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寄语三中全会:用“舍己利人、普度众生”思想指导改革

(2013-10-07 12:48:54)
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           寄语三中全会:用“舍己利人、普度众生”思想指导改革

                 

                              

The year 2013 marks the 1,600 anniversary of the first Chinese coming back from the Central Kingdom (at that time, India was referred as 中国 while China was called “Borderland” 边地 ) to start his translation of great Buddhist classic Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra(大般泥洹经》).

In the year 399, at the age of 65, Faxian (法显)left Xian with a group of monks, going through the Jade Gate, trekking the lifeless Taklimakan Desert with only the human skeletons making the landmark for them. It took them more than two months to cross Pamir Mountains (葱岭)which was covered by snow even in summer. After visiting Buddhist sites in Kashmir and Gandhara(犍陀罗), they climbed over the Little Snow MountainIn Afghanistanwhen they were hit by a snowstorm on the northern slope where his fellow traveler Huijing was killed.

Four years later Faxian and his companion Daozheng arrived at Savatthi (舍卫城)in Central India, the cradle of Buddhism, local Indian monks were surprised to see the Chinese travelers and said, “since ancient time, people have only seen Indian monks and never seen any monks from China.” When Faxian and Daozheng, the only compatriot still travelling with him, reached Pātaliputra(华氏城), admiring the prosperous Buddhism there and feeling sorry for the incompleteness of Chinese Buddhist classics, Daozheng decided to stay there and never returned China. Faxian travelled on alone to Southern and Eastern India learning Sanskrit and studying Buddhism. After 10 years on the road, Faxian arrived at Sri Lanka in a commercial ship. By then, all his fellow travelling Chinese monks had “either stayed or died, I am left all alone today”. In his late years, he remembered what had happened in his book “Records in the Buddhist kingdoms”, “Reminiscing about the journey of finding the Buddhist classics makes my heart throb and me sweat.” In Sri Lanka, Faxian saw a merchant making an offering to Buddha with white thin silk fan made in his home province Shanxi in China, “tears welled up in eyes”,Faxian recalled.

In 412, Faxian returned China with Buddhist scriptures in a commercial ship. After a hurricane, the ship drifted for 90 days in the sea and came to Java, there Faxian lived for five months before he traveled in another ship and returned China at the age of 78.He spent the rest of his life translating Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, which laid the foundation of Mahayana Buddhism in China.

       The fundamental principles of Mahāyāna doctrine were based on the possibility of universal liberation from suffering for all beings by carrying all the suffering people on a big vehicle to cross the sea of bitterness. The basic principle in Mahāyāna is selflessness or in the service to other people, which is the opposite of being selfish or individualism.

Last year, with my students and I made pilgrim to the site of ancient Buddhist kingdom of Taxila in northern Pakistan, which Faxian wrote that meaning of Taxila is "the severed Head". Faxian relates that in the previous life, Buddha gave his head to a man in Taxila. The excavated stone carvings also indicate that the great Indian emperor Ashoka propagated Buddhism like a Mahayana by being compassionate, benevolent, philanthropic to all people irrespective of high or low birth, making no distinctions between races or countries.

When Faxian brought the six-volumn Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra to Nanjing in the year 413 and later translated the sutra into Chinese, he opened a broad road to becoming a Buddha, all beings embodying Buddha nature and can become a Buddha.

In 1944, to commemorate the death of an Eighth-Route Army (八路军)Soldier Zhang Side, Mao Zedong quoted Han historian Sima Qian, "Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather." Mao continued: "To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai”. “Comrade Zhang Side died for the people, and his death is indeed weightier than Mount Tai." ”But we have the interests of the people and the sufferings of the great majority at heart, and when we die for the people it is a worthy death.”

When Mao Zedong coined the motto “Serving the people”, he was actually branding CPC and its troops with a soft power which conjures up an image of the great Indian Buddhist scholar Santideva(寂天菩萨)preaching the Great Vehicle"If the suffering of many is brought to an end by the suffering of one, the one should foster this suffering in himself by means of compassion. You must exchange your well-being for the miseries of others."

The communist leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai successfully made the concept of "Serving the People" the core principle and core element of the ideology legitimacy or soft power in the governance of Communist Party of China(CPC).In the photo of the historic meeting between Chairman Mao and Richard Nixon in early 1970s, Premier Zhou Enlai was seen wearing a pin emblazoned with the slogan "Serve the People" and watching Nixon with a patronizing smile.

With China entering a highly commercial and capitalistic society today, the ruling ideology behind the motto “Serving the people” is becoming irrelevant with its governance. In Chinese common life today, the slogan “Serve the people” has been satirically changed into “Serve RMB “(literally translation “serving people money). Some government leaders even feel ashamed to use the motto to mark some important political events, like the National Day, the opening of people’s congress or the opening of party congress. The only place where people can still identify the slogan with CPC is its inscription on the screen wall facing the front entrance to the Zhongnanhai compound, where the Political Bureau of CPC is located. People can still hear the shouting of the slogan every 10 years when the Chinese top leader made inspection of PLA troops at Tiananmen Square marking the birthday of the founding of PRC. The inspecting leader said, "Comrades, good!" The troops replied, "Leader, good!" The inspecting leader said: "Comrades,youhad pains and bitterness." The troops replied, "Serve the people!"

At the coming Third Plenary Session of the CPC 18th Congressif people in power exhibit the universal value of Buddhism by setting reform agenda based on the principle of serving the people, it will revive the much valued traditional soft power of CPC.

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