The International Buddhist College 5th Convocation Seminar was held at Than Hsiang Temple on Sunday, August 4th. 9 scholars from Belgium, Japan, the United States, Sri Lanka, China and Malaysia presented their papers while about 200 people attended the seminar which had been conducted in Chinese and English at Multi Purpose Halls on the ground floor and the 5th floor respectively. 55% of the participants attended the English section.
A series of intensive road shows had been organized at Kulim Buddhist Association, Penang Buddhist Free School Ex-Pupils' Association, Persatuan Agama Penganut Seberang Prai Tengah, Nibong Tebal Buddhist Association, Butterworth Buddhist Association and Butterworth Lay Buddhist Society to promote the event days before the seminar was held. The road shows received overwhelming response.
The speakers at the Chinese section were Professor Charles Willemen, Dr Fa Qing, Venerable Yuan Liu, Dr. Tang Chew Peng and Dr Tan Kim Hooi while the English had six speakers namely, Professor Charles Willemen, Dr Fa Qing, Professor Toshiichi Endo, Professor Kapila Abhayawansa, Professor Tilak Kariyawasam and Professor Lozang Jamspal. Their papers presented were as follow:
1. Professor Charles Willemen from Belgium (in English and Chinese)-“ “Pure Land” Buddhism and Sarvastivada”
Synopsis from the paper:
According to Professor Charles Willemen, the belief in a Paradise, in Buddha-Lands, is a Mahasanghika, especially Lokottaravada development. He added that the three “Pure Land” texts all originated in Central Asia, most probably in Sarvastivada circles. Professor claimed that all this information makes the origin of “Pure Land” Buddhism in Central Asia much clearer.
2. Professor Toshiichi Endo from Japan (in English) – “Bodhisattva Ideal In Theravada Buddhism”
Synopsis from the paper:
Bodhisatta can be classified broadly into two usages: one is the Bodhisatta before the attainment of Enlightenment in the life of Gotama Buddha. The other is the Bodhisatta used as a generic term referring to previous existences of any Buddha in the past.
The meanings of bodhi as the Four Noble Truths and Seven Factors of Enlightenment testify clearly that it can be achieved by anyone and the attainment of them is what is termed as arahantship. ‘Satta’ in the Pali tradition is thought to be a sentient being who has not yet attained to the state of enlightenment. When used with bodhi (i.e. bodhi-satta), it signifies ‘a being destined to become a Buddha or a being dedicated to enlightenment.’
The duration of the practice of ‘pāramī-s’ a bodhisatta has to practise is calculated in terms of ‘asaṅkheyya-s’ and ‘kappa-s’. Even bodisatta-s are divided into three classes depending on their intellectual ability and mental factors to practise and understand the Dhamma as follows: 1) wisdom (paññā); 2) faith (saddhā); and 3) energy (viriya).
When a bodhisatta makes a vow or resolve (panidhāna) to fulfill the ten perfections (pāramī-s), he is said not to be born in any of the 18 ‘impossible states’ (abhabbaṭṭhāna):
(1) Blind (jaccandha)
(2) Deaf (jaccabadhira)
(3) Insane (ummataka)
(4) Deaf and dumb
(6) Among babarians (milakkhesu)
(7) Born of a slave woman
(8) One with confirmed wrong views
(9) Of changeable sex (hermaphrodite)
(10) Among those guilty of committing the five actions which result in the immediately following
(11) A lepper
(12) Smaller than a quail, or larger than an elephant in size, if born an animal
(13) Among the khuppipasikanijjhamatanhika peta-s
(14) Among the kalakanjaka-s or in Avici or lokantarika niraya-s
(15) If born in kamavacara world, a Mara
(16) If born in the rupavacara, among those lacking in consciousness ,
or in the pure abode
(17) In the arupa world
(18) In another world-system
Some of the items such as (8), (14), (15), (16), (17), and (18) mentioned in the list are significant and are all within the doctrinal framework of Theravāda Buddhism.
Once the bodhisattva makes a firm resolve, he has to practice 10 perfections (pāramī-a). They are: 1) dāna (generosity / giving); 2) sīla (virtue / morality); 3) nekkhamma (renunciation); 4) paññā (wisdom); 5) viriya (energy); 6) khanti (patience); 7) sacca (truthfulness); 8) adhiṭṭhāna (determination); 9) mettā (loving-kindness / friendliness); and 10) upekkhā (equanimity). This number became subdivided into three levels of intensity as a) pāramī (perfection); b) upapāramī (higher perfection); and c) paramatthapāramī (highest perfection).
