THE CENTURY OF SPIRITUALITY
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Buddhism has been a good companion through many ups and downs, joys and sorrows of our country. The spiritual strength of Buddhism is a considerable element in helping our nation regain our country independence as well as help keep our borders safe. Moreover, Buddhism is a significant factor that helps develop our country become a better and stronger nation.
Buddhism plays an important role in our lives. However, most of us do not fully comprehend it. Many people join Buddhism only to pray for themselves, therefore they have missed so many advantages of Buddhism. In fact, Buddhism has lots of noble qualities, a great spiritual foundation which guide us through our life, from basic to advanced level.
At a basic level, people must know to avoid doing bad deeds, try to do good deeds and try to bring joy and happiness to other people around us. At a higher level, Buddhism makes us realise that we have a great responsibility in life – that is patriotism. And above all, that is our love and compassion for all beings. But that’s not all. Buddhism also gives us the ultimate goal, and that is to achieve enlightenment and selflessness, so that we would have boundless love to the entire universe.
Perhaps many religions share the same and basic principle that is doing more good deeds and avoid doing bad deeds. However, some religions stop at that level, while with Buddhism, we would not be able to thoroughly understand Buddhist doctrines even when we spend our whole life and many next lives to study it.
Buddhist teachings are so immense, therefore, many academics or scientists in the world have been convinced willingly. In the last century, the internationally world-famous scientist Einstein, who lived in a Christian country, had boldly stated that: in the future, any religion if wanted to exist, it must have both spiritual truth and scientific knowledge. It must be able to unite humans and lead them to a new civilization, full of peace. Then he concluded only Buddhism can do that. This statement of Einstein shocked the world. Many academics, who believed in Einstein, started exploring and learning more about Buddhism, and they were totally convinced.
However, the method used to promote Buddhism has not been effective, which has made many people not having chances to join Buddhism and understand its enormous benefits. Many senior leaders of our country are very knowledgeable about Buddhism, while management at the lower level do not, therefore they have been treating Buddhism just like as other religions.
We would find that for the Northern part of our country, Buddhism indeed has been a great companion. The local authority always look after the temples. For example, when a temple wanted to hold a seminar, the local government officials would invite a Master to deliver the lecture and surprisingly, at the end of the lecture, they thanked the Master personally.
However, in the South, the local government keeps their distance from Buddhism. But, thanks to the South’s fast development, it is easier to exchange information, thus, Buddhism seems to be everywhere. In the far North, due to its mountainous and hilly terrain, exchanging information has not been easy, so Buddhism has not yet developed here, especially in the Northwest and Northeast. In these remote areas, Buddhist temples lie scattered randomly; even some provinces do not have any temples. And for places not having any temples, it is lucky if they have any Buddhists reside in the area to promote Buddhism because there are no monks or nuns living in these remote areas.
We have two way of attracting monks to live in these remote areas, and form the Board of Trustees. One way is that we would need to invite monks from other places. Another way is when someone become extremely religious, then they would have to leave home to become monks to help preserve Buddhism. Please do remember that preserving Buddhism contributes towards the protection of our country.
We are nearly at the end of the 20th century and are entering the 21st century and some sociologists have predicted that the 21st century will be the century of Spirituality. The statement had surprised the world. However, sociologists made this bold prediction based on many facts and evidences.
However, we always have thought that the 21st century would be the century of science and technology. Why is that? – Because Hollywood have produced so many scientific fiction films. Those movies are about people have traveled into space, into distant planets in our galaxy in the 21st century. And even on this earth, war happened between robots and human; as robots could think like human, and were armed with powerful weapons. Those robots would kill all people in the world to dominate the human race. In those movies, religions are not mentioned because no one believes in them. Because nowadays science advances so fast, people think that those who are good at science and technology will be the winner. People firmly believe that the more advanced science is, the less people would believe in God; people would only care about science and technology, with the desire to dominate the world.
However, after carrying out many careful researches from many nations, with different approaches, and beliefs, the social scientists finally concluded that the 21st Century is the century of spirituality rather than science and technology, which made us very surprised because spirituality and science are completely the opposite. We say that because science always requires reasons, facts, not beliefs. When scientists conclude anything, it must be repeatedly tested in many laboratories, in theory as well as practice. For example, under certain pressure, pure water boils at 100 Celsius degree no matter where it is done.
