Today I'm very happy to see, in addition to our staff and volunteers, the participation of some of our staff members as well as students from IBC. We just had the IBC academic conference last weekend and on the whole the conference went very well. It was very successful due to the cooperation of everyone. So I like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to all of you, whether staff or volunteers from Than Hsiang or staff and students from IBC. You all worked very well together for a successful conference. The successful conference is an outcome. In Buddha's teachings, we talk about cause and conditions. The cause and conditions are working together by everyone for a common cause.
After the conference is over, as a way of reviewing the conference, I like to remind everyone to adopt two types of attitude. For things that went well, we should show appreciation to other people. Normally in other organisations that work on worldly values, it is very common when things went well for many people to think of themselves as being very important contributors to the success. If we know how to apply the Buddha's teachings (remember last week before the conference I said that this was the opportunity for us to practice the exchanging of self with others), instead of praising ourselves, we praise others. Instead of appreciating ourselves, we appreciate others. Even if you happen to be the person who worked the hardest, contributed to the success of a particular area, you must also understand that success cannot be due to one person alone. Everybody contributed to the success, so appreciation should be given to others, not to oneself.
When things did not go well, normally, we point fingers at others and start blaming each other. But if we know how to practise exchanging of self with others, then you blame yourself. You should say, “Something did not go as well as it could because I have not done enough. I have not paid enough attention to the detail. Or I lack experience. From the experience that I gain this time, I hope to be able to do better next time.” This is very important.
Blaming yourself is more useful because when you know your own shortcomings, you can improve. When everyone in the organisation reflects on his or her shortcomings, then we can improve collectively. Also when we don't blame each other but blame ourselves, we will create a harmonious organisation. If we blame each other, then we will not be able to develope that harmony in the organisation.
I like to remind all of you here to remember that when we organise a conference like this, there are three steps just as we have three steps for our spiritual practice. The first step is the preliminary practice. The second step is the main practice. The third step is the concluding practice. Let me elaborate. If you want to organise a successful conference, the first thing is to do good preparation. In fact the preparation that went on before the conference took more effort than the conference itself. If you prepare very well, then you can be almost assured of success in the conference. There is a saying that good preparation is half the success.
If you apply the Buddha's teachings, then in the preparation there is one thing that is often talked about in secular organisation - we must be clear about our motive. We must be clear about the motive of organising this conference as a whole. We must be clear about the motive individually of why we participate in this conference. Everything we do we should do it with correct thinking. Although it may sound far fetch, in the Buddha's teaching, the highest motive is that of the Bodhicitta. Whatever we do, however small, ultimately contribute to our attainment of perfect Buddhahood and our ability to help all sentient beings – this is called Bodhicitta, this is the motive.
Even when we participate in this conference, Bodhicitta is our motive. That is the highest motive that we can tell. In secular organisation, the motive could be fame and gain, so we have to be very careful that we don't do this for fame and gain.
When we do the preparation, we have to pay attention to the details. We put ourselves in the shoes of the people whom we are serving. In this case, let's say we are assigned to look after the scholars who have come from afar, to receive them at the airport, to send them to the hotel and then transport them here for the conference and so on. We have to put ourselves in their shoes and ask, “What would these presenters require?” When they come to a strange and new country, what do they need? When we prepare, we have that in mind to make their stay comfortable, to help them do their presentation effectively and to make their stay something they would remember for a long, long time.
If our duty is to man the registration counter, we have to put ourselves in the position of the conference participants. Whether they come from another state, another country or local, how can we best serve them? Even if you are just the cook in the kitchen, you know that in this conference, people come from different places. You have to plan the type of food that you are going to prepare and serve the many different people of so many different backgrounds. Some like spicy food; others cannot take any kind of spicy food. We must pay attention in our preparation so we know what we want to cook and also the amount to cook.
It is important for us to think ahead of possible, potential problems if things don't go well. If we do potential problem analysis, then we try to prevent that potential problem from happening. If it does happen, do we have some contingency plan to lessen the impact? Again at the preparatory stage, we must also have the gratitude in that we are given an opportunity to participate in this conference and our participation is an accumulation of merit and wisdom that ultimately leads us to attainment of Buddhahood. So these are some of the important points for our preparation.
The second part is the main conference. The important thing is having done full preparation, we must execute according to our plan. Each one who is assign certain responsibility must in the first place, perform their respective responsibility well. This is most important. When you see that other areas need help, after you have done your own area well, then please by all means offer your assistance. Please always remember, if you have been assigned a certain thing to do, do that well first before you try to do someone else's area of responsibility.
This is the time for us to practice mindfulness. Normally in an event like this, not all things will go smoothly, so you are going to find certain hitches, like small problems. This is a test of your mindfulness, so don't lose your cool. For many people when things go wrong, they start blaming others and start to get over excited, so small problems become big problems. This is a lack of mindfulness and also a lack of your ability to stay calm when things go wrong. Practice mindfulness and calmness. Don't let anger overcome you.
This is what happens in many organisations. When things don't go well they start to panic and then come the problems. If you are able to practice mindfulness, then as the problem comes up, you overcome them, one at a time. We must be flexible. Many of us are very stubborn and this stubbornness comes from our self-cherishing. We consider ourselves very important. In the process of the conference, when things don't go exactly as planned, sometimes we have to be flexible and accommodating. We should not, at times like this, insist on of doing things our way.
Remember we are not to criticise other people. We all have a common job to do. Be flexible and be prepared to change. In secular term, be prepared to give and take. Do not to be so inflexible as to create problems with other people who are also trying to contribute in their own way to the success of this conference.
We should also develope gratitude that we have so many people working together for a common cause. We have to remind ourselves not to cherish the “I”. Instead of “I”, we put the focus on “we”. We are all serving the participants to let them have a good conference. These are some of the important points for us to remind ourselves during the conference.
We now come to the concluding or final part. I have said a lot at the beginning because we were, in a way, doing a review of the conference now that it is over. Firstly, for things that went well, we show our appreciation and gratitude to others. For things that did not go well, we blame and criticize ourselves and then make the resolution to do better the next time. When we do the review, we should start with positive points. We must highlight these positive points so that when we organize the second conference, we remember to retain these good points.
We should also be mature to review the weaknesses. When we review the weaknesses, it is important we don't point to individuals but point to the events. When we do that, it helps us to review and revise the checklist that we have so that this revised checklist will help us to do better next year.
Of course in the Buddha's teachings, in the conclusion we also dedicate merits to the well being of all. We had a successful conference and because we organised it well in accordance with the Buddha's teaching, the conference had benefited many people. The conference had also benefited all of us who were participating in it so we should all rejoice. We should dedicate these merits for the well being of all sentient beings so that all will ultimately attain perfect Buddhahood.
Normally when we recite verses of transference of merit in Than Hsiang, there are two common ones that we use. The first one is what we do on Thursdays, where we recite transference of merits for rebirth in Pure Land. We must remember that this is for the purpose of ultimately attaining perfect Buddhahood. The second four-line verse of transference of merits is more direct. It says, “May we with the merit so acquired share this with all so that all sentient beings, myself and all of us will eventually attain perfect Buddhahood”.
In conclusion once again, Shifu would like to express appreciation to all of you here and all of you who are not here and who are watching the video later on. Shifu would like to express appreciation to all people who had in one way or another, whether in a big way or in small way, contributed to the success of this conference. May we all rejoice in having a successful conference and may we now transfer the merits so that eventually all will attain perfect Buddhahood.