The Bodhisatta-concept in Therevāda Buddhism underwent several changes and developments from the Canon to the commentarial literature. The Theravādadins however tried their best to confine its teachings to the domain of their own understanding of Buddhism. As a result, whatever developed in course of time can be framed well within the basic teachings of the Theravāda tradition.
3. Professor Lozang Jamspal from the United State (in English) – “The Spread of the Buddha’s teachings in Tibet and Beyond”
Synopsis from the paper:
Among the main points covered are:
Buddha’s teaching, introduction of Indian Buddhism to Tibet, how and when Buddha’s teachings arrived in Tibet, the role of the Three Ancestor Kings in the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet, the translation of Indian Buddhist texts and Tibetan admiration for Indian culture, the later spread of the Buddha’s teachings in Tibet, the stories of Rong zom Pandita and Sa Skya Pandita and Tibetan culture spreads across the globe.
4. Professor Tilak Kariyawasam from Sri Lanka (in English) – “Textual Evidence to Prove Buddha's Omniscience”
Synopsis from the paper:
During the time of the Buddha there were some teachers belonged to Śramana tradition in India claimed to have omniscience.
Buddha rejected the claim of those teachers with regard to all-knowledge (omniscience) purely on the logical grounds. The Buddha denied that he has omniscience explained in the Pali Nikāyas and claimed to have Three-Fold (Tevijjā) knowledge by which he could have done even other contemporary teachers could not do. Threefold Knowledge is: (1) Recollection of Previous Existence (Pubbenivāsānussati ñāna), (2) Divine-eye (Bibbacakkhu ñāna), (3) Destruction of Defilements (Āsavakkhaya ñāna). Besides, Buddha rejected the omniscience because it had so many weak points and could not answer for any question regarding life, previous or life after.
According to the Buddha the highest form of knowledge achievable by a human being is the so called Threefold Knowledge (Tevijjā).The Pali text of Paṭisambhidā Magga, written at the time of the development of Abhidharma tried to prove the Omniscience of the Buddha by 47 ways.
The knowledge of everything means the knowledge of the sense experience, and knowledge of sense experience is knowledge of the world, that is, knowledge of everything in the world (Sabbaññū). In this sense one can say ‘the Buddha was Sabbaññū (Omniscient).
Human being is the model of the world. He becomes the model of the world with his sense experience. On the basis of this point the Buddha states that this world is within the human body and no where else. It means that if someone fully realizes the nature of human body he fully comprehends everything in the world.This is the real omniscience anyone can achieve. But some say this is not the omniscience and omniscience may be a different knowledge. From the beginning it was mentioned that Omniscience is a wrongly used concept. If it is a wrongly used concept, a proper concept should be discovered.
In conclusion, as this is a very valuable information could have been gathered from the Nikāyas to the effect of the omniscience of the Buddha it is not wrong to say this is the Buddhist definition of omniscience.
5.Dr Fa Qing from China (in English and Chinese) – “The “Round” Doctrine of Tian Tai and Its Significance in Modern Times”
Synopsis from the paper:
Tian Tai is one of the Earliest Mahāyāna Buddhist schools founded in the 5th Century in China. It stresses on both doctrinal study and meditation practice. In this paper, the “round doctrine” of Tian Tai will be examined and its significance that contributes to a harmonious and peaceful society will be analyzed.
Main points mentioned in this papers are Chinese Buddhism and Its Core Features, Tian Tai School on the Unity of Diversity, Five Periods, Eight Doctrines, Round and Abrupt Contemplation in Tian Tai, The Ten Objects of Contemplation and The Ten Modes of Contemplation.
In conclusion, the advantage of Tian Tai in modern time is that it balances theory and practice. Not only does it systematically present all Buddhist thoughts but also contains its own systematic practice. To unite different cultures and religions, Tian Tai provides an insight to solve the problem. From Tian Tai’s Classification of teaching, we can propose that all religions are valid. Therefore, Tian Tai’s Round and Inter-inclusive theory is the key to solve the differences of diversities.
