselves and with others, with the Christian tradition, and with the beauty of the Earth, our common home,” the pope concluded. “May your visit to Rome be filled with moments of authentic encounter which can in turn become precious opportunities for growth in knowledge, wisdom, dialogue and understanding. (The Holy See)
Coinciding with the Buddhist delegation's visit to the Vatican, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen last week sent an official greeting to the pope, wishing him "good health, resilience and success as you continue to promote human dignity, fundamental rights, democracy and freedom throughout the world. (Taipei Time)
Tsai added, “Together on the path of brotherhood, justice and peace, Taiwan and the Holy See have worked to address significant challenges to help those most in need.” (Taipei Time)
While in Rome, the Taiwanese delegation also discussed Fo Guang Shan's "T-Earth" reforestation initiative, aimed at restoring healthy and biodiverse ecosystems, and "Vege Plan A", a global initiative aimed at promote sustainable vegetarian lifestyles.
Humanistic Buddhism is a socially engaged Buddhist movement that emphasizes the integration of Buddhist practices and the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha into daily life, with an emphasis on the well-being of the living. This movement was exemplified in Taiwan by four Dharma teachers and leaders known as the “Four Heavenly Kings” of Buddhism: Master Cheng Yen, founder of the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation; Master Sheng Yen, founder of Dharma Drum Mountain; Master Hsing Yun, founding patriarch of Fo Guang Shan; and Master Wei Chueh, founder of Chung Tai Shan. These four global Buddhist orders, known as the "four great mountains", have become one of the most influential Chinese Buddhist organizations in the world.
* Fo Guang Shan Founder and leader of Humanist Buddhism Ven. Hsing Yun dies at 97 (BDG)