Speeches delivered by Venerable Dr Ashin Nyanissara, 27 May 2007

The Most Venerable Dr Ashin Nyanissara Chancellor, Sitagu International Buddhist Academy Myanmar

Good Afternoon! Please try to wake up, my dear brothers and sister! In this symposium, all Buddhist universities aim to ensure the future of Buddhist scholarship – as mentioned in the first circular. The aim is that it should continue to grow; its quality should continue to rise; and its importance should be evermore widely accepted. This is the aim and objective of our symposium, and our organization on Buddhist universities. So I would like to only discuss this matter. Later on, we have to discuss many different thing, about: how to organize, how to form the organization, how to lay down the rules and regulations later, etc.

Nowadays, the whole world is needy. The Buddha said: “The whole world is needy.” Therefore, we need to fill it – what does one need today? According to a Buddhist scholar, we should fill this needy world with education. For example: we need to try to educate the people in the Buddha’s teachings. Here, we shall understand we shall never try to convert wanting people from their own religion to the Buddhist religion – we never try to convert. But we should be trying to convert the ignorant to enlightenment; we must try to convert from evil to good; from jealousy to joy; from competition to satisfaction, etc. This is Buddhist conversion. We should be trying to educate the people to understand this task. The whole world is full of problems, but some people – I think many people, do not understand the sources of the problems in the world. Buddhism teaches, to understand the true nature of life. Without understanding the truth, it is very difficult to solve the problems of the world. Without understanding the truth, it cannot be possible to be: real humans or Buddhists. For example, as you know, in the Eightfold Noble Path, the first factor is: sammaditthi – true understanding, understanding the truth… So, when we are facing the problems in the world today, we must search for what is the problems or origin of the problems. What is the solution, what is the origin of the solutions, etc. In his the opening speech, the Venerable Phra Dharmakosajarn said: dependent origination – everything is dependent on origin – we should search for origins of the light. This is why we are going to organize the International Association of Buddhist Universities.

In the university, we are going to educate the people. Students that come to the universities, after their matriculation, passing of the matriculation classes – a lot of educated people come to the university – most of the people cannot come to the university. I want to tell you one thing, a very brief story:

In 1982, when I was in the United Kingdom – this was my first visit to the United Kingdom, my teacher Sayadaw U Thittila, he spent 16 years in the United Kingdom – even within the Second World War… Sayadaw and me, we stayed in a village named Alton St. Lawrence, near Oxford. It was a very beautiful place. In this village, some very pious and devout Buddhist members of the Pali Text Society – they founded their own library in their house. My teacher, Sayadaw U Thittila stayed there almost one year to translate the Vibhanga from Pali, the second book of the Abhidhamma, translated into English. Then, in this library, I had a lot of time with my Sayadaw. After a brief ceremony, one morning, I walked around the whole village with my teacher. My teacher was almost eighty years old! After my Sayadaw came back from the walk and took a rest in the house, he went out again to visit the surrounding villages.

OK, in the middle of one of the villages, I saw a church, a Roman Church – very big, very old – almost a one-thousand year old church. On a Saturday, very early in the dark morning, they would ring the bell [ding, ding, ding, ding…] – very noisily for almost one hour. Around ten o’clock very few, very old ladies and gentlemen come in slowly, slowly – and enter, into the church. Not more than twenty! But in this village, there are over eight-hundred houses. I followed after these old ladies and gentlemen and sat behind them in the church – teaching and teaching and teaching in a different way. I listened behind them. After that class, the Roman clergyman came to me and asked me one question:

“Hello, from where, are you from?”
“I come from Burma.”
“Hey, this is Burmese person!”
“Why do Burmese people come in like this, wearing a dress?”

He had never seen a Buddhist monk. Later, I explained that I am a Buddhist monk, etc. And then in many discussions, only one question:

“You ring the bell for almost an hour from nine o’clock to ten o’clock –yet very few people, only old people come into your church, none of the young people, and with over eight-hundred houses in the village – nobody comes here?”

This clergyman said: “Venerable Sir, nowadays in the modern world, in the west, the young generation is trying to become liberated from religions.” Therefore, we need to educate young generations on how to live together with religion.

Thank you very much.