6. Professor Kapila Abhayawansa from Sri Lanka (in English) – “Cyclic Existence & the Theory of Dependent Origination”
Synopsis from the paper:
Buddhism accepts that the life process of a being is not confined only to one life span. There is a continuation of the existence of being so long as the causes and conditions which led to the birth of a being are provided. Though Buddhism upholds the concept of cyclic existence, it rejects the idea of soul which is supposed to be the abiding entity between one life span and the other. Therefore, according to Buddhism, there is no any eternal life principle which is going through one life to another life constituting one and same series of existence.
The identity of Buddhist concept of cyclic existence is brought forward by the theory of dependent origination (paticca-samuppada). Buddhism explains cyclic existence of the beings in terms of the theory of dependent origination. This theory denotes the fact that every thing in the world exists depending on causes and condition. By accepting cyclic existence, Buddhism goes against the materialistic or nihilistic explanation of the existence of the beings.
Dependent origination is the governing law over each and every phenomenon in the world. As a theory it is the conditionality of the things in the world. (idappaccayatā) It is the nature of the things ( dhammatā) and it is the natural low which governs the universe (dhamma-niyāmatā). In a word, The formula of the theory of dependent origination signifies necessarily the conditional arising of the thing.
The formula of the theory of dependent origination is consisted of two pairs of statement which express respectively the emergence and the dissolution of any phenomena.The first statement that “when the cause is present the effect comes to be” implies the necessary relation between cause and effect affirmatively. The second statement that “from the arising of cause, effect arises” indicates that the cause is also subjected to arise. This theory of dependent origination explains the nature of existence whether it belongs to present, past or future.
Life is considered to be a causally conditioned process in Buddhism. Life of a being starts with the birth. According to Buddhism, birth is none other than an arising of consciousness (viññāna) together with name and form (nama-rupa) in the mother’s womb. When the effective power of consciousness and the nama-rupa come to an end it is called death of a being. When the effective power of consciousness and the nama-rupa come to an end it is called death of a being. But, in Buddhist concept of cyclic existence, causal relation between death of a life process and birth of a new life process is not known by our sensory experience.
It is worthwhile to mention here that some Buddhists are of the view that the twelve linked Paticca-samuppāda does not talk about three life spans to establish the cyclic existence and it is confined only to one life span. The real purpose of presenting twelve linked Paticca-samuppāda formula is to show the emergence of entire mass of suffering throughout the sansaric life. If there is no relevance of this formula of Paticca-samuppāda to the cyclic existence, there is no need to show Sankhāra as the cause for Viññāna in the formula as our empirical consciousness does not arise because of the Sankhara according to Buddhism.
In conclusion, the Sankhāra in the formula necessarily refers to the previous karmic formations done in any of the past existence and thereby Buddhism establishes the cyclic existence of the beings.
7.Venerable Yuan Liu from China (in Chinese) – “A View on the Arahant’s Altruistic Practice from the Angle of Sarvastivada’s Non Striving Way ”
8. Dr Tang Chew Peng (in Chinese) - “A Preliminary Survey on Buddhist Charity Undertakings in Malaysia”
9.Dr Tan Kim Hooi (in Chinese) – “An Introductory Discussion on the Madhyamika thought in the Ten Abiding Vibhasa Sastra”
Registration for seminar participants began at half an hour after breakfast had been served at 8 a.m. An opening ceremony officiated by Venerable Wei Wu, IBC Council Chairman cum Abbot of Than Hsiang Temple was held at 9 a.m. at the Multi Purpose Hall on the 5th floor. During the Opening Ceremony, Venerable Wei Wu delivered his speech and talked about the objectives of the seminar. Besides, he introduced International Buddhist College to the participants. There were 3 objectives of the seminar. First, to introduce the various Buddhist traditions to the general public. Second, to arouse deeper understanding and greater confidence in the Buddha’s teachings among Buddhists so as to enhance their sense of dedication at Buddhist organizations. Third, to provide a platform for exchanges between Buddhist scholars and the public in an attempt to stimulate the enthusiasm for exploring Buddhism.
Souvenirs were presented to each lecturer and a photo session was held before the opening ceremony ended at 9.30 a.m. The seminar started on schedule at 9:30 a.m. and ended around 5 p.m.
Thanks to all staff members and volunteers for your active involvement which had made this event a success.
May you be well and peaceful. Amituofo!