Based on reasons and facts, people will gradually be convinced by science. Consequently, people eventually would lose faith in God. However, unexpectedly, the result is exactly the opposite. Despite the fact that science advances more and more, religious sentiments of the human race towards Gods have never changed. It is like what the Great Uncle Ho once said “Vietnam is one, all Vietnamese are one. River can run dry, mountains can disappear, but this truth will never change.”
After these social scientists have had visited many places, have witnessed many customs and cultures, they have concluded that no matter how advanced technologies have been invented, how mobile phones, cable TVs, very fast internet become familiar to everybody, or even how people communicate via satellites to find a ship in the sea or use remote control to manage weapons from far away, regardless of how expert they are at using technologies, at the end of a day, they still kneel down and pray to their God!
We always have thought that any nations, which have had advanced technologies, would idolize science and technology, but instead, they still worship God. At that time, the social scientists realised that that human’s love and affection for their God is natural instinct and irreplaceable.
When being novices in the temple, one day, we saw a young man who was speaking to our master in the guest house. He was probably a soldier or an official from the North. He often came to our temple to ask our master to pray for his late daughter. He once told us a story:
“We once were soldiers,” he said. “We fought against the American troops on Truong Son trail. During the war, the U.S. army often bombed our troops very fiercely. After each bomb attack, our team had only few members survived. Once the enemy spotted us, we tried to hide in the ravines. It was really sad that one of our best friends was killed.
We packed our bags and had a quick meal before moving to another place. At dinner, we put aside a portion of the food and called out our friend’s name and asked him to join us for dinner. Suddenly, a small bird from nowhere flew towards us. We looked surprisingly at the bird then I told the bird, “If you were our friend, come and land on my arm.” Then to our astonishment, the bird landed onto my arm.
Right then, our whole team believed that the bird was our friend coming back in the body of a bird to visit us. If the decease did not borrow a materialistic body of a living creature, such as a bird or a butterfly, he would not be able to let his friends know his presence.
Such phenomena do exist around us, so people believe that death is not the end; it does not put an end to everything yet. For example, the high-ranking official in a province dedicated his whole life for the benefit of his people. Thus, many people loved and respected him. And when he passed away, deep in other people’s soul, they thought he still existed in some other forms, not having left yet because his good deeds were still helpful to many people. Since we believe that death has not yet put an end to everything and especially for those who dedicated the whole life for the benefit of others, they should be worshipped even after their death. And that’s why people have beliefs in God, in Spirits!
Such sentiments and beliefs exist deep in human souls as a natural instinct without any reason. Of course, one day with more advanced science, people will be able to explain spiritual matters in great details. And for now, when people have not yet been able to explain these matters fully and clearly, they will continue to live with their spiritual belief in their God, which will be passed from one generation to another. Just like sayings or stories we heard from our ancestors, these sayings/principles and beliefs will stay with us throughout our lives.
When we were children, we often heard our grandparents tell many stories, then we remembered those for the rest of our lives. For example, this was one of the story: in the old days, whoever spoke ill words when passing by a temple, would get sick for weeks as the punishment. Their families had to bring fruits, flowers and burnt incense to the temple, to remorse and pray for forgiveness, so that person would get well again. Short stories like that shaped our perception of God and spiritual beliefs at a very young age. And it is the same everywhere around the world. From the tribes in remote areas to civilized countries, each nation understands their God, and have spiritual beliefs in their own way.
It is obviously that people always have a belief in their spiritual world, without any explanation, and no one can stop it, regardless how advanced science and technology are or will be. Even police officers also rely on their spiritual belief to help their job when it comes to dead-ends. For example, in a case where investigation seemed to be stuck, the police officer started to pray for help from the dead victim. And magically new clues were discovered, helping him find the perpetrator.
There are so many cases like this happening around the world, forming a spiritual world. Our feelings and beliefs in God establish belief systems, each of which has different ationalizations.
A tribe in Africa has their own opinion about the afterlife, celestial beings, or how to cast a spell on somebody. A tribe in Siberia has another idea about Gods and a tribe in South America explains divine world and the afterlife in their own way.
Thus, beliefs in God exist everywhere throughout the world, but we have no one common explanation. Various rationalizations about them result in the existence of different systems of beliefs, depending on the theorists. Whenever a belief system improves and develops further, a new religion is created. So, a religion could be formed from a belief system that was created by a religious teacher, who was good at convincing, and influencing people.
However, it is not enough for people to believe in a religion if it just has its theory and explanation. It must have proven results. It must bring benefits to people to gain their trust and acceptance.
For example, in the old days, when someone fell sick, they cured themselves with herbal medicine. And when the medicine failed to cure their illness, their relatives had to bring them to a shaman (i.e. a witchdoctor). That shaman only made ceremonial offerings and prayed but surprisingly the patient was well again. As the result, people started to believe that praying could help overcome illness, and they started believing in God!
Another example is that when people encountered a dangerous river, which was renowned for many people had downed because of its dangerously strong current, they were advised to bring gifts to the Sea-God and pray that they would be safe when crossing the river. People took that advice, gave something to the Sea-God and they had a safe trip across the river, indeed.
When such events kept occurring repeatedly, a belief system started forming and gradually got stronger. And those belief systems continued to develop into different religions. Nowadays, there are several main religions in the world such as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Orthodox…
There are also a few well-known belief systems but did not turn to religions such as Confucianism and Taoism. As for Taoism, followers have a proclivity to enjoy attaining to celestial beings. Although these days Confucianism and Taoism are not popular as they were before, they still exist and are popular in many places.
The belief in God grew over time and became many well-known religions. We all may have a question: Why do religions exist?
We all may have believed that the reason religions exist is because human just simply want to pray to God. Actually, it is not true. For example, Zoroastrianism in India, their religious rituals are always very solemnly organized with many sumptuous donations. Some other religions even go to the extreme and scarify human beings’ life as a means of worshipping their God. The truth is that religion is born to take care of human and for the benefits of human. Sometimes, people even use religions and name of God to pursue their own personal goals and for their own personal benefits. Though many people are on their knees, bow to their Gods respectfully, but secretly from deep down, they pray to God for their own personal benefits! So again, religions exist for the benefit of human beings.
This applies to all religions. Any religion must serve the needs of human beings. If it was just for only God, whom can’t be seen anywhere, then surely sooner or later the religion would no longer exist.
In addition, because religions always promise to bring a better life to their followers, people continue to believe in religions. What really is the promise? It promises that if people follow the religion, it would bring people good health, great wealth and great success. Even when they pass away, religions promise that they would be brought to a very happy place surrounded by Saints and Goddesses. That is the promise to human beings.
As you all know human beings are selfish in nature. We create religions to worship God but in fact, the purpose is for our own benefits. That is human nature – selfish, greedy and always taking advantage of any situation, or anyone. People may knee down in front of God, but the praying is for themselves, never for God. That is the true human nature.
Now we must understand that people follow any religions, first and foremost, for their own interests and benefits. If the religion does not bring benefit to people, they would abandon that religion. As the result, religions must promise people several things:
- Firstly, when one follows a religion, there will be less suffering and they will be happy.
- Secondly, the religion promises its followers that they will taught, and guided towards doing good deeds, avoid doing bad deeds.
These two dominant characteristics of a religion have attracted many people to join and devote their lives towards the religion. Let’s mention it in a different way. Firstly, people will be blessed to be happier in this life, and even in their afterlife. Secondly, they will be more ethical.
Let’s mention again: all religions must promise two things for their followers, if not, the religions would become useless. The first thing is that the religion will teach people about ethics/morality. The second thing is when people have ethics, the religion will bring them happiness. That means people will be rewarded if they do good deeds, and vice versa, people will be punished for their sins. If any religion does not have either of these two characteristics, that religion would not last long.
For example, there was a religion, which only encouraged people to live an enjoyable life, and not to worry about building up their ethics. The people of this religion only needed to worship and pray to their God, then that would be enough. The result would be, sooner or later that religion would come to an end, or even worst, people of this religion may break the law. Because if the religion did not teach its people about morality, and just live as they wish, then this religion was a place full of crimes.
There are many religions that exist and last until today because they have the two qualities mentioned above: firstly, the promise to help people live happier;
and secondly, it will teach people about morality. Without these two important qualities, any religions or God are just nonsense.
Sometimes, people even dared deceiving their own God or even took advantage of the situation for their benefit. They used the reputation of the religion to attract the public and when they gained people’s trust, they engaged in bad politics or did business for their own benefits. We call it “to commercialize the religion.”
For example, someone built up a temple. Soon after, we heard a rumor that we would get what we wished for if we prayed at this temple. We could win lottery; we could win a business deal or easily passed an exam… And there were more and more stories like these. However, these were not facts, just stories. No one knew if these lucky people existed. All we knew was that they kept collecting monies from people, who believed in these stories, even worse, they asked for certain amount of money from these people. Similarly, someone else whispered in our ears that: “This temple is very spiritual. Recently there was a child got kidnapped, his parents came here to pray and he was rescued soon afterwards”; or: “That boy was not doing well at school, but he often came here to pray; and his studying now is improving day by day”.
A strange thing is that a human being could easily trust someone. 80% of us enjoy listening to gossips on a bus, in coffee shops or on the street… making these make-up stories about religion become more believable. However, the truth is absolutely not like that. When we went to these places, we had to spend a lot of money. Obviously, the name of the religion was betrayed and taken advantage of. That is what evil people do for their own personal benefit.
During French colonialist wartime, in a province of Mekong delta, there was a man who called himself the founder of a new religion. What he actually did was using laser light technology to create images of tigers and dragons and spreading the rumors that he had extraordinary power to train these sacred creatures to attract people’s attention, then their trust. Anyone, who would suspect him, was stabbed to death by his disciples. People, from the West regions, called his religion “Lui Religion” (meaning stabbing). They dared using the cruelest method for their personal gains.
In order to attract other people, one must have fate with others from many past lives. Otherwise, if we attracted other people’s attention by manipulation or cheat, only a few people would believe and follow us.
Thanks to good karma from past lives, some religious leaders attract a large number of followers, but then change their career path from religion into politics. Once entering politics their religious life would no longer be pure. Rarely have we seen anybody deserve to be the National Buddhist Master. In Vietnam, we have
Master Van Hanh and Master Khuong Viet…, they always upheld their valuable disposition no matter how much power they had. Although being the King’s teachers, they never abused their power for personal gains.
While some other religious leaders would use their power and resources to support their politics career because they want to influence and be able to dictate the country. Abusing the power of a religion to influence politics often happens in many places around the world. This could endanger the country and its religions. We wish that all religious leader would be able to focus only on teaching people about ethics.
However, amongst the chaos of diversified religions, stands out Buddhism, which doctrine is very logical, fair and brings priceless values to the society.
Firstly, Buddhism has karma law that is fair and objective.
“Whoever bedevils others will suffer retribution to compensate their own sins. Whoever makes others happy will enjoy good luck and great blessings”. And this justice does not depend on God because karma is a natural, logical, and fair principle in the universe. Therefore, joining Buddhism, we seem to be positively encouraged to avoid doing bad deeds, but to love and help others. More importantly, our belief in Buddhism does not make us totally dependent on the religion at all. This is a strange but wonderful thing.
We all have boundless homage for Buddha. Each day we could pray and bow in front of Buddha for hundreds of times, but it does not mean we are totally dependent on Him. Our boundless respect for Buddha is due to the fact that He had left for the human race the most honorable doctrines, which had been passed on to many generations without any prejudice. We respect and admire Buddha as he had guided us all to a new world. Though being categorized as one of the spiritual religion, Buddhism has its own distinctive characters, which are completely different with other religions.
Secondly, Buddhism has the principle about having boundless compassion.
Buddhism teaches us all to have boundless love and compassion, not only for human beings but for all animals and things e.g. grass and trees. This is not in any other religion teachings.
In ancient times, people used swords to fight with each other; today, people use guns to shoot at each other, we all call for people to stop killing one another. That is already a considerable progress. However, Buddhism teaches us not to even kill animals. This is even more advanced thinking than any other religion.
And Buddhism doesn’t stop there. It pushes further and calls on people to have the compassion for things such as like plants and trees. We all are surprised about this huge advancement, which outgrows all civilizations.
The more advanced civilized human beings become, the bigger our compassion should be. Being Buddha’s disciples, we must love all beings unquestioningly.
“Avatar”, one of Hollywood’s most famous movies, was screened in the recent times, and it had earned substantial revenue of billions of dollars. The story was about human beings’ lives in an era, which was so developed and advanced that they exploited and destroyed all resources they owned. With advanced science and technology, they then found a planet where life exists, with enormous amount of natural valuable resources, which human beings from earth decided to invade and steal these resources. During the invasion, they encountered an indigenous tribe that possesses a supernatural ability to connect with nature. Avatar is a touching story, which conveys a message that we have to live in accordance with the law of nature; and we must love all beings, and all nature resources because they are the cradle of life; they protect and help maintain life for human beings.
Only when we are in the 21st century, leading scientists from over the world realise and make statement about we should have compassion for all beings, which Buddha had mentioned over 2500 years ago.
Over 2500 years ago, many people did not believe in the kind of boundless love Buddha had taught. Nowadays, many scientific evidences have proved Him right and confirmed what Buddha said is true and worthy at all times: we must love all beings, even grass and trees. How original is that! Buddhism is ahead of its time and its master ideas continue to brighten human beings life forever.
Buddhism teaches us about the principle of selflessness.
Every living being has a concept of a self or an ego and believes it make one different from others. Many people enjoy indulging their egos because they think they would be admired for it. However, in Buddhism, the conception of Self is considered a big delusion, which would lead to many mistakes and sufferings. A big ego only instigates us to hurt, disrespect and fight with others, which only leads to us committing lots of sins in our life.
Therefore, Buddhism has pointed out that only when our ego is eliminated, we then could live in harmony and live a happy and enlightened life. Step by step, Buddhist doctrine encourages us to get rid of our ego by either praying, practicing; or by actions, by words or by any possible way until the time when we no longer consider ourselves significant. Only then, we would be able to live a happy and virtuous life.
We often mistakenly think that we would be happy and satisfied when we did something extraordinary and so different in our life. For example, a young teenager rode his motorbike at the maximum limit to attract people’s attention. When he got what he wanted, he felt satisfied and was proud of his achievement, which was the fact that everybody admired his talent. The real truth is that wise and happy people often live a quiet life.
Buddhism had taught us this principle from thousands of years ago and many Saints have continued their success by following this path.
We have heard stories, which have sad ending just because of big ego. For example, history had witnessed many brilliant military Generals who fought off many enemies to help protect their countries border, and became brilliant heroes. However, during peaceful time, many had suddenly became a great threat for their own regime. Why was that? That was the consequence of having a big ego, when one kept counting his glorious victories and perceived himself so important that his overbearing and arrogant manner got himself disliked, especially when the King always feared that one day his throne would be taken over by someone else.
Understanding this principle, our greatest hero of all times, Uncle Ho, had commented about this in one of his article “Improving the Working Style” under the pen name XYZ. Uncle Ho pointed out the mistakes of many people, who contributed significant during war times, but could not do the same during peace times to help the country recover and develop further. He commented that the overly proud thinking and mindset of these war heroes often makes them lose their ethics, and as the result they could not contribute towards the development of the country, even worse, it could make the country go backwards. They conveniently forgot that though winning over the enemy is great, building the country to be strong and better after war times is even more important.
Ego often causes us to be overly proud about our past victories, which could become obstacles for us to grow and in some situations, it would be detrimental to others. Therefore, Buddhism always reminds us to eliminate our ego.
Buddhism also teaches us to pray for others, not just ourselves; try not to pray everything for our own personal gains. When praying about ourselves, try to pray that Buddha would help to get rid of greed, selfishness and our own ego. Meditation is also one of the ways to eliminate ego. Whoever accomplishes this mediation level will most likely achieve the highest stage of Sainthood. In Buddhism, there are four levels of Sainthood. The 1st level of Sainthood is achieved after we have less ego. The more we practise on eliminating ego, the higher the level of Sainthood we would achieve. When we completely get rid of ego, we would achieve the highest level of Sainthood, which is Arhant.
Arhant eradicates Self completely. Though he might be normal like everyone else, he does not have ego any more. He would see himself as servant for all beings. His mind is pure, and he has compassion for all beings. He knows and is aware of everything across the universe. Only an ordinary human being, because ego still exists, would still want to differentiate between self and others; and as the result would become greedy, competitive, selfish and is full of hatred.
We could only understand the difference between an ordinary human being and a Saint, when we achieve that high level. This is a special doctrine of Buddhism, which does not exist in other religions, because it’s beyond everybody’s normal state of mind. We should all try our best to practise to attain selflessness.
Buddhism teaches us a profound meditation method.
Buddhism teaches us the way to practise meditation that helps becalm our mind and overcome our own self to be better and greater. Buddhism is one of the most important factors to protect our country. Throughout our great history, many national heroes who possessed great qualities, had practised meditation e.g. the Kings under Tran dynasties…. or in the modern days it was our greatest hero,
Uncle Ho. When Uncle Ho was working in the Northern based army force, one of his staff member took a picture of him while he was mediating inside a cave or sometimes near a river stream. We do not know which level of meditation he had attained, however, these pictures of him practising meditation do exist.
Buddhism gives us great moral examples
Speaking of Buddha’s morality, so far, no one could find any flaws. As written in the history, before achieving enlightenment, he had never committed any sins, or made any mistakes. Even when he achieved the highest level of enlightenment, either Saints or any other celestial beings still could not find any flaws, even a small/minor one.
Buddha had never done anything mistakenly, even just small gestures e.g. a glance, or a smile. None of his smile was senseless, none of his gaze was without a reason, and none of his movement was without a purpose. In contrast, we could just laugh uproariously all day long, look around aimlessly, or having gesture wildly just for the sake of it, with no purpose. Any of Buddha’s movements was very relaxed and calm, and more importantly those movements always meant something.
A strange thing was that wherever he wanted to go, Buddha had never have to ask for directions at all. When a Buddhist came to invite Buddha to his place:
“Dear Buddha, it would be our great honour to have you at our place for lunch tomorrow”, the person then would left without leaving his address. Buddha accepted the invitation. The next day, Buddha led his disciples to the Buddhist’s place without having to ask for direction.
After becoming an Enlightened One, Buddha wanted to help the five brothers of Kieu Tran Nhu, who were hundreds of kilometers far away from Him. However, Buddha came right to their residence without any troubles and taught them the first well-known subject entitled Four Noble Truths. Buddha knew all of the paths in the universe: human world, heaven or hell.
All Buddhism Saints, and all Buddha’s disciples were noble and excellent, too. Also, the Dharma, Buddha’s teachings, which has been passed onto many generations, conveys extremely high and spiritual values that Einstein, one of the greatest scientists in the world, had praised that: Buddhism is a leading religion for the human race and for science, now and forever.
Buddhism and Vietnam, our nation!
Our nation is very fortunate because our ancestors were very thoughtful and wise to choose Buddhism as our national religion several thousand years ago. However, whether or not our children would still have that privilege depends completely on us. Will we practise, protect and promote Buddhism further or will we let other bad religions to destroy Buddhism?
As for this matter, many locals from the North West of Vietnam have shared with us their growing concern about different minority groups, which have their own spiritual routines. It has not been completely united around this area of the country. Our country has been unified, our legal system has been integrated, there is only one national language, but the biggest worry here is that our belief system hasn’t been unified yet. We all must understand that this is our main concern.
Though spirituality is invisible but is very important. It is like the nerve system inside our spinal cord, though it cannot be seen with naked eyes but is a determining factor to human lives. If that nerve system is collapsed for any reason, either we will die, or become completely disabled.
Similarly, spirituality is something that we cannot see but it stays deeply in our mind, and it helps maintain the strength of our nation. Vietnam has been united thanks to many soldiers and heroes, and everyone from the North to the South across the country. However, we have not yet been able to unite our own people’s religious belief. So, how could we do this?
We must think of uniting all people’s religious belief with the hope that all ethnic minorities have the same point of view about religions. That is to ensure that everyone have the same thinking: to have compassion for all beings, and to unite as one; not having different beliefs or everyone lives and acts in their own way. Meanwhile, many other foreign religions have been trying to convince our own people to follow them. These minority groups are already fragile in their belief systems, therefore, they could easily be influenced by other foreign religions. This means it weakens our nation, our beliefs as the nation, and endanger the security of our country.
As noted above, our ancestors had wisely chose Buddhism as the foundation and the national religion from a few thousand years ago. If we do not use
Buddhism to unite our nation’s religions, then the national spirituality will be torn into pieces and our country will become weaker. This is a serious concern!
Understanding this problem, we must support our Government in protecting national spirituality and strengthening national unification as much as possible. Here is a popular saying:
“A strong and stable unification will bring glorious victories.”
We call for national unification but what does unity means to each of us? Please remember that: among various major components to shape unification, uniting our religious belief is the most important thing.
We are an united nation on many aspects. It is because we share a common language; because we have only one Party; because of our patriotism, our legislative law system, and our monetary system; as well as because we have the same belief in our ancestors, our origination and so on. But one more important thing is that we must have one common religious belief, because it is the essential and the most important link which constitutes the national cohesion.
Several years ago, a few villagers from Tay Nguyen province protested with the local authority. Big crowd of people marched into the inner city of Buon Me Thuot province to protest, which had caused a lot of damages. That costed the local government greatly to settle the protest. Right after that event, we had held a seminar to discuss about: The Brotherhood of Native Vietnamese and Ethnic Minorities to remind us all about the compassion for many other ethnic groups across Vietnam.
Knowing about the ethnic villagers’ nomadic farming routine, some native
Vietnamese bought many of their newly-ploughed lands. However, bad people spread the news that the native Vietnamese people tried to invade the ethnic villagers’ lands. From then on, people from minority groups often do not like to associate with native Vietnamese. The lesson learnt from the protest in Buon Me Thuot province was that we did not have the common spirituality and religious beliefs, and as the result, overall it would weaken our nation security.
To have everyone living in harmony, solidarity, and sympathy in Vietnam, the S-curved-shape country, we must have one national spirituality. But how do we unite and have the same religious belief? Certainly, we should take it from Buddhism, the religion that our ancestor had chosen thousands of years ago
Vietnam also has a unique belief in our origination: that is the belief in
“Dragon and Fairy” legend.
Some of you may know that Christianity is a religion based on Jewish history. At that time, Jewish people were the slaves of the Egyptians. One day, Moses came about and saw the suffering of the Jews; he felt the urge to free them from slavery so he found a way to help them escape from the Egyptians. He guided them through many huge desert in the Middle-East to get to a place called Promise Land (Israel today). This story was written in the Old Testament and is taught at every Christian church around the world.
Nonetheless, the history of their foundation cannot match ours. Why is our interesting and glorious history so unpopular? Just because we are not good at telling those stories, it does not mean that we are not proud of our ancestors’ superiority and magnanimity, and the fact that we are the children of Dragon-father and Fairy-mother. But, from today, the world will learn about the foundation of our country, a beautiful, poetic and wonderful history.
The story goes…
Once upon a time, in a distant land in the continent of Asia, existed a clan that was ruled by an extremely beautiful fairy. Though she did not have an ambition to be a leader, her extraordinary talent, knowledge, beauty and magical power claimed substantial admiration from the tribal groups in the surrounding regions, she was crowned Queen. Everybody often called her Au Co. Cơ means a beautiful lady, Au is her family name. However, nobody dared speaking of her name because of their respect for her. She ruled a very large territory, starting from the capital of North Vietnam (Bac Ninh province today) up to the central highland area. Nobody knew her age as she was always young and beautiful and did not age at all.
One day, from the North came a gentleman, named Lac Long Quan, and he was both vigorous and skillful at performing supernatural powers. He heard about her excellent, enviably fine reputation so he made his way to the land of her sovereign with the hope of seeing her.
Since she was a powerful Queen, nobody dared proposing to her. And because she was so sublime and her talent was so excellent, nobody could ever be her life partner. Until the handsome, intelligent, sublime and highly honorable Lac Long Quan visited her, they both fell in love at the first sight. She asked him where he was from, and he replied:
– I came from the North, from a royal family, I am the Dragon’s son.
- What do you mean by Dragon’s son?
- My King-father owns and rules a large territory in the Northern area. As he was not ambitious and does not care about power, he ceded the throne to his older brother. He did not like to build any dynasty. So, my grand-father had no choice but to divide the domain in two, one in the North, which belonged to the older brother of my King-father and another in the South, which belonged to my King-father. Not long ago, my King-father abdicated the throne to me. However, I also do not care much about power and wealth, I like travelling around the country. My Queen-mother is a female dragon, living in a lake, named Dong Dinh. I am therefore the Dragon’s son. I am also able to create rain.
Lady Au Co then asked him for help:
– There is a marsh in the Eastern part of my country. An orca currently lives there. Could you please help defeat it?
Lac Long Quan set off for the marsh looking for that orca. The marsh, where the violent orca occupied, is present-day West Lake in Hanoi. With his supernatural powers, he was able to defeat the orca easily so that a peaceful life was fully restored to all of the residents living around that area. His great success counted as not only his offerings to get acquainted with Lady Au Co but also his supernatural abilities. Soon after, Lady Au Co and Lac Long Quan got married. However, there was a condition from Lady Au Co. She wanted him to stay back in her country as she was familiar with matriarchy. Lac Long Quan agreed to the condition. They had one hundred children. Because of the country development, they had to part. Au Co took 50 children to the mountainous area. Lac Long Quan led the other 50 children into the sea. However, later on, all one hundred children united and together built up the country. The eldest son became the King, called King Hung and our country at that time was called Van Lang.
King Hung was not an ordinary man. He inherited two sources of supernatural powers, the first was from his Dragon father and the second was from his Fairy mother. In the early beginnings of his dynasty he travelled across the land to visit all the tribes, from Nghe An all over the northern territories. Whenever he came across a new tribal community, he would introduce himself as the King of Van Lang country, and would perform miracles. As a result of these miracles, he won over the hearts of the people. You could say the foundation of
Vietnam was erected by King Hung, the first King’s supernatural power: the fact
that this supernatural being travelled from tribe to tribe, performing miracles to conquer the people’s hearts was key to the unification of our beginning, Van Lang.
Vietnam’s historical unification is a beautiful legend, like a dream, but it is a shame that we do not know how to tell it, we do not know how to share the truth.
Moreover, some of us don’t believe and are even mocking our legendary lineage. The truth is the founding of our country is very beautiful, and inside each of us lies dormant our supernatural powers – unbeknown to us.
In our warring history, we have fought back larger and stronger nations to protect our sovereignty. Successful protection of our sovereignty is not by chance. Although our race is small in stature, we have fought back our invaders and quashed their ambitions of colonizing our country. How is this possible?
It is because we all have a common spiritual strength, running deep within our soul. At times we do not even know that it is there, we do not even know the source of this strength but it is this spiritual strength that has empowered our nations people in such a way that the whole world has acknowledge us.
In the thirteenth century, Mongolian troops occupied a very large land mass including the whole of Asia up to the Danube river (in Europe). After defeating China, they campaigned to our country. However, the King and mandarins of the
Tran Dynasty a long with our people quashed the Mongolian aggressor’s ambitions with three glorious feats of arms.
It is thanks to our Dragon father and Fairy mother origin that we have the supernatural, spiritual strength to overcome our physical stature and excel.
It is the still the same today. Although our country is still a developing nation, the Vietnamese people – no matter where they study, always achieve competitive academic rankings against their global peers. Have we ever questioned where our intellectual acumen came from? It is from our Dragon father and Fairy mother, and not by chance or coincidence, that we have the spiritual strength that flows through the veins of all Vietnamese people.
Our ancestors chose Buddhism as a unifying faith for our people to move forward. This spiritual faith coupled with our Dragon father and Fairy mothers blood flowing through us, provides us with a complete pair of wings to excel us.
But why haven’t we taken off yet? Because our wings are still folded, we have not flown.
Why are our wings of spiritual strength still folded in this century? Because we have not spread our wings to fly.
Why haven’t we opened wide our wings to fly?
- Firstly, our spiritual Dragon and Fairy inheritance has not yet been truthfully propagated. Even our government and our department of culture and education didn’t take the initiation to emphasize this point for our people to feel proud of our origin.
- Secondly, Buddhism is not only a positive national spiritual strength of our people and could also be the spiritual strength for all of the world’s nations but we have not widely promoted this globally.
Nowadays, our wings are still unfolded; we are still unable to fly into the world yet. One day, our wings of spirituality will be stretched out, a brilliant future is awaiting us.
One day, when our younger generation learn our history of origin in their hearts; when all 54 ethnic groups in our country to far-away islands; from major cities to rural areas are saturated with the sublime Dharma, then certainly, the prosperity of our country will grow so strong and so powerfully that our country will be taken to a new-found horizon of civilization.
Gifted with such a national spirituality and such wings of spirituality, we can set a stable patriotism up on that foundation of spirituality.
Gifted with such a national spirituality, we can develop a spiritual life proportionate to current science and technology.
Gifted with such a national spirituality, we reshape our morality, fineness, thoughtfulness and sagacity better and better.
And such a national spirituality will make everybody become one. We must believe in such prospects.
In today’s spiritual age, science still goes on its own way whereas spirituality becomes a more and more preeminent and ongoing concern.
As for Vietnam, we have our own foundation of national spirituality – it’s the origin of Dragon-father and Fairy-mother that we have to introduce it to the world. And from the spiritual strength of Buddhism and our national character, we will make our country much more integrated, sympathetical, and developed, but also to contribute to a cause of a new world peaceful, comfortable and blissful for mankind.
Namo Sakya Muni Buddha.