Highlight of Day 2 of the Second International Forum on the Guan Yin Culture

2020-09-29
Highlight of Day 2 of the Second International Forum on the Guan Yin Culture
Highlight of Day 2 of the Second International Forum on the Guan Yin Culture: Science & Technology Widen the Buddhist Path When Devotion Serves Us a Lamp to Navigate Through the Darkness

With the Forum proceeding to Day 2, the geo-cultural focus of the Guan Yin belief also took a turn from Nepal and Japan to become China-centric. Professor Nakamura Kaoru, former chancellor of Doho University in Japan, spearheaded the presentations with his paper on “Guan Yin Pu Sa in the Avatamsaka Sutra” to shed light on the deity as portrayed differently in various versions of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Professor Nakamura pointed out that different versions of the translated Avatamsaka Sutra all saw the Buddha remaining quiet and allowed Bodhisattvas to speak on his behalf. Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara appeared in the 39th Chapter Entering the Dharma Realm as the 28th of all 53 Kalyana Mitras to respond to Sudhanakumara’s quest for truth. Avalokitesvara was described as a shining brightness of benevolence and compassion while accentuating the importance of quiet and tranquility. It was at this juncture that Professor Nakamura pointed to our era for an analogy -- ours is a time full of noise and people are overloaded with excessive information. The ease of access by virtue of the Internet has its pros and cons and we must resort to quiet and tranquility to have a chance at all for true wisdom. The professor also stressed Guan Yin’s compassion and the power of her virtues by reminding people that Guan Yin’s love and compassion are like the sunlight that shines on the world limitlessly, and that is what the illumination of the great compassion is all about.

A non-obstructed being embodies compassion & wisdom

Professor Cheng Chen-Huang, Honorary Chairman of the Amala Association, is well-known for his in-depth research on Buddhism and he approached the topic on "The Guan Yin Belief in China" by employing linguistics and psychology for an examination into Mahayana Buddhism. He first shared his view on a more appropriate translation for the Chinese equivalent of Avalokitesvara and went on to say that the original Buddhism put emphasis on wisdom as the key to liberation and that Samsara basically boils down to sentiment. Compassion wins out on wisdom when the Mahayana tradition secured the upper hand. In contrast, however, the general public needs compassion more than wisdom. And Avalokitesvara embodies both wisdom and compassion as two mutually-complementary attributes in one. Put differently, wisdom is the essence of compassion, while compassion is wisdom put to the best use. In wrapping up, the professor cited the famous poet Su Dong-po to suggest that everyone can be a manifestation of Guan Yin, as long as there is compassion from within. Professor Cheng hopes that people take Guan Yin for a model for self-development to attain both compassion and wisdom.

In search of the root & the origin to reproduce Dharma images

Presentations in the afternoon first featured the paper by Master Heng Ming of the LJM Religious Affairs Committee entitled “Painting the Guan Yin Mandalas - with an Avalokitesvara-centric Sutra as Example”. By recounting first-hand experiences working on Avalokitesvara mandalas, Master Heng Ming shared how pre-studies had been conducted to the last details, in order that both the image and the Dharma of Avalokitesvara would be truthfully represented and the compositional structure together with all symbolic details could be properly executed at once. In parallel, the 11-faced Guan Yin with all the time- and location-specific transformations were likewise highlighted, while Master Heng Ming shared his incredible experiences practicing the 40 Dharma methods of Avalokitesvara. The painting of the Avalokitesvara mandala is now approaching completion and plans are being made for the work to be on public display for the viewers to immerse in Avalokitesvara’s great compassion.

The practice of Buddha’s teachings can be aided by technologies

Religions have ancient origins that go back thousands of years, and even the institutionalization of faiths has a long history. The question is how do religions go on soothing and healing people nowadays amidst a fast-changing world with runaway technologies? If-Plus-Works co-founder Jet Chou delivered his presentation with the help of multimedia to highlight the creation of an AI-based Guan Yin already in service at a Japanese temple. The robot is the brainchild of interactive design to enhance experiences on the part of the audience and it has the build of a male with features of a female. The initial sense of alienation was quickly replaced first by curiosity, then by a gradual acceptance, that goes a long way to show the feasibility of promoting Buddhism on the bandwagon of technologies. As to the concern that techy applications could impose fundamental changes to religions themselves, Chou said that AI works hand in hand with deep learning and true religions are about deep learning as well. Chou emphasized in closing that “only when things return to their being of nature, technologies will then begin to well function.”

All Manifestations of Guan Yin point to one key element: Faith

Topics of the two-day Forum span east and west geographically and cover a timeline historically from antiquity to the future. The presentations appear individually independent but are in fact interdependent and mutually complementary. The Panel Discussion right before the closing ceremony was rather animated by virtue of the last presentation on the AI-based Guan Yin and how religions find good applications of technologies. Master Heng Ming made an example of the digitized fortune-telling to discuss whether such an app is a (dis)service. Again the 25th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra was quoted to reflect that Avalokitesvara would transform into a mirror image of the party to be liberated -- meaning that netizens shall not be excluded from Guan Yin’s great compassion. Director Chen Guo-Ning of the Museum of World Religions and the Chairperson of the Worldwide Association of the 108 Lokesvaras summed it all up by reminding the audience that an unwavering faith is an ultimate key to elevate our mind to be worthy of Guan Yin’s liberation.

The Second International Forum thus reached a fruit-bearing high note for an ending. The Guan Yin culture proper, however, is a vast body of knowledge that awaits further explorations just like the power of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’s great compassion that keeps outgrowing itself. The Third International Forum next year will take place in Nagoya, Japna, and everyone is cordially invited